Striking the #SingleParentPenalty
Children are expensive, but they are also the building blocks of our future economy. That’s why, in 1951, Congress created a tax cut—commonly known as the Child Tax Credit—for most families with kids. The Child Tax Credit has been a lifeline for parents, especially as the costs of child care skyrocket. I’m glad Congress recently expanded the Child Tax Credit, which is estimated to help ⅔ of children in our district and lift ~7,400 kids in our community out of poverty.
But I’ll be honest with you. The Child Tax Credit isn’t perfect.
Under current law, it’s harder for families headed by single parents to get help from the Child Tax Credit than it is for married parents. This doesn’t make sense. There’s no discount for single parents (trust me, I know) at grocery stores, childcare centers, or doctor’s offices.
I’m calling this the #SingleParentPenalty, but ultimately, this hurts kids. No kid should get less nutritious food or less secure housing just because their parent isn’t married.
Here’s the truth: the single parent penalty is rooted in outdated ideas about what kinds of families are valid. It was a policy choice to have this discrepancy. Over two decades ago, Congressmembers decided that kids in single parent families were less deserving of help because of their parents’ decisions. Lots of things feel unfair when you’re a child, but this truly is.
So this week, I introduced legislation to finally strike the single parent penalty from our tax code.
I noticed this problem when we did the first round of survival checks in the CARES Act last year. When I brought up how it didn’t make sense to treat single parents differently than married parents, I was told that no one had brought that up before—probably because I was the only single mom of young kids in Congress at the time.
So I immediately zeroed in on this issue when we started talking about expanding the Child Tax Credit in the American Rescue Plan. Right away, I got working on a letter to my colleagues urging them to eliminate the single parent penalty. I started a national conversation about this unfair burden by going on the major television networks and asking single parents to share their stories on social media.