NEWARK – Bob Menendez often talks about his humble upbringing in a Union City “tenement.” He did so again today, remembering that he qualified for honors classes at Union Hill High School, but his family couldn’t afford to pay extra for the required books.
That shouldn’t happen.
Menendez reflected as he joined fellow U.S. Senator Cory Booker to celebrate the launch of a federal child tax credit that would benefit many low and middle income families. A key part of the Democratic-backed American Rescue Plan, the credits began arriving in bank accounts July 15.
Families are receiving monthly payments of $300 per child under six and $250 per child between 6 and 17. That works out to $3,600 and $3,000 annually. The payments begin phasing out for families with joint incomes of $150,000.
Speaking outside the Newark Boys & Girls Club, both Booker and Menendez hailed the child tax credit as evidence of the federal government meeting a pressing need.
Ordinarily, people benefit from credits against their taxes when they file returns in April. But in this case, the feds are awarding credits in advance, which has the desired effect of putting money directly into bank accounts.
A handful of New Jerseyans from around the state, including Newark, New Brunswick and Mays Landing in Atlantic County, said the additional monthly income will make it easier to pay bills and very simply, to make ends meet.
Booker said the added income could allow some families to take a vacation or to buy cleats for a young football player.
A former college football player himself, Booker, who at times can be confused with a preacher, said, “Can’t I get an amen for that.”
Sure enough, many in the crowd politely responded, “Amen.”
As his Union City comments showed, Menendez was thinking about history.
He called the tax credits the “most ambitious effort in decades” to target child poverty.
The cost here is enormous – about $1 trillion annually.
But the senators argued that the return is much greater than that.
They said that on a very basic level, helping low and middle income families can mean children staying in school and preparing for a productive future. And just like Social Security helped keep seniors out of poverty when created almost 90 years ago, they said this program can do the same for kids.
But not just yet.
The child tax credit program as created is a one-year deal. Menendez and Booker both said they hope to extend it.
The politics seems simple. No Senate Republican backed the child credits, so this is something Dems have to do themselves.
Menendez made a crack about Republicans cowering in the corner as opposed to helping people.
Booker ridiculed the GOP’s traditional stated support for families and children.
“Don’t tell me you love our children while supporting policies that rob them of their genius,” Booker said.