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Rescue Plan boosts health and welfare of kids, but will it be sustained? | READER COMMENTARY

In this March 12, 2021, file photo President Joe Biden speaks about the American Rescue Plan, a coronavirus relief package, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y., left, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., listen. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
In this March 12, 2021, file photo President Joe Biden speaks about the American Rescue Plan, a coronavirus relief package, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y., left, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., listen. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File) (Alex Brandon/AP)

The American Rescue Plan includes enormous breakthroughs for families with children — but even as we celebrate that fact, we cannot settle for short-lived progress. Our leaders must think not just about how children are doing today, but what things will look like years from now, when those kids are applying for college, looking for jobs and negotiating a changed economy (”Maryland needs the American Rescue Plan,” March 4).

The very good news that help is on the way for kids and their families, and it comes not a moment too soon considering how poorly many children have fared during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the latest figures, nearly one in four adults in households with children had little or no confidence they would make the next rent or mortgage payment. Nearly one in five did not have enough to eat the previous week. Stimulus payments will have an immediate effect, bringing the basics within reach for millions of parents and caregivers.

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The legislation will cut the child poverty rate by more than half, the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia estimates, and it will give eligible parents $3,600 for each child under age 6 and $3,000 for each older child, up to age 18. That means that this year alone, over 4 million children will rise above the poverty line; many of them will be Black and Latinx kids, whose families disproportionately struggle to make ends meet.

But there are reasons for concern: The expanded child tax credit is only in place for one year, and the effects of it and other provisions of the American Rescue Plan could always be undercut by governors and state legislatures who fail to prioritize the needs of kids and families.

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Maryland and other states must resist making cuts that will harm schools, reduce health coverage or decimate state and local government services for our communities.

This credit has enjoyed robust support from both parties over the years. Now, Congress should make the expansion of the child tax credit permanent to ensure that the largest one-year drop ever in the share of children in poverty is not followed by a surge. Lawmakers ought to be able to find common cause to get this done.

The enactment of the American Rescue Plan, the passage of bipartisan relief legislation in 2020 and countless smart decisions by governors and state legislators over the past year are all powerful evidence that our leaders can act boldly. Now, they should work together to make an America where every child has a fair shot at success.

Lisa M. Hamilton, Baltimore

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The writer is president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

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