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Millions of people have avoided poverty because to the Child Tax Credit, which should be expanded.

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - SEPTEMBER 15: Ilana Lowery of Glendale, AZ, Morgan Finkelstein of Phoenix with daughter Piper Finkelstein (14 months old), Barbara Seltzer of Scottsdale, AZ, and Elizabeth Cavalieri of Phoenix, AZ pose for a photo together as Arizona parents gather outside Senator Sinema's Phoenix office to thank her for Child Tax Credit payments and demand they be made permanent on September 15, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Jason Wise/Getty Images for ParentsTogether)

Millions of people have avoided poverty thanks to the Child Tax Credit — it should be expanded.

In November, the House of Representatives passed a version of the Biden administration’s Build Back Better Act. The Build Back Better Act is now in policy limbo due to intra-party disagreement if it does not pass in the Senate.

Even before it became law, the lack of the CTC’s extension through 2022 was affecting millions of families and children across the country. Unless the CTC is increased, American families are at risk of falling back into poverty.

Congress still has the power and opportunity to fulfil its promise to support American families and children by increasing opportunity and financial well-being by extending the CTC. Expansion of the Child Tax Credit under the American Rescue Plan of 2021 has already resulted in significant improvements for 3.7 million children who were previously living in poverty. Reduced poverty among Black, Latinx, and Indigenous children has decreased by 52 percent, 45 percent, and 61% since 1990. Prior to 2021’s American Rescue Plan, nearly half of all Black and Latinx children were denied full benefits of the CTC because their families’ incomes were too low to qualify.

Families no longer receive a monthly Child Tax Credit as of January, and an estimated 10 million children are expected to return to child poverty this year, an avoidable hardship that will negatively impact 3.8 million Latino, 2.9 million white, 2.1 million black, 426,000 Asian, and 280,000 Indigenous children.

Parental emotional benefits from increased Child Tax Credit payments were also reported in 2021. Surveys conducted by the Center for Law and Social Policy and Ipsos found that “Nearly 70% of respondents who reported receiving the monthly checks said the payments made them feel more confident in their financial situation.”

Reduced child poverty should be a no-brainer for any elected official. In spite of recent and significant national progress made through the expanded CTC, however, 51 US senators are opposed to extending it through 2022 or favour adding historically racist and burdensome work requirements in return for their stamp of approval on the Build Back Better Act. There is a low probability of bipartisan agreement in 2022 to move the enhanced CTC forward due to differences over work requirements, party-line division, and record inflation. To prevent families from falling back into poverty, even as the economy grows, Congress must take action to safeguard children. COVID-19, which disproportionately affects families and communities of colour, continues to pose a threat to these families on a daily basis. We need a united front from both houses of Congress when it comes to providing desperately needed assistance to families and children in need.

Even if a new version of the Build Back Better Act or no legislation is passed, the consequences for families of colour are dire. The administration of Vice President Joe Biden has acknowledged the “entrenched disparities in our laws and public policies” and committed to advancing racial equity in their agenda. Expanding CTC could jeopardise any chance to build back better for millions of families and children.

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Congress must now decide whether or not to act immediately by extending the CTC expansion, or to leave American families and children with a broken promise of increased financial well-being and equity. In light of the negative impact this earned benefit would have on low-income and working families across the country, we ask lawmakers to act accordingly.

When it came to reducing poverty, results from the 2021 CTC were unmistakably positive. It’s now up to the Senate to decide the fate of 10 million children and their families’ economic futures. Our children cannot wait any longer.

Presiden and chief executive officer of Prosperity Now, Gary Cunningham is. Since 1979, Prosperity Now has worked tirelessly to help millions of people, particularly those of colour and those with low incomes, achieve financial security, stability, and ultimately, prosperity through their efforts.

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Leo K. Nelson

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