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Catholic groups applaud enhanced Child Tax Credit in framework tax deal

The chief congressional tax writers announced Jan. 16 a framework for a bipartisan, bicameral deal that would enhance the Child Tax Credit, a provision some Catholic organizations have long sought as a pro-family and anti-poverty effort.

The framework for an agreement between House Ways and Means Chair Jason Smith, R-Mo., and Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., also includes provisions to increase the low-income housing tax credit, another effort sought by Catholic groups.

In a statement, Smith said, "American families will benefit from this bipartisan agreement that provides greater tax relief, strengthens Main Street businesses, boosts our competitiveness with China, and creates jobs."

Wyden said in a statement that 15 million children "from low-income families will be better off as a result of this plan, and given today’s miserable political climate, it’s a big deal to have this opportunity to pass pro-family policy that helps so many kids get ahead."

It was not immediately clear what the ??legislative vehicle for the tax deal may be, or if it could earn enough support from both chambers to reach the president’s desk.

Smith said that "I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass this legislation," while Wyden said, "My goal remains to get this passed in time for families and businesses to benefit in this upcoming tax filing season, and I’m going to pull out all the stops to get that done."

Catholic advocates of the Child Tax Credit applauded the inclusion of an enhanced credit in the deal.

Brian Corbin, executive vice president for member services at Catholic Charities USA, told OSV News that the Child Tax Credit is "part of the toolkit to break poverty in America."

The credit, Corbin said, "is not the only answer to getting children out of poverty, for sure, or getting families out of poverty" but it is "one incredibly important tool."

"Anything that we can do to help working families get a break out of poverty and stay out of poverty, we’re all very much in favor of," he said.

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau published last year showed that while it was in place, the Child Tax Credit measurably reduced child poverty in the U.S., and the credit’s expiration increased it.

Julie Bodnar, a policy adviser for the USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development, told OSV News that "we’ve been encouraging lawmakers to pass a strengthened Child Tax Credit that really prioritizes the poorest children." Bodnar noted the group sent a letter to congressional lawmakers earlier in January urging them to include a strengthened Child Tax Credit in any upcoming tax package.

The bishops argued in that letter that an improved credit should seek to include the poorest of the poor, mixed-status families, and be retroactively available for the year before birth.

"In upholding the dignity of all, the Catholic Church is committed to building an authentically life-affirming society that prioritizes the well-being of families, and we call on Congress to adopt that same approach," the letter said. "Strengthening the Child Tax Credit is one clear way to respond to this call."

Asked if the deal appeared to reflect what the group sought, Bodnar said, "There’s still more work to be done," but, if signed into law, the framework would make "a really meaningful improvement to the credit and, most importantly, it looks like these improvements are targeted to help low-income families to reach the children that need it the most so that’s that’s what I’m glad to see."

The lawmakers also said the framework includes a provision to enhance the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, a public-private partnership they said would increase the supply of affordable housing.

"At a time when so many people in Oregon and all across America are getting clobbered by rising rents and home prices, the improvements this plan makes to the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit will build more than 200,000 new affordable housing units," Wyden said.

Bodnar and Corbin both praised that provision in the framework as well, with Corbin calling it "one really powerful tool that we have to actually build affordable housing in the United States."