Giving Parents More Cash Is a Start—But It Can’t Be the End

We applaud the new expanded child tax credit deal as a modest, but needed, policy shift. However, as we approach the 2024 election, leaders must embrace policies aimed at dismantling narratives that marginalize Black women.

Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) and supporters call to expand the child tax credit on Dec. 7, 2022, during a lame duck congressional session. (Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images for Economic Security Project)

The big news out this week: The expanded child tax credit could be reinstated for three years as part of a bipartisan tax package. This would be a huge deal for families across the country who have been struggling with dwindling supports from the government as pandemic-era boosts expire. 

The deal on the table would steadily increase the current maximum credit to $2,000 per year by 2025—up from the current $1,600—and also ensure 80 percent of the country’s poorest kids would benefit. This would be nothing short of life-changing for the estimated 400,000 children who would be lifted out of poverty by the change in its first year, rising to half a million more by 2025. 

Several millions of kids would also be pushed up closer to the poverty line—which is where it’s tempting to fall into shouting expletives at the sky about how absurd it is to live in the richest country in the world and have to celebrate the fact that we’re *maybe* going to help kids be a little less poor, but still keep them in poverty. We understand! Our voices are hoarse from the inhumanity our leaders willingly inflict on us all—but mostly Black and brown people already dealing with soaring income and wealth gaps—through our country’s embarrassing lack of universal healthcare, paid sick and family leave, subsidized childcare, etc, etc. 

But the fact is, we live in a world that leaves so extremely much to be desired. And this is where we are. When things feel like this, as they increasingly do these days, we try to embrace the directive of one of our most prolific changemakers, Angela Davis: “You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time.”

So, while this latest deal lacks heft—in that it maxes out at a little more than half of the 2021 expanded CTC that was our nation’s greatest tool ever in fighting poverty—it is still significant for putting us back on the path toward radical transformation.

It’s tempting to fall into shouting expletives at the sky about how absurd it is to live in the richest country in the world and have to celebrate the fact that we’re *maybe* going to help kids be a little less poor, but still keep them in poverty

The reality is, up until this proposal, progress on reducing child poverty had been sidelined since Congress allowed the credit to expire more than two years ago. We are all capable of holding two truths at once, so we must also call out where this policy is lacking in its transformative power—in continuing to require families to be making at least $2,500 to qualify, thus reinforcing a harmful narrative that paid work equals deservedness. 

While work requirements are ineffective and counter to combatting the anti-Black narrative that paid work is what makes you fully human, we cannot ignore the benefits this policy will bring to many Black and brown families.

One of the ways it does this is by offering a deeper benefit for those living in poverty versus middle-income families, impacting Black and brown families more since they’re more likely to live in poverty.

It also allows for low-income families to receive more money if they have multiple children—a benefit that is currently only allowed for middle and higher income families. The amount is the same for families regardless of race, but when you consider the most recent data from Pew shows one in four Black families either have no wealth or are in debt, the impact of $2,000 is far greater for a Black family living in poverty compared to a middle-class white family.

To be sure, one of the greatest victories of the original expanded CTC was the effect it had on using the tax code to target inequities (despite the fact that our tax policy is in dire need of an upgrade) with its outsized ability to pull Black and brown children out of poverty.

But for its limited scope, refusal to let go of income requirements and timebound nature; we should celebrate this version of the expanded CTC for what it does, while firmly keeping our eyes on the prize and continue pushing for what we all deserve.

As we approach the 2024 election, leaders must embrace policies aimed at dismantling racialized and gendered narratives that have long marginalized the contributions of Black women. Denying benefits because someone is at home caring for a child or elderly family member, and therefore not involved in “paid work,” is a part of this racist tradition. The antiquated and harmful belief held by many politicians that Black women are lazy welfare cheats, perpetuated by everyone from Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton, harms all genders and races by allowing ineffective policies because they are shaped by racist and sexist stereotypes rather than actual facts. We have created an entire social safety net that fails to meet its promise and harms all of us in society by hanging onto these false narratives that only serve to benefit those in power.

As members of an organization focused on achieving economic justice for all through centering the needs of Black women, we applaud the new expanded CTC deal as a modest, but needed, policy shift. To truly transform the world, it’s time to demand what we all deserve: everyone partaking of the abundance that is currently only reserved for the privileged few—the “radical” idea that we can be a country where every single person is fed, sheltered and cared for.

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About and

Jhumpa Bhattacharya is co-president and co-founder of The Maven Collaborative in Oakland.
Saadia Van Winkle (McConville) is a writer and former television journalist. She currently runs communications for several economic justice and policy organizations.