Biden's Budget Wish List: $850M for Central America Aid, $36B for Poor Schools

President Joe Biden is set to release his first budget wish list before members of Congress return next week, giving insight into his policy agenda and marking his stark departure from former President Donald Trump's priorities.

Included in the proposal, according to a senior administration official who spoke to Newsweek: $36.5 billion to aid "high-poverty schools," $10.7 billion for combating the opioid epidemic, a $209 million bump to the civil rights division of the Department of Justice and $850 million "to invest in Central America as part of a comprehensive strategy to address the root causes of irregular migration."

It also recommends $8.7 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help prepare for "future epidemics," in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Congress ultimately approves the federal budget, so Biden's proposal is not guaranteed, and while Democrats hold control over the House and Senate, both are on tight margins, so changes are likely.

Biden hasn't given a speech to a joint session of the House and Senate, citing the pandemic and need for distancing, so the outline of his budget proposal gives new insight into where his priorities stand, as he looks beyond his nearly $2 trillion coronavirus relief package and tries to build support for another $2 trillion for infrastructure and jobs.

Biden's budget proposal is formally known as a "skinny budget"—in which he wants nearly $1.6 billion in discretionary federal funding to go in the fiscal year that starts in October. It doesn't include funding that's already mandated by federal law.

Biden has set out to address inequities in schools deemed "high poverty" with an infusion of nearly $37 billion to Title I grants, which target at-risk youths. According to a White House official, the effort is aimed to address "long-standing funding disparities between under-resourced school districts and their wealthier counterparts, providing critical new support to both students and teachers."

The White House has avoided calling the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border a "crisis," but the budget proposal also calls for $861 million to Central American countries to try to stem the wave of migrants. Another $345 million would go to fast-track people who are awaiting immigration decisions, and $891 million would be directed to reduce immigration court backlogs by adding 100 more immigration judges.

Other items expected in Biden's budget proposal:

• $1 billion more in Violence Against Women Act programs.

• A $2.2 billion bump to the Indian Health Service and $900 million for tribal efforts on housing and infrastructure.

• $10.7 billion—an increase of $3.9 billion—for research, prevention, treatment and recovery services to combat the opioid epidemic, specifically targeting vulnerable populations.

"Over the past decade, due in large measure to overly restrictive budget caps, the nation significantly underinvested in core public services, benefits and protections," Biden's acting budget director, Shalanda Young, wrote in a letter to Congress shared with Newsweek. "The President believes now is the time to begin reversing this trend."

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden speaks during an event in the Rose Garden at the White House on April 8, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Alex Wong/Getty Images