Press Statement re Child Tax Credits issued by the Wages for Housework Campaign which coordinates the Global Women’s Strike

Child Tax Credits children need it, mothers have earned it.

Our international women’s network, which has been campaigning for nearly 50 years for payments for the vital unwaged caring work that mainly women do, welcomes the expansion of Child Tax Credits (CTC) in the American Rescue Plan.  

Beginning in July, families will get $3600 a year ($300/mo.)per child under sixand $3000 a year ($250/mo.)per child age six to 17, whether or not the family has earned enough to pay taxes.  Federal benefits will not be reduced because of these payments.  Single parents making under $75,000/year, heads of household under $112,500, and married couples under $150,000 are eligible to receive the CTC.  (The CTC amount will start to gradually decrease after that.) 

While the CTC will not end the poverty of all children, it is estimated to cut the number of children in deep poverty by nearly half and will bring in much needed income to millions, beginning with single mother families.  But how great the impact on children’s poverty will be depends on whether the payments will go to the mother (or other primary caregiver) when she is not the main breadwinner.  It also depends on whether CTC is made permanent.  

“This is the first time since Ronald Reagan imposed trickle-down economics and Bill Clinton followed with welfare reform/workfare policies which had a devastating impact on the poorest families, disproportionately families of color, that the US government has committed to addressing the poverty of children,” said Margaret Prescod.

“There would be no child poverty if mothers were not poor. CTC is a first step in the US catching up with other countries in providing child benefits,” said Selma James, founder of the Wages for Housework Campaign.  Her second anthology, Our Time Is Now: Sex, Race, Class, and Caring for People and Planet, is published next month. 

With other groups we pressed for filing to be made easier to access for those who never filed before because they never got paid enough – the IRS has now set up a non-filer portal.  We are now working hard to ensure that, in the tax credit rollout, the primary caregiver is paid the CTC.  “We all know that putting the cash in mothers’ hands is the best guarantee that children will benefit.  It also avoids reinforcing the power of men as main breadwinners over mothers as main caregivers,” says Phoebe Jones.  “One in four women (of every race) face domestic violence.  Tax credits must not be placed in the hands of abusers.” 

Mothers and children need it

The pandemic has made it impossible to continue to ignore the lifesaving work that mothers and other caregivers – unwaged and waged – have always done.  It cut through the 40-year rhetoric that the most impoverished mothers, those on welfare, are “lazy scroungers seeking a handout.”  Children, particularly children of color, were forced into poverty by policies based on that malicious lie.  In 1977 at the National Women’s Conference in Houston TX, the WFH Campaign, working with the welfare rights movement, won the Resolution that welfare be called a wage, not charity.  

Mothers and children are 73% of the poor.  According to the Poor People’s Campaign – A National Call for Moral Revival, there are 39 million children trapped in poverty in the US, which is tragic, and shameful in the richest country in the world with over 600 billionaires.  There is still a way to go to eliminate child poverty.  But the CTC is a historic step in the right direction. 

On hearing the news, mothers in our multiracial network said: 

“With tax credits payments, I would struggle less with buying the necessary foods for my disabled daughter.” 

“My nieces were taken from me by the Department of Human Services because they said I was poor.  That might not have happened if I had had child tax credit.” 

“It would help me afford the bus fare for the grandchildren I have custody of, taking them to appointments and places they would like to go.  And I could buy them socks and underwear as they grow out of them.” 

“Both of my ex-husbands controlled the tax credits and I used to have to beg them for money for myself and the children.  We got about $1000 in child tax credits, but one of my ex-husbands blew the money on fancy shoes for himself, and the other one used it to buy himself an electric guitar when the kids needed new glasses.  That’s what happens when the money doesn’t go to the mother.”   

All unwaged caregiving deserves to be paid

Unwaged caregiving is valued at $1.5 trillion to the US economy annually.  Worldwide women and girls spend a whopping 12.5 billion hours a day doing care work without pay.  In 1991, working with the Congressional Black Caucus, we got introduced The Unremunerated Work ActWhile it was not passed, it led to the Bureau of Labor Statistics conducting Time Use Surveys which established how much time is spent on caregiving and validated its economic value.  The data from the TUS could be a boost to those pressing for increased wages for homecare and domestic work.  

We will continue to press for bills that would make the CTC permanent and those that recognize caregiving as work such as Rep. Gwen Moore’s Worker Relief and Credit Reform Act,which would redefine work to include unpaid family caregivers and students, and extend the Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) to them.  The 53 million unwaged family caregivers caring for elders and those with disabilities, including veterans, deserve to be recognized as well as those caring for children. 

A step towards a care income

Together with the Green New Deal for Europe we campaign for a Care Income, across the planet, for all those, of every gender, who care for people, the urban and rural environment, and the natural world.  Care Income Endorsers.

During the 2020 US election, we formed Election Action for Caregivers with other dedicated campaigners to press Biden/Harris to prioritize fully refundable tax credits as an income for caregivers.  Endorsers    

While the CTC is not an income for caregivers, it begins to re-establish that the government has a responsibility to support parents who are raising the next generation, especially, but not only, if they are low income.  Winning a care income is dependent on such a commitment from government – a commitment which the National Welfare Rights Organization (now Union) fought to establish and maintained until it was lost under Reagan and Clinton.

If women have an income for caregiving work, we can refuse violent relationships, starvation wages, the poverty draft, and jobs that are body and soul-destroying while adding to the climate emergency.   

When given the choice, most mothers of young children would like to spend more time with them: 47%, prefer part-time to full-time jobs, and 20% prefer not to work outside the home at all.  The CTC can relieve some of the financial pressure that denies mothers (and fathers too) the right to choose how they want to raise their children.

Raising the floor for wages

The $15 an hour minimum wage, which the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival that we are part of mobilized for, was not included in the final American Rescue Plan package.  If we are to eliminate poverty, as we must, we must eliminate poverty wages: no one, of any gender, must make less than $15 an hour which must rapidly move towards a living wage

With CTC and other fully refundable tax credits, waged workers are in a stronger position to demand at least $15.

We also urgently need to continue to press for universal healthcare free at the point of delivery, affordable decent housing, clean air and water, affordable nutritious organic food, renewable energy, soil regeneration and more.

Money can be found

The government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic has shown that in an emergency the money can be found.  As single F-35 aircraft alone is projected to cost $1.7 trillion over its lifetime – almost the same as the entire American Rescue Plan of $1.8 trillion.  The $14.7 billion for one aircraft carrier, or the nearly $10million in weapons and hardware used against Black Lives Matter protests, could start to fund a lot of what we need. The money is there.  

Further reading:

Jacobin Magazine: Mother’s Day Radical Roots

Jacobin Magazine: The Senate Just Took a Baby Step Toward the Feminist Goal of a Universal Child Benefit