In a week full of headlines, President Joe Biden was celebrating a series of key victories for his priorities in Congress and beyond. One of the biggest was the Senate’s hard-fought passage of the Inflation Reduction Act that President Biden signed into law on Tuesday.
The Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) applauded the Senate for passing this bill, which will provide some needed relief for children and families across the country and represents an important step forward in the fight to protect our planet and people from uncurbed climate change and corporate greed.
But the Senate also passed up opportunities to go even further.
CDF joined others pushing Congressional leaders to add a provision that would have closed the Medicaid coverage gap by increasing eligibility in the 12 states that have refused federal funds to expand health care coverage.
Without it, more than two million people—primarily Black and Brown individuals and families who live in the South—are still being unjustly denied health coverage.
Congressional leaders also failed to make critical investments in child care, nutrition, housing, and fighting child poverty in our rich nation through an expanded and permanent Child Tax Credit (CTC).
CDF co-chairs the Automatic Benefit for Children (ABC) Coalition, a group of national, state, and grassroots organizations seeking to create a child allowance, or a guaranteed minimum income for children, that provides regular, meaningful assistance to families, promotes racial equity and justice, enjoys broad public support, and serves as a foundation for a more equitable and inclusive social support system.
An expanded, fully inclusive CTC is a critical step towards that goal. As the ABC Coalition notes, when the CTC was expanded through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, 35 million families with 65 million children—approximately 90% of all children in the United States—benefited from its immediate and consistent relief before the Senate allowed the program to expire in December 2021.
Kali Daugherty, a member of the ABC Coalition’s Parent Advisory Board, explained how the CTC helped her family and others she works with in social services: “[For other families,] it meant they could pay their utility bill, get a new pair of shoes for their children, and have enough food for their family.
“For my family, it meant making it to the end of the month without having to [put] gas, groceries, or other needed items on a credit card. It meant I could avoid the constant circle of high-interest payments to get our basic needs met.”
She added: “I implore Congress to address the financial burden children and families in our country are facing and to bring back the monthly CTC payments that helped to eliminate this.”
By leaving the expanded CTC out of the Inflation Reduction Act, Congress shirked its responsibility to answer that plea and continue the CTC’s demonstrated success.
The ABC Coalition sums it up this way: “It is a missed opportunity to improve the health and well-being of families with children across the country. It is a missed opportunity to support families and keep millions of children out of poverty.
“It is a missed opportunity to help families meet the rising costs of raising children. It is a missed opportunity to help families offset the economic burden imposed by inflation. It is a missed opportunity to advance racial equity. It is a missed opportunity to invest in local communities . . . It is our duty as a nation to protect all children and families and give them the resources they deserve not only to survive but to thrive. As policymakers return to Washington, they can and must prioritize policies like the expanded CTC and send relief to families now.”
Our failure and refusal to center our children’s needs and invest in policies to end preventable child poverty and deprivation is a moral blight on our nation.
We know what works, which makes it all the more shameful that we’ve let the child tax credit lapse and let millions of children fall back into poverty. We cannot let politics stand in the way of good policy. We must keep up the faith and the fight to extend the expanded CTC and end child poverty once and for all.
Marian Wright Edelman is the founder and president emerita of the Children’s Defense Fund.