Misguided CTC Amendment Pits Vulnerable Communities with Each Other

Jan 09, 2014

By Helly Lee

Update: On Tuesday, January 14, efforts to extend Unemployment Insurance (UI) failed in the Senate. Two separate bills, one which would have extended UI benefits through November 2014 failed by a vote of 52 to 48 and another which would have extended UI for three months, fell short of the 60 votes needed to move forward. With the Senate scheduled to recess the week of January 20,it is unclear what Congress will do next on this matter. The Child Tax Credit (CTC) amendment, while not included in this week’s votes, will remain a recurring issue in future legislation. CLASP urges Congress to act to restore UI benefits as soon as possible, without harming needy families.

This week, Senator Ayotte (R-NH) filed an amendment to the bill extending federal Unemployment Insurance benefits that would deny two million working families – and more than 4 million children –access to the Child Tax Credit (CTC). This amendment would make low-income families who file taxes with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), instead of a Social Security Number (SSN), ineligible for the refundable CTC.

Senator Ayotte claims that this amendment would combat fraud; but it would actually deny the benefits of the CTC to eligible low-income working families with children, the vast majority of whom are American citizens. The CTC is only available to working families and helps to offset the costs of raising children. It lifted 1.5 million children above poverty in 2011 and supports work among low-income families and encourages children’s success in school. Stripping the eligibility of low-wage, tax-paying ITIN filers from access to the CTC not only limits their families’ ability to make ends meet, but could also have a long-term, detrimental health and educational impact on their children who are our future workforce.

Congress has historically provided federal extended unemployment benefits on an emergency basis, and not required them to be paid for. If members of Congress insists on offsetting the cost of this extension, they should not do so by finding the money to pay for it by targeting this very vulnerable population. It is alarming that those who oppose tax increases on corporations or those at the top of the income ladder support raising taxes on low-income workers through amendments like this one.

This week marks the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s declaration of a war on poverty. In 2012, over 16 million, or nearly 22 percent, of children in the U.S. lived in poverty. Hispanic children (5.8 million) were the largest group living in poverty and would be most adversely affected by this amendment.  It is ironic that on this anniversary, some in Congress would consider throwing millions of children into deeper poverty. Congress must provide better solutions than to pit vulnerable populations and their needs against each other. 

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