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In a month that has seen the end of the federal benefit extension of SNAP benefits (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) back to pre-pandemic levels, Colorado’s U.S. Senator Michael Bennet is reminding the public of the success of the Expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC) that he championed. His message: he is pushing for Congress to revive the program to help working families.

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet at a Salida campaign appearance Oct. 29. Photo by Jan Wondra.

In a discussion at the Brookings Forum on Reducing Child Poverty hosted by the Hamilton Project and speaking with PBS Newshour anchor Amna Nawaz, Bennet talked about the success of the expanded Child Tax Credit. Sounding a familiar message, he called on the U.S. Congress to revive it.

Bennet was a lead proponent of the American Family Act, securing an expanded, monthly Child Tax Credit in the American Rescue Plan, which benefited 61 million children in America, including 19 million who were previously excluded from the full tax credit. The documented result: the Child Tax Credit cut childhood poverty nearly in half, and reduced hunger by a quarter among families with kids.

“It’s clear to me that the evidence that we’ve seen for the credit that we actually put in place in the American Rescue Plan during COVID – the evidence is, at a minimum, that it is not disincentivizing people from working,” said Bennet. ”

“Yesterday, the Dallas Fed came out with a report saying that women that were living in households where there was one unemployed person actually saw an increase in work, which matches my anecdotal impression of what people in Colorado were doing, which was buying a little bit of extra child care so they could stay at work to take care of their kids,” he added.

“What we’ve seen from the studies of the United States’ experience with the Child Tax Credit is a similar thing that we’ve seen in other countries that have similar forms of a child credit,” explained Bennet. “Which is, not surprisingly, parents spend the money on their kids.”

“I heard parents who were spending money on child care, as I mentioned earlier, spending money on rent, spending money on school clothes. I had moms who said, ‘this is the first time that I’ve been able to buy school clothes for my kids without not having to forego the rent.’” he recalled. “… I remember one [family] in Colorado Springs, in particular, who said she had been able to buy her kid a bike, and with that bicycle, that kid was able to attend after school activities that they would never have been able to attend, because otherwise, she would have been at work with the car and there was no way to get the kid [there]. You can’t calculate what the value of that is.”

“If you talk to moms, in particular, that benefited from this [and] whose kids benefited from this… the one thing they say in common is, ‘you cannot imagine the stress that was relieved from my family not having to deal with this stuff at the end of the month,’” he recalled.

“That goes back again to Roger [Altman]’s point that it is not enough for us to be building an economy where the economy grows. We need an economy where people feel like they can move their families ahead. And my view is, in the meantime, we desperately need tax policies, like the Child Tax Credit, to bridge us into that future economy.”

Video of the Conversation Is Available HERE

Bennet said that reauthorizing the Child Tax Credit could have bipartisan support.

“I think there is a bipartisan consensus in America – or at least among members of the Congress – that a lot of the Washington consensus over the last forty or fifty years about our economic role in the world is flawed and failed and isn’t going to support us,” he explained.  “And that we’ve got to have a set of policies, which you’re now seeing, around infrastructure, around bringing back the semiconductor industry from Southeast Asia, around things like the Inflation Reduction Act. “That gives me hope that the broader context is one where we’re saying, ‘it’s not just about growth, it’s about whether the growth is creating a situation where people can actually support their families.”

“In that context, we can have a discussion with Republicans and Democrats working together that says, ‘what is the most elegant solution to the issue that we’re facing in the short term?’ And the answer to that is the Child Tax Credit.” 

“My job is to make sure that as many of the 19 million children that are being left out of that full benefit are going to receive as much of that benefit as we possibly can do, and I have a very open mind about how we get there,” said Bennet.

As Coloradans continue to face high costs, Bennet says he’s continuing the fighting to extend the enhanced CTC. Late last year, he successfully rallied his colleagues to not support corporate tax breaks without passing an expanded CTC.