NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - More than 4 million people call Louisiana home and 19% live in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and children are not immune to the problem. But there is hope that President Joe Biden’s COVID relief package, called the American Rescue Plan, will rescue many children from poverty in the state and around the country.
Jan Moller follows child poverty closely as the Executive Director of the Louisiana Budget Project.
“Well, it’s grave. Nearly 1 in 4 Louisiana children lives below the federal poverty line,” said Moller. “But more importantly, more than half of Louisiana children live below what we call the ‘Alice’ threshold. Alice is a report by the United Way, and it stands for Asset Limited Income Constrained and Employed.”
Kenneth Francis is Director of Policy and Child Advocacy for the organization, Agenda for Children.
“In fact, we have the highest child poverty rate in the country besides Mississippi. Twenty-seven percent of Louisiana children are living in poverty,” said Francis. “You look at places like the Mississippi Delta parishes like East Carroll Parish half of children live in poverty there.”
According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 43% of black children in Louisiana lived below the official poverty line in 2019 compared to 33% of Latinx children and 15% of white children.
“You grow up poor, you’re likely to earn less money as an adult. It increases the health care costs in the future,” said Moller.
Francis, who is a former teacher, says educational achievement suffers as well.
“What we see is much lower educational outcomes through the life of a child’s academic career, which then leads into less opportunities for college or trade school, which then turns into less opportunities for quality employment, which turns into less opportunities for a healthy and successful life in general and so it all, it all comes together,” Francis stated.
“If we can alleviate poverty, we can actually save money on the back end,” Moller stated.
They believe child tax credits in Biden’s American Rescue Plan will raise millions of children out of poverty.
Currently, the federal child tax credit is $2,000 annually. Under Biden’s plan, it would increase to as much as $3,600 per child under the age of six and up to $3,000 for children up to 17 years of age. The funds would come in monthly installments.
Moller says the Biden plan also helps more poor families take advantage of the tax credit.
“What this plan would do, would greatly enhance that and most importantly; two things it would do, it would make it available to a lot of families who don’t qualify right now because their families don’t make enough money to qualify,” he said.
On top of the tax credits, over 85% of U.S. Households will get direct payments of $1,400 per person.
Irwin Garfinkel, PhD., is Co-Director of Columbia University’s Center on Poverty and Social Policy. He says the plan would cut child poverty nearly in half, and taxpayers and society, in general, will benefit from the reduction of child poverty.
“Our research on the cost-benefit analysis shows that taxpayers get back a half of what they spend,” said Garfinkel. “Beginning with health care expenditures. Less health care expenditures because people will be healthier, children will grow up as healthier, so we’d have to spend less throughout their life on health. They will be less involved in child protection, less involved in the criminal justice system, they’ll pay more taxes.”
“We are not a political organization, but we are a policy organization and that policy change in that American Rescue Plan would be probably a generational change for children in Louisiana and around the country,” he said.
Francis discussed how the additional help will help Louisiana children.
“Almost 300,000 children in Louisiana lived in poverty in 2019 and so this one tax policy change would bring roughly a third of those children who were living in poverty out of poverty, so it’s a big deal,” Francis stated.
The Louisiana Budget Projects wants a state child tax credit.
“The money would be specifically targeted to families with low incomes and families with the youngest children,” Moller said.
Francis said for too long there have been conditions in Louisiana that hurt families economically.
“We consistently are lagging in pretty much every indicator you can find that would look at economic well-being of your families. Things like affordable housing, things like wages,” said Francis.
The tax credits will benefit upper-wage earners as well. The White House says for a typical middle-class family of four with both spouses working and making $100,000 total a year, with two kids, they will get $5,600.
“Most families get some support from the government in the form of a tax credit but the poorest third of the families get a reduced tax credit and the poorest 10% get nothing. So we’re already aiding middle class and upper-middle-class children through the tax system,” said Garfinkel.
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