A bill to increase tax credits in the Commonwealth is backed up by research showing the credits lead to better nutrition for working families and better long-term health outcomes for children. Lawmakers want to expand the state Earned Income Tax Credit and streamline other existing dependent tax credits to help put even a few hundred dollars back in the pockets of working people, including immigrants and many essential workers.
Democratic State Senator Jamie Eldridge said while food, energy and housing prices are up significantly, the bill is about more than just rebates.
“It’s also about their health care,” Eldridge said. “It’s about taking care of kids and making sure they have adequate nutrition, and it’s something that really has a tremendous impact on the entire Commonwealth. ”
Eldridge added the legislation will help decrease food insecurity and ensure a basic standard of living for people to survive in an increasingly expensive Commonwealth.
Expansion of the Child Tax Credit is credited with cutting child poverty in the U.S. by more than 40% during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Studies show the tax credits improve the health of mothers, decrease low birth weights in infants, and even lead to improved academic outcomes for children.
Charlotte Bruce, senior research and policy analyst with Children’s Health Watch at Boston Medical Center, said the tax credits provide direct cash payments to those in need.
“When you look at the data of how families spend tax credits, particularly if they’re done periodically, they’re really being used to afford basic needs and other enrichments for their child,” she said.
Bruce added the extra income allows people to spend money on healthy meals and necessary medical care.
But tax credits cannot help families if they don’t know they exist. MASSCAP, a coalition of Community Action Agencies, operates 40 Volunteer Income Tax Assistance centers to help people receive the benefits to which they are entitled.
Ancel Tejada, Financial Empowerment Program Manager with MASSCAP, called the tax credits “course changing.”
“A lot of our families do take that time and opportunity to get that money, and they do start their emergency savings account and they do start to pay back some back debt, Tejada said.”
Tejada added the expanded tax credits recently helped one mother take her daughter to the beach for the first time, providing a healthy respite for both mother and child.
Reduction in Child Poverty Natl Conference of State Legislatures 5/17/22
Health of Mothers American Economic Journal 5/2014
EITC and Child Tax Credit Promote Work, Reduce Poverty Ctr on Budget and Policy Priorities 10/1/2015
Free Tax Prep Assistance MA Assoc. for Community Action 2023