Nothing good ever happens when moms aren’t paying attention.
That was true when I was a kid. It was true in my house when I became a mother. It’s especially true with Congress in 2022.
Let’s face it. Moms have had a lot on their minds over the past two years. It has been overwhelming to provide for our families’ needs, look out for the mental health of our kids and track ever-changing COVID-19 policies. With all that going on, it’s hard to be attentive to everything happening in Congress affecting the well-being of our children and other parents around us.
However, when we’re not looking, needed support tends to disappear and families across the country suffer. We need to sound the alarm, so we can band together and protect effective programs that help families struggling in poverty, like the vanishing child tax credit expansions.
You’re not alone if tax policy slid down your list of priorities as we grappled with a COVID-19 surge in December and January. So, let me get you up to speed.
The American Rescue Plan, enacted in March 2021, provided an exceptional tool for decreasing child poverty and food insecurity in America. By increasing the child tax credit, it made the full credit available to all low-income children for the first time and distributed the credit monthly from July through December. Those regular payments reduced monthly child poverty by close to 30% and gave families flexibility to spend the aid on their most basic needs.
Yet just when families faced additional financial troubles from the omicron surge, our government failed them. The Senate, including Sens. Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley, rejected the House-approved “Build Back Better” plan, which would have extended the expansions to the child tax credit for another year.
In December, the child tax credit payments lifted 3.7 million children above the poverty line. Payments have now stopped.
Alarmingly, the Columbia University Center on Poverty and Social Policy reported that the monthly child poverty rate from increased by 41% after losing just one payment in January. Millions of kids are falling back into poverty, putting moms on edge.
Low-income tax credits don’t attract much attention from everyday Americans as a tool to fight poverty even though they are highly effective. But here’s why this tax policy is important to real people.
U.S. Census Bureau data collected last year found that families who received the child tax credit payments overwhelmingly spent them on immediate necessities such as food, rent, utilities, clothing and car payments. A crisis like a pandemic hits every family differently, so the regular influx of $250-$300 per child every month was a godsend. It could take the sting off lost income from a positive COVID-19 test. It was great for kids who needed help right away and good for local economies in need of consumers, too.
When we realize tax credits equate to car repairs to help parents get to work, replacements for kids’ outgrown shoes, respite from eviction and food on the table, suddenly tax policy becomes a parenting issue.
If Sens. Blunt and Hawley felt they couldn’t support the entire “Build Back Better” plan, then they should find a new way to save the expanded child tax credit. Also, Reps. Bush, Wagner and Luetkemeyer should come together to save the child tax credit — traditionally a bipartisan issue — which has already done so much to reduce childhood hunger and poverty.
I’m asking my fellow mothers to use all our mom-skills of reminding, chiding, coaxing and demanding to tell Congress they must do something when people need help. Let’s challenge them to do better for our children.
Cynthia Changyit Levin, of Town and Country, is the author of “From Changing Diapers to Changing the World: Why Moms Make Great Advocates and How to Get Started.”