The past year has been filled with tremendous challenges, tragic loss of life, and unprecedented economic upheaval. Ventura County has faced many crises over the years, and through each one, we’ve come together as a community to overcome them and emerge better and more resilient than before. While the pandemic has been one of the greatest challenges our nation has ever faced, I believe we can come out of it stronger by targeting our recovery with our future in mind.

I worked with the Biden Administration on the American Rescue Plan, and I continue working with them on the American Jobs Plan and the American Family Plan. The American Rescue Plan was designed to crush the virus and to jolt the economy back to life. The American Jobs Plan is intended to create millions of desperately needed, good-paying jobs while investing in our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. It’s a win-win for all Americans because it will not only boost our economic recovery, but the investment will keep American companies competitive and our economy strong for generations to come.

One of the most critical needs we must address for today — and for our future — and one of the greatest roadblocks to both a just society and an economy that works for everyone is the stain of child poverty in America. There are nearly 11 million children living in poverty in our country, including nearly 28,000 children in Ventura County. Sadly, children make up one-third of all Americans living in poverty and the United States, one of the richest countries in the world, repeatedly ranks near the bottom of developed nations when it comes to child poverty. Child poverty discriminates. It’s far more prevalent among children of color.

Child poverty debilitates. Children who grow up in poverty have poor academic achievement, higher involvement in crime, and have worse long-term health outcomes. Child poverty is also one of the greater impediments to the economic success of women. Child poverty among caretakers, who are primarily women, leads to higher unemployment, to less pay for equal work, and is a severe hindrance to career advancement.

Ending child poverty is a moral imperative and clearly an economic imperative. For these reasons, President Biden has proposed bold action to lift millions of American children out of poverty. That’s why I’m proud to support the expanded Child Tax Credit in the American Rescue Plan, as well as making the tax credit permanent in the American Families Plan.

An estimated 39 million American families are eligible for the expanded child tax credit of up to $3,600 per child and are set to receive monthly advance payments of up to $300 per child beginning July 15.

In order to begin receiving payments, eligible families must file a 2019 or 2020 tax return — even if they don’t have earnings to report or don’t normally file. Even if eligible individuals missed the May 17 tax filing deadline, they can still file to receive this benefit and the monthly advance payments. There are local resources available to help individuals prepare their income tax returns for free through the IRS VITA program.

While these monthly payments will help parents feed and clothe their children or pay for other expenses, the direct assistance will have a far wider benefit to our economy. Research shows that every dollar spent on early childhood programs returns up to $7.30 in benefits including higher wages, improved health, and lower crime rates. Likewise, sustained tax credits have shown to increase educational attainment and lifetime earnings.

As we approach a full reopening of our economy and put the worst of the pandemic behind us, we must invest in our human infrastructure. We must move forward with transformational investments to bolster middle-class prosperity by providing every American access to affordable education, health care, and childcare.

It is time to invest in our children, our working families, and our economic future — because when American families do well, our nation thrives.

Originally published in the VC Star.

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