Raising Kids May Cost More in NC

>>5310336090_e2c50ebe52_bBY TAZRA MITCHELL

Working Tar Heel moms are never off the clock. From laboring at the workplace all day to tucking kids in at night, we put in a lot more than a full day’s work. Much of the work is tireless, thankless, and unpaid. But for the paid work, every dollar moms work for is hard earned. These are some of the many reasons why we celebrated moms this week.

Flowers and breakfast were great, but this Mother’s Day we needed to keep our sights on what’s happening in Washington, D.C. Congress can help 750,000 moms right here in North Carolina by making permanent improvements to tax credits that put money back into the pockets of moms who’ve earned it. Without action from Congress, these credits expire at the end of 2017.

The state’s economy is experiencing a boom in low-wage work—a trend that is falling disproportionately hard on women. For more than 21 million working moms across the country, including 763,000 in North Carolina, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) are important tools that help them make ends meet in today’s economy. By offsetting income and sales taxes, these credits boost income, support work, and reduce poverty—especially among children.

Allowing moms to keep more of what they earn also helps keep poverty in check. Combined, the EITC and CTC lifted 378,000 North Carolinians out of poverty each year, on average, from 2009 to 2013. That is enough people to fill up the NFL Panthers stadium in Charlotte five times over. Meanwhile the state ended its local earned income tax credit, which lawmakers allowed to expire even though it built upon the successes of the federal credit.

Evidence also shows that the EITC and CTC have long-term benefits for moms and their kids. Children who benefit from the tax credits perform better in school, and mothers and their children who benefit are healthier than families that do not. Some of the best news is that the increase in earnings extends into the next generation, with more work and higher earnings for children raised by moms who received the credits.

The credits have enjoyed strong, bipartisan support over the years. However, unless Congress acts, 13 million families with 25 million kids will lose some or all of the important benefits they receive from the EITC and CTC when parts of these policies expire at the end of 2017.

Fortunately, there is a choice. Congress can act to stop millions of moms and children from losing all or part of their credits—a hit that’s worth an average of $840 per family a year. For the average North Carolina family of four, that’s more than one month of rent with about $100 left over for other necessities. That’s not chump change for families working hard to get ahead in an economy that’s not working well for them.

For many mothers, perhaps the best Mother’s Day gift of all would come in the form of public policy: making the EITC and CTC permanent and restoring the state EITC. We also need laws supporting a living wage, equal pay for equal work, and family-friendly workplace policies. Raising the minimum wage to $12 per hour would help more than 1 in 3 working moms in our state support their families.

This is the time of year when everyone tells their moms they love them. This holiday gives policymakers at the state and federal levels the opportunity to prove it by moving beyond words into action.

>>Tazra MitchellTazra Mitchell is a Public Policy Analyst at the NC Budget and Tax Center based in Raleigh, NC.

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