Op-Ed: We Must Invest in NH Families With Child Tax Credits and Paid Family Leave

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Clifton West Jr. Co-Founder & Executive Director of Black Lives Matter Seacoast

By Senator Rebecca Whitley and Clifton West Jr.

As parents, we believe that right now is a critical moment to make bold and strategic investments in our families, children, and child care workers, all of whom are essential to building towards a more prosperous economic future. That’s why we’re proud to support the American Families Plan.

The American Families Plan is a once-in-a-generation piece of legislation that prioritizes and funds the foundation of middle-class prosperity: education, health care, and child care. This legislation is much needed here in the Granite State as Republicans in the State House and Governor Sununu fail to prioritize working families by chronically underfunding these critical programs.

The American Families Plan could not be coming at a more important time. Navigating this pandemic has been difficult for us all, especially parents, and particularly working moms who have made hard choices for themselves and their families. Unfortunately, in 2020 we saw nearly 3 million American women leave the workforce and we’re seeing this trend continue now in 2021. Many women have left the workforce due to lack of childcare, to help children with remote school, to care for a sick relative, or to recover from COVID themselves.

Working and having a family has never been so difficult. We all know someone who has had to make the hard decision during the pandemic between their job and their family. It’s clear that families need time to care for themselves and their loved ones without risking their professional livelihoods and incomes. Supporting working families is central to rebuilding and sustaining our economy and will help us address any compounding inequalities in the long term.
Because when women, children and working families thrive, New Hampshire’s workforce and economy prosper. 
That’s why the American Rescue Plan includes a national comprehensive paid family and medical leave program. Today, far too few workplaces have paid family and medical leave — in fact, four out of five private sector workers have no access to paid leave. And the numbers get higher for the lowest wage workers, mostly women and workers of color, with 95% of them lacking any access to paid family leave.

The American Families Plan will change that. This plan will provide workers up to $4,000 a month, with a minimum of two-thirds of average weekly wages replaced, rising to 80 percent for the lowest wage workers.

Paid family and medical leave supports American workers and families and is a critical investment in keeping families strong. Democrats in New Hampshire know this — but unfortunately, Governor Sununu vetoed paid family and medical leave twice, forcing Granite State families to choose between caring for a newborn or a sick loved one and missing a paycheck. Thankfully, the American Families Plan lays the foundation to make it possible for Granite State families like ours to thrive. Most importantly, it will allow workers to care for themselves and their families without being afraid of losing their jobs – and a paycheck.

Another key part of this plan is extending the American Rescue Plan’s Child Tax Credit (CTC) to $3,000 per child 6-years old and above and $3,600 per child under 6. This will benefit 221,000 Granite State Kids —  including 33,000 children of color. When passed, this proposal is estimated to reduce child poverty in New Hampshire by 39 percent. This would be extraordinarily meaningful to so many families, our economy, and our state. Democrats believe that New Hampshire’s middle class deserve financial security and tax breaks, but Republicans like Governor Sununu prioritize their wealthy friends and big businesses over Granite State families. That’s why they’re opposing this bill.

The American Families Plan also makes critical investments in education, starting with universal, high quality, pre-school. Investing in universal pre-school will improve educational outcomes for young children in New Hampshire while allowing more Granite Staters to get back into the workforce The American Families Plan will also increase the maximum Pell Grant awards by approximately $1,400 to support the 73,329 students in New Hampshire who rely on Pell for their education, and provide grants to increase college retention and completion.

To make higher education more accessible, the American Families Plan will also provide two years of free community college to all students, including DREAMers. And, this legislation provides financial support to minority-serving institutions and the students they serve across the country, like Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and Hispanic-serving institutions. These investments will help working families and close the racial educational gap for Black, Indigenous, AAPI Americans, and other people of color.

While President Biden and Democrats in Washington and New Hampshire are fighting for expanding the child tax credit, paid family leave, and making childcare more affordable, Governor Sununu and Republicans in the State House actually cut funding for the Division of Children Youth and Families, reduced supports to prevent child abuse, and failed to fully fund child care assistance in the state budget. Governor Sununu has also failed to stand up many of the bipartisan mental health reforms from 2019, including Senate Bill 14.

This is particularly troubling during the pandemic, especially while just a few months ago over 50 children languished in emergency rooms waiting for the mental health care they deserve in their communities. All the while, the budget proposed by Governor Sununu and the Republicans in Concord offloads state responsibilities onto the backs of already overburdened local property taxpayers and fails to support working families. We cannot afford to leave any Granite Staters, especially New Hampshire’s children and families, behind as we rebuild from this pandemic.

Senator Rebecca Whitley represents Concord, Henniker, Hopkinton, and Warner and Clifton West Jr. is the Vice President of Public Affairs at the NH Young Democrats and Executive Director of Black Lives Matter Seacoast

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