The pandemic has brought to light many challenges of everyday life. Among the most distressing, affecting millions of families in our state and across the country, is the cost of raising children.
Fortunately, over the past year, families in my district and across the country have had relief thanks to the leadership of President Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress, including Rep. Kathy Castor. The US bailout, which was signed into law in early 2021, provided a much-needed tax cut for parents through an extension of the Child Tax Credit. This provision offered low- and middle-income parents monthly payments of up to $3,600 for each child under age 6 and up to $3,000 for each child between six and seventeen.
The expanded tax credit, however, expired at the end of 2021 due to congressional inaction and Republican filibuster.
As we review our incomes, tax burdens and the relief provided by the Child Tax Credit, and look forward to the New Year, Monday’s filing deadline reminds us of the critical importance of making permanent the expanded child tax credit. With the high cost of child care, rising food, gas and utility costs, and our ongoing efforts to weather the pandemic, now is not the time for Congress to turn its back. to millions of American families.
As someone who became a mother at a very young age and was a single mother for many years, I know firsthand the many challenges Floridians face every day as they choose between feeding their children or feeding themselves, wondering where will come from their next paycheck or how their child will get the glasses they desperately need. Parents who benefit from this tax credit can spend more time with their children, ensuring they can do well in school rather than taking on a second or third job.
My story is not unique, but with soaring prices for consumer staples and gasoline, this tax credit is making a huge difference in the pockets of Floridians.
The expanded child tax credit has reached more than 36 million U.S. families with more than 61 million children in 2021, including approximately 3,886,000 Florida children in 2,478,000 families.
An analysis by the Center on Budget Priorities found that nearly 9 in 10 low-income families in Florida used monthly payments for basic needs or education. Not only have parents been able to buy food and clothing and cover housing, utilities and education costs, but the payments have reduced child poverty to record levels, reducing it by around 30%, and helped to reduce food insufficiency by more than a quarter.
Expanding the Child Tax Credit equals a tax cut for middle- and low-income Americans — and it works. But unless Congress follows President Biden’s lead, the progress we’ve made could be lost.
In Florida alone, 91% of children and their families would lose out if the expanded child tax credit was not extended; and 700,000 children would risk falling back below the poverty line or sinking deeper into poverty.
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The dignity of greater financial stability and the opportunity to help create a better life for our children is not a year-long goal for parents, and fostering an environment to make this possible should not just be a neither is the short-term goal for our elected leaders in Washington. I hope when members of Congress file their taxes this year like the rest of us, they understand the life-changing impacts and support the community by making the expanded child tax credit permanent.
Janet Cruz is a Democrat who represents Tampa in the Florida Senate. A mother at 16, she attended Hillsborough Community College and started a small business to support her young family.