60+ Behavioral Scientists Urge U.S. Congress to Extend Child Tax Credit

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The attached letter, signed by over 60 behavioral scientists from institutions around the country, was sent by the ideas42 Policy Lab today to the bipartisan leaders of the United States Senate and House of Representatives urging Congress to pass an extended version of the 2021 Child Tax Credit (CTC).

The 2021 Child Tax Credit was an effective anti-poverty tool because it made it easy for eligible families to access their benefit. It reached about 65 million children and reduced child poverty by an estimated 30%.

Behavioral science demonstrates that easier and more accessible processes allow people to follow through on their intended actions. Today’s letter provides an overview of several key provisions of the 2021 CTC that aligned with these realities to the benefit of families, as well as a call to action to include these provisions in a newly extended CTC:

  • Automatic enrollment: This makes it easier for eligible families to enroll in the CTC. Over 729,000 children were automatically enrolled in 2021.
  • Increased credit and monthly payments: Additional cash benefit amounts, coupled with monthly disbursements, equipped families to better navigate uncertain times by supporting and smoothing consumption. These provisions alone reduced child poverty in 2021 by an estimated 5%.
  • Refundable credit: A refundable CTC allows families with the lowest incomes to receive the full benefit. An estimated 3.6 million children gained the resources they needed to stay out of poverty in 2021 due to this provision.

The letter also details additional provisions that leverage behavioral science to help families access the benefit and meet their needs:

  • Presumptive eligibility and a grace period: These provisions will help eligible families get cash right away and give caregivers who forget to enroll initially retroactive access to their benefits. Outreach funding: Additional funding for behaviorally informed outreach will help ensure all eligible families interested in accessing their benefit are able to do so.
  • Safe harbor clause: A safe harbor clause protects families who were accidentally given incorrect amounts of credit from having to repay it.
  • Immigrant access: Removing documentation requirements that exclude immigrant families with ITINs would increase CTC access to about 1 million immigrant children.

Kelli Garcia, Director of the ideas42 Policy Lab, commented: “The Child Tax Credit is good policy that incorporates behavioral science principles to reduce child poverty. Today’s letter demonstrates that the CTC shouldn’t be a political issue. The facts support extending it. Congress must act soon to help families during a time when every dollar matters more than ever.

The full text of the letter, including additional evidence on the benefits of an expanded CTC and list of signatures of behavioral scientists urging Congress to take action can be found here.

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