Over the years, politicians have introduced various programs to help offset that cost.
In 1996, Congress created the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program to give states block grants for job preparation, childcare and other programs.
Introduced by Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet in 2017, the American Family Act would do that by revising and expanding the existing Child Tax Credit to provide most parents, including low-income ones, at least $3,000 every year.
They cost a lot of money — TANF, for example, costs $16.5 billion every year — and their benefits are concentrated to low-income families who don’t pay much in taxes.
But the American Family Act is notably different than other benefit programs.
If Rosenberger lived in Canada, Australia or almost any country in the European Union, she’d benefit from a child allowance: periodic payments made out to parents so they can offset how expensive it is to raise children.
Christopher Faricy, a political science professor at Syracuse and an expert on income inequality, tells TIME that tax-based benefits are typically more popular than other cash assistance programs.
The bill would also revise the tax credit to allocate more money to parents with younger children.
Parents with a child under six would be eligible for $3,600 a year, and parents with a child over six would be eligible for $3,000.
Elaine Maag, a senior research associate at the Urban Institute’s Tax Policy Center, where she studies income support programs for low-income families, says the age differential is a good improvement.
“There’s a fair amount of research out there that says if we provide children money very early in life, it leads to this lifetime benefit — they have better health outcomes, they attend school longer and they even are more likely to have jobs and greater economic stability later on.
The American Family Act would require the Treasury Department establish a fund to make advance payments in monthly installments, since your car doesn’t break down on the IRS’s schedule and your babysitter won’t wait to get paid until next year.
“I think that if we could actually allow people to have the benefit spread over time rather than just having at one time during the year when the taxes are filed, that it would better enable them to to use the money when they need the money,” Bennet says.
Another problem with the current Child Tax Credit, he says, is that a lot of children are left out.
Trump’s 2017 tax cuts slightly expanded the pool of low-income families who are eligible to receive the tax credit, but according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, roughly 27 million children in America live in households that don’t earn enough to qualify for the benefits in full.
The poorest families in America, whose incomes equate to less than $2,500 per year, don’t qualify at all.
Right now, families who earn more than $2,500 per year can see their taxes reduced by $2,000 for each child they have under the age of 17.
Researchers at Columbia University estimate the program could cost $91 to $108 billion per year, making it a target for critics of government spending.
“It has appeal in helping families and providing them with more resources to take care of children, but I do think it reaches too far into the government,” she says.
By her estimates, if the increase in taxes necessary to pay for the program were levied only on people making at least $200,000 a year, their annual taxes would increase by roughly $14,500 each.
But a program of this nature could also create an economic stimulus of roughly 0.80% GDP growth over eight years, according to researchers at the Roosevelt Institute, who were studying a very similar child allowance plan.
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