The United States has its share of problems for which solutions seem hard to find. Child poverty isn’t one of them.

It took just one policy – the expansion of the child tax credit during the COVID pandemic – to cut child poverty in half, and save tens of millions of young Americans from lives of chaos, uncertainty and want.

Now it’s gone, and all those kids are back living in poverty. Millions more hover just above the poverty line, without the resources to do anything but get by now that their families have lost critical support.

It’s gone because of a lack of support in Congress, including by many members who otherwise spend their days proclaiming how much they care about our children’s futures.

We shouldn’t stand for it, not when one action can do so much for so many.

The child tax credit was expanded and made fully refundable in 2021, meaning it had more to reach more people, including those with little to no taxable income – typically the families struggling the most.


The tax credit was returned to families in the form of monthly checks rather than a year-end rebate, making it easier to budget and pay bills.

The credit allows low-income families to meet their basic needs: food, rent, clothing. It helps them overcome the high cost of housing and child care, and the low wages they are working for.

It worked, too. Boy, did it work.

The U.S. child poverty rate fell 46% in 2021 to its lowest level ever, as it delivered additional money to 61 million children in 36 million households, temporarily lifting nearly 4 million kids out of poverty.

According to a new report from The Hamilton Project, the improvements were most profound in the places where children are most likely to be left behind. In poor, high-poverty states, the expanded child tax credit cut child poverty by an average of 51%.

But even in states like Maine and the rest of New England, which have higher incomes and lower rates of poverty, reductions in child poverty reached 40%.


The effect of the child tax credit on the lives of children is nearly incalculable. The research is clear: By helping families meet their basic needs and become more financially stable, we give kids a better chance at achieving at school and living healthier and more fulfilling and productive lives.

It should also be clear that child poverty is a choice. When Congress decided to expand the child tax credit, it chose to cut child poverty in half. When it failed to make the program permanent, it chose to throw all those children back into poverty.

The opposition to the child tax credit comes from Republicans in the House and Senate, where they killed hopes for its inclusion in the last federal spending bill.

Their opposition makes a mockery of the Republicans’ insistence that their ongoing effort to smear public schools is about helping children.

If they really wanted to help kids, they’d back a child tax credit in an instant. Instead, they portray poverty as the result of weak and unmotivated individuals, and buck at any notion of a government role in alleviating it. Even one that is so unambiguously effective.

Another opportunity to help kids comes in President Biden’s budget, which includes an expanded child tax credit to be paid for by raising taxes on incomes above $400,000.

It’s an opportunity to put kids in a better position to succeed, and to strengthen our communities. We can learn a lot about who supports it – and who doesn’t.


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