As the 117th Congress comes to a close, lawmakers have a limited window to pass an extension to the Child Tax Credit (CTC), which lapsed at the end of 2021. Last year, the strengthened tax credit helped cut childhood poverty from 9.7 to 5.2 percent! In a year of record inflation and economic uncertainty, the CTC expansion alone had kept 2.9 million children out of poverty. Since the expansion has expired, we are sadly seeing childhood poverty sharply rise once again.
Our congregations and members are already helping families in the greatest need through direct giving and service, but we can also look to vital policy that matters as a means of ministry engagement. Let’s help end childhood poverty by turning a spotlight on the root causes. “Government is intended to serve God’s purposes by limiting or countering narrow economic interests and promoting the common good,” reads the ELCA social statement Sufficient, Sustainable Livelihood for All (pg. 11), and our tax system is a way it can support common good. Government plays a key role in addressing poverty root causes, including through maintaining a tax system that supports families instead of burdening them. Policies ”that promote stable families” [and address] “the barriers individuals face in preparing for and sustaining a livelihood” (pg. 8) are meaningful steps we can take to care for our neighbors.
Lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle have put forward different yet valuable plans to extend the CTC, which could be passed by the end of December. Among the various options, our congregations can encourage the biggest difference in cutting childhood poverty by encouraging lawmakers to prioritize an expansion to the CTC that increases access for low-income families, preserves mixed status family protections, and avoids cuts in anti-poverty programs. Any meaningful extension accomplished by the end of this year would make a transformational difference for low-income families, those of us at the cusp of poverty, many families struggling with rising childcare costs, and families in the greatest risk if the economy worsens next year.
Dear [Decision Maker],
Sincerely,[Your Name] [Your Address] [City, State ZIP][Your Email]
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Evangelical Lutheran Church in America 8765 W Higgins Road Chicago, IL 60631
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