Since the passage of President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 relief bill earlier this year, millions of American families have received monthly direct payments from the federal government based on the number of children they have. This policy, referred to as the Child Tax Credit, has been estimated to have the potential to cut child poverty in America by 45%. With over 12 million American children living in poverty, this plan could have a major impact on one of the country’s most pressing issues.
But there’s just one issue: The current Child Tax Credit system expires at the end of 2021, meaning it could simply expire and leave impoverished families unsupported. Still, Biden and congressional Democrats have been pushing to extend the policy, some even calling to make it permanent. Despite the obvious benefits of the policy, the proposal has encountered opposition from Republicans as well as Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
The fact that the Child Tax Credit has not received bipartisan support baffles me; it’s a clear win for all sides. First, the policy was proposed by Democrats and naturally has their support. Using welfare policies to reduce poverty, especially poverty which disproportionately affects Black and Hispanic children, is clearly in line with Democratic political goals. It’s great to see politicians who not only care about this issue but are also willing to put their money where their mouths are by supporting this policy.
On the other hand, I’m disappointed, and frankly surprised, that Republicans are not also on board. One of the benefits of the current state of the Child Tax Credit is that we can look at what effects it has already had. The data has shown that the policy disproportionately benefits red states and is fairly popular among self-identified Republicans. In addition, the Child Tax Credit is one of the strongest pro-family policies to come out in recent years. For a party that claims to support traditional family values, it is hypocritical of Republicans to not support a policy that keeps families secure and healthy.
Still, many Republicans have raised reasonable concerns about this form of welfare expansion. Manchin and Republicans have repeatedly expressed concerns about the lack of any work requirement in the policy. Without this requirement, they feel, people will stop working or become dependent on welfare.
This is simply not a realistic concern, and the opposite effect is actually more likely. If families spend more on their children’s education, those children will develop into a generation of well-equipped, hard-working individuals. Besides, would it really be a bad thing to enable parents to spend more time at home with their children?
Beyond this issue, the primary concern has been about the policy’s funding. How can we afford to send so much free money to all of these families? Well, the answer is quite simple: The Child Tax Credit will pay for itself. Investing in American families will boost spending, increase productivity, reduce crime and much more. Providing financial support during early childhood development can have profound economic dividends, and combined with the rest of Biden’s financial plan, it will be easy to afford these payments while the benefits kick in.
A policy that benefits red states, promotes family values and boosts the economy? Seems like a conservative slam dunk to me.
But this isn’t simply a matter of wanting more consistent political principles. Bipartisan support for this policy is necessary and needs to come fast. Look locally — right here in Baltimore — to see why.
Prior to the pandemic, over one-third of all Baltimore children were living below the poverty line. Focus on that number for a moment; one in three children in Baltimore lived below the poverty line. That already startling number has only increased due to the adverse effects of the ongoing public health crisis. These families need relief beyond the 2021 expiration date of the Child Tax Credit.
In Baltimore, poverty is not indiscriminate. Black and Hispanic residents are disproportionately affected. Even more critically, women are overrepresented among the impoverished Baltimore population. Women face greater rates of poverty than men in part because of factors related to childcare. The Child Tax Credit would support these women and reduce economic gaps in Baltimore along racial and gender lines.
Maryland as a whole has an average of 2.65 persons per household, putting it just out of the top-10 ranking states with the largest households nationwide. Because of this larger-than-average family size, Maryland would likely benefit more from the Child Tax Credit than other states. In Maryland, over 159,000 children live below the poverty line, and the Child Tax Credit has already brought more than 52,000 children out of poverty.
It’s great to see so much progress being made so fast, but any level of childhood poverty is unacceptable and officials must act fast to ensure this progress continues. Allowing the Child Tax Credit to die would leave these children abandoned and vulnerable to dropping back below the poverty line.
The responsibility to extend this policy shouldn’t just fall on Democratic lawmakers. Republicans and moderates need to step up and support this common-sense policy for the sake of American families everywhere, especially those here in Baltimore.
Eric Lynch is a senior Sociology major from Long Island, N.Y. He is a senior staff writer for The News-Letter.