Denver – This week, the Durango Herald and the Pueblo Chieftain highlighted how Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet’s expanded Child Tax Credit in the American Rescue Plan Act will help Coloradans across the state. The tax credit expansion, based on Bennet’s American Family Act, will provide much-needed relief to most families in Colorado and across the country while cutting child poverty in half nationwide.
Since 2017, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet has pushed legislation meant to alter the child tax credit in a way that would significantly decrease childhood poverty.
Now, with a temporary expansion to the child tax credit passed in the latest COVID-19 relief bill, Bennet has an opportunity to make legislation that he has spent years crafting and advocating a reality.
“We do not have to accept massive childhood poverty as a feature of our society,” said Bennet, D-Colo., in an interview with The Durango Herald.
Part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, which was signed into law March 11, is a one-year expansion of the child tax credit. The expansion would make millions more families eligible to receive the credit by changing the required income level and extending it to people living in U.S. territories.
“Ninety percent of American kids are going to benefit from these changes,” Bennet said. “I hope that creates momentum to make it permanent.”
The expansion also increases the amount of money families can receive from $2,000 per child to $3,000 per child and $3,600 for children younger than 6. It will also change the nature of the credit by turning it into monthly, rather than yearly, payments.
In an op-ed piece he wrote for The Colorado Sun, Bennet said measures to expand and change the child tax credit are predicted to reduce childhood poverty by nearly 50% before the end of the year and help around 57,000 children in Colorado get out of poverty.
Childhood poverty is not unique to Colorado; it is a nationwide issue. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, almost 12 million children younger than 18 were in poverty in 2018. The poverty rate for children in the U.S. is around 16%, one of the highest in the industrialized world.
The issue of childhood poverty in the U.S. is near and dear to Bennet, not as a result of geography, but because of his previous experience as the superintendent of Denver Public Schools, he said.
“When I was in that job, I met a lot of parents who were working two and three jobs, and no matter what they did, they felt like they couldn’t get their kids out of poverty,” Bennet said. “When I left the school district, one of the things I reflected on was that the schools can’t do this work by themselves, and we need to create some better economic mobility in the country, and in our state, for that matter.”
Since the American Rescue Plan passed, Bennet and other Senate Democrats have urged President Joe Biden, as well as their peers in the U.S. Senate, to make the expansion on the child tax credit permanent.
Read more HERE.
Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., spoke with local parents, educators and social service providers Thursday about the economic challenges facing Puebloans because of the pandemic, and how the child tax credit he has long championed could have a long-reaching impact on lifting families out of poverty.
“I just don’t accept that it’s an inevitable outcome of our economic system or our society or our democracy that we should have some of the highest childhood poverty rates in the industrialized world, and that we shouldn’t have economic mobility in this country,” Bennet said after the roundtable at the Boys and Girls Club’s East Side Clubhouse at Risley International Academy of Innovation.
The tax credit is a “big step forward” in addressing that poverty rate, he said.
Bennet’s proposal to expand the child tax credit, a measure he has pushed for since 2015, was included as a temporary expansion in the recently-passed American Rescue Plan. The fully-refundable allowance is for $3,600 per child ages 0 to 5 and $3,000 per child ages 6 to 17.
The current child tax credit allows families to receive $2,000 per child, but many of families in need don’t meet the minimum income requirements. Bennet’s expansion sets that requirement to $0.
"It’s not condemning those who are at the lowest poverty level,” Patience Ruiz, the director of the East Side Clubhouse, said. “To me, if this is supposed to help people in poverty, real poverty is zero. That’s what I think is amazing about it.”
In Colorado, this tax credit expansion would lift 57,000 children out of poverty and benefit more than one million children statewide. The child poverty rate in Pueblo County is 26.6%, compared to a state rate of 10.9% and national rate of 16.8%, according to census data.
Ruiz has a 10-year-old son and said that she spent years living below the poverty line trying to balance the costs of health care, child care and everyday expenses. Now, as a BGC director, she works with children in poverty on a day-to-day basis.
“This expanded child tax credit is going to really help the community around us,” she said. Even with the worst of the pandemic over, the next hurdle is true economic recovery.
"Life is supposed to be getting back to normal, but there's still that lingering aspect of what our community has gone through in the past year," Ruiz said. She said she imagines that the tax credit could help put more food on the table, pay for a quality internet connection for virtual school and cover costs for extracurricular activities.
One major conversation in the Pueblo roundtable was whether the credit should be paid out monthly versus as a one-time lump sum. Ruiz said the group was overwhelmingly in favor of monthly payments that correspond with bill cycles.
“The overwhelming sentiment in my town hall meetings for 10 years has been ‘Michael we’re working really hard and we can’t afford housing, health care, higher education or early childhood education,’” Bennet said. “COVID has made matters far, far worse. This is one of the greatest investments we can make in our country, with a very high return on investment, and this is the right time to do it.”
Read more HERE.