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Garrett Martin, president and CEO, Maine Center for Economic Policy.
As Maine once again faces rising cases of COVID-19, many people have returned to a state of uncertainty — unsure what this means for kids returning to school, worried about families and friends and concerned about small businesses in our communities. But even before the pandemic, too many Mainers didn’t know where their next meal would come from, how their rent would get paid and whether they could afford clothes and school supplies for their children. Those dire concerns have only deepened due to the health and economic impacts of the pandemic
The Build Back Better legislation offers our members of Congress and senators a chance to deliver real results for Mainers. It’s a chance to lift children out of poverty and hunger, expand access to affordable health coverage, narrow racial inequities and put money back in families’ pockets. And we can help pay for these critical investments by finally demanding that profitable corporations and the wealthiest 0.6 percent in our state pay their fair share in taxes.
It is crucial that our elected leaders take decisive action to put us on the path to a just and equitable recovery that helps all Mainers.
During the pandemic, Congress acted quickly to expand existing tax cuts, including the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit. Combined, these tax credits move millions of families and workers with low income out of poverty. Making the expanded Child Tax Credit permanent would benefit 90 percent of kids in our state and lift 10,000 children out of poverty. Extending the Earned Income Tax Credit will help more than 85,000 workers with low wages in Maine.
By helping Maine workers and families pay for clothes, rent, car repairs so they can get to work and other necessities, expanding these tax credits empowers our communities and strengthens our economy.
Recovery legislation also has the potential to improve the health and well-being of Mainers by expanding access to housing vouchers and ensuring that kids get enough to eat by strengthening child nutrition programs. Decades of research show that investments in children and families improve health and academic outcomes for kids in the near term and throughout their lives, paving the way for increased educational and career success.
These investments are critical for long-term recovery and a stronger future for Maine families, workers, seniors and veterans — and a tax system where profitable corporations and people with the most wealth pay their fair share will support these investments that help millions.
During the pandemic, while many Mainers struggled to keep their homes and put food on the table, the richest Americans and big corporations grew wealthier. And thanks in large part to big tax cuts from 2017 and tax loopholes, they still aren’t paying much in taxes. In fact, some don’t pay anything at all.
Unlike the corporate tax cuts of 2017, which did little for the economy and even less for most Mainers, asking corporations and households making over $400,000 to pay a fair share has the potential to reshape the economic landscape for all of us. Combined with closing tax loopholes and moderately increasing the corporate tax rate, these changes will go a long way toward increasing stability and opportunity for many of our friends and neighbors and make the entire economy stronger.
Previous recovery legislation provided much-needed relief to Maine, but the clock is running out on those temporary measures. For too many Mainers, a return to a pre-pandemic normal won’t be a return to comfort and ease; it will mean a return to housing instability, hunger and budgets stretched to the breaking point.
To ensure a lasting and equitable recovery, our elected leaders in Congress must move quickly to pass legislation that gives Maine people and families a fair shot, makes our tax system equitable and helps our economy thrive.