A trio of progressive U.S. lawmakers on Thursday reintroduced legislation that advocates say would slash the nation's child poverty rate by nearly two-thirds.
Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and Jesús "Chuy" García (D-Ill.) revived the End Child Poverty Act, which was first introduced by Tlaib and then-Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) in February 2022.
If passed and signed into law by President Joe Biden, the legislation would replace the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and the child provisions in the Earned Income Tax Credit with a Universal Child Benefit paying families $393 per month per child.
People's Policy Project, a progressive think tank and one of five organizations supporting the bill, estimates that the legislation would reduce U.S. child poverty by 64% and deep child poverty—defined as living in a household with a total cash income below 50% of its poverty threshold—by 70%.
"Poverty is a policy choice," Tlaib said in a statement. "The End Child Poverty Act will create a universal child assistance program and ensure that every child has the resources they need to reach their full potential."
"The expanded Child Tax Credit lifted 2.9 million children out of poverty and cut child poverty in nearly half, but now that it has expired, too many families are struggling to make ends meet," she added. "In the richest country in the history of the world, no family should have to choose between keeping a roof over their head and putting food on the table to feed their children."
Federal data released last year showed the U.S. child poverty rate nearly halved from 9.7% in 2020 to 5.2% in 2021, thanks largely to the CTC expansion included in the American Rescue Plan pandemic relief package signed by Biden in March 2021. The CTC expansion expired at the end of 2022.
Omar said: "In the midst of a devastating pandemic, President Biden and Democrats in Congress took dramatic action to help families in my district stay afloat—expanding life-changing benefits like Medicaid and SNAP, and expanding the child tax credit to finally benefit the most vulnerable among us. This action alone cut child poverty nearly in half."
"It is a tragedy that we let the child tax credit expansion expire," Omar continued. "I am thrilled that Minnesota plans to expand the state's child tax credit, but Congress must take federal action to address child poverty and help millions of families afford basics like food, rent, childcare, and healthcare."
A fact sheetreleased by Tlaib's office stated that because the program would be universal and include no income phase-ins or phase-outs, children in the U.S. would be "automatically enrolled at birth, and every family would receive a monthly payment for every child they are currently caring for" until the age of 18.
"This universal child benefit proposal would dramatically simplify our nation's child benefit system and provide financial security for all families when they have a child," said Matt Bruenig, founder of the People's Policy Project.
Tlaib contended: "The End Child Poverty Act would cut childhood poverty by nearly two-thirds. It is exactly the type of bold action our party should be championing to finally address child poverty in this country and make sure families aren't going hungry in one of the wealthiest countries in the world."
"It is a tragedy that we let the child tax credit expansion expire."
Noting the "442,000 children living in poverty in Illinois," García said that "this crucial legislation provides financial security for families living paycheck to paycheck."
"We must continue to work towards reducing child poverty," he added, "and ensure every family has the opportunity to thrive in this country."
The reintroduction of the End Child Poverty Act comes a little over a month after 30 million people across the United States had their family's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program food benefits slashed, despite high prices driven by corporate greed and inflation and experts' warnings about a looming "hunger cliff."
This content originally appeared on Common Dreams and was authored by Brett Wilkins.