Convening #8 – The Fight to Make the Child Tax Credit (CTC) Permanent
What is the status of the CTC? How does CTC function as an income floor for families with children?
What have been the successes and challenges in making the child tax credit (CTC) permanent? What lessons are broadly applicable to the fight for an income floor?
How does the fight for CTC connect to guaranteed income efforts across the country? What actions can GICP members take to advance the CTC and encourage their communities to be engaged in this fight?
A fully refundable child tax credit drives racial equality, Economic Security Project
The Child Tax Credit Overview, Community Change
Child Tax Credit or Guaranteed Income: What’s in a Name?, Prosperity Now
Welcome: Hope Wollensack
The Parents Together Action video showcased the importance and impact of the child tax credit. A fully refundable CTC will have historic effects on poverty and racial equity. Making permanent the current expansion of the CTC will ensure all children, particularly those whose parents have little or no earnings, will continue to receive the benefits.
A permanent, fully refundable CTC will:
Reduce racial disparities, ensuring eligibility of the full credit for 48% of Black children, 46% of Latinx children, 36% of white children, and 34% of Asian children.
Drastically cut childhood poverty, providing the full credit to virtually every family with kids in the bottom 20% of the income spectrum.
Help to right a historic injustice, targeting relief to those previously left out of the full benefits and helping everyone get support to care for their families.
Opening Remarks: Representative Rosa DeLauro – Third District of Connecticut
Under the American rescue Plan, the CTC is fully refundable (no wage earning requirement for caregiver), paid in advance monthly for 6 months, and provides an expanded amount per eligible child. The expanded CTC is anticipated to cut child poverty by more than 40% and has already cut child hunger. It is groundbreaking and transformative in terms of public policy; it is a new deal. After almost twenty years, we are at the point where permanency is not just possible, it is within our reach.
We have seen that 90% of children will receive the same monthly payments; it is a great equalizer. And after one month of payments, 3 million children were kept out of poverty. After the second payments, 3.5 million children were kept out of poverty. Hunger amongst children in this country has decreased.
Negotiations are ongoing. The Build Back Better Act extends CTC until 2025. As currently designed, child poverty would be cut by nearly 50%. Failure to make it permanent creates a poverty cliff, as child poverty would only be cut by 7%. Making it permanent includes all facets, including full refundability and the increased value of $3000 and $3600.
How to get involved:
Talk about the entire CTC. Ending child poverty is a moral responsibility, but also a moral imperative. Poverty costs this country every year between $800 billion and $1.1 trillion; we can’t afford not to make it permanent, nor can we risk a temporary expansion.
Focus on the content of Build Back Better and how it can provide people with a better chance at a better life. It includes this child tax credit, paid family leave and childcare. Don’t let them get you in a box talking about the numbers. It is about the consequences of the CTC that makes the difference.
Congress is an institution that responds to external pressure. We are the external pressure. Stand up and speak out, and we can get it done together.
Child Tax Credit: Connecting the Fight to Make it Permanent to the On-the-ground Movement for Guaranteed Income
Facilitated by Madeline Neighly, Economic Security Project
Drew Astolfi, Organizer, Community Change
How does Community Change work with community-based organizations and connect those on the ground to policy?
Community Change is based in a set of grassroots community organizations that are oriented towards building power, especially for people of color. Community Change has a close connection with people in their everyday lives. This shapes and corrects policy initiatives. Community Change works to give people on the ground the power to do this and do it in a way that changes and moves policy.
Meredith Dodson, Director of U.S. Poverty Policy and Senior Advisor, RESULTS
How do you elevate grassroots voices and connect them with the power of lobbying?
RESULTS has a network built over time of grassroots advocates who raise their voices with their own federal policymakers with the goal of influencing political decisions that will bring an end to poverty. Most advocates are organized into a group or a chapter, some of whom have a long history of working on EITC and CTC.
RESULTS focuses on priorities being shaped by people with lived experience. It has a cohort of experts on poverty (reframing what expertise means) who have helped shape their broader network and the narrative. Meredith placed videos and an article in the chat to show some of the recent pieces from these leaders. This has been really helpful when looking at CTC and also the importance of having grassroots leaders with lived experience at the table and having direct conversations with policymakers.
Pedro Morillas, Director of State Campaigns, Economic Security Project Action
Pedro works on bringing the national to regional focus, understanding what we need to move on the hill, and how people with a local/state focus can tap into that. What are the compelling arguments to reflect on?
The work has consisted of taking the national issues and distilling it down into the broader communities on the ground and the reverse – taking the realities on the ground and translating them back up into the national frame. This two-way street is super important to this effort.
When they started this effort of trying to make CTC permanent, their approach was to demonstrate that it is good politics and good policy. From the national level it included policy experts, think tanks, and advocates and making the case with polling and detailed research and digging into the numbers demonstrating the policy benefits from all of it.
On the local level it was the same goal, but with a more personal touch. Part of the problem with any program like this, especially for people on the fence, is who will be receiving this credit and what kind of impact it will have on their lives. There are some harmful assumptions that legislators make about who the people are that will benefit the most from these programs and it takes a very targeted approach to burst their bubble of assumptions. The most important part of this work is the individuals, parents, and kids who have shown up to these conversations and articulated who they are and how the CTC has benefitted them. There are many groups where this has been a focus – taking real-life stories and bringing them directly to elected officials.
On the political side, it’s more about the volume. The op-eds, newspaper articles, rallies, and phone calls demonstrate there is a lot of public support behind all of this. All of this information has been compiled by Economic Security Project Action and turned into videos and fact sheets and brought to D.C.
Linking the fight to guaranteed income and reaching people who haven’t filed taxes.
Drew: For the people on the ground that Community Change works with, guaranteed income is a difficult idea to digest. CTC has become the bridge they can walk across to open the opportunity for a conversation about GI. It’s Social Security for kids, which is really digestible for people. This has brought GI into the boundaries of acceptable thought.
As far as connecting people to services, Community Change conducted a lab to recruit ten groups and see what it would take to get people their money. There is a group of people who didn’t file taxes because it didn’t benefit them. There are other people who messed up one year and were afraid of the IRS afterwards. Drew sent a slide deck into the chat.
Community Change used trusted messengers to reach people who had not filed and convinced them to file. The resistance is deep; if people didn’t sign up for the stimulus checks, they had reasons so a lot of work had to be done. However, it’s not just about getting money for the people. It also creates a constituency that is mobilizable for the larger fight.
A few of the things they did to reach people included advertising on Fresh EBT, door-knocking at housing complexes, and reaching “watering holes” where non-filers tend to be. Community Change also never demobilized their online electoral base from the 2020 election; they turned it into a cluster of peer-to-peer messages that worked slowly at first. Then with the Code for America tool, they started signing up 50-60 people a week.
Question & Answer
What are the fights on the table? Is there any information on the proposals that are bouncing back and forth right now?
Pedro: There are a few different moving pieces; Representative DeLauro said earlier that the goal is to make all the expansions of the American Rescue Plan permanent. This includes the expansion of the amount people get every year, monthly payments, fully refundable payments, and including kids with ITINs.
The goal of Congress is to squeeze as much as they can into a certain amount of money with the goal of tweaking the CTC to make it cheaper. The CTC benefit goes all the way up to $400k a year. The different ways to tweak it would be to lower the top end of eligibility, remove refundability, or lower the amount of the benefit.
If we have to choose, we would focus most on the CTC being fully refundable and including ITINs/Dreamers. One of the most compelling arguments is applying a racial equity lens to make sure the most impacted communities still get most out of this benefit.
Meredith: It isn’t just cost. Part of the challenge is pushing back on the racist narrative about who is deserving and having work requirements to get this benefit. That is shaping the debate.
Drew: These changes to the CTC are returns to an older role of government, one that works for people who aren’t at the top of the economic hierachy, which changes the playing field for what is politically possible. The GI becomes more within reach because of this, but the political base that will defend this program is larger because it reaches into the middle class. Right now the CTC phases out at $400K, but it will probably be lowered.
How do we tackle anti-Blackness? How do we push back on gendered racism to get these policies, that are popular, passed?
Meredith: Relationship-building at the local level and engage in conversation with decision-makers at the highest level. Talk to families impacted by the CTC and what it means for them. Also take into consideration the historical context of how we got the tax code that we got. When people don’t have historical context, it is hard to connect the dots of how the policy has advantaged some and disadvantaged others.
Drew: Everyone is an expert on their own life. The culture of expertise that dominates in Washington strips that out, we need to ensure it shows up.
Jhumpa: I’m not entirely sure the question around combatting anti-blackness was answered. I think there’s a way in which we can show how something like a work requirement which stems from anti-blackness impacts low-income white people like the series MAID is showing. We just need to make those connections directly.
What can GICP members and people in the community do to help in this fight?
Engage: wherever you are with whoever you can reach. The negotiating is with the House, and the margins are narrow enough in the House that every vote matters.
People on the local level still have outsized power (check out Congressional Management Foundation research) because it is direct contact from constituents and not D.C. advocates that have the most impact.
Closing Remarks : Dorian Warren – Co-chair of Economic Security Project and co-president of Community Change
We have to connect the guaranteed income fight to the importance of fighting for the child tax credit. The CTC is GI for children; the seeds for a broader GI are planted in the expanded CTC in the American Rescue Plan. If you care about GI, you have to be all-hands-on-deck for the CTC fight right now. The CTC is a pretty big bridge (at scale!) for people to walk across to GI.
A few different ways to think about CTC and GI. He has been influenced by two books: The Sum of Us by Heather McGhee and Solidarity Economics by Manuel Pastor and Chris Benner. The CTC is a form of what scholars called a “social wage,” or payment for labor that hasn’t been paid (unpaid care work or community labor). These are investments into health and wellbeing for children, which is a public good everyone benefits from. Almost every other rich democracy has a robust system of policies for social wages.
(From The Sum of Us) Think about the CTC as a solidarity dividend, which are gains available to everyone when they unite across racial lines (higher wages, cleaner air, better funded schools OR the child tax credit/guaranteed income). The premise of a solidarity dividend is that the dividend is a return and reward from what is common; care is a collective act (whether it is for children, the elderly, or the disabled). This work has been devalued for centuries, because the people doing it have been devalued.
What is the route from here to there? This pertains to the importance of coalition-building and multi-racial organizing. We need circles of experts and broad constituencies that vote on our side. Therefore, we need a sober assessment of power. We need narrative power and to reshape the deep narratives of deservedness and undeservedness, which are rooted in anti-Blackness and patriarchy; we can’t duck and cover when it comes to race. If we don’t take it head on with an alternative vision for multi-racial democracy that people can see themselves in, we will keep losing. We also need electoral power, organizing power, disruptive power (the power of social movements), and governing power; we need all of this power to rebalance the relationships of power in this country. There are no shortcuts.
Dorian closed with five steps to do at this moment.
Implement CTC with a powerbuilding lens that expands the people with us in the fight.
Keep people engaged and do the storytelling about what the CTC means for everyday lives.
Continue doing the research on the effects of CTC and GI.
Offer a narrative and framework that show people visibly and tangibly that this other world is possible if we all fight for it. It has to be rooted in a vision of racial, gender, and economic justice.
Our fragile democracy is at stake in this fight if we can’t prove that the government can work for people. There are threats all around us. We all can work our own social networks of friends, family, colleagues (relational organizing). Pledge to have five conversations about CTC and GI with people who might not already be a part of this conversation. Keep having these conversations because we do not have enough people on our side. If each of us can do this and ask those five people to talk to five more people, we would have a powerful movement to win GI for this country.