WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and four other Senate Democrats on Wednesday urged President Joe Biden to retain the Child Tax Credit in his Build Back Better spending package amid concerns the credit will be cut.
In a letter addressed to Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the senators called the credit a “signature domestic policy achievement” for the administration and expressed concern that millions of children could return to poverty if the credit is not extended. It was signed by Sens. Bennet, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Raphael Warnock of Georgia and Ron Wyden of Oregon.
“The consequences of failing to extend the CTC expansion are dire, particularly as families face another wave of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the senators wrote. “After historic progress, it is unacceptable to return to a status quo in which children are America’s poorest residents and child poverty costs our nation more than $1 trillion per year. Raising taxes on working families is the last thing we should do during a pandemic.”
The senators sent the letter to Biden after he suggested the tax credit may be dropped from his Build Back Better Act during a news conference last week. Biden’s signature social and climate spending package stalled in the Senate last month after moderate Democrat Joe Manchin said he wouldn’t vote for it, citing its $1.75 trillion price tag.
Manchin has objected to the Child Tax Credit in particular, demanding that only working parents qualify for the payments, a move that could limit aid to the nation’s poorest families.
The 2021 American Rescue Plan expanded eligibility for the Child Tax Credit to families who don’t traditionally file taxes and increased monthly cash payments to $3,600 per child younger than 5 and $3,000 for each child ages 6 to 17. The credit expansion, which funded 35 million families in 2021, expired in December and has not been renewed.
The letter also pointed to the results of a new study linking cash payments distributed to low-income families to increased brain activity in infants. A study released in August predicted that the credit would create the largest relative benefits in rural areas.
“The benefits of the expanded CTC go far beyond helping American families make ends meet and raise their children today,” the senators said. “Economists estimate that every dollar invested in this policy returns an additional $7 in benefits to society in the long run by improving health, education, future earnings and other outcomes.”
Bennet has been a longtime proponent of the Child Tax Credit, most recently introducing it as part of the American Family Act, which was signed into law in 2019.
In an interview last week with the The Durango Herald, Bennet said his past experience as the superintendent of the Denver public school system has influenced his longtime support for the Child Tax Credit.
“When I was the superintendent of schools, most of the kids were kids living in poverty and a lot of their families were working two or three jobs and couldn’t get their kids out of poverty,” he said, recalling one student who kept showing up late to school because he was working midnight shifts at McDonald’s.
Senate Democrats are now expected to revive the push toward the passage of a scaled-down version of the Build Back Better Act while they have control of all three branches of government.
Skye Witley, a senior at American University in Washington, D.C., is an intern for The Durango Herald and The Journal in Cortez.