Rocking advocacy to end child poverty — and ready to roll again
They pulled out all the stops. They went to the mat at the drop of the hat. These are not just clichés. They describe precisely what RESULTS’ network of advocates and partners did in 2022 to demand an end to child poverty — and they’re gearing up to do it again in 2023.
Locked out again: a rough start to 2022
In January of 2022, 19 million children lost access to all or part of the expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC) that RESULTS fought for and Congress passed in 2021. The expanded credit helped to achieve a staggering 46 percent drop in child poverty that year.
But when Congress let the expansion lapse, millions of families lost access because they had too little income. The lapse especially hit communities marginalized by systems of poverty and oppression, including approximately 45 percent of Black children, 39 percent of Latino children, and 38 percent of American Indian/Alaskan Native children.
There has never been a more powerful or quicker way to reduce child poverty than the CTC, and yet the very children who need it most have been excluded.
Over the course of 2022, RESULTS advocates engaged in a massive effort to press for reinstatement of the expanded CTC. In over 300 congressional meetings; in calls, emails, and letters to Congress; at campaign townhalls; and in nearly one published media piece a day, they kept economic justice for families front and center despite the ever-shifting political winds.
Waves of outreach targeted senators who could influence the fraught negotiations over the stalled Build Back Better bill, and then what ultimately became the Inflation Reduction Act. Throughout the month of June, advocates across the country held meetings with their congressional offices in their districts or online. Nearly 100 RESULTS volunteers representing 35 states also traveled to Washington, DC, fanning across Capitol Hill for in-person meetings.
Lived experience demonstrates the importance of the expanded CTC
Throughout these efforts, advocates with lived experience with poverty courageously shared their stories and the positive impact of the expanded CTC. Maureen Bowling, one of RESULTS’ Expert on Poverty (EOP), wrote in an op-ed republished in numerous outlets that she used the monthly CTC payments to pay off bills and also “experienced a notable reduction in stress and anxiety, which helped me focus on being a good student and mom.” She’s on the cusp of receiving her master’s degree in social work.
The expanded CTC was a lifeline for EOP Sarah Izabel and her son, too. Sarah wrote that “a reliable, monthly infusion of cash … meant we could eat consistently. It meant we didn’t face repeated eviction notices. It meant something I could finally count on.” With the breather the CTC provided, Sarah applied to graduate schools and received a full-tuition scholarship to study neuroscience at Stanford.
But when the critical enhancements to the CTC expired at the end of 2021, she, like millions of families, no longer qualified for the credit due to insufficient income. “I again live in fear of any emergency,” she shared. “I’m stressed out and my child feels so much guilt that he won’t ask for basic things he needs.”
Republican support grows
As 2022 continued, it became clear that bipartisan support was critical to restoring the CTC. One of RESULTS’ unique strengths is our ability to engage on both sides of the aisle. This has proven especially important in the debate around the CTC, as we are one of the few organizations that advocates for economic justice through the tax code with relationships on both sides of the aisle.
With projections that one or both chambers of Congress would flip in the 2022 elections, we honed our messaging and intensified our work to generate support for the CTC among conservative members of Congress. Then in December, when Congress began considering whether to extend tax breaks for corporations in the omnibus bill, RESULTS advocates from Alaska to Florida traveled to Washington, DC to convince influential moderate Republicans to include CTC expansions in any year-end tax bill.
Our advocates were all in. Brady Blackburn came from North Carolina just days after his wedding to make the case for no tax breaks for corporations without breaks for low-income families. Kristina Pagano traveled from Miami in the middle of medical school exams to speak about her experience working in a hospital emergency department and how public health has been affected by housing instability and hunger.
When we regrouped after the meetings to share insights and strategies, it became clear that there were a number of Republican offices deeply interested in finding a way to expand the CTC for lower-income families. In the final weeks of 2022, we worked to bolster that support and build bridges between parties.
Is a fairer Child Tax Credit dead? Heck no!
In the end, the omnibus package didn’t include tax extenders legislation, which meant no expanded CTC but also no additional tax breaks for corporations. However, we know from over 40 years of experience that long-term investment in constituent advocacy can make a profound difference.
The incredible work RESULTS advocates did in 2022 mattered. We are building on the groundwork we laid and the relationships we deepened while forging new ones to push for a bipartisan expanded CTC for all children in 2023.
We have proven that the tax code, when fairly written, can help achieve economic justice and level the playing field. Poverty is a policy choice. And so is its end.