At a time when the country needs some good news in the midst of devastating fires, deadly heat, and COVID 19 on the rebound, we were greeted with headlines that the Child Tax Credit legislation came to fruition. According to experts in the field, this program can cut child poverty in half. As part of the American Rescue Plan signed by President Biden on March 11, this bill addresses the sobering reality of childhood poverty in the United States.
According to the Children’s Defense Fund, one in seven children in the United States in 2020 lived in poverty, and one in five children of color were poor. The arrival of COVID – 19 exacerbated this reality.
It is hard to forget the tragic scenes of thousands of cars lined up to receive food during COVID, waiting for hours for emergency food, for many for the first time. Many simply wanted to feed their children. With schools being closed for most of the year, that meant that free school breakfast and lunch programs ended or became more difficult to access. Social service agencies, food banks and churches had to scramble to fill in the gaps and provide food for families with unemployed parents.
Public Democracy of America notes that the increase in Child Tax Credits will provide increased access to new resources, and an estimated 65 million children will be positively impacted by monthly installments. The program will provide $300 a month for each child under age six and $250 for each child ages six – seventeen each month. Half of the funds are applied immediately and the remaining half during the 2022 tax season. This is a long-needed lifeline for struggling families.
The COVID-19 crisis brought many families to the breaking point, especially parents and caregivers who lost jobs and regular incomes. Increased unemployment payments supplied by the federal government helped many, but GOP governors across the nation have cut them off in an effort to support businesses looking for employees. With more active COVID-19 variants and the inability to vaccinate small children, many parents are afraid to return to work, and this Child Tax Credit is needed support as they try to protect their families.
The Child Tax Credit support is a “hand up” that enables parents to provide food, stable housing, and childcare. However, one major weakness in this program stands out, and that is the fact that this does not cover families with a single parent. These families are experiencing even greater need. Does it make sense to punish children because another parent abandoned the family, died, or divorced? An irrational policy that was not thought through helps no one. Congress needs to act and provide coverage for single-parent families and make the Child Tax Credit permanent.
Children have suffered psychologically because of the loss of familiar structures such as school, in-person social services, interaction with peers, and wider family units. Parents and children need the reassurance of financial resources that can cover basic human needs. It is up to the powers that be to do just that.