Conley: Update the Child Tax Credit

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Group of children playing with soap bubbles

Growing up as an 10th generation Mainer taught me many things. Foremost among them was the importance of family and hard work. Prioritizing these things manifests our Christian virtue of creating a better life and example for our children, grandchildren, and of course, our neighbors.  Legislative policies that are crafted with these same principles in mind, such as the Child Tax Credit (CTC), should and must garner broad support in Congress if we are to secure a better economic future that continues to value the family.

The most recent efforts to update and preserve the CTC come at just the right time for the U.S and for Mainers. Families that rely on the benefit, which is over 62% of Maine households with children, have seen a cut to their benefits. The benefits these families garnered from this tax credit, nor the challenges they will be facing this coming year cannot be overstated.

The previous credit offered between $250-$300 per child and helped cover basic but high-priced costs associated with raising families. Sarah Sinkman, a Mainer living in Brunswick, told Maine Public earlier this year that she and her husband “spend about 20% of their income to send their son to daycare… but the child tax credit program cut those expenses in half.” Such relief allowed the Sinkmans to “offset some of the other expenses… like food, rent, and heating assistance.” Their plight is far from unique across Maine, and yet these benefits go even further for the lowest-income families that are kept above the poverty line by the tax credit, according to the left-wing non-profit Maine Equal Justice. Indeed, research done last summer in anticipation of the CTC expansion anticipated the credit to lift 10,00 children in Maine out of poverty. 

American families need help urgently and, fortunately, plans like Family Security Act 2.0 take the CTC from good to great by increasing benefits up to $350 per child and transforming it into a monthly direct cash benefit. Cutting bureaucratic red tape and giving benefits directly to families creates a more efficient process free from cumbersome and intrusive wheels of government. Doing so would also empower families to plan without the IRS looking over their shoulders and possibly imposing requirements to the benefits that would infringe on the beliefs of a religious household.

These reforms combined with proposed work requirements will complete a policy trifecta by incentivizing parents to be positive contributors to their communities (whether that work be that of a stay-at-home parent or otherwise), offering more stability in the household, and boosting our economy by spurring spending. Afterall, almost 72 percent of Mainers who have collected CTC benefits previously have paid for essentials like food and clothes to tutoring. Those benefits have also allowed parents to buy recreational goods for their kids such as sporting goods, bicycles, toys, etc. As challenging as this economy is, this kind of stimulus given to hardworking families to spend at the local level not only helps these deserving families in need but the community as a whole.

Perhaps most importantly is that the Family Security Act 2.0 will be a revolutionary pro-family policy. Under this plan families will be eligible beginning at pregnancy and not just at birth. Any mother or father knows that an expecting family incurs a litany of costs. Helping families shoulder this financial burden will not only create a more stable family for a newborn but also may dissuade a mother from considering an abortion for fear of her ability to care for a child. Frankly, we are well overdue for a federal government that that supports life both in the womb and after birth as the family grows.

We need to promote common-sense solutions offered by Congress, and I look forward to our own Sen. Susan Collins supporting it now and when it comes up for a vote. There is too much on the line for Maine to let this opportunity slip past.

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