Kristie Weiland Stagno: Rebuilding for justice requires expanded child tax credit

Who is most likely to be poor in America? Children. Their pre-pandemic poverty rate of 1 in 7 exceeds that of most developed countries.

During the 2022 tax season that ended last month, many low-income families rejoiced over their refunds, but the celebration was bittersweet. A key tax break to tackle child poverty had ended.

Just over a year ago, Congress expanded the Child Tax Credit (CTC) through the US bailout to finally directly address our nation’s longstanding child poverty. Not only did they increase the amount families would receive by 50% to $3,000 per child ($3,600 for a child under 6), but they gave families an advance on the credit through payments monthly payments and allowed families with no income to also receive the credit. .

The expanded CTC was set to expire in 2021, but President Biden has offered to extend it as part of Build Back Better. Unfortunately, the 50 Republicans in the Senate, joined by Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, blocked his passage earlier this year. This halted the CLC’s dramatic progress toward halving American child poverty.

There is plenty of data on how the expanded CLC has helped low-income families and their communities. As a provider of free tax filing assistance for these households, Just Harvest has seen firsthand the huge difference this has made for our clients.

Alexis, a single mother of three from Brookline, said the monthly payments helped her pay her bills. This extra leeway allowed her to buy necessities for her growing children.

Erin is a single mother from South Hills with twins, one of whom is disabled, who also struggles with her own disabilities and can only work a few days a week. Her CTC went mostly to her children, who needed new shoes and basic necessities.

Nicole, a single mother from Dormont, credits the CTC with allowing her to end an unhealthy relationship and buy the things her son needed.

Elected officials who have opposed this expanded tax credit for low-income families cynically suggest, without evidence, that it will serve only as a proverbial “welfare hammock”, helping its beneficiaries to evade the job. Aside from the impossibility of this – no one can raise a child on just a few hundred dollars a month – Humanity Forward’s research found that quite the opposite was true. The CTC, by helping beneficiaries pay for child care, gas, car repairs, public transit and other necessary expenses they need to work, has improved their ability to work.

Almost all (94%) of CTC recipients said they would continue to work as much or more because of the ripple effect of the payments. The CTC is what allows families in difficulty to recover, not by their own means, an impossible maneuver, but with the support of our entire community. Beneficiaries’ income, expenses and taxes then fill the pot. Everyone wins, especially American children.

Americans value freedom and justice. But there is neither in poverty.

We are pleased to hear that Congress is reconsidering a federal spending package that would provide much-needed support to working families to make ends meet. We need to make sure this bill includes the expanded child tax credit to help ensure that everyone can thrive with dignity.

Urge your members of Congress to restore the expanded CLC to free struggling families from distress. Tell them it’s time to rebuild for justice.

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