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Restore the enhanced Child Tax Credit to improve health and educational outcomes

FILE - A swing sits empty on a playground outside in Providence, R.I., March 7, 2020.
(AP Photo/David Goldman, File)
FILE – A swing sits empty on a playground outside in Providence, R.I., March 7, 2020. Columbia University’s Center on Poverty and Social Policy estimates that the number of children in poverty grew by 3.7 million from December 2021 to January 2022, a 41% increase, just one month without the expanded child tax credit payments. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

The greatest return on investment we can make is in our children. The Child Tax Credit is one of the most, if not the most, successful policy when it comes to helping ensure families can provide and support children.  

And in the American Rescue Plan, Democrats expanded this critical tool and made it work better for families ranging from the poorest of the poor to the middle-class. 

This investment paid off: millions of children were pulled out of poverty, food insecurity decreased, and more working middle-class families had support to pay for necessary expenses like childcare and school supplies. Raising kids is always difficult but during the pandemic, parents were faced with economic uncertainty and increased demands and the expansion of the tax credit made it possible for parents to meet those demands.

Even for Americans who do not consider themselves poor, they are finding themselves increasingly squeezed, and realizing that the American Dream is becoming more elusive. The enhanced Child Tax Credit puts the American Dream within reach for them and their children.

Democrats accomplished this by increasing the credit from $2,000 to $3,000 for kids ages six and above and $3,600 for kids under six years old. The credit was also made fully refundable, meaning that low-income families whose incomes don’t require them to file taxes can benefit from the entire credit. The lack of refundability, means that impoverished families in my district and nationwide miss out on benefitting from this key support.

According to one estimate, only half of Black children could benefit before these key reforms were made. But our enhanced credit ensured it was more accessible to our most vulnerable, and the result was millions of children of color were lifted out of poverty. But the reality is the enhanced Child Tax Credit also helped middle-class families make ends meet.

We also gave parents the option of receiving this tax credit in monthly payments, which helped parents manage paying for day-to-day expenses, so they didn’t have to wait until tax season to file for the credit. Turns out that having this additional support when the bills are due is actually helpful!

Not only did this investment benefit our children, but it also benefited our economy. According to the Joint Economic Committee, the expanded credit created $19.3 billion in economic impact each month in our local economies.

As a member of the Ways and Means Committee, I was proud to pass this legislation. It is my life’s work and it’s why I worked for years to have a seat at this table. It is also why I was so heartbroken when these credits expired. After its lapse, food insecurity rose, and millions of children were pushed back into poverty. I heard from families in my district who wrote to my office to tell me about the life-changing impact of these monthly payments.

But Congress is not helpless. With the year-end legislation looming, Congress must seize the moment to restore the expanded Child Tax Credit. What Congress accomplishes now, can brighten the futures of our children, improving health outcomes and educational outcomes, including a lower likelihood of chronic illnesses, stronger school performance, and better reading and math scores.

We can give children more opportunities to succeed by restoring the expanded Child Tax Credit. We can ill-afford not to. 

Gwen Moore represents Wisconsin’s 4th District and is a member of the Ways and Means Committee.

Tags american rescue plan Child Tax Credit food insecurity Poverty

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