Child Tax Credit/Earned Income Tax Credit Day of Action – at the White House, in the Capitol, and well beyond
Tuesday, February 8 was Child Tax Credit/Earned Income Tax Credit Day of Action, and at the White House, Capitol Hill, and cities across the nation, with service providers and people from all walks of life, all came together to make sure families with low incomes get the money they are due – and in some cases, to call for expanded CTC and EITC payments to continue.
The day kicked off with a special White House event that featured Vice President Kamala Harris, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, and Gene Sperling, White House American Rescue Plan Coordinator and Senior Advisor to President Biden.
Although the CTC and EITC expansions that were included in last year’s American Rescue Plan expired in December, a massive, concerted effort is needed to make sure families and individuals file to get the money they are owed this tax season.
People with incomes too low to be required to file a tax form may not realize they are eligible for the CTC and/or EITC or other credits. For example, a married couple under age 65 with earnings lower than $25,100 does not have to file a tax return. But if they do not, they will not receive the Child Tax Credit for their children under age 18. If they did sign up to receive the monthly CTC payments through this past December, they need to file to receive the remaining half of the CTC they’re owed. If they never claimed the monthly payments, they can get their full CTC now, worth between $3,000 – $3,600 per child. Similarly, poor workers without children can now receive an EITC of up to about $1,500.
Sperling specifically mentioned a number of groups that have worked to get the word out about who qualifies for the CTC and EITC and what families and people without dependent children have to do to get the money they are owed. In a proud moment for us, Sperling mentioned the the Coalition on Human Needs and the Partnership for America’s Children, which are working together to provide groups around the country with resources so they can connect people with the tax preparation help they’ll need to claim their credits. Many other CHN member groups were mentioned as well, including United Way Worldwide, UnidosUS, Bread for the World, Children’s Defense Fund, Community Change, the Arc of the United States, National Community Action Partnership, NETWORK Catholic Lobby for Social Justice, Friends Committee on National Legislation, the National Council of Jewish Women, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Feeding America, Food Research and Action Council, First Focus on Children, Hispanic Federation, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, MAZON, the National Association of Social Workers, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National Women’s Law Center, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, RESULTS, YWCA USA, and Zero to Three.
Vice President Harris talked about stories she has received from ordinary Americans who have benefited from the expanded CTC – including a woman from Pennsylvania who contacted her last month. “She and her husband have four children,” Harris said. “They both work 50-hour weeks. They coordinate their schedules to minimize the cost of child care, and their family is barely holding on. They just need a little help, and that’s what she told me in her note – a hand up, not a handout. A hand up.
“And I receive letters like this all the time,” Harris continued. “The truth is, there are people across our nation who work hard every day and still struggle to get by. And it should not be this way in our country – in the United States of America.”
Although more attention and debate have focused on the CTC than the EITC’s expansion for people without dependent children, Biden Administration officials emphasized both. “The American Rescue Plan increased the Child Tax Credit and extended it to millions more families,” Harris said. “And the American Rescue Plan nearly tripled the maximum Earned Income Tax Credit and made it available to workers between 19 and 24 years of age, as well as to workers 65 years old and older.”
In their remarks, both Sterling and Harris emphasized that the fight to extend the expansion of both the CTC and EITC would continue throughout Biden’s tenure in office.
After Harris spoke, Secretary Yellen stressed the benefits of both tax credits.
“There’s a whole body of literature around the EITC and what it does for single mothers and children,” Yellen said. “It improves mental health. It boosts employment and earnings. But (experts) also found that expanding the EITC produces many of the same effects in single people, without children.
“There’s also a wide body of research around the Child Tax Credit,” Yellen continued. “For years, economists have studied government payments to families with kids, and they’ve found that the money is linked to all sorts of positive things: better health, higher lifetime earnings, better high school graduation and college attendance rates. One recent study even found some evidence that when governments make cash payments to poorer mothers, there’s better brain development in their babies.”
Yellen said when the Biden Administration took office in January 2021, officials recognized that the CTC and EITC expansions were one of the most promising antipoverty strategies the Administration had in its arsenal – especially in the midst of a pandemic that caused millions of children and families to fall under the poverty line.
“We had very high hopes for these policies, but as you’ve heard, the results lived up to even our most ambitious expectations,” Yellen said. “The last year witnessed the largest drop in child poverty in American history. After the first monthly CTC credit went out, food instability among low-income families with children dropped 43 percent. You could even see a nationwide sigh of relief in the data: 70 percent of caregivers reported that they were less stressed about making ends meet.
“And here is perhaps the most remarkable part: There’s still so much money on the table,” Yellen continued. “Most families have only received half of their Child Tax Credits – or even less – and workers are only starting to see the expanded Earned Income Tax Credit now, as they file taxes and get their refunds.”
Shortly after the White House event ended, attention shifted to the U.S. Capitol, where a group of Senators and House members called on Congress to make the CTC and EITC expansions permanent. Participating in the press briefing were Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rev. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), and Suzan DelBene (D-WA).
Bennet said that in his home state of Colorado, the average family with children received a monthly CTC benefit of $445 and that child poverty was nearly cut in half. “In my view, these are the most successful and progressive tax policies that have been passed by Congress in generations,” he said.
Brown called the benefits “the largest tax cut for working families in our lifetime…It’s the most consequential thing that we’ve done in decades.”
Booker bemoaned what he called “Washington math” — certain politicians complaining about the cost of the CTC and not recognizing its benefits.
“To me, this is the worst of Washington math,” he said. “What is the cost of hunger for millions of American children? What is the cost of poverty for millions of American children? To me, this is a balance sheet decision – invest in your children.”
Rev. Warnock added, “Expanding this Child Tax Credit is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do. Were it not for the politics of Washington, this would be a no-brainer.”
DeLauro, who has worked to pass and expand the Child Tax Credit since 2003, asked, “How many federal programs have achieved these goals, have made a difference in people’s lives, in the shortest period of time? Now why would we want to pull that rug out from under them? It’s a cruel hoax.”
And DelBene said, “We didn’t put this policy in place just because of the pandemic. We put this policy in place because it’s good policy, all the time, to help families.”
Tuesday’s Day of Action by no means was limited to the White House and Capitol Hill. According to a White House briefing statement, “hundreds of nonprofits, community-based organizations, religious organizations, veterans’ organizations, youth organizations, disability organizations, seniors’ organizations, health and medical organizations, foster care organizations, and more made commitments to take a wide range of actions today and throughout the tax filing seasons.”