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Op-ed: The expanded child tax credit should be a permanent fixture of the tax code

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris gives her flag pin to Jayden Vello as she visits his classroom at CentroNia, a bilingual early childhood education center, to highlight child tax credit programs, in Washington, U.S. June 11, 2021.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris gives her flag pin to Jayden Vello as she visits his classroom at CentroNia, a bilingual early childhood education center, to highlight child tax credit programs, in Washington, U.S. June 11, 2021. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Benjamin Franklin once astutely wrote that the only certainties in life are death and taxes. As the Chairman of the Committee in Congress that writes tax policy, I’m all too familiar with the dread many Americans associate with the 15th of April. But today, on the 15th of July, the American people will see how the tax code is supposed to work for them.

This morning, millions of American parents woke up to the first installment of the newly expanded, fully refundable, advanceable Child Tax Credit in their bank accounts. Thanks to President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, working families will now receive $3,000 for each child six years of age and older, and $3,600 for children under six years. This amounts to an additional $250 to $300 monthly, per child, for the vast majority of American families.

Because the Child Tax Credit isn’t considered income, the changes don’t jeopardize the other crucial federal benefits that families rely on to get by. Rather, it’s additional support that can pay for essentials like rent, diapers, child care, or food. For other families, the payments could put them in a position to save some money for the first time and be the difference they need to get through a future unexpected emergency.

Policies that saved lives and livelihoods

Throughout the COVID crisis, the Ways and Means Committee led with policies that saved lives and livelihoods. Pandemic-related emergency unemployment insurance and economic impact payments were cash infusions that kept millions of families afloat and prevented an even worse economic disaster. Knowing that the nation’s recovery would not occur immediately, we structured the American Rescue Plan to include both additional immediate relief as well as sustained support that will position the country to build back better. But there’s no ignoring that for far too long, our economy hasn’t worked for working families. That’s why even before the pandemic struck, Committee Democrats were working to expand the Child Tax Credit.

U.S. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) speaks to reporters as House Democrats hold a news conference ahead of the final House passage of the Biden administration's $1.9 trillion coronavirus disease (COVID-19) relief bill on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 9, 2021. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
U.S. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) speaks to reporters ahead of the final House passage of the Biden administration's $1.9 trillion coronavirus disease (COVID-19) relief bill on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 9, 2021. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

I first voted for the Child Tax Credit in 1997. Since then, the program has grown to be one of the federal government’s most powerful tools to combat child poverty. This is the moment to build on our progress and prevent the millions of children whom the expanded credit will lift out poverty from sliding back.

The opportunity to make this expanded, refundable version of the Child Tax Credit permanent is within reach, and the American people are counting on Congress to ensure this program becomes a fixture of our tax code. I fully support this change and will lead the Ways and Means Committee in advancing a permanent extension of this critical benefit and the peace of mind it provides.

In the meantime, I encourage all families to visit childtaxcredit.gov for more information on the expanded Child Tax Credit and to ensure they receive this life-changing support.

The author chairs the Ways and Means Committee and represents the First Congressional District of Massachusetts in the U.S. Congress.