Too many of West Virginia's low-income working people struggle to move ahead, or even to stay afloat, as their costs continue to rise faster than their pay, making it harder for them to provide for themselves and their children.
That's a problem we can't afford to ignore. To strengthen our communities and our economy, we need to ensure that working people have a chance to move ahead and that their children have a chance to succeed.
Fortunately, a new proposal, which Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is co-sponsoring, offers a promising path forward. Called the Working Families Tax Relief Act, the proposal from senators Brown, Bennet, Durbin and Wyden would strengthen the highly successful Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), enabling working people to keep more of their hard-earned pay.
And, it would improve the Child Tax Credit (CTC) to help millions more kids in low- and middle-income families get a good start in life.
Here in West Virginia, the proposal would make 273,000 families more financially secure, benefiting more than 661,000 West Virginians, including 276,000 children - with the benefits shared broadly across racial groups.
The Working Families Tax Relief Act stands in stark contrast to the 2017 tax law, which was heavily tilted toward the nation's wealthiest households and most profitable corporations and away from working families.
Even as it showered massive tax cuts on the wealthy and corporations, the 2017 tax law's signature "middle-class" tax cut provided only a token CTC increase (from $1 to $75) to 143,000 children in low-income working families in West Virginia.
The new Senate proposal would begin to address this disparity by giving working people a much-needed boost.
For example, a single mother of two earning $20,000 per year would see a $3,700 increase in her income. And a married couple with two young kids making $45,000 per year would see a $3,500 increase.
That means more money to buy basic necessities, make needed home repairs, maintain a car to get to work or pay for education or training needed to secure a higher-paying job.
The proposal would also have lasting benefits for millions of children. Kids whose families receive working family tax credits do better in school, are likelier to attend college and will likely earn more as adults. That's important not only for the children but for all of us as we seek to strengthen our economy for the future.
More income makes the biggest difference to the poorest children, research shows. Nationally, the proposal would cut child poverty by 28 percent, lifting 3.1 million children out of poverty and making another 7.7 million children less poor.
In 2017, Community Action Agencies in West Virginia served 105,722 individuals living in poverty, with 39 percent of the families in severe poverty, or below 50 percent of the federal poverty level.
Nearly 8,500 tax returns were filed by Community Action Agencies on behalf of working families in poverty, and the Working Families Tax Relief Act would provide a much-needed boost to our clients in need.
We applaud Senator Manchin for sponsoring this important measure and for his longstanding support of tax credits for working families.
We urge him to continue his efforts to substantially strengthen the EITC and CTC and help give working people and their children a fair shot to get ahead.
Mary Chipps is executive director of the West Virginia Community Action Partnership.