By Jennifer Gonzalez
As Mother’s Day approaches, it is a poignant reminder that not all mothers, and especially their children, are able to lead healthy, nutritious lives.
Economic hardship caused by low wages and long-embedded racial inequities make it difficult for some families to stay above the poverty line.
In fact, between 7 to 11 million U.S. children live in households that struggle to put food on the table. And while the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan took a significant step toward ending childhood hunger in the U.S. with the one-year expansion of the Child Tax Credit, more work is needed.
The administration’s proposed infrastructure plan or the American Jobs Plan has the opportunity to make lasting change.
“To be as equitable and effective as possible, any infrastructure package should center racial equity in all policies and programs, and it should prioritize investments in meeting the needs of pregnant women and very young children,” said Rev. Eugene Cho, president and CEO of Bread for the World.
The “1,000 Days” from a woman’s pregnancy until her child’s second birthday is the most critical period for human nutrition. Damage to health, growth, and development during this time is generally irreversible, leading to lifelong health problems and a continual struggle to learn and to earn an income.
The administration’s final human infrastructure package should include a permanent expansion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Expanded eligibility and increased tax credit amounts will contribute to substantial and longer-lasting reductions in poverty and hunger, with children of color benefiting the most.
The CTC expansion is a critical investment in our nation’s children because it has the potential to reduce poverty and advance racial equity significantly.
It could move as many as 45 percent of children living in poverty above the poverty line and reduce racial disparities in child poverty, according to the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University.
For Crystle Durham and her family of Husum Washington, the yearly refund from the CTC and EITC made a world of difference.
One year of the tax credits helped replace the broken car they needed for work; another year, a refrigerator stopped running; another, they needed a new wood stove. “For the most part it took care of the bills that accumulated during the year,” she said.
Bread also supports the infrastructure package waiving the recertification requirements for Medicaid and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) for women and children.
Reducing paperwork would save families time while ensuring that their health care and food benefits remain continuously available.
The package should also include all provisions of the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021; expanded access to high-quality childcare by setting a family’s expected contribution at no more than 7 percent of its income, with the government paying all costs above that; expanded pre-K programs; and expanded paid family leave and medical leave.
“We believe that God has a role for government in the protection and development of people, not the least of whom are women and children,” Cho said.
He added: “This is critically important in this season when so many lives have been devastated, by loss, tragedy, and grief.”
Jennifer Gonzalez is managing editor at Bread for the World.