116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
“What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8, New Revised Standard Version)
According to the most recent data from Kids Count, 11 percent of Iowa’s kids and 8 million kids in the United States live in households where the children do not get enough to eat because the family cannot afford it. By supporting families who are raising children now, we help the next generation reach their full potential and reduce the likelihood of costlier problems in the future.
The American Rescue Plan included a one-year expansion of the Child Tax Credit. The expansion increases the credit amount families receive per child and makes the full credit available to more families. It also distributes the credit in monthly payments instead of as a once-a-year tax refund. Unfortunately, these provisions will expire at the end of the year unless Congress extends them.
I urge Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst to support the permanent expansion of the Child Tax Credit. Making the Child Tax Credit expansion permanent would cut childhood poverty in the U.S. by nearly half and do more to reduce child hunger in America than any single policy has in decades.
Faith makes clear that as followers of Jesus, we are called to care for the most vulnerable among us. And expanding the Child Tax Credit does just that. In Iowa, the expanded provisions will lift 24,000 children out of poverty. Rural communities — both in Iowa and nationally — will benefit most from the expanded Child Tax Credit. In Iowa, 93 percent of children living in rural areas, or approximately 273,000 children, will benefit from the expansion.
The idea of increasing and expanding the Child Tax Credit to help lower-income families is not new and has had bipartisan support. The 2017 Republican tax bill expanded the maximum credit from $1,000 to $2,000.
Unfortunately, the Child Tax Credit was not structured to reach the children who need it most. Before the one-year expansion, an estimated 27 million children lived in families who do not earn enough to qualify for the full Child Tax Credit, including half of Blacks and Latinos and 70 percent single mothers.
The expansion increases the tax credit from $2,000 per year to $3,600 per year for children up to age 6, and to $3,000 per year for children aged 6-17. Distributing the Child tax Credit payments monthly is an important feature of the expansion because it will help families make ends meet every month.
The IRS has created an online sign-up tool for families who typically do not file taxes, which can be found at ChildTaxCredit.gov.
The effects of hunger on children can be devastating — even for short periods. Children who do not eat enough nutritious food are more likely to have behavioral problems, long-term health issues (including obesity), and learning disabilities. I have seen these devastating effects of malnutrition in children firsthand through my ministry and how this injustice also harms the entire community, state, country, and world. Young children are more vulnerable than any other group to the damaging impacts of hunger; yet families with young children are more likely to face hunger than those with older children.
Making the Child Tax Credit expansion permanent would contribute to a better life for the most vulnerable children in Iowa. As an Iowan and a Lutheran pastor, I urge Sens. Grassley and Ernst to support permanent expansion of the Child Tax Credit — it is the right thing to do and the smart thing to do for Iowa’s families.
Pastor Eric Hanson leads Faith Lutheran Church in Andover.