The expansion of the federal child tax credit has been of particular benefit to our state. This temporary expansion was part of the US bailout package passed by Congress earlier this year as the latest effort to help the nation weather the pandemic. But this improved credit should continue given the importance it has already played in reducing child poverty.
My job is to work with teenagers from 15 to 18 years old. From talking to them, I learned that some of them were hungry. The Expanded Child Tax Credit provides direct monthly payments to many parents to ensure their children’s needs are met. It’s doing that. For example, in the first month that payments were made, the number of households with children who reported not having enough food decreased significantly.
Not having enough food is just one of the barriers many low-income West Virginia people face. Finding the resources to be successful week after week can be difficult. The expanded Child Tax Credit has made a difference in helping families pay for other necessities beyond food, including clothing, school supplies and utilities. It also helped alleviate their debt and provide money for childcare.
This is good in itself, but reducing stress for families and children can have other benefits. Childhood stress, including financial hardship, is linked to a higher risk of developing substance use disorders. We know that about 90% of people with substance abuse problems started using substances before they were 18 years old.
When families receive cash assistance, like the expanded child tax credit, improving their financial situation reduces the stress of just trying to make it through the week. Perhaps this is why studies in the United States and other countries show a correlation between family cash benefits and reduced spending on alcohol and tobacco. This is more important than ever due to the isolation and financial challenges that many families experienced during the pandemic. The expanded child tax credit puts another tool in our toolbox to tackle the things that can lead to substance use disorders.
The Expanded Child Tax Credit is a way to help our children and a real way to let them know that someone is caring for them – that we as a state and nation are caring for them. them. Both Senator Capito and Senator Manchin have been champions of children in our state. Overall, 93% of West Virginia children will benefit from this credit expansion, which includes strong guarantees against fraud. I encourage Congress to support this legislation that will help strengthen our children, not just our children, but our families, our state and our nation.
–The Reverend Alton Dillard is the past president of the West Virginia Annual Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Third District.