RESULTS’ Tax Justice League takes on child poverty in the U.S.

February 22, 2024
by Lesley Reed, Director of Donor Communications

In the middle of a bitter divide in Congress, RESULTS has been helping to forge a breakthrough that would help millions of families in the U.S. afford basic needs from food to shelter to child care. If approved, the Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act of 2024 would expand the Child Tax Credit (CTC) to give more support to 16 million children in households with low incomes. The families of half a million children could lift themselves above the poverty line.   

And RESULTS’ Tax Justice League — backed by hundreds of dedicated RESULTS volunteers across the country — played a leading role.   

For more than two years, RESULTS volunteer advocates across the country have pressured their members of Congress to expand the CTC (again) because it is one of the most powerful tools we have to reduce child poverty. Last fall, RESULTS staff brought together nearly 80 volunteer advocates for more intensive support and advocacy actions. The volunteers, whose members of Congress sit on the key House and Senate committees that determine tax legislation, dubbed themselves the Tax Justice League.   

“Tax policy has not been an agenda for reducing poverty but there’s no reason it can’t be,” says Mary Lash, a RESULTS volunteer from South Carolina.  

The 2021 expanded CTC helped cut child poverty in half, but child poverty doubled when Congress let the program lapse  

We’ve already seen it happen once. In 2021, Congress passed temporary expansions that allowed families with low or no incomes to receive the full CTC amount for the first time in history. Along with other changes, the expansions drove the steepest one-year decline in U.S. child poverty ever.   

“It was almost a 50 percent reduction. That’s unheard of!” says volunteer Randy Rosso, who hails from Arlington, Virginia. Rosso should know — he’s done research and statistical programing on government poverty programs for 25 years. “I have never seen anything that had the impact of the 2021 CTC expansion. It was easy to implement and had an incredibly profound impact on people’s lives. But then it was taken away.”  

When the 2021 expansions expired at the end of the year, child poverty more than doubled, and food insecurity went up 25 percent.  

“I see the impact day to day in terms of my patients,” says volunteer and physician Jo Reece (far right in the photo above). “One-third of our children in West Virginia live in poverty. In most of our counties, 40 to 50 percent of grandparents are raising their grandkids largely because of the epidemic of drug use. They’re already on fixed incomes and are now having to provide food, clothing, and other necessities often to more than one grandchild.”  

“I decided I needed to do more than just send tweets, and I became a volunteer with RESULTS.”  

RESULTS volunteer Randy Rosso

Mary, Randy, Jo, and the other members of the Tax Justice League met regularly with David Plasterer, RESULTS senior policy associate, and Crickett Nicovich, director of government affairs and policy, to strategize. Randy (pictured above) recalls seeking out RESULTS after the avoidable surge in child poverty in 2022. “That was when I decided I needed to do more than just send tweets, and I became a volunteer.”  

Within a week of joining, Randy was meeting with his members of Congress with his local RESULTS group. Within a year, he was co-leading the group and acting as a point person for Senator Warner (D-VA). He joined other volunteers to meet with his congressional offices on Capitol Hill. After one with the staff of Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), he ran into the senator himself in an elevator. “We asked him to support an expansion of the CTC,” remembers Randy. “He turned to his aide and said, ‘You know, we should really push on that.’”  

Randy’s task has been to ensure his members of Congress, who support expanding the CTC, would hold firm on ensuring the CTC accompanied any tax breaks to corporations. Mary and Jo, on the other hand, needed to convince offices that were less of a sure thing.   

Persistence leads to resounding support in the House  

Representative Carol Miller (R-WV) has a key role in deciding tax policies as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. When Jo first began reaching out to the representative’s office, however, she rarely received a response.   

“But we knew she really cares about our state,” Jo says, so she embarked on a “journey of being persistent.”  With support from RESULTS’ staff, Jo educated Rep. Miller’s Deputy Chief of Staff about how the CTC works and who is left out. Many offices mistakenly believed that all working families are eligible for the full credit. In fact, families need to earn as much as $46,000 a year to receive it, more than triple what individuals earn working full time at the federal minimum wage. Households with lower incomes also receive a smaller credit for each of their children. This often feels like a “penalty” for having more children. (The new legislation would fix the latter problem.)  

Jo also sent Rep. Miller’s aide data about what an expanded CTC would mean for the children of West Virginia. Volunteers in her RESULTS group published letters to the editor in state media outlets calling on the representative to support an expansion. “Finally, it clicked with her,” Jo says.   

In the fall, leaders of the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees negotiated the Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act, which they unveiled in January 2024. Before the House committee voted on it, Jo sent Rep. Miller’s aide an email with RESULTS’ priorities for expanding the CTC. Within minutes, the aide responded that the representative was “very supportive of the Child Tax Credit, but also conscious of the fiscal costs.”   

“I didn’t know what she’d end up doing,” Jo admits, so she was thrilled when Rep. Miller voted “yes.” In a remarkable showing of bipartisan support, the committee approved the bill 40 to 3. The full House went on to approve it 357 to 70.  

“I felt a little sense of pride for our group. We had helped to accomplish something that could impact our state,” Jo says.   

The tax bill now awaits a Senate hearing   

Mary is holding her breath to see how her senators vote if and when the bill comes to the Senate floor. She’s hopeful that her actions have inspired them to support an expanded CTC.  

Senator Tim Scott's aide with RESULTS volunteer, Mary, and RESULTS staff, David Plasterer and Lesley Reed

Over the last three years, she and other RESULTS volunteers from South Carolina traveled to Washington, DC to meet with their senators to advocate for the CTC. (She’s second from the left between Senator Tim Scott’s aide and David Plasterer). Mary says the Tax Justice League, “gave us strategy and focus and tools for trying to move the needle. It was also a reciprocal process in that David asked for ‘intel’ we got from our meetings that could help move conversations along.”   

Randy is also waiting to see how his senators vote. Senator Warner’s aide told Randy that he had “an iron-clad commitment” to the program. “We’re going to hold him to that,” Randy says.  

The Tax Justice League has been remarkably effective   

In partnership with RESULTS staff, the League bolstered CTC champions and created new support on Capitol Hill. They also helped find common ground on both sides of the aisle and facilitated dialogue between Republican and Democratic leaders.  

Hundreds of other RESULTS volunteers joined them in pressing their members of Congress to support the CTC. In meetings, calls, and emails to Congress and, in nearly one published media piece a day, our advocates have kept economic justice for families front and center. They have done what felt impossible: bridged common ground between two very divided political parties.  

They’re keeping up the pressure as they await Senate action — and then they won’t stop. Because even if the Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act passes, the CTC won’t reach all children who need it.  

“Being part of RESULTS has brought me assurance that I do have more power than I thought,” Mary says. “Cynicism is easy and self-defeating. We still have an accessible government. We still have a voice. It’s very important to keep going.”  

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