After passing a stimulus package last week that is projected to raise 16 million Americans out of poverty, Senate Democrats are looking to make some of the temporary aid provisions permanent.
Several Democrats are specifically focused on making the expanded child tax credit permanent; currently, the expansion only lasts for the next year. Some Democrats have pushed for this for a long time: Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut) has advocated for a child tax credit expansion for nearly two decades. Now that the expansion is a reality for the next year, thanks to the stimulus, top Democrats say that they will push for DeLauro’s campaign to become a permanent reality.
“That’s one of the most important things we can do. We can change America if we make [the provisions reducing child poverty] permanent,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) on MSNBC on Sunday. “Look, when a child is born into poverty, they don’t get adequate nutrition, they don’t get adequate health care, they don’t get adequate housing, they don’t get adequate education. By the time they’re 18, they’re many steps behind.”
“If we can eradicate child poverty, it will be so good for these kids, their families, but for all of America and our economy,” Schumer continued. “I’ll do everything I can to make it permanent.”
The stimulus package makes the child tax credit more generous and fully deductible and makes the payments monthly instead of just during tax season. Under the plan, families with children aged 6-17 get $3,000 per child and families with children 5 and under get $3,600 per child over the next year — divided into monthly payments — starting in July.
Research has shown that the stimulus, in large part thanks to the expanded tax credit, is expected to reduce child poverty by more than half.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) found earlier this year that the expanded child tax credit alone would help lift nearly 10 million children out of poverty or closer to the poverty line. Research has shown that providing additional financial aid to lower- and middle-class families, such as raising the Earned Income Tax Credit, helps increase health and educational outcomes in children.
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) introduced a version of the expansion in 2019, where it got support from a wide swath of Democrats in both chambers, but was never brought up for a vote in the Republican-controlled Senate. Brown told reporters last month that he is continuing that push in 2021, saying, “As soon as we pass the Recovery Act, we will fight to make it permanent and to make sure they can get the checks monthly if they choose.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is also calling for expansions to the anti-poverty measures in the bill. Gillibrand has previously called for making paid leave for workers permanent and on Sunday pushed for the Agriculture Department to permanently increase the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, referred to as SNAP or WIC.
“We need to permanently raise the value of the food packages so families can afford not just to buy more food but healthier food,” Gillibrand said. The stimulus package includes investment in food assistance programs like WIC and SNAP, which will help increase the amount of aid they can provide.
Though the stimulus package contained some concessions to moderates, progressives have praised the bill, hailing it as “the most significant legislation for working people that has been passed in decades,” as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) told CNN last week. The expanded child tax credit is a rather progressive notion, as The New York Times has written, since it’s essentially a guaranteed income for families with children.
Democrats are hoping that the anti-poverty measures in the stimulus, which has wide and decisive bipartisan support among the public, will not only help the public struggling under the pandemic but also help their chances in future elections.
President Joe Biden is touring this week to tout the package that received zero Republican votes, and Democrats are saying that they will leverage their support of the bill when they run in 2022 and beyond. Biden has told Democrats this month that the stimulus package passed in 2009 under Barack Obama was massively helpful but ill-publicized, which led to Democrats losing seats in Congress in the ensuing years.