Removing parents’ incentive to work ‘undermines’ intent of child tax credit, policy expert warns

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The Internal Revenue Service distributed the first payments for the newly expanded Child Tax Credit last week, which Democrats praised and Republicans derided as an “anti-work welfare check” that is not pro-family and disincentivizes work.

A component of President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan signed in March, the first enhanced Child Tax Credit was worth roughly $15 billion and reached 35 million families on July 15, with an average payment of $423. 

Families should receive $3,000 for every child from age 6 to 17 years old, and $3,600 annually for every child younger than age 6 under the expanded child tax credit. This is an increase from $2,000 per child in 2020. 

The income-based payments begin to phase out for individuals earning more than $75,000 and married couples earning more than $150,000, Fox Business reported. 

Families whose earnings are too high to qualify for the payments can still receive the $2,000 tax credit for their child if their income level is below $200,000 for individuals and $400,000 for married couples. 

“For the first time in our nation’s history, American working families are receiving monthly tax relief payments to help pay for essentials like doctor’s visits, school supplies, and groceries," Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement. "This major middle-class tax relief and step in reducing child poverty is a remarkable economic victory for America — and also a moral one."

The IRS sent out the first of six monthly payments last Thursday. The monthly payment is up to $300 for each child younger than age 6 and up to $250 per month for each child ages 6 through 17, according to the IRS. 

There is no limit to the number of children per family who can receive the credit. 

The Treasury Department claims that the American Rescue Plan will lift over 5 million children out of poverty this year and cuts child poverty in half.

"We did what we promised," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said of the child tax credit on Tuesday. "Help is on the way. Help is here. Money in the pocket. Children going back to school, people going back to work. Money in the pockets of the American people, vaccines in their arms."

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said "no greater thing" has helped American families more than the expanded child tax credit.

Republican leaders are not opposed to a child tax credit, but criticize the enhanced tax credit, which they believe "replaces work with welfare checks." 

Connor Semelsberger, director of Federal Affairs, Life and Human Dignity for the Family Research Council, told The Christian Post in an emailed statement that though a Child Tax Credit is pro-family, removing the incentive to work “undermines” its intent. 

“The Child Tax Credit is an important pro-family policy that recognizes even hardworking parents need economic support to care for and grow their families,” Semelsberger told CP. “However, what has always been established from the inception of the policy is that it is a benefit for taxpaying families. Whether that is a family with one or both parents working, the goal of the policy is to provide families who pay taxes with further financial flexibility to meet their children’s material, educational and spiritual needs.”

Semelsberger said the economy instead needs policies to help families “rediscover” the value of work over welfare checks.

“The goal of increasing the amount of the Child Tax Credit to adequately respond to the economic needs of families is laudable,” he continued. “However, the removal of the requirement to work completely undermines the original intent of the Child Tax Credit. In an economy with more job openings than willing workers, we need policies that help families rediscover the dignity that comes with working to provide for your family and country, not one that replaces work with welfare checks.”  

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said the child tax credit disincentivizes marriage and working families, saying it is “anti-work, and it certainly isn’t pro-family.”

“Over the next six months, some American households with no working adults will receive over $6,000 in cash payments from the federal government,” Rubio said in a statement. 

In the past few months, Rubio said Americans have seen the “destructive consequences” of when the government pays people not to work.

Rubio is not unsupportive of a child tax credit and has worked in the past to help expand the credit for families. 

“The way President Biden tells it, the handout is part of his administration’s ‘pro-family’ plan. In reality, he has transformed the pro-worker, pro-family Child Tax Credit into an anti-work welfare check,” Rubio added. 

Emily Wood is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at:

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