Congress has a real chance in the Lame Duck session to prevent greater hardship for the 49,000 Maine children who lost out after a recent expansion of the Child Tax Credit was allowed to lapse, according to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).
Last year’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) temporarily expanded the Child Tax Credit (CTC), giving millions of low-income families with kids a boost and driving child poverty down to a record low. But Congress allowed the CTC expansion to lapse this year, and if it fails to act now, 19 million children across the country risk being pushed into poverty or facing greater hardship. Children from Black, Latino, and American Indian families are disproportionately likely to risk falling behind.
Congress is considering its priorities for end-of-year spending packages, and as Maine families face rising costs, special interests are pushing for more tax breaks for profitable corporations. Social justice advocates urge the Maine delegation to put kids and families first, not corporate tax breaks.
“Rising costs have coincided with rising profits for corporations, while families with low incomes struggle to keep up,” said Garrett Martin (he/him), Maine Center for Economic Policy president and CEO. “Congress must put families first. Our lawmakers should not even consider tax breaks for wealthy corporations without first expanding the Child Tax Credit.”
The CTC is a proven-effective program that helps families with children by providing more money in their pocket when they file their taxes. That’s more money to help meet rising costs and cover basics, such as housing, food, medicine, clothes, and school supplies. But a flaw in the credit’s design leaves kids in families with the lowest income behind by giving them only a partial credit or no credit at all, even as children in wealthier families receive the full benefit. By correcting this flaw, ARPA lifted millions of the poorest kids out of poverty.
Roxy Kai (she/they) and her husband live with her nine-year-old daughter in Woodstock, and Roxy has a chronic health condition that sometimes makes it impossible for her to work. She says expanded CTC payments have meant her family had a layer of protection when unexpected expenses came up.
“The expanded CTC increased our income enough that every medical expense or car breakdown hasn’t been a financial catastrophe. It’s been a lifesaver for us, and for millions of other families. It’s a shame that so many have lost out because of Congress’ failure to restore the expanded CTC, and Congress needs to act now to make sure families around Maine have what they need.”
Ann Danforth (she/her), a policy advocate with Maine Equal Justice added, “We have been helping Maine families claim their Child Tax Credit and the difference it makes is often transformational: shelter into housing; hunger into full bellies; staying home without child care into steady work hours. The Child Tax Credit is about trusting families with the resources they need to support their kids’ futures. Our delegation and all members of Congress should support this proven economic security program.”
Poverty and the hardships that come with it, such as unstable housing and hunger, can take a heavy toll on children, such as lower levels of educational attainment and poorer health and reduced incomes in adulthood.
“The success of the 2021 Child Tax Credit expansion showed us that high child poverty rates are a policy choice, not an inevitability,” said Chuck Marr (he/him), CBPP vice president for federal tax policy and author the report. “All kids deserve a fair shot at success, no matter their race or parents’ income. The choice before Congress this year is simple: They can act, or they can see millions of children fall back into poverty.”