Opinion: The child tax credit should be a priority for Maine lawmakers
Amid the housing crisis, inflation, social and political unrest, and the deadly Covid-19 pandemic, Americans and their families are struggling. With each passing month, more and more families fall behind on their mortgage and rent payments, lose reliable childcare, and are unable to keep up with the costs of basic necessities. These factors play a role in the decline of our middle class, while big businesses profit off of our demise. However, certain measures can protect Americans and their families—one of them being the Child Tax Credit (CTC).
The CTC is designed for Americans and their families to supplement the cost of child care, food, housing, medical expenses and other life-essentials. In 2021, the CTC was expanded to include families that made little to no income at all, and provided families with an opportunity to receive a maximum of $3,600 per month for each child under the age of six, and $3,000 per month for each child ages six to seventeen.
The CTC was essential for many expenses that families struggle to pay every day, and the extra money almost guaranteed a safety net for millions of people and their families across the country. However, at the end of 2021, the tax credit expansion ended, meaning as many as 49,000 children in Maine, and 19 million children nationwide, will continue to struggle in a country where the cost of living has dramatically increased.
In December, Congress had the chance to include the expansion and extension of the CTC in the year-end spending bill, however, this did not happen. While some of the funding included in the spending bill did go to measures to give financial assistance to low-income families in need of childcare and anti-poverty measures like homeless assistance programs, the lack of attention to the CTC will negatively impact millions of children going into 2023. Additionally, the House is more divided than ever following the 2022 Midterm Elections, and it seems unlikely that expanded CTC will pass now that Republicans have control. Even though the CTC was originally introduced in 1997 by Republicans under the Bush Administration, their support today is limited.
In Maine, Sen. Angus King and Rep. Chellie Pingree have both previously backed the expanded and extended CTC, and have vowed to put Maine families first over big corporations. In fact, Rep. Pingree was among 58 Democratic members of Congress who sent a letter to former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) urging them to not vote for tax breaks on big corporations unless American families are taken care of first. Unfortunately, other lawmakers like Sen. Susan Collins do not seem to see the CTC as a priority. Mainers need to know they are being put first by their representatives in Washington.
Now, efforts have been proposed on the state level with a number of bills introduced this session aimed to expand and extend the Child Tax Credit. While the details of those bills have not been released, these are promising considering the number of bills introduced as well as the widespread support among Mainers for the CTC.
There are ways for Mainers to get involved and make their voices heard. One way is to send an email to their senator or member of Congress. Another option is to call the local office of your representative and leave a message, or request a meeting. A helpful resource to find the contact information for Members of Congress can be found here.
Also, consider reaching out to members of the Maine Legislature.
There are also grassroots efforts across the state to help share information and encourage lawmakers to extend and expand the CTC, one of them being the campaign I am running as the Ambassador for Maine with Friends Committee on National Legislation. If you’re interested in getting involved, you can sign up here. Also, there will be a community informational session on January 28 at Ruby’s West End in Portland from 5-7pm to hear personal stories from members of the southern Maine community about how they have been impacted, and what our next steps should be.
American families should be put first over corporations by the people we elect to office, and we need to work diligently to ensure the CTC is expanded and extended.