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A new report makes the case for an Ohio child tax credit program

IMG_ChildTaxCredit.jpg
Alejandro Figueroa
/
WYSO

A recent report by the progressive research nonprofit, Policy Matters Ohio, makes the case for a state level child tax credit program. It outlines the economic instability that children and families are facing across Ohio.

The first payments for the advance child tax credit program began rolling out summer of 2021. It was part of the American Rescue Plan Act signed by President Joe Biden.

The idea was simple, a monthly cash payment to help parents cover the costs of raising a child. For about six months, parents with children under 18 received up to $300 a month per child.

Reports show it cut childhood poverty by 30%. The monthly payments also meant parents would pay for the cost of food, rent, gas and other bills.

"In Ohio, there was an immediate impact. We saw over 1.2 million families had more money in their pockets to pay the rent, put gas in the car, put food on the table.” Will Petrik, a budget researcher at Policy Matters Ohio said.

Although less than a year in, the program expired. There’s no indication whether Congress will vote to continue the program.

Now, a report published by Policy Matters Ohio, proposes a state level Thriving Families Tax Credit program that would provide similar support to the federal program and would allocate payments to roughly 56% of Ohio children — an estimated 1.8 million.

WYSO’s Alejandro Figueroa spoke with Will Petrik, the author of the report, about the solutions the non-profit proposes. 

Transcript (edited lightly for length and clarity):

Alejandro Figueroa: You know, I wonder if you could talk about what the landscape of poverty looks like in Ohio right now.

Will Petrik: Today we know that there's hundreds of thousands of families struggling to afford the cost of basic necessities. So there was a Census Bureau household pulse survey that found nearly 1.2 million adults with kids had difficulty paying for usual household expenses. So that's things like groceries, rent, gas, medical expenses.

We know from the research that growing up in constant insecurity and stress harms children's ability to learn and grow and also limits their long term opportunities. So when you compare kids living in poverty to their more affluent peers, those children who grow up in poverty are more likely to do worse in school, have health issues, and get involved with the criminal legal system as adults. So this is a big reason why we're calling on lawmakers to find ways to provide more direct support, particularly those families living with economic stress and insecurity.

Figueroa: And what prompted this case for a state level family tax program?

Petrik: I think part of the inspiration was we saw the expanded federal child tax credit and how that had an immediate impact on families. It was transformative. And basically the expanded child tax credits sent direct payments to families with kids. And in Ohio, there was an immediate impact. We saw over 1.2 million families had more money in their pockets to pay the rent, put gas in the car, put food on the table. There was less hunger and food insecurity and just more overall economic security.

Figueroa: So, at the state level now, this report is highlighting two solutions to bring back a child tax credit program. Can you talk about what those solutions are?

Petrik: Essentially the solution that we're putting forward, we outlined two Thriving Families Tax credit proposals. And both proposals would help nearly a million Ohio families and roughly 1.8 million children under 18. And it would essentially provide eligible families with an average tax refund of about $1,000 a year. So that's, you know, again, money back in the pockets of families to help pay for the basics. And I think the other important thing is, you know, this is going to provide a boost to families in Ohio who have been left out.

Figueroa: What is the argument against this? And what are the steps the state could take to sort of begin considering those proposals?

Petrik:  So one thing that's actually pretty exciting about the child tax credit is the initial federal child tax credit was bipartisan in nature. And nearly all of the expansions of that program have also been bipartisan. I think in general, the goal of the federal child tax credit and certainly the goal of the thriving families tax credit is basic security, stability and dignity for families. And that's something that lawmakers on all sides of the aisle can agree on.

So, I guess as we think about how we actually make this happen in Ohio, it's going to take all of us working together to make that happen. And so as lawmakers move into the next year, particularly preparing to debate the next two year budget, we're hoping that we can all come together and pass a thriving families tax credit.

Alejandro Figueroa is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Alejandro Figueroa covers food insecurity and the business of food for WYSO through Report for America — a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Alejandro particularly covers the lack of access to healthy and affordable food in Southwest Ohio communities, and what local government and nonprofits are doing to address it. He also covers rural and urban farming