To reduce child poverty, Congress must expand federal Child Tax Credit

A family walks to a West Side school on the first day of classes last month. Seventy-seven percent of Chicago Public Schools students come from low-income families, many of whom would be helped by permanent expansion of the Child Tax Credit.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

When I saw new data released by the U.S. Census Bureau indicating the child poverty rate has more than doubled in the past year, I was simultaneously angry and sad. But I wasn’t surprised. No, the fact that 12.4% of American children are living in poverty this year, compared to 5.2% just a year ago, is due to inaction by Congress.

Their failure to extend the Child Tax Credit, part of the American Rescue Plan, has been detrimental to our most vulnerable citizens.

I was afforded a unique perspective on this issue last fall while working for U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth as part of my college’s political science program in Washington, D.C.

Our office received hundreds of letters weekly from families collectively asking for the tax credit’s permanent expansion. They expressed how helpful the temporary increase had been in helping them to put food on the table and afford clothes for their children. All I could do was pass along those letters, but the emotions embedded in each stuck with me.

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Ever since then, I have been advocating for the Child Tax Credit’s expansion.

The aforementioned figure of 5.2% child poverty in 2021 was the lowest figure the U.S. had seen — ever!

So why didn’t the increase remain in effect when the numbers were so promising? The lack of Republican support in Congress. The American Family Act has been introduced to make the increase permanent. Democrats are united behind it, but it has zero Republican cosponsors.

Republicans say the price tag of $100 billion annually is too costly and decreases incentives for people to work. Yet these same representatives consider the $842 billion defense budget reasonable spending.

If we can afford that much each year for our military, then surely we can support a program to combat child poverty and hunger that costs significantly less.

There’s another reason for Republicans to get behind this bill. Guess which states benefited most from the tax credit?

If you said places like Alabama, Kentucky, Oklahoma and West Virginia, you would be correct. Under the 2021 increase, these states — with mostly Republican legislators — saw child poverty rates reduced by over 50%. You’d think Republicans would be the first ones on board when presented with this data. Instead, they use cost as an excuse not to support it.

The families whose letters I read every day during my internship had faith in our lawmakers to make their lives better. Our legislators must act now.

Carter Sherwin, senior, Indiana University

Follow rules on Mexican Independence Day

Some in the Mexican community need to understand that their approach to celebrating Mexican Independence Day in Chicago is a disservice. They need to be respectful of the city’s laws and ordinances.

Not wearing a seat belt, hanging out windows or riding on top of cars is illegal.

Honking horns or playing loud music is illegal.

Loud mufflers are illegal.

Setting off fireworks is illegal.

Cars doing doughnuts is illegal.

Blocking “the box” at intersections is illegal.

Ignoring law and order is out of line.

Jim Murray, Loop

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