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As Mother’s Day Approaches, a Proposal to Help Millions of Mothers and Their Children

May 7, 2019 at 11:15 AM

The approach of Mother’s Day is a good time to remember that legislation from Senators Sherrod Brown, Michael Bennet, Dick Durbin, and Ron Wyden, which another 42 senators support, would help 23 million mothers and 49 million children by expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC).

Known as the Working Families Tax Relief Act, the bill would expand the EITC for families with children by roughly 25 percent. It would make the CTC fully refundable so children in the poorest households would receive the full credit, and it would create a larger, fully refundable Young Child Tax Credit (YCTC) for children under age 6. Today, the CTC provides little or no help to millions of children and families with low incomes — the children who need it most.

The bill would help moms in every state (see table), across all races and ethnicities, and in all types of family situations pay the bills while boosting their children’s life prospects:

  • For a single mom of a 4-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter who makes $20,000 as a home health aide, the bill would raise her CTC by $2,210 and her EITC by about $1,460, for a total gain of about $3,670.
  • For a married couple with two daughters, ages 5 and 8, in which the mom makes $17,000 selling clothes at a local department store and her husband also makes $17,000 as an elementary school custodian, the bill would increase their EITC by about $1,460. They would also receive an additional $1,240 from the CTC changes, for a total gain of about $2,700.
  • For a married couple in which the mom stays home to care for their young son and her husband makes $45,000 as an auto mechanic, the bill would increase their EITC by about $880. They would also receive an additional $1,000 from the YCTC, for a total gain of about $1,880.

While the bill would help a broad swath of low- and moderate-income families, it prioritizes helping parents and their children with the lowest incomes. Its impact on deep poverty among children — that is, on children who live below half of the poverty line — would be dramatic. It would lift 1.4 million children out of deep poverty, reducing the deep child poverty rate by 40 percent (from 5 percent to 3 percent).

In fact, a National Academy of Sciences committee that Congress charged with recommending ways to reduce child poverty recently made a similar policy a centerpiece of its package of anti-poverty proposals. “[T]he weight of the causal evidence indicates,” the committee concluded, “that income poverty itself causes negative child outcomes, especially when it begins in early childhood and/or persists throughout a large share of a child’s life. Many programs that alleviate poverty … have been shown to improve child well-being.”

The better outcomes that are linked with stronger income assistance include healthier birth weights, lower maternal stress, better childhood nutrition, higher school enrollment, higher reading and math test scores, higher high school graduation rates, less use of drugs and alcohol, more positive behavior, and higher rates of college entry, the committee noted.

Number of Mothers, Working Mothers, and Children Who Would Benefit From Working Families Tax Relief Act, by State
State Number of Mothers Number of Working Mothers Number of Children
Total U.S. 22,727,000 15,291,000 49,335,000
Alabama 376,000 248,000 787,000
Alaska 50,000 34,000 123,000
Arizona 496,000 318,000 1,164,000
Arkansas 247,000 165,000 523,000
California 2,728,000 1,695,000 6,079,000
Colorado 361,000 245,000 781,000
Connecticut 203,000 144,000 414,000
Delaware 61,000 42,000 132,000
District of Columbia 37,000 25,000 81,000
Florida 1,411,000 974,000 2,943,000
Georgia 807,000 546,000 1,749,000
Hawaii 89,000 60,000 206,000
Idaho 124,000 80,000 303,000
Illinois 879,000 600,000 1,885,000
Indiana 489,000 334,000 1,085,000
Iowa 211,000 158,000 472,000
Kansas 207,000 145,000 476,000
Kentucky 348,000 232,000 725,000
Louisiana 373,000 252,000 815,000
Maine 78,000 56,000 164,000
Maryland 383,000 278,000 809,000
Massachusetts 395,000 280,000 770,000
Michigan 681,000 467,000 1,475,000
Minnesota 344,000 263,000 784,000
Mississippi 261,000 176,000 549,000
Missouri 442,000 314,000 952,000
Montana 67,000 48,000 154,000
Nebraska 139,000 104,000 317,000
Nevada 206,000 138,000 475,000
New Hampshire 69,000 51,000 142,000
New Jersey 553,000 374,000 1,137,000
New Mexico 157,000 102,000 368,000
New York 1,306,000 863,000 2,741,000
North Carolina 769,000 516,000 1,592,000
North Dakota 51,000 38,000 113,000
Ohio 827,000 583,000 1,767,000
Oklahoma 305,000 201,000 697,000
Oregon 262,000 178,000 571,000
Pennsylvania 817,000 569,000 1,729,000
Rhode Island 69,000 49,000 133,000
South Carolina 377,000 262,000 785,000
South Dakota 60,000 45,000 140,000
Tennessee 505,000 343,000 1,066,000
Texas 2,255,000 1,440,000 5,097,000
Utah 240,000 147,000 616,000
Vermont 37,000 27,000 75,000
Virginia 558,000 380,000 1,145,000
Washington 477,000 309,000 1,045,000
West Virginia 131,000 84,000 276,000
Wisconsin 371,000 279,000 819,000
Wyoming 39,000 28,000 92,000

Note: Number of individuals includes children.

Source: CBPP estimates based on 2015-2017 American Community Survey data and March 2018 Current Population Survey data.


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