The Capitol in Washington
A view of the U.S. Capitol in Washington. REUTERS/Erin Scott

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of families have struggled under the weight of child care expenses. With two young children of our own at home, my wife and I know firsthand how costly child care can be.

A key federal program to help parents with these expenses is the Child Tax Credit, which has lifted millions of children out of poverty. During the public health and economic crises of the past year, it became clear that parents needed even more help, which is why Democrats in Congress passed the American Rescue Plan and significantly expanded the Child Tax Credit.

The American Rescue Plan increased the existing annual per-child tax credit of $2,000 to $3,600 for each child below the age of 6, and $3,000 for each child between the ages of 6 and 17. Perhaps most importantly, the American Rescue Plan allows the tax credit to come in the form of monthly payments to families who qualify. The IRS will begin distributing these payments to nearly 40 million American households on July 15.

Payments will help working families with education, nutrition, and other expenses that come with raising children. And while the biggest difference will come for those who need help the most, the expansion serves parents in a host of economic situations. Single parents who earn up to $75,000 per year and couples who earn up to $150,000 will be eligible for the maximum credit.

In my Congressional district, which includes North County San Diego and South Orange County, the expansion will benefit 68.9% of children—nearly 125,000 children in our community alone. It will also lift 10,300 children in our district out of poverty. Those are incredible numbers.

Importantly, the American Rescue Plan only provides these extended payments until the end of the calendar year. Without further Congressional action, the Child Tax Credit will revert to prior amounts. The historic progress we’ll make for our children this year is at risk of being reversed.

We must not allow this critical lifeline to be cut. Our children deserve better. That’s why I’m joining many of my colleagues in fighting to make the expanded Child Tax Credit permanent. Now is the time to take action.

On a related note, I’m proud to have introduced legislation to further address child hunger by expanding food benefits for children when school isn’t in session. Passage would be a significant step and a compliment to the provisions of the American Rescue Plan.

These ideas should not be partisan. Fighting child hunger and poverty is not only the right thing to do morally, but also the right thing to do economically. Studies consistently show that children who don’t have enough to eat are more likely to experience social, behavioral, and health problems. The overall costs associated with hunger are enormous.

The bottom line is this: no child should have to worry about where their next meal is coming from, or if it will come at all. I hope you’ll join me in supporting the permanent expansion of the Child Tax Credit. Let’s continue to build back better from this pandemic.

Rep. Mike Levin represents the 49th District, which encompasses north coastal San Diego and south Orange counties.