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Opinion: Baby bonds? Child tax credit? Romney, Booker and the case for lifting

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt lives and livelihoods, American families need help. A recent poll conducted by NPR, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found more than half of households in the U.S.’s biggest cities are experiencing serious financial problems, and two-thirds in rural areas report the same. Much of the economic fallout is concentrated among ethnic and racial minorities, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports.

Congressional relief packages provide a measure of immediate help, but too many families are in need of solutions that will outlive the pandemic. Nearly 212 decades have passed since major welfare and family aid reform was passed, and though a stimulus check could help with groceries and rent, it does little to lift children out of poverty.

Census Bureau data shows more than 11 million American children living below the poverty line, making up one-third of the country’s impoverished population. The most recent census suggested 42% of American children live in households struggling to pay for necessary expenses.

What can be done to make lasting impact?

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney made headlines earlier this month for his new family welfare proposal, the Family Security Act, which would give families a monthly payment for each of their children. Other policy proposals, like baby bonds or the Canadian child benefit program, have also garnered interest among policymakers.

Deseret News opinion writers Aubrey Eyre, Samuel Benson and Savannah Hopkinson dig into three proposals. Weighed against the principles of self-reliance, fiscal responsibility and equity, each presents a convincing case for strong consideration to lift families.

Family Security Act

By Aubrey Eyre

The Family Security Act would break the long-established molds of American benefit programs by proposing to give money directly to families rather than withhold or return taxes.

When compared to other propositions aimed at addressing America’s high child poverty rate, like Joe Biden’s America Rescue Plan and the proposed expansion of the child tax credit — being supported by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. — Romney’s Family Security Act is a new take on an old idea — direct support.

Families would receive a $250 monthly allowance for school-aged children and $350 for children 5 years old and younger (including prenatal children in the third trimester), with a maximum monthly payment of $1,250.

According to a Niskanen Center analysis of the program, the Family Security Act would “cut child poverty by a third, deep child poverty by half, eliminate marriage penalties and end welfare traps.”

While others like Angela Rachidi of the American Enterprise Institute, have argued that providing more benefits to impoverished families (especially in the form of direct payments rather than through tax breaks) will lower employment and increase government dependency, still others argue the Romney plan would have quite the opposite effect.

By putting money directly into the hands of middle and low-income families rather than relying on “dated and cumbersome programs” attached to complex tax codes for end-of-year reimbursements or tax breaks, the proposal ends old programs and consolidates their benefits in a way that is immediately available for those most in need.

Such changes would, according the Niskanen Center, offer a greater benefit to American families with an almost deficit neutral price tag, promoting fiscal responsibility for both the government and families.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, holds an interview in his new office on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, holds an interview in his new office on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019.
Cheryl Diaz Meyer, for the Deseret News

Rather than funneling government money into programs that low-income families and individuals struggle to navigate, government contributions to the plan would be more predictable and easy to manage year over year.

The program would also raise the threshold for eligibility of benefits into the upper-middle-class income brackets ($200,000 for single-filers and $400,000 for joint-filers), which could potentially eliminate disincentives to work among low-income families.

With the stability of benefits available even as they move up the income scale, families are more likely to feel encouraged to continue to work and better their lives and become more self-reliant without fear that making more money will leave them in the dreaded limbo of not being eligible for support while also not making enough to reasonably get by.

Additionally, by removing current benefit…

Read More: Opinion: Baby bonds? Child tax credit? Romney, Booker and the case for lifting

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