Just a couple of weeks ago, my 20-something-year-old twins cooked my wife and me Thanksgiving dinner. Watching them interact, seeing the capable adults they’ve become and having them prepare a holiday meal for us felt like the absolute definition of full circle.

Parents and caregivers with the Economic Security Project gather outside the White House to advocate for the child tax credit in advance of the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health on Sept. 20. The National Bureau of Economic Research estimates that the expanded child tax credit would provide benefits worth about $980 billion per year, with a price tag of $97 billion – a return on investment of 10-1.  Larry French/Getty Images for SKDK/TNS

Because it really wasn’t that long ago – I swear – that we were living a more hectic life parenting young children. And even though it was actually two decades ago, that time will remain fresh in my mind forever.

Having small children is often referred to as the longest shortest time. With twins, you’re doing it all twice while working to maintain equality between siblings and some semblance of peace in your household.

It meant two little people learning to walk, starting kindergarten, learning to drive, graduating from high school and every other milestone in between – at the same time. But it also meant two car seats, two day care fees, two co-pays at the doctor’s office, two pairs of boots and snowsuits when the weather got cold, two summer camp payments, not to mention double the groceries required for growing children.

These necessities are vital for all Maine families to succeed, yet the cost of providing them for our kids is further and further out of reach for too many parents. A reinstatement of the wildly successful child tax credit would allow parents in Maine and across the country to provide what their kids need now and have security and stability for their future.

In 2021, as part of the American Rescue Plan Act passed by Democrats in Congress, the child tax credit was made more generous and payouts were more frequent. About 4 out of 5 kids in Maine, 213,000 children, lived in households that benefited from the program.

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The improved child tax credit provided $300 per month for each child under age 6 and up to $250 per month for each child ages 6 to 17. Half of the credit was distributed in advance via monthly payments from July through December 2021, which helped families meet their financial needs in real time. The second half was distributed when they filed their taxes.

Ultimately, and perhaps most importantly, this investment lifted 5.3 million people – including 2.9 million children – out of poverty in 2021. But the program expired at the end of 2021, and the consequences were swift. In the span of just one month, from December 2021 and January 2022, the monthly child poverty rate increased from 12.1% to 17%, the highest rate seen since the end of 2020.

It is unacceptable that in the wealthiest country in the world we aren’t continuing a program that was proven to improve the outcomes for our kids and was being spent on child care, food, housing and other basic needs.

From a purely fiscal lens, there’s further evidence to support the child tax credit. A study from the National Bureau of Economic Research displays the “return on investment” of returning to an expanded child tax credit. It estimates that the expanded program would provide benefits worth about $980 billion per year, with a price tag of $97 billion – a return on investment of 10-1.

As Congress enters its “lame duck session” and defines its priorities for end-of-year spending packages, they must reinstate this valuable and life-changing program. No longer can they procrastinate on a problem as urgent as child poverty when a proven solution is right there in front of them.

This holiday season, as families face rising costs and do everything they can to provide the essentials, we need Congress to do more than the bare minimum. On behalf of all families and for our shared success as a nation, they must reinstate the child tax credit.

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