Terms of Engagement

A dramatic story occurred behind the scenes as Congress debated the tax cut bill this spring. Several faith-based organizations did something very important—they helped make sure that America’s poorest families were included in the benefits of the new tax cut. Religious leaders joined to support the valiant efforts of child advocates and low-income people’s organizations who were able to insert a refundable child tax credit into the legislation, one aimed at helping the nation’s poorest children who had been completely left behind by the original White House tax cut proposal.

Not making enough even to pay income taxes, many poor working families would have received nothing from the big tax cut, even though they pay payroll and other taxes. It’s clear that they need more support than the top 1 percent of America’s income earners and taxpayers—the ones who benefited the most from this tax cut. The tax cut increases the child tax credit from $500 to $1,000 over several years—a good pro-family initiative. But a single working mother with two kids making $24,000 per year would have received absolutely no help in the White House plan. By making the child tax credit partially refundable—like a tax rebate—now she does.

The refundable child tax credit will reach nearly 17 million low-income children, and help lift 500,000 children out of poverty, according to the Children’s Defense Fund, who helped lead the fight for it. But it really was a fight.

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Sojourners Magazine July-August 2001
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