During this holy season, as those of us who are Christian celebrate the birth of a poor, homeless child, let’s commit to standing up and caring for the millions of poor, homeless, hungry children living in our wealthy nation today. The poor baby in a manger often gets lost like so many poor babies all over America needing food, shelter, safety, education and hope for the future.
This year, Congress took significant steps towards reducing child poverty, including the one-year expansion of the Child Tax Credit which lifted millions of children out of poverty and helped families meet their children’s basic needs, weather unexpected expenses and plan for the future. It has been a moment of opportunity and hope.
The Build Back Better Act represents a generational chance to build on this hope for children. The House of Representatives included the expanded Child Tax Credit in their version of the bill passed in mid-November, which would provide families with children up to $300 a month per child to help them afford the basics and get ahead.
The Build Back Better Act would also cover the rising cost of child care (one of the biggest costs families face), make health insurance more affordable, accessible and stable for children and families, help people with low incomes afford housing and avoid evictions and homelessness, and more. It puts America’s most marginalized children and families first and advances racial equity.
But the Senate has not yet passed the bill. In a time of ongoing economic uncertainty, families need this help more than ever. It’s critical that the Senate pass the House version of the Build Back Better Act — without watering it down or making changes — to protect children and families.
Unless and until the Senate takes action, the Child Tax Credit expansion will expire and many families will stop receiving much-needed monthly payments after December. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities estimates 9.9 million children could fall back into poverty or deeper into poverty if this critical support is not renewed, and Black, Latino and Native American children will be hardest hit.
A season focused on giving, sharing and caring is not the time to turn our backs on our nation’s neediest children. Their needs will not take a break over the winter vacation and our leaders should not rest until children’s needs are met.
Take action with the Children’s Defense Fund today and tell your senators: No recess until you pass the Build Back Better Act!
Edelman is founder and president emerita of the Children’s Defense Fund.