Congress Must Do Something on Child Poverty Before Year Ends

Poverty & Family Economics

As 2023 comes to an end, we can’t let lawmakers go home without doing right by millions of kids in poverty

Being a kid is not easy, especially when faced with the challenges that exist for millions of kids in the United States today. Our country’s youth are struggling with increasing rates of food insecurity, homelessness, infant, child, and maternal mortality, mental health challenges such as depression and suicidal thoughts and behavior, gun violence, weakened child labor protections, and other issues.  Within this overall decline in child well-being, many children of color suffer disproportionately. 

Poverty both contributes to and exacerbates many of these challenges. Nearly 9 million children currently live in poverty in the United States, one of the richest countries in the world. Tens of millions more live in families with incomes above the poverty line but who still experience significant material hardship. 

This state of affairs is unacceptable, particularly since recent experience has proven that progress is possible when lawmakers have the political will to act. Child poverty was cut nearly in half in 2021 in the United States after Congress passed temporary improvements to the Child Tax Credit that delivered monthly payments to tens of millions of households with children that they used to put food on the table, pay rent, utilities, and child care bills, and provide their children with clothes, educational materials, music lessons and other resources that enriched their lives and supported their healthy development. 

The expiration of these payments at the end of 2021 increased suffering for over a quarter of our nation’s children, who are once again left out of receiving the full Child Tax Credit because their family’s income is too low.  These children are disproportionately infants and toddlers, children of color, children in rural areas, and children who live in larger families. Families from all over the country have expressed that the loss of these payments has meant less money for food, diapers, clothes, school supplies, and all of the things that kids need to thrive. Despite these benefits, over the past two years Congress has failed to renew these payments time and again. 

Congress currently has another opportunity to pass a tax package that includes improvements to the Child Tax Credit that would once again significantly reduce child poverty in the United States. Many members of Congress and the business community want to enact corporate tax breaks that would cost hundreds of billions of dollars. If the country can afford this level of support for corporations, it can certainly afford to help millions of children living in poverty who make up this country’s future. Lawmakers must reject any tax package that fails to expand the Child Tax Credit significantly to children most in need. 

We can all agree that all children deserve to live happy and fulfilling lives. This means ensuring they have the resources to be safe, well-fed, and able to pursue their dreams. We appreciate the ongoing efforts of the champions for children who have continued to push to enact improvements to the Child Tax Credit, and urge Congress to support this policy choice to expand the CTC before the end of the year.  

Organizations and individuals wishing to weigh-in can click here to urge their Members of Congress to act without delay to lift millions of children out of poverty.