On Wednesday, March 10, 2021, Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced the Child Poverty Reduction Act (H.R. 1588/ S. 643), which commits to cutting child poverty in half in 10 years, just as the pandemic pushes child poverty toward record levels. The legislation also creates national, evidence-based benchmarks and monitoring to hold lawmakers accountable. The companion bill was introduced by Congressman Danny Davis (D-IL), Congresswomen Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Lucille Royal-Allard (D-CA), and Gerry Connolly (D-VA).
Child poverty has remained stubbornly high in the U.S. despite strong employment and economic figures. Before the pandemic, child poverty afflicted nearly 12 million children, or 16 percent — higher than nearly any other industrialized nation. Research from Columbia University predicts that the outbreak and its economic fallout could increase child poverty by as much as 53 percent. Already, 40 percent of mothers with children under 12 reported in April, they are struggling to put food on the table. And just as COVID-19 has taken a greater toll on Black, Hispanic, and Native American communities, the pandemic’s economic impact will disproportionately affect Black, Hispanic, and Native American children.
Congressman Davis remarked that “We live in the wealthiest nation in the world. It is inexcusable and unacceptable for so many of our children to be condemned to grow up in America under these conditions.” The passage of the American Rescue Plan would cut child poverty in half in 2021, but permanent and improved programs and services are needed to cut child poverty, such as making an expanded Child Tax Credit permanent, which Senator Casey is leading with Senators Brown and Michael Bennet (D-CO).
Child poverty is a problem with proven solutions. In the 2019 landmark study, A Roadmap to Reducing Child Poverty, from the non-partisan National Academy of Sciences offers evidence-based models for cutting child poverty within a decade, suggesting that lawmakers know how to reduce child poverty, they simply lack the will to do so. The Child Poverty Reduction Act of 2020 establishes a framework for building that political will and ensuring progress by committing to cut our national child poverty rate in half within a decade and directing the NAS to report annually on progress toward that goal.
Senator Brown stated the following:
“Whether they’re raised in families that are working harder than ever with less and less to show for it, or in overwhelmed and underfunded foster care programs, far too many children are brought up with the odds stacked against them. For Black and brown children, systemic racism often reinforces cycles of poverty. Building on the historic expansion of the Child Tax Credit in the American Rescue Plan, which is estimated to cut child poverty in half, this legislation is an important step toward ensuring that federal policies and programs actually work to reduce child poverty and promote the health, safety, and economic security for all children.”
CWLA endorsed the Child Poverty Reduction Act along with other members of the U.S. Child Poverty Action Group.