Rescue act

Children in low-income families have a lot to gain from the Rescue Act

Senator Raphael Warnock visited an Atlanta church immunization efforts on Friday and explained to a small group of mothers how the provisions of the Pandemic Relief Bill signed by President Joe Biden on Thursday can help children in need.

“As a child who grew up in poverty, I personally know the hardships families go through,” said Warnock, who grew up in a Savannah housing project. “I know because I’m the product of good federal public policy, an alumnus of the Federal Head Start program, the Trio program, I went through Upward Bound, I received the Pell Grants. An investment in our children is a worthwhile investment.

Nearly $ 2 trillion US bailout includes one-year extension of the child tax credit, increasing payments from a maximum of $ 2,000 per child up to age 17 to 3,600 dollars per child under six and $ 3,000 per child between 6 and 18.

Benefits are phased out at income levels of $ 75,000 for an individual or $ 150,000 for a couple. There is no floor for benefits, so families without taxable income can receive payments, a major change from the current tax credit.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, around 171,000 Georgian children are part of families expected to rise above the poverty line through expansion, and another 183,000 living below the poverty line are expected to move closer. About 91% of Georgians under the age of 18 will benefit from the expansion.

Combined with measures including increases to the SNAP nutrition program, direct payments of $ 1,400 and expanded unemployment insurance benefits, the plan could cut child poverty in half nationwide, according to an analysis by Columbia University.

Child poverty was a major problem in Georgia before the pandemic began, said Erica Fener Sitkoff, executive director of Voices for Georgia’s Children.

“At the start of this pandemic, almost 20% of Georgian children were at or below the federal poverty line,” she said. “For a family of four, that means they’re living on around $ 26,000.”

Children living in poverty often have to cope without sufficient food, are more likely to develop chronic physical or mental health problems, and less likely to be able to see a doctor.

“It really has an impact on all areas of children’s lives, and during the pandemic, when there is a significant loss of education, due to barriers in consistently accessing school, the parents do not have the resources to provide additional support or obtain additional child care, ”she said. .

In February, 2 million Georgian families with children reported loss of income, Sitkoff said.

“So an issue that was already a large-scale challenge before the pandemic has just worsened,” she said.

Today, the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Program, or TANF, is the only direct cash assistance available to Georgian children in severe poverty, but it does little to reach children in need. no longer needed, said Alex Camardelle, senior policy analyst at the Georgia Institute of Budget and Policy. Only five in 100 poor families receive cash assistance through TANF, and the maximum monthly payment, $ 280 for a lone-parent family of three, has not changed for 30 years.

“This trend stems from racist attitudes around social protection programs,” Camardelle said. “Black children are more likely than white children to live in low-benefit states. Lawmakers have also overlooked other opportunities to increase parents’ incomes and improve outcomes for children, such as creating a state-level earned income tax credit or increasing minimum wage. “

Although the programs are universal, they will disproportionately help Georgians of color, who are more likely to experience poverty. About 470,000 black Georgians under the age of 17 do not benefit from the current $ 2,000 child tax credit because their families’ incomes are too low, compared to Georgia’s 274,000 white children.

Direct payments to needy families with no working or income conditions aren’t new to other parts of the world, but they represent a major philosophical shift in the United States, Sitkoff said.

“It’s a really good opportunity to see here in the United States and here in Georgia what that kind of flexibility and direct money can really do for the well-being of children,” she said. “Based on what he’s able to do in other places, I think he has the potential to do a lot of good. “

If the payments result in significant health, education and quality of life benefits for children in need, it could be politically difficult to reduce the benefits after the year has passed.

Warnock and other Democratic lawmakers are calling for the extensions to the child tax credit and the earned income tax credit to be made permanent.

“I think they shouldn’t expire,” he said. “I will work very hard to make the earned income tax credit that we created and the now expanded child tax credit permanent. I think it would be a mistake to double child poverty one year after the introduction of these benefits. We can afford to do it. That’s what you should do.”

Tax credits – which likely wouldn’t have passed Congress if Warnock and fellow Democratic Senator from Georgia Jon Ossoff hadn’t won Georgia’s two Senate seats in January – could become a topic key discussion for Warnock as he prepares to represent himself next year.

A survey conducted in January by the left-wing group Data for Progress found that 59% of voters, including 77% Democrats and 59% independents, supported a refundable child tax credit.

Some Republican lawmakers argue that without job demands, the benefits represent nothing more than a major welfare expansion.

In a joint statement, Republican Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Mike Lee of Utah said they would be prepared to support child tax credits of up to $ 4,500, but only to families with working parents.

“We do not support the transformation of the child tax credit into what has been called a ‘child allowance’, paid as a universal basic income to all parents. It is not a tax break for working parents; it is social assistance, ”the senators wrote. “An essential part of being pro-family is being pro-work. Congress should expand the child tax credit without compromising parents’ responsibility to work to support their families. “