Last week, the House Ways and Means Committee advanced its plan to temporarily expand the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) as part of the House’s COVID relief package. These federal income tax credits provide vital income support to families, lifting millions of people out of poverty every year. Improving these tax credits as part of the relief package would help the women and families—and especially women of color—who have borne the brunt of the COVID-19 health and economic crisis, and help pump money back into the economy.
The Child Tax Credit
Children in low-income families—disproportionately children of color—have been devastated by this pandemic. In December 2020, between 9 and 12 million children lived in a household without enough to eat. Making the CTC available to all families and increasing the amount of the credit would lift an estimated 4.1 million children out of the poverty and reduce child poverty by more than 40 percent. This expansion would most benefit the lowest-income families, providing a 37.4% income boost to families with children making $21,300 or less a year. And these families would not need to wait until they filed taxes to receive this much-needed support; the IRS would advance up to half of a family’s CTC amount on a monthly or quarterly basis, starting in July, under the Ways and Means plan.
The Earned Income Tax Credit
Women were overrepresented among low-paid workers, even before the pandemic. Essential workers—disproportionately women of color—have faced high health and economic impacts from the pandemic, working on the frontlines as home-health aides, cashiers, and food servers. However, many of these workers receive little to no benefit from the EITC, because working people without children are only eligible for a very small credit. Expanding and increasing the EITC for workers not claiming children would provide much-needed support to 17.4 million adults, including 4 million Latinx and 3 million Black workers. The Ways and Means plan would also extend the credit to both younger and older workers than under current law.
In addition to the CTC and EITC expansions, the House plan would give families direct payments of $1,400 per eligible person, including children, adult dependents, and those with Social Security Numbers in mixed-status families. The plan would also expand the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (most importantly, by making it refundable), providing more much-needed help to families who are struggling in the pandemic. Taken together, these measures would provide a desperately needed income boost for the women and families hardest hit by the pandemic.