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Child Tax Credit in Coronavirus Relief Plan ‘Long Overdue,’ Expert Says

"A path to future economic security of America," says Lisa A. Gennetian

News Tip: Child Tax Credit in Coronavirus Relief Plan ‘Long Overdue,’ Expert Says

The American Rescue plan, a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan that President Joe Biden is expected to sign this week, would temporarily raise the child tax credit and could permanently modify how the U.S. responds to child poverty. Duke University professor Lisa A. Gennetian is an expert on policies affecting child poverty. Her comments are for use in your coverage of the relief package. 

“A child tax credit expansion with bipartisan support will go a long way toward protecting children who have been inequitably harmed by the economic impact of this pandemic; a pandemic that has not only increased family economic vulnerability but also generated significant loss in children’s schooling and learning, and generally exacerbated family stress,” says Lisa A. Gennetian, a professor of early learning policy studies at Duke University.

“We have evidence on how important the spring 2020 CARES act was in reducing further escalation of child poverty, and also reducing children’s hardship such as the risk of being homeless that got hedged due to eviction moratoriums.”

“The federal policy pivot toward children is long overdue. This legislation will put dollars in the hands of families and many low- to middle-income families who would otherwise not receive child tax credits because they did not earn enough income to do so.”

“In addition to increasing eligibility by making it refundable, this expanded child tax credit plan has other attractive features -- the amounts are high enough to offer up to 20-25% boosts in income and are adjusted by child age (with more going toward families with young children) and number of children, and an appropriate phase out level.”

“The trick will be implementation.  Can the IRS do this well and reach all families?”

“The legislation – including its comprehensive tax plan – is a step toward a grander and bolder needed policy experiment in the U.S. Simplifying the provision of income support for children and leveling the playing field is a path to future economic security of America. It is also a step toward creating an income support system that will protect children during economic recessions as most existing U.S. safety net programs are conditioned on work and cannot buffer children from the negative consequences of economic recessions.”

“Whether the current $1.9 stimulus package will lead to the needed long-term permanent change to address child poverty is an open question. Prior to the pandemic, nearly 11 million children resided in poverty (more than 1 in 7). This means that a family with two children is living with an annual income of less than $21,000. Millions of children were already at high economic risk before the pandemic began, especially children of color. All evidence points to how this racial poverty gap will only get worse. The stimulus package will help but solving structural inequities will require even broader and bolder public investment.” 

Lisa A. Gennetian

Lisa A. Gennetian is a professor of early learning policy studies, an associate professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy, and a faculty affiliate in the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University. Her expertise includes behavioral economics and social policy.

For additional comment, contact Lisa A. Gennetian at:

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Sarah Brantley

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