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Tucked inside Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan is a seemingly radical notion that children should not grow up in poverty, says Josh Boak at the Associated Press.
Congressional Democrats are now sketching out that vision more fully by proposing to temporarily raise the child tax credit, now at a maximum of $2,000, to as much as $3,600 per child annually. Their plan would also make the credit fully available to the poorest families, instead of restricting it based on the parents’ tax liability.
“The Democratic plan would likely mark the most significant step in the fight against child poverty since LBJ’s Great Society,” said Daniel Hemel, a law professor at the University of Chicago, who noted that a family with two school-age children and no income would get $6,000 under the proposal.
Biden has pitched his rescue plan as an immediate response to the pandemic, but the child tax credit expansion might end up seeding the kind of lasting change that tends to bring a political fight. Some conservatives say the plan would discourage parents from working and would not reduce poverty as a result. But liberals view it as an investment in children that needs to stay in place to ultimately improve people’s lives and the economy.
In a Friday speech about his full Covid-19 relief proposal, Biden said the spending would ultimately lead to durable economic gains. His plan includes funding for school reopenings, child care and other programs to help the youngest Americans.
“The simple truth is, if we make these investments now, with interest rates at historic lows, we’ll generate more growth, higher incomes, a stronger economy and our nation’s finances will be in a stronger position as well,” Biden said.
“This is a really bold idea,” said C. Nicole Mason, CEO of the liberal Institute for Women’s Policy Research. “Things that we wouldn’t have been talking about as possible a year before the pandemic are suddenly on the table — and this is one of those things.”
Supporters of the package also see a return to grappling with big ideas about poverty that has not occurred for decades. The child tax credit is possibly the start of a larger transformation in how the government addresses child poverty.
“A one-year improvement is great, and it puts the architecture in place,” said Michelle Dallafior, senior vice president for the advocacy group First Focus on Children. “But we need to keep doing more and build something permanent. … No child should live in poverty.”