On Tuesday, March 2, 2021, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) hosted an event on child allowances, presenting an array of arguments for and against, including conversations on welfare reform.
The Biden Administration, House Democrats, and Republican Senator Mitt Romney have child allowance proposals that address child poverty in America with different measures. Senator Romney (R-UT) recently released his own version of the children’s allowance, which has garnered mixed reviews from the political right. The Romney plan would provide a child allowance of $350 per month for each child under six and $250 for each child aged six to 18, while eliminating Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). CWLA does not support Romney’s proposal of eliminating TANF to pay for the child allowance since TANF provides critical resources to families like affordable child care, billions dollars of child welfare funding and other significant assistance. Romney’s plan also suggests that some families are superior to others—claiming to promote marriage while in practice harming many one-parent families who are currently only barely getting by.
An AEI panelist offered a few arguments in favor of a child allowance. Currently, in the U.S., 10 million children are poor, and raising children is becoming increasingly more expensive. One noted that working middle-class Americans say the leading reason they are not having children today is that they do not think they could afford it. Another counter-reacted that the Romney plan would include a marriage component (improving the net incentive for marriage) would clean-up procedural components of some safety net benefits and would speak value into parenting itself.
Still, the arguments against child allowances dwarfed the arguments for child allowances. The President of AEI began by stating the faceless interaction of a monthly allotment, further describing and stating the importance of the social element in services, specifically with caseworkers. Then, panelists commented that child allowances would increase single-parent families’ number, moving further away from family promotion ideals. The idea of a “subsidy for singleness” was mentioned as well. This “subsidy for singleness” refers to the incentive for couples not to get married in order to maximize benefits from programs (i.e., EITC). The panelists stated the argument that a majority Democratic House, an advantage in the Senate, and a Democratic President might incentivize lawmakers to avoid considering nuances like the “subsidy for singleness” because they do not need a bipartisan vote. Further, one panelist mentioned that a child allowance would begin a spiral of expanding eligibility, stating that more citizens would want support as well. Lastly, one panelist stated that material poverty is not solely about money but deficits of social capital, poor access to information, etc.; thus, a child allowance would not completely address the issue.
What does all of this mean for child welfare? It is clear that the differences in the opinion expressed on the panel demonstrated the rift among conservatives on a child allowance. Still, the existence of a Romney child allowance plan shows Republican support for increasing assistance for low-income Americans, especially low-income American families. It is also clear that any aid to families during the pandemic would improve the welfare of children.