The Baltimore Sun has run two articles about the child tax credit in recent days. One amplifies the hardships families face without the tax credit which expired on Dec. 31 (”Expiration of child tax credits, a ‘godsend’ for many families, hits home,” Jan. 14). The other is a Bloomberg Opinion piece that argues it is the wrong policy altogether (”Bigger child tax credit isn’t a viable poverty solution,” Jan. 13).
In arguing its weaknesses, Bloomberg’s Allison Schrager mentions an oft-used and incorrect claim. She says a flat rate credit discourages the parents of children from returning to work. Late in 2021, results of a Social Policy Institute at Washington University study came out. The researchers studied U.S. Census Household Pulse Survey data and found the opposite of Ms. Schrager’s argument: “There were no differences in employment trends between parents and non-parents after monthly CTC payments were issued … CTC support is encouraging lower income parents to start new businesses.” This was especially true among the lowest income group (earning under $50,000 per year).
The articles remind us of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin’s worries about inflation. I worry about inflation, too, and don’t we all? Yet Scott Sartens of Humanity Forward has argued that the child tax credit offers protection against higher inflation. Since child care costs so much, the tax credit helps parents pay for it and continue working. In some cases, it enables parents to stay home with infants and still spend money. Spots they would otherwise compete for in child care centers are not needed, thus avoiding overwhelming demand and avoiding further child care cost increases. While those parents are not working, jobs they would otherwise have are now open for childless adults.
The child tax credit helps every family who receives it, and none more than those families closest to the bottom. For those earning the least, those extra dollars make an enormous difference. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, in Maryland, 93% of low income (less than $35,000 annually) households used those dollars for food, rent, utilities or education. One local friend says the program helped her a lot last year, but now she has no food budget at all!
Let’s trust our neighbors who qualify for the tax credit to use that money wisely, as they are doing. Let’s enable them to participate in our economy. In the long run, this helps us all because those children will grow up healthier and more prepared to run this world once we are gone. U.S. Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin, the time to extend the child tax credit and make it permanent is now.
Jan Kleinman, Baltimore
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