Background: The recently enacted tax bill increased the child tax credit to $1,000 for middle income families but did not provide similar benefits to low income working families with children. Last minute changes in the bill kept low income working families, who make less than $26,000 a year, from sharing in the increased child credit. Twelve million children, disproportionately African-American and Hispanic children, were left out, and that’s wrong.
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives have now passed bills to address that omission and make sure low-income working families see an increase in their Child Tax Credit refund over the next two years. In addition to fixing the problem for low-income families, the House increased the child tax credit for upper-income families at a much greater cost than the Senate bill and without off-setting provisions to pay for the increased cost. Haggling between the House and the Senate over this difference has prevented progress towards the original goal: increasing the refundable child tax credit for low income working families.
Action Requested: Contact your Representative and urge them to support the more modest Senate approach, so that low-income families can be included in an improved child tax credit now – it’s a matter of simple justice. Ask your Representative to weigh in with the House leadership, and especially the House appointees to the conference committee tasked with working out differences between the two bills: Rep. Bill Thomas (R-CA), Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX), and Rep. Charles Rangel (R-NY).
All Members’ offices can be reached by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202 224-3121. Once connected to your Representative’s office, ask for their staff person who handles “taxes.” Please call your Representative as soon as possible.
USCC Position: In a June 3 letter to the White House and Congressional Leadership, Cardinal McCarrick said: “The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is very disappointed that the tax bill just signed by the President does not increase the refundable portion of the child tax credit.“ The Catholic bishops were early supporters of changes in the tax code like the child tax credit that assist low-income families. In their 1991 pastoral statement, Putting Children and Families First, the bishops asserted: "We welcome proposals to reform the tax code to help families cope with the high cost of raising children. These proposals, which have drawn bipartisan support, would allow middle income families with children to keep more of what they earn and would help lift low income families out of poverty."
On July 10, John Carr, Secretary of the USCCB Department of Social Development and World Peace, participated in a press conference calling on the Congress to act now to increase the refundable child tax credit. A copy of his statement is attached.
For more information: Thom Shellabarger 202 541 3189, firstname.lastname@example.org
Secretary, Social Development and World Peace
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
The Refundable Child Tax Credit
July 10, 2003
This is not a new cause for the U.S. Catholic Bishops. For many years, the Bishops’ Conference has advocated greater help for families raising children through a child tax credit which is both generous and refundable.
This is not a new choice for the Bush Administration or Congress. Two years ago, the Senate insisted the child tax credit be made refundable so it would not exclude millions of hard working families. The House resisted this effort. In the end, the Bush White House and the Congress made the right choice for these families and for the nation-- to include the children of families who often work the hardest and struggle the most to make ends meet.
It was a matter of simple justice then and it is a matter of simple justice now. It would be wrong to help families like mine to raise our children, but deny help to parents who clean our offices or bus dishes in the Senate dining room. Who will explain to them that my children deserve help, but theirs do not; that my income taxes count, but their payroll and sales taxes do not.
As believers, the Hebrew prophets told us to speak out for the needy, and Jesus insisted we would be judged by our response to “the least of these.” Our faith calls us to stand up for these families and children and insist their needs should take priority, not be left behind.
It is time to replace ideology and politics with compassion and common sense. If “compassionate conservatism” means anything, it requires acting decisively, and now, to include these children and families. If “putting children and families first” means anything, it requires working together so we do not leave these children behind.
We call on the President to join us in once again persuading the Congress to act now, not someday, to include the children of poorer working families in the help that goes to the rest of us. We call on the leadership of Congress to abandon the delay and dancing, the expensive add-ons and the partisan bickering, and get this done now.
I repeat what the U.S. Bishops have said for years – “This is a matter of simple justice.”