As Congress mulls a fourth phase of coronavirus stimulus, it is time for them to include relief aimed at safeguarding the family — both through the duration of this crisis and into the future. Specifically, Congress should pass the bipartisan paid family leave bill introduced late last year by Senator Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) that would allow every family the ability to receive a $5,000 “baby bonus” advance on their Child Tax Credit upon the birth or adoption of a child.
This pandemic has imposed serious financial obstacles on millions of families across the country. Many are finding themselves unemployed or furloughed in the wake of the mass closure of businesses and the issuance of stay-at-home orders. The economic stress will be compounded for new parents, who will spend most of this year and next recovering financially not only from the money lost during the crisis but also the significant cost of bringing a new baby into the world, which on average costs nearly $11,000 — and that’s assuming there are no health complications.
The bipartisan proposal from Cassidy and Sinema would alleviate much of this financial pressure on new parents. It is absolutely brilliant in its concept: instead of imposing new taxes or creating another government entitlement program, Cassidy-Sinema uses the existing Child Tax Credit system to allow people to draw from money already entitled to them. New parents are going to enjoy an extra $2,000 per year anyway — why not let them front load some of that money when they need it the most? Especially if it allows them to take time off and spend those precious first few weeks at home with their new child?
For the vast majority of taxpayers, the bill would provide an immediate $5,000 check upon the birth or adoption of a child, and in return the taxpayer would “pay back” the $5,000 via a reduced Child Tax Credit for 10 years — instead of receiving $2,000 a year, these taxpayers would receive $1,500. Even those working part-time who do not earn enough to be eligible for the full child tax credit would be able to participate in Cassidy-Sinema. They could claim a smaller income-based benefit equal to 100 percent wage replacement for 12 weeks of work — and instead of a 10 year repayment plan, these families would be allowed to pay back in the form of reduced Child Tax Credits over 15 years. All of this would be strictly optional. If a family wanted to maintain their existing Child Tax Credit setup without the advance, they would still have that option.
The benefit of allowing parents to choose when and how they use their Child Tax Credit without unnecessary bureaucratic strings attached has only been magnified by the coronavirus pandemic. Now more than ever, we must ensure that families have the opportunity and necessary resources to care for their new child. Families are the foundation on which this nation and its economy thrives. And with our nation’s birth rates already dwindling, we should be doing everything we can to encourage the growth of families and ensure their financial prosperity. Thus, as Congress works to ensure the viability of America’s small businesses and workers, and even considers a large overhaul of our nation’s infrastructure, it should not overlook the American family — especially when it would cost the federal government next to nothing to do so.
Alone, the Cassidy-Sinema “baby bonus” will not save the American family. But it is an important first step toward addressing some of the real economic struggles the family is facing — especially during this current crisis. Now is the time for Congress to act and include new families in their fourth phase of stimulus spending.