By / Jan 31

NASHVILLE (BP) – The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) has joined several pro-life organizations and advocates in calling on Congress to pass an expansion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC), which they believe will benefit low-income families and children.

This proposed expansion is part of a larger tax bill, known as the Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act of 2024 (H.R. 7024), which aims to increase access to the CTC for lower-earning families.

The bipartisan tax package passed the House of Representatives’ Ways and Means committee (the House’s chief tax-writing committee), on Friday, Jan. 19, with a vote of 40-3. It is expected to receive a vote on the House floor in the coming days.

The ERLC, along with other pro-life partners, signed a Jan. 29 letter urging Congressional leaders to pass this expansion to the CTC.

“The ERLC was proud to join many of our pro-life partners in calling on Congress to take this modest, but significant, step toward policy that wraps around vulnerable families,” said Hannah Daniel, ERLC public policy director.

The letter points to the growing cost of raising children as a need for the legislation.

“As pro-life organizations, we support making sure mothers, fathers and their children have every tool and resource available to choose life and support families,” the letter states. “American families face unprecedented challenges with higher costs of the most essential items for families such as food, gas, energy, health care, and housing.

“H.R. 7024 improves the CTC to better serve all families in need by adjusting the CTC for inflation so that they receive tax relief. This means as the costs of having a family increase, so will the resources moms and dads have to make ends meet and provide for their kids.

“The legislation would also stop penalizing parents for having more than one child by treating all children equally. This is not only fair for families no matter their size but also ensures support for growing families. … H.R. 7024 provides commonsense protection for families and supports growing families at a time when the cost of raising children continues to increase.”

The letter is addressed to Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (a Southern Baptist and former ERLC trustee), U.S. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Other pro-life organizations and advocates to sign the letter include Concerned Women for America, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, radio host Eric Metaxas, National Association of Evangelicals and Americans United for Life.

Read the full Baptist Press article here.

By / Jan 29

Congress is considering an expansion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC) that could significantly benefit low-income families and children. The proposed expansion is part of a larger tax bill that aims to increase access to the CTC for lower-earning families. While the proposed expansion of the CTC is smaller than the 2021 expansion, it is expected to have a significant impact on low-income families and children. The ERLC joined a letter with other pro-life partners expressing our support for the CTC deal that has come together.

The proposal is part of a larger bipartisan, compromise tax package that also includes tax benefits for businesses. The package passed the House of Representatives Ways and Means committee with a vote of 40-3 and is expected to receive a vote on the House floor in the coming days. The expansion of the CTC is part of a broader conversation about the role of tax credits in supporting low-income families and reducing child poverty.

Here is what you should know about the proposed legislation:

What is the current Child Tax Credit?

The current child tax credit provides a nonrefundable credit of $2,000 per child under age 17 for families earning up to $200,000 ($400,000 if filing jointly). There’s also an additional child tax credit, which is meant to help families with insufficient tax liability to claim $2,000 per eligible child. The refundable amount is currently capped at 15% of the family’s income above $2,500.

What are the proposed changes to the Child Tax Credit?

The proposed expansion would change the way the CTC is calculated by allowing families to multiply the credit by the number of children they have. For instance, a family that makes $13,000 a year with two children would receive $1,575 per child, instead of $1,575 overall.

The proposal also includes an increase in the refundability cap, or the maximum child tax credit families can earn per child, to adjust for inflation. The cap was previously $1,600 and would increase to $1,800 in 2023, $1,900 in 2024, and so forth.

What would be the impact of this expansion of the Child Tax Credit?

The proposed expansion is expected to benefit about 16 million children in low-income families. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that the expansion could lift as many as 400,000 children above the poverty line.

The expansion would be particularly beneficial for families with multiple children. Under current regulations, families with multiple children earn the same child tax credit as others with the same salary but fewer children. The proposed changes would allow these families to receive a larger amount of the credit.

The CTC was previously expanded in 2021 as part of the American Rescue Plan. This expansion increased the CTC to a maximum of $3,600 per child, increased the age limit, and made it fully refundable, with half the sum available in advance monthly payments. However, these changes were only for that tax year. The 2021 expansion contributed to a record low child poverty rate and helped reduce food insufficiency and increase families’ ability to meet their basic needs.

Why do some Christians support this expansion?

Christians can disagree about whether direct payments from the government is the most prudent way to spend taxpayer dollars. Yet the proven benefits of this program have led many believers to champion it as an effective means of reducing child poverty and providing more support to low-income families.

Additionally, while the proposed CTC expansion provides financial assistance to families, it also encourages self-sufficiency by helping families cover the costs of raising children and potentially enabling parents to invest in education or job training. This aligns well with an emphasis, shared by many Southern Baptists, on the importance of work and personal responsibility for promoting flourishing and dignity. 

Just as the tax code—not often a place where Christians think of advancing pro-life policy—confers benefits to marriage because of the recognition of its societal good, the aim of these payments to alleviate child poverty is one way to recognize children as a social good. Particularly in a post-Roe environment, we are eager to support vulnerable mothers and families who might be considering abortion due to their financial situation and help them choose life.

Even if we would prefer another method or our political preference advocates a different way, a society that begins to have a greater appreciation for children and advances the protection of the vulnerable is clearly something pro-life Christians should appreciate.

By / Aug 13

Today, parents of America’s 60 million children will begin receiving a second payment as part of the enhanced federal Child Tax Credit. The checks normally arrive on the 15th of each month, but the IRS is sending the money earlier because August 15 falls on a Sunday this year. As individuals begin receiving these payments, Christians may wonder what the program entails and what it means for families who receive the credit.

According to a new Household Pulse Survey (HPS) produced by the Census Bureau, the tax credits resulted in a reduction in the number of households with children that reported food insufficiency and trouble paying household expenses. Even though adults in households with children are more likely to experience food insufficiency, says the Census Bureau, those households saw a 3 percentage point decline between the surveys conducted before and after the Child Tax Credit payments.

Here’s what you should know about this benefit for families. 

What is the Child Tax Credit?

The Child Tax Credit is a provision that was included in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, legislation that provided economic relief because of the pandemic. 

The American Rescue Plan increased the Child Tax Credit from $2,000 per child to $3,000 per child for children over the age of 6 and from $2,000 to $3,600 for children under the age of 6. It also expands the ages of eligible children, which was previously capped at age 16.

The credit is being issued in the form of a monthly payment of up to $300 per child. The first payment began in July. The IRS sends the payments by direct deposit to the bank account they have on file. (​​Deposits for the Child Tax Credit are labeled as CHILDCTC in a family’s bank account.) If they don’t have bank account information for a family, a check will be mailed to them.

Who is eligible for the tax credit?

Nearly all families with children qualify for the credit, though some income limitations apply. The child tax credit begins to phase out for heads of household making more than $112,500 annually or couples earning more than $150,000 a year. (This calculator will estimate the amount you’ll receive.)

What about families who didn’t earn enough to receive the credit?

Parents and caregivers that didn’t earn enough income to be required to file taxes in 2020 or 2019 can still get benefits. To benefit low-income families, the credit has been made tax refundable, which means that families that do not have an income will also receive the money. 

Previously, low-income families did not get the same amount or any of the Child Tax Credit. Under the American Rescue Plan, all families in need will get the full amount.

Will low-income families that receive the Child Tax Credit still be eligible for other government benefits, such as SNAP, TANF, or WIC?

Yes, since the Child Tax Credit payments are not considered income, it does not change the amount of federal benefits received by a family. Such federal benefits include unemployment insurance, Medicaid, SNAP, SSI, SSDI, TANF, WIC, Section 8, or Public Housing.

What do families need to do to receive the money?

For families that filed taxes this year (i.e., filed a tax return for 2020), filed last year (i.e., filed a tax return for 2019), or that signed up for Economic Impact Payments ( “stimulus checks”) using the IRS’s Non-Filer tool last year, the monthly payment will be automatically sent to them by the IRS.

Families who do not meet the above criteria can still sign up at the Child Tax Credit for Non-Filers website.

Will the credit be given next year?

The American Rescue Plan authorized the Child Tax Credit only for 2021. However, President Biden has proposed in his American Families Plan to extend the credit through 2025 and make it permanently fully refundable.

How to help Christians think about this

Christians may disagree about the concept of direct payments from the government. Still, it should be noted that the goal is to decrease child poverty. As the study above notes, the payments did have some bearing on the number of households with children reporting as food insufficient or having trouble paying for their daily needs. This fact points to the way that economic concerns, especially in light of the pandemic and the many who lost jobs or were furloughed, continue to linger for individuals. 

Also, as we recently highlighted, the fact that over 70% of those seeking abortions do so for economic reasons, including a fear that they will be unable to support an additional child, addressing abortion through poverty measures is one way to advance the pro-life agenda of caring for the most vulnerable, both inside and outside the womb. 

As such, pro-life Christians should give careful consideration to the efforts of government officials to address such a pressing concern in the lives of children, though we may sometimes disagree about particular approaches or policies. Just as the tax code — not often a place where Christians think of advancing pro-life policy — confers benefits to marriage because of the recognition of its societal good, the aim of these payments to alleviate child poverty is one way to recognize children as a social good. Even if we would prefer another method or our political preference advocates a different way, a society that begins to have a greater appreciation for children and advances the protection of the vulnerable is clearly something pro-life Christians should appreciate.