Guest columnist William Lambers: Expand child tax credit to reduce hunger and poverty

The U.S Capitol is seen on a sunny day in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024.

The U.S Capitol is seen on a sunny day in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024. AP PHOTO/JOSE LUIS MAGANA

By WILLIAM LAMBERS

Published: 01-26-2024 8:55 AM

Congress can take action against hunger and poverty by bringing back the expanded child tax credit that was so successful in 2021. They can start by voting in favor of the bipartisan tax proposal put forward by Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and House Ways and Means Committee Chair Jason Smith, R-Mo.

Their proposal expands the child tax credit (CTC) by increasing the maximum refundable amount per child from $1,600 to $1,800 in tax year 2023, $1,900 in tax year 2024, and $2,000 in tax year 2025.

If this tax proposal is approved by Congress, more children will benefit from the expanded child tax credit. The extra money families will get from tax relief can help pay for food and rent.

According to the Food Research and Action Center, “Under this proposal, approximately 16 million out of the 19 million children currently excluded from the full or any CTC will benefit, and an estimated 400,000 children will be lifted above the poverty line.”

Sharon Parrott, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, says the proposal will also “make an additional 3 million children less poor in its first year.”

This is especially critical right now as findings by the U.S. Department of Agriculture show there are 44 million people in America living in food-insecure homes, including 13 million children. Food banks are overwhelmed with demand from people needing help. But donors are having a tough time keeping pace with this demand.

Congress needs to do its part to help, and bringing back the expanded child tax credit helps America’s families as we saw during the pandemic.

The expanded child tax credit of 2021 helped families to afford food and rent. The expanded CTC was part of the American Rescue Plan signed by President Joe Biden in 2021 and made monthly payments to families of up to $300 per child. But unfortunately, the CTC expired and Congress did not renew it. The expanded CTC of 2021 showed what it could do to fight hunger and poverty.

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“I often tell people that March 6, 2021 was the best day of my career. That’s the day that we passed the expanded Child Tax Credit. By July of that year, the families of 60 million children were getting their tax cuts directly, every single month,” said Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, who is among the advocates for bringing back the expanded child tax credit today. “We know what parents are facing today: the soaring cost of child care, health care, housing — everywhere it seems like they’re getting squeezed. This tax cut provided a little bit of relief.”

The latest CTC proposal does not go as far as the 2021 plan; it does not include the monthly checks, for example. But it still is a good start to getting the CTC back into action with an increase in tax refunds. That means more money for families to spend on basic needs. The expanded CTC is a family-friendly plan that gives them a safety net and a boost they can count on, especially during hard times.

Once again expanding the CTC for this tax year and beyond, would help families escape the vicious cycle of hunger and poverty. Instead of struggling to afford rent and food, families can focus more on education and developing careers.

Congress should not delay any further. Bread for the World is encouraging citizens to contact their representatives in Congress about supporting the proposal with the expanded child tax credit. Bringing back the expanded child tax credit will help millions of families and reduce hunger and poverty.

William Lambers is an author who partnered with the U,N, World Food Program on the book “Ending World Hunger.”