CONTRIBUTORS

Working moms deserve a break

Posted May 15, 2013, at 11:26 a.m.

On Mother’s Day, moms across Maine were treated to breakfast in bed. They received cards, chocolates, flowers, a quiet hour or two and the love and appreciation that all mothers deserve. Thousands of Maine moms, however, also went to work to pay the rent and put food on the table for their children.

For many of us, Mother’s Day is a day to reflect on the hard work of thousands of moms across our state. It’s also a reminder that we must do our part to secure their future and the future of their children. Because when it comes down to it, their children are our future and one of Maine’s most precious resources.

As lawmakers in Washington debate reforming our nation’s tax code, it’s important successful efforts that help ensure working moms can continue to work and provide for their children remain intact. Some lawmakers in Congress are considering altering two very important tax credits that benefit thousands of hard working women in Maine: the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 68,000 Maine moms rely on the EITC or the Child Tax Credit. The EITC, which benefits 105,000 working families across our state, lifts millions of American families out of poverty every year, providing income, work, education and health benefits to parents and children. And because it goes only to working families, it promotes work and increases economic stability for families, thereby reducing the need for welfare.

The benefits of the EITC extend far beyond income. Young children from low-income families do better in school if their families get an income boost like the EITC. And kids whose families receive the EITC are more likely to thrive in school, go to college and to earn more as adults, new research suggests.

New research also indicates that families receiving this tax credit may have healthier infant children, which is critical to child’s future well-being.

The Child Tax Credit is another powerful tool in Maine’s fight against poverty. This refundable credit benefits 62,000 working families in Maine. Together, the EITC and the Child Tax Credit lift 24,000 families out of poverty. With nearly a quarter of Maine’s children under the age of five living in poverty and an estimated 14,000 Maine children who are without health insurance, it’s clear these tax credits are a useful tool in helping working families with low-income make ends meet.

So what can we do here in Maine to stand up for working women with children? We can start by encouraging our two U.S. senators to support new legislation in Congress called the Working Families Tax Relief Act. This bill makes recent improvements to the EITC and the Child Tax Credit permanent, protecting these credits from future cuts.

If we don’t make these improvements permanent, a single mom with two children who works full time at minimum wage and earns $14,500 per year would lose almost her entire Child Tax Credit. Her tax credit would fall from $1,725 to just $165. For a family struggling to afford basic needs like food, rent, fuel and health care, that kind of hit would be very tough.

Parents who are working hard everyday to provide for their children deserve our support. Extending the improvements made to these tax credits will allow working families to move from crisis to economic stability. For the children of these families it means a healthier start, an ability to learn and thrive in school and an increased likelihood of going to college and earning more as adults. In short, it is a means of achieving a brighter future for all of us.

These two tax credits provide bang for the buck. They help Maine’s economy and its small businesses. And most important, they help give our kids the opportunity they all deserve.

Sara Gagne-Holmes of Augusta is executive director of Maine Equal Justice Partners, and Eliza Townsend of Portland is executive director of Maine Women’s Policy Center.

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