How American children fell into poverty again? 

April 17, 2022 - 18:56

Last year, the U.S. federal government signed into law a policy to lift millions of American children out of poverty by expanding the Child Tax Credit.  

The measure was part of the stimulus package dubbed the  “American Rescue Plan” on the backdrop of the pandemic that strongly affected lower-income households and saw a record number of workers being laid off. 

Rather than giving parents their own money back at the annual tax time, the federal government issued advance payments for half the credit. 

That meant each month, The Internal Revenue Service (IRI) deposited payments of up to $250 per child between the ages of six and 17, and up to $300 for kids under six, into the bank accounts of more than 61 million families.

In addition, the tax credit was made fully available to families with little to no income. In the past, 27 million children, about half of whom are Black and Latino received less money because their parents didn’t make enough money, but with the expanded child tax credit, those children were finally eligible.

The reality is there was nothing particularly special about the Federal Government’s policy.

Many wealthy countries provide some form of child welfare support or some form of “universal child benefit” and many wealthy countries provided extra financial relief or other forms of support for families with children during the pandemic. 

Nevertheless, the Child Tax Credit saw monthly payments that also cut monthly child poverty by around 30 percent. 

By December last year, that equated to roughly 3.7 million American children who saw the standard of their living conditions improve and lifted out of poverty. 

The benefit is reported to have reached more than 61 million children in December who either in or out of poverty. 

The Columbia University Center on Poverty and Social Policy says “one of the reasons these monthly payments had such a significant impact on child poverty is because the expansion closed a large hole in the child tax credit.”

According to one U.S. Census Bureau data by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities showed when families earning less than $35,000 a year suddenly had that extra money in their bank accounts each month, they used it to buy food, clothing and school supplies, pay their utility bills, and cover the rent.

Lavern Riddick, a single mother in Philadelphia says “that extra money helps out a lot. We struggle day to day. I'm not going to lie, ever since I stopped working [at a hotel] it's been a struggle.”

The calamity occurred just at the end of last year when the Child Tax Credit under the stimulus package the “American Rescue Plan” came to an end and until today congress has failed to extend the program or seek an alternative. 

Overnight, the millions of American children who fell out of poverty for that limited period of time have gone hungry again and nobody in America really seems to care or mind. 

Research by The Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University shows that the child poverty rate rose from 12 percent in December 2021 to 17 percent in February, an approximate 41 percent increase as a result of the program expiration. 

So why was quite a successful policy that improved millions of people’s lives simply thrown away by the American Congress? 

Every single Republican, the party that publicly advocates about being “pro-life” and talks highly (mostly on the campaign trail) of “family values”, opposed the extension of the program. 

Democrats as a whole on the other hand appeared more interested in finding ways to compromise with their colleagues across the aisle on matters that relate to fighting for ordinary Americans.

The bill can simply pass in the Senate with a simple majority vote instead of the usual 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster. 

However, with the Senate split 50/50 between Democrats and Republicans (with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking any ties) and no Republicans want to even look at the bill let alone vote for it, the Democrats can't afford to lose a single vote if they want to pass the Build Back Better Act.

Democrat Senator Joe Manchin has already voiced his strong opposition, citing the bill’s overall costs, and is worried about sending inflation even higher by pumping more money into the economy at this time. When it comes to child poverty, suddenly there are concerns and worries about the economy. 

What Manchin also claimed, which kind of went under the radar in the mainstream American media is that the policy was discouraging parents from going back to work and that parents would waste the money they were being handed on drugs.

That was simply an argument that helped kill the program, no evidence was provided to back such a delusional idea. 

Especially when you take into consideration the research, studies and reports that the money was being used by 91 percent of households making less than $35,000 a year to pay for food, shelter, clothing and other essential necessities.

Neither was the fact that the extra money had cut monthly child poverty by some 30 percent taken into account.

The mainstream media also played a role with the use of their terminology that expanding the policy was a “radical” program. 

The short-lived policy of handing out a bit of extra money from the Child Tax Credit is evidence that it’s far too difficult to solve the real problems and challenges in America such as child poverty.

The program along with the stimulus packages shows American leaders can help the poor if they wanted to. The question is do they want to help the poor? especially amid a massive surge in food prices and other services hitting record levels? 

Child poverty is now at its highest since the end of 2020 and America is choosing to let children live in poverty. 

The Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University says that the child poverty rate rose from 12 percent in December 2021 to 17 percent in January 2022, that’s around a 41 percent increase.

This comes in addition to the record inflation levels America has never witnessed in 40 years. The record level has increased the price of basic food items and services in addition to the cost of gas for motorists at the gas pump amid the crisis in Ukraine. 

This is while during the last 40 years there has been a massive transfer of wealth from the middle class and working families to the very wealthiest people in America.

The top one percent in America now own more wealth than the bottom 92 percent and the 50 wealthiest Americans own more wealth than the bottom half of American society; that's 165 million people. 

While millions of Americans lost their jobs and incomes during the pandemic, 650 billionaires saw their wealth increase by $1.3tn. The growing gap between the very rich and everyone else is nothing new.

The highest poverty rate by race in America is among Native Americans, Black Americans, and Hispanic Americans. White Americans are not in the highest category. 

Did that play any role in Congress cutting Child Tax Credit? 

If the American federal government doesn’t care about child poverty in America, then why would it care about child poverty outside America?

In Africa for example or Yemen where for seven years according to the UN, a child under the age of five died as a result of preventable diseases because of a war America backed and supported.

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