In the financial landscape of America, working families form the backbone of the economy. Not only do they contribute to the present-day economy, but they nurture our future generation. However, financial challenges often stand as roadblocks in their path to a comfortable life and a promising future for their children. Amidst these challenges, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) emerge as vital lifelines. These tax credits are more than mere fiscal aids; they are bridges to long-term benefits and societal growth.


A Beacon of Hope in Tough Times


The year 2021 was emblematic of how pivotal the EITC and CTC are for American families, especially during economic storms. The American Rescue Plan (ARP) temporarily augmented the CTC, setting off a ripple effect that significantly reduced child poverty. The rate plummeted from 9.7% to a historic low of 5.2%. Just in this year, the CTC lifted 5.3 million people out of poverty, including 2.9 million children. These figures aren’t just statistics; they are narratives of hope and proof of the effectiveness of these credits.


More than Just Dollar Signs


The effectiveness of the EITC and CTC lies in their ripple effect. They provide immediate financial relief, creating waves of long-term benefits that improve the lives of recipients and their children. Thanks to these credits, it’s not just the present that brightens when families have a sturdier financial footing, the future also holds more promise. Kids do better in school, and the doors to college swing open wider. The journey doesn’t end there—the benefits of these family-focused tax credits cascade into adulthood, where higher earnings await.


Encouraging Work and Reducing Dependency on Publicly Subsidized Programs


The EITC has proven to be a significant motivator for work, especially among single mothers and female heads of households. Studies have shown that the expansions of the EITC in the 1990s played a big role in encouraging these groups to join the workforce, matching the effects of other welfare reforms during that time. This is not just about getting a job, it’s about building a career. Women who were part of the EITC expansion saw their wages grow over the years and set a strong foundation for their financial future. Moreover, as these women earned more, they were setting themselves up for higher Social Security retirement benefits later on. The effects of the EITC lessen the burden on the rest of the health and human services system as well. With more single mothers working, fewer female-headed households needed cash subsidy assistance. This paints the EITC as a powerful tool in promoting self-sufficiency and reducing dependency on publicly subsidized programs.


The Long-term Positive Impact of EITC


The praise for EITC doesn’t end at merely boosting employment. Its design, which rewards work, has been deemed as potentially one of the most successful labor market innovations in U.S. history, as noted by Hilary Hoynes from the University of California. This is a strong testament to its effectiveness in not just providing immediate financial relief, but in creating a pathway towards self-reliance and financial independence. While the CTC is relatively newer and hasn’t been explored to the same extent, it shares a crucial trait with the EITC – it is structured to benefit working families, phasing in as earnings increase. This design encourages work and provides growing benefits as income rises, further illustrating how these tax credits are structured to promote a stable financial pathway for working families. Through the EITC and CTC, the tax system is playing a pivotal role in fostering a culture of work, self-sufficiency, and long-term financial stability among the working-class families of America.


Flexing with Changing Times


Tax credits like EITC and CTC have shown remarkable flexibility in adapting to the changing economic climate. In 2021, in response to the economic hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rules were tweaked to allow more people without children to qualify for EITC. This extended a financial olive branch to a broader segment of low- to moderate-income families. Similarly, the EITC value soared to as much as $6,728 for families with three or more qualifying children, making a significant dent in their financial worries.


A Helping Hand Amid Uncertainty


In a time of economic uncertainty, the increase in the maximum EITC for those without dependents from $538 in 2020 to $1,502 in 2021 was like a financial buoy in stormy waters. These changes, although temporary, were a beacon of hope for many, underscoring the critical role of these tax credits in providing a safety net during turbulent times.


Conclusion


The EITC and CTC are proven strategies to help alleviate poverty for hardworking families. These programs are proven to lift millions out of poverty, provide both immediate and long term benefits, adapt to changing economic conditions, and are a critical safety net in tough economic times. While the EITC and CTC have shown effectiveness in their execution to this point, there is still significant room for expansion to create a greater impact and a better future. Through wise policy measures and sustained commitment, we can ensure that these credits continue to lift families out of poverty and create hope for a brighter future.

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United Way of Greater Lorain County leads community-wide innovation to tackle problems that most people say can’t be solved. In unforgiving cities, overlooked townships, and seemingly docile suburbs. We find every dollar we can to address them. But we are more than the fundraisers. United Way brings together over 150 organizations to power 10 Community Collaboratives. Together, we fight for the health, education, and financial stability of low-income working families who need our help in Greater Lorain County. We have one life. To live better, we must Live United. Learn more at uwloraincounty.org or by calling 440-277-6530.

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