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Why is this Anti-Poverty Program Different From All Other Programs?

Why is this Anti-Poverty Program Different From All Other Programs?

three children playing

On Passover, as we sit around the seder table with family and friends, we pause so the youngest person can recite the Four Questions. I am the oldest of three brothers (only older than my twin brother by a minute, but it still counts), so I was spared the obligation of asking why this night is different from the others. The reciting of the Four Questions is a powerful moment, and it is one of the most well-known moments of the holiday. The recitation of these questions is the collective recognition that the youngest among us will be the carriers and transmitters of our values and traditions. We have an obligation to care for them and to do everything possible to help them thrive.

This vision has always been an American ideal as well. Today, families are able to receive up to $1,000 per child through a tax return, called the Child Tax Credit (CTC). This money is meant to provide families assistance in caring for their children and provide families with the resources necessary to help them thrive. The benefit has a high phase-out rate, $75,000 for a single parent.

As much as the CTC is an important aspect of ensuring child welfare, in March, the House Committee on Ways and Means passed the Refundable Child Tax Credit Eligibility Verification Reform Act of 2016 (H. R. 4722). This legislation would require tax filers to use a social security number (SSN) and not an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) in order to file for the Child Tax Credit. This change would block 1.5 million families, many of whom pay income taxes, from receiving this important benefit.

Supporters of H.R. 4722 argue that families that earn income illegally in the United States should not be eligible for the CTC. They also recognize that this change could save the federal government about $2 billion a year. These arguments do not recognize the income tax contributions of undocumented workers and ignores our moral obligation to care for America’s children.

First, a recent study released by the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy found that about eight million of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country pay $11.8 billion in income taxes annually. While it’s very important for Congress to address comprehensive immigration reform, in the meantime, it’s important that CTC remain available to immigrants who pay their fair share in taxes.

Also, as Congress attempts to balance the budget, the most vulnerable populations should not bear the burden of changes or decreases in funding of key programs. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that 62% of cuts in this year’s House budget proposal are cut from programs that serve low and moderate income people, even though these programs make up only 24% of discretionary spending.

This Passover, as we recite or listen to the Four Questions, let us keep in mind the importance of ensuring that all children, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, or immigration status, or anything else, are given the care and resources for a bright future.

Follow the RAC’s economic justice page for more updates on the budget process, and visit the RAC’s immigration page to learn about the Reform Movement’s work advocating for immigration reform.


Tyler Dratch is the Torah, text, and tradition coordinator at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (the RAC) and a rabbinical student at Hebrew College in Newton, MA.

Tyler Dratch

Published: 4/21/2016