Congress passed COVID-19 relief in December, but that legislation was merely a patch to prevent spikes in hunger, homelessness, and hardship as we faced the expiration of critical assistance programs about to expire.
The package goes even further, including one of FCNL’s top priorities, a policy that would dramatically reduce poverty. The plan expands the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit.
The magnitude of the current crisis requires far more than an 11-week solution. The COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis it has caused will still be here when current relief programs expire on March 14. Incoming President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris understand that, and have introduced their American Rescue Plan in response. The proposal outlines strong relief to give the country the tools it needs to address the health and economic crises.
The American Rescue Plan would extend enhanced food, unemployment, housing, and child care assistance, and raise the minimum wage. It would provide aid to state and local governments, and robust funding for vaccine production and distribution. It includes another round of stimulus checks and much more.
Yet, the package goes even further, including one of FCNL’s top priorities, a policy that would dramatically reduce poverty, particularly child poverty. The plan expands the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit.
Together, the EITC and Child Tax Credit are the largest anti-poverty programs in the U.S., aside from Social Security. Administered through the tax code, these refundable tax credits provide millions of low-income families a check that can cover basic living and emergency expenses, or help build wealth essential to weathering crises. However, these two programs exclude millions of people in their current form. For example, workers under age 25 cannot claim the EITC, and adults not raising children can claim only a minimal EITC benefit. The American Rescue Plan would expand the EITC for adults not raising children from $530 to close to $1,500, and makes the credit available to younger and older workers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has bluntly exposed the underlying fissures and inequities in our economic system. We need bold solutions to create a just and inclusive economy that works for everyone.
Biden’s proposal includes a significant expansion to the Child Tax Credit, which could cut child poverty nearly in half. Currently, the families of 27 million kids can’t claim the full Child Tax Credit because they don’t earn enough money. The plan makes the credit fully refundable so more low-income families can claim it. Further, the plan expands the credit from $2,000 to $3,000, and $3,600 for families with children under age 6.
The COVID-19 pandemic has bluntly exposed the underlying fissures and inequities in our economic system. We need bold solutions to create a just and inclusive economy that works for everyone. This package includes some important initial steps in this direction . It is a robust package that Congress should enact as soon as possible. Yet we know that beyond this legislation, there is much more work to do to create jobs, invest in communities, respond to the climate crisis, and address the legacy of systemic racism that plagues our country. We cannot stop with this package alone.
The number of COVID-19 infections continue to skyrocket, with the country nearing 400,000 deaths. This is more than the number of Americans killed in World War II and the Vietnam War combined. Unemployment has increased sharply, with more than one million people filing jobless benefits for the first time since July. The need is enormous, and Congress must act with the speed and urgency this crisis deserves. Urge Congress to pass this package immediately.