U.S. bishops' domestic policy chair hails new bipartisan child tax credit

(OSV News) -- A recently announced bipartisan agreement on an expanded child tax credit is "exactly the sort of policy" that Congress should prioritize, said the U.S. archbishop who oversees the U.S. bishops' committee on domestic policy.

Archbishop Borys A. Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, issued a Jan. 23 statement commending the two chief congressional tax writers on a framework they announced Jan. 16 to enhance the credit.

Rep. Jason Smith, R-Mo., the House Ways and Means Committee chair, and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the Senate Finance Committee chair, also included provisions to increase the low-income housing tax credit, another effort sought by Catholic groups.

The proposed child tax credit provides a tax break for qualifying families with children, and can be claimed even by families who do not normally file a return. Currently, the maximum credit is $1,600 per child, with the new legislation set to increase the amount to $1,800 for tax year 2023, $1,900 in tax year 2024 and $2,000 in tax year 2025. In addition, future limits would be adjusted for inflation.

The credit, along with the earned income tax credit, has long been considered an essential part of the safety net for low-income families, especially following welfare reform in 1996, which instituted new work requirements for aid.

"We welcome the recent announcement from Chairmen Wyden and Smith of a bipartisan agreement for an enhanced Child Tax Credit," Archbishop Gudziak said in his statement, noting the U.S. bishops "have repeatedly urged Congress to pass a strengthened Child Tax Credit that prioritizes the poorest children."

He pointed to a Jan. 9 letter to Congress that he had signed along with Bishop Robert E. Barron of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota, chair of the USCCB's Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth; Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, chair of the USCCB's Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, Texas, chair of the USCCB's Committee on Migration; and Kerry Alys Robinson, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA.

In that letter, the bishops and Robinson had reiterated their support for the credit while calling for several improvements, noting that "it is currently structured in a way that excludes too many of the children who need it most.

"Nearly 19 million children in families with low incomes do not receive the full Child Tax Credit due to their families' low earnings," they wrote, citing data from the independent Tax Policy Center, a joint project of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution.

In addition, they called for continuation of the child tax credit to families with mixed immigration status, and for allowing mothers to apply the credit retroactively to the tax year they were pregnant prior to giving birth. At the same time, they urged Congress to ensure the credit avoids "financially disincentivizing marriage or otherwise harming family formation and growth," while ensuring the credit is "fully available to each child" regardless of family size. The credit "should not be offset by cutting programs that serve those most in need," they said.

In his Jan. 23 statement, Archbishop Gudziak said the Smith-Wyden framework "makes meaningful progress towards the goal of a strengthened Child Tax Credit by largely targeting improvements in the credit to the lowest-income children.

"This will help support the well-being of families struggling to meet their basic needs and has the power to lift many children out of poverty," he said. "This is exactly the sort of policy supporting women, children, and families that Congress should prioritize. We encourage lawmakers to work together to make this improved Child Tax Credit a reality for families in need."

- - - Gina Christian is a multimedia reporter for OSV News. Follow her on X (formerly Twitter) at @GinaJesseReina