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Genevieve Doughty, a member of the Passamaquoddy Tribe, is a social worker at Pleasant Point Health Center.
I grew up on the Passamaquoddy Pleasant Point Reservation, and today I work at Pleasant Point Health Center, helping families in my tribe and community stay healthy. In my community, just like yours, family is a huge priority. And for many families, poverty is a huge problem.
Because of government policies that discriminate against Native people, other people of color and working-class people, many of my neighbors are struggling to get by. On the Passamaquoddy Pleasant Point Reservation, more than 43 percent of our community members live below the poverty line. And COVID-19 has only made things harder.
But good things have come out of that hardship. Late last month, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act, which expands the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit. The expansion of the Child Tax Credit will put up to $3,600 more a year, per child, into the hands of nearly every family with children, many of whom desperately need it. The expansion will bring more than $435 million to Maine families. And starting this summer, that amount will be paid monthly, which will be a huge boon for parents who struggle to earn enough to pay the more than $1,000 a month it costs to house, feed and clothe a child.
The extra money from the Child Tax Credit is projected — amazingly — to reduce child poverty in the U.S. by 45 percent. It will pull an even greater number of Native American (61.5 percent), Hispanic (45.4 percent) and Black (52.4 percent) children out of poverty.
For low-income people who don’t have children, the Earned Income Tax Credit expansion raises the maximum amount that childless adults can get, and expands the number of people who can get it — including younger adults, and people 65 and older. That expansion will give Maine households nearly $68 million.
Here’s what the CTC and EITC expansions will mean for people in my community: Fewer kids who go to school hungry, and fewer parents who have to sacrifice their own meals to feed their kids; more parents with enough diapers on hand to be able to send a child to day care so they can work.
The extra money might also mean reliable transportation; the ability to pay monthly bills like rent, electricity and heat; and the breathing room families need to make a longer-term plan for their children’s education.
That’s a huge step away from poverty for our children — and a huge step toward all kids in Maine, and across the country, having a fair chance to live their best lives. Helping families now also helps them later — several studies show that when parents receive money to help with the costs of raising children, those children are likely to be better-educated and more mentally and physically healthy when they grow up, and that gives their kids a better chance.
The results of investing in kids now are amazing. But, as it stands now, that investment is only temporary. We should make this investment permanent, by making the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit permanent.
You can help make that happen by contacting Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and telling them that you support extending the CTC and EITC. Extending these tax credits would mean the good we’re seeing from this year’s expansion would be something on which this generation and future generations can count.