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Federal tax credit relief for low-wage families starts soon. Now, make it last past the pandemic / NJ.com / 7/8/21

By South Jersey Times Guest Columnist

By Alison Arné

Working moms like me need support to care for our loved ones and plan for our future. Congress’ expansion of the Child and Earned Income Tax Credits were welcome starts. Now that these programs are in place, our leaders should take the bold and necessary step to make these programs permanent. Some of the provisions expire at the end of the 2021 tax year.

Our families and children depend on this expansion in order to overcome serious economic hardships.

When my daughter was an infant, I struggled to pay the bills, no matter how many hours I punched the clock. My two jobs as a day care director and a Wawa associate were not sufficient. In 2017, during a GOP-led campaign to cut Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, I participated in  opens in a new windowan event outside my congressman’s office. I stood up for Medicaid, which was, and continues to be, the only way that my daughter can have health care coverage.

I now work for one of the organizations that organized the event. While the pay and benefits are much better than in my previous jobs, the stakes are even higher.

Like you, I’ve been living and working through a pandemic. I have done that as a single mom with two aging parents. This past year, the silent struggles of parents and caregivers have been made public on our front pages. Our society finally appreciates how much work goes into taking care of our loved ones.

And, yet, many of us struggle to afford care for our kids, ourselves and our families. Over a quarter of New Jersey adults  opens in a new windowhad difficulty covering household expenses during the month of May. That amounts to over 1.5 million people who may struggle to put food on the table for their kids, provide parents with medical care, and sacrifice essential spending at a cost to their own well-being.

Thankfully, many of us are close to getting needed support. This spring, Congress passed and the president signed the American Rescue Plan, with the expanded credits. As a result, some families may see  opens in a new windowfinancial relief starting on July 15. We are asking everyone to spread the word, because there are still hundreds of thousands of people who may not know about this critical relief. If they don’t register at this portal ( opens in a new windowhttps://www.irs.gov/credits-deductions/child-tax-credit-non-filer-sign-up-tool) provided by the IRS, they’ll miss a crucial chance for help, especially if they did not file a 2020 income tax return.

You might qualify. Under the American Rescue Plan, eligibility for Child and Earned Income Tax Credits was extended to up to 23 million children who didn’t qualify previously. Under the plan, the Earned Income Tax Credit is raised to a maximum of approximately $1,500 for working adults who earn low wages, even those with no children.The plan also expanded credit coverage for those ages 19-24, and those over 65. Lastly, the income cap has been raised from $16,000 to $21,000.

We faced disaster long before COVID-19 struck. We still face those same challenges as we move past the worst phase of the pandemic. The expansion of these credits must be made permanent.

For too long, our tax code has favored the wealthy and well connected. opens in a new window The wealthiest 25 Americans were worth $401 billion more in 2018 than in 2014, and they paid a true federal income tax rate of only 3.4%.

It’s time for Wawa associates, daycare directors, and caregivers like me to have the tax code work for us.

Alison Arné is digital outreach organizer with the opens in a new window New Jersey Organizing Project, which advocates for low-income families in the shore and South Jersey areas. She lives in Buena Vista Township, Atlantic County, with her daughter.

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