New Poverty Data Spurs Urgent Calls to Reverse Trends
Friday, September 15, 2023
The U.S. Census Bureau is out with new findings showing that the nation's child poverty rate has more than doubled, to 12%. Policy experts say a key decision by Congress is the main factor, and reversing it isn't the only action that could turn things around.
The dramatic increase in the 2022 child poverty rate came just one year after it reached a historic low of 5%.
Samantha Waxman, deputy director of state fiscal policy research with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said things such as inflation likely contributed -- but there was a much bigger force at play.
"The number reflects the expiration of pandemic-assistance programs," she said, "including the expanded Child Tax Credit."
Under the American Rescue Plan, the credit was temporarily expanded to $3,600 for children age 6 and younger and $3,000 for older kids. However, negotiations failed in making it permanent. Some states are now adopting their own similar credit, although North Dakota isn't among them. Other analysts say states can boost their minimum wage to help families. North Dakota's is still at $7.25 an hour.
North Dakota lawmakers won't meet again until 2025. This past session, they did expand access to free school meals. Poverty-fighting groups have said it was a positive step, although not as much as they wanted.
Meanwhile, Waxman said the Child Tax Credit isn't exactly a "red-state, blue-state" issue.
"For example, this year in Utah, they created a new Child Tax Credit," she said, "so I think there is [a] possibility around the country."
A handful of other conservative-led states, such as Oklahoma, have their own version of the credit, in addition to several other traditionally "blue" states. As for the Census data, its report also notes that median household income fell by more than 2% last year. It's now just about $74,500 a year.
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