Though we don’t agree on the overall tax package being debated in Washington, we do agree that Congress should act to increase the value of and access to the child tax credit and the child and dependent care tax credit for families with children ages 0-5 as key steps in helping low- and middle-income working families and investing in our country’s long-term prosperity.
In a sense, families with young children are doing extra work for all of us, raising the workers, innovators, and entrepreneurs who will sustain a strong society and economy well into the future. For this reason, all Americans have a stake in helping parents do the best job possible nurturing their children’s healthy early development.
But today 40 percent of American children under the age of five are growing up in households with an annual income below $50,000. And more than two-thirds of these children are growing up in households where all resident parents are in the workforce. For these families, child care is not a luxury, it’s a necessity — and often an expensive one.
The child tax credit and the dependent care tax credit are effective and efficient mechanisms for easing the financial burden so families with young children are in a better position to provide the quality care and early learning opportunities their children need to grow into productive, responsible adults.
Specifically, we recommend expanding the value of, and increasing access to, both credits. These changes will reach low- and middle-income families with children far more effectively than a simple increase in the standard deduction, which would provide little or no benefit to, for example, a single minimum-wage worker with two young children.
Why is it so important to focus on young children? Recent advances in brain science, tell us that the very earliest years are a time of foundational growth and development. From birth on (and indeed even before birth), babies and toddlers are influenced by their environment and profoundly shaped by their interactions with others.
Rick Santorum, former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, and George Miller, former U.S. representative from California, are co-chairs of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Early Childhood Initiative.