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More than 400 economists urge Congress to make enhanced child tax credits permanent

September 16, 2021, 1:00 PM UTC

More than 400 top U.S. economists signed a letter on Wednesday, urging Congress to make the 2021 expansion of the child tax credit permanent. 

The credit, which allocates about $3,000 to $3,600 per child, partially paid in monthly installments, has been incredibly successful in reducing childhood poverty without impacting the workforce, they wrote in a letter

“A permanently expanded CTC would yield tremendous immediate and long-term benefits for children and their families and would be unlikely to meaningfully reduce employment,” they wrote. “For these reasons, we believe that the benefits of an expanded CTC far outweigh the costs.

The expansion, they argued, would result in long-term benefits that would eventually reduce government expenditures on those impacted by childhood poverty. They estimate the permanent plan would eventually cost taxpayers as little as 16¢ for every $1 of new benefits. 

Arguments made by Republicans that the credit would disincentivize parents from going to work in an already-fraught labor market have been disproved, they added. Most families would not see their CTC amount decline if their income rises, and the panel of experts who reviewed this issue for the National Academy of Sciences recently concluded that a universal child allowance would have a negligible effect on employment.

Childhood poverty currently costs the U.S. between $800 billion and $1.1 trillion each year and affects approximately one in seven children, and one in five children of color. The one-year extension of the credit signed by President Joe Biden in March is expected to extend $105 billion to American families. 

Democrats have included a four-year expansion of the program in their $3.5 trillion social spending legislation, but economists have suggested that they take it one step further, and permanently codify it. 

And while Republicans in Congress oppose the extension, the credit has been popular among constituents of both parties. A new Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 59% of U.S. adults—including 75% of people who identified themselves as Democrats and 41% of people who identified as Republicans—support it. That’s compared with just 11% of Republicans who believe President Biden is doing a good job in office. 

The credits also tend to benefit those living in red states. Utah, Idaho, South Dakota, Alaska, Nebraska, Wyoming, North Dakota, Iowa, Kansas, and Montana, were the top 10 states to benefit by average monthly child tax credit payments in August. Each of those states went for Donald Trump over Biden in the 2020 presidential election. 

Still, Republicans in Congress continue to raise concerns about the credit. 

Every Republican in both the House and Senate voted against the measure, and representatives Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) recently wrote a letter to Gene Sperling, who is coordinating implementation of the relief package at the White House, saying without evidence that the extra credits would lead to an increase in fraudulent payments. 

Democrats, hoping to campaign on the issue during midterm elections, have begun publicly calling out Republicans for voting against the extension. 

“This is an example of the difference between a Democratic and a Republican majority in the Senate. As Leader [Mitch] McConnell openly reminds everyone, not a single Republican voted in favor of expanding the child tax credit through the American Rescue Plan,” Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor this summer. “I am so proud that Democrats found a way to help American families, help American kids with a brighter, stronger future, despite Republican opposition.”

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