WASHINGTON, D.C. – In case you missed it, 45 faith organizations wrote a letter to President-elect Biden, urging he and his incoming administration to work to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC), which U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has called for as part of his Working Families Tax Relief Act. The letter was signed by a number of faith organizations, including the National Council of Churches, National African American Clergy Network, National Association of Evangelicals, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and the Friends Committee on National Legislation. The group called for the tax credit expansions, citing the need to support low paid adult workers during the pandemic, many of whom are Black and brown and on the front lines of COVID-19. The organizations also called on the incoming administration to work to increase the CTC and make it fully refundable so that the nearly 26 million children and their families who are not currently eligible qualify to receive the entire credit.
Brown plans to re-introduce his Working Families Tax Relief Act, which would cut taxes for workers and families by expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC). The EITC and CTC are two of the most effective tools to put money in the pockets of working people and pull children out of poverty. Making the CTC fully refundable helps the credit reach 26 million of the poorest children in America – most of them Black and brown – whose families don’t currently qualify for the full CTC benefit. The Working Families Tax Relief Act would also allow workers to draw a $500 advance payment on their EITC so that families aren’t forced to turn to predatory payday lenders when the car breaks down or other unexpected expenses come up.
“The pandemic has caused untold economic devastation to millions of Americans, particularly Brown and Black Americans, and while there are many policy options at your disposal we believe that expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) can play an instrumental role in assisting millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet,” the faith leaders wrote in the letter.
They continued, “For decades, these refundable tax credits have been critical tools in the effort to reward work, support families, and lift millions of our fellow citizens out of poverty. Both the EITC and CTC have deep bipartisan support. And as Vice President, you worked to ensure that both EITC and CTC were expanded as part of the Recovery Act, and then you worked with Congress to make those expansions permanent.”
The faith leaders also called for another two-year lookback to cover tax year 2021. Brown led bipartisan lookback legislation last year with Sen. Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) and Reps. Brian Higgins (D-NY-26) and Mike Kelly (R-PA-16). His legislation, which was signed into law as part of the year-end COVID-19 relief package, would ensure low-income families can use the wages reported in their 2019 tax return to compute the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) on their 2020 tax return.
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, a number of low-income workers will report lower wages in 2020, which means those eligible for the EITC and CTC could receive lower refunds. By allowing workers to use 2019 wages to compute their EITC and CTC, the senators’ legislation will help those hit hardest by this crisis get a larger refund that is consistent with their earnings from the previous filing season. Congress has temporarily allowed this election in the wake of previous natural disasters. Brown plans to make this a priority for the 2021 tax year as well.
The letter from the 45 faith organizations can be read here and below.
Dear President-elect Biden:
Congratulations on your election. We welcome your inauguration. There are many challenges that you face, and you have our prayers and support as you seek to govern with justice and mercy for all Americans. Of the many challenges you face, one of the most urgent is helping all Americans emerge from the chaos, despair, and economic devastation wrought by the coronavirus-19 pandemic.
The pandemic has caused untold economic devastation to millions of Americans, particularly Brown and Black Americans, and while there are many policy options at your disposal we believe that expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) can play an instrumental role in assisting millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet.
For decades, these refundable tax credits have been critical tools in the effort to reward work, support families, and lift millions of our fellow citizens out of poverty. Both the EITC and CTC have deep bipartisan support. And as Vice President, you worked to ensure that both EITC and CTC were expanded as part of the Recovery Act, and then you worked with Congress to make those expansions permanent.
As in 2008, our nation faces another dire economic crisis. We will be judged, as a nation and as people of faith, by how we help those in greatest need. In following our scriptures, it is our hope that we can help heal the division and pain facing our nation. Accordingly, we would urge you to support reasonable, temporary expansions to both the EITC and CTC in your forthcoming COVID relief package. Specifically, we would ask that you:
Expand EITC for low-wage, childless workers: That the EITC promotes work and supports low-wage workers is beyond question. However, too many workers – particularly older and the youngest adult workers – do not benefit at all from the EITC. Adult workers without children receive only a small EITC, leaving them taxed into or further into poverty. As people of faith, we question the justice of a tax code that punishes workers in this way. Enabling the EITC to supplement their limited earnings during a pandemic is a moral imperative.
Make the CTC fully refundable: The CTC provides a $2,000 credit to eligible families with children. However, the CTC fails to cover nearly 26 million children as their families fail to qualify for this full amount or no credit whatsoever. Half of Black and Latino households are shut out of receiving the full credit. This problem could be addressed by making the credit fully refundable – meaning all children qualify for the full credit. Increasing the credit — along with a larger credit for children under 6 years of age if possible, will help provide much-needed assistance at a time when families are struggling.
Providing a robust earned income lookback: The recent COVID-19 relief package provided a “look back” for tax year 2020. Doing so enables workers to do what corporations are already able to do under the current tax code: endure sudden changes in income. The lookback option allows filers to use their 2019 wages – instead of 2020 wages impacted by COVID – when calculating their EITC and CTC benefit. Given that 2021 will be tough for workers, another two-year lookback – which covers tax year 2021 – is warranted.
Again, we congratulate you on election, and look forward to working with you to address the many serious challenges which face our nation.
Rev. Aundreia Alexander, Esq., Associate General Secretary for Action and Advocacy, National Council of Churches, USA
John Ashmen, President, Citygate Network
Rev. David Beckmann, President Emeritus, Bread for the World
Rev Jennifer Butler, CEO, Faith in Public Life
Sr. Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice
Galen Carey, Vice President of Government Relations, National Association of Evangelicals
John Carr, Director, Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life, Georgetown University
Iva E. Carruthers PhD, General Secretary, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference
Catholic Charities USA
Rev. Eugene Cho, President/CEO, Bread for the World
Church World Service
Christian Reformed Church Office of Social Justice
Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, U.S. Provinces
Rev. Dr. Leslie Copeland-Tune, Chief Operating Officer, National Council of Churches USA
Rev. Paula Clayton Dempsey, Director of Partnership Relations, Alliance of Baptists
Disciples Center for Public Witness (Disciples of Christ)
The Episcopal Church
Franciscan Action Network
Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, General Secretary Emeritus, Reformed Church in America
Dr. Jeffrey Haggray, Executive Director, American Baptist Home Mission Societies
Islamic Relief USA
Jewish Federations of North America
R. Aura Kanegis, Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, American Friends Service Committee
Walter Kim, President, National Association of Evangelicals
Jo Anne Lyon, Founder, World Hope International
Rev. Carlos L. Malavé, Executive Director, Christian Churches Together
Rich Nathan, Senor Pastor, Vineyard Columbus
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Council of Churches USA
Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, Society of the Sacred Heart United States Canada
Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Diane E. Randall, General Secretary, Friends Committee on National Legislation
Stephen K. Reeves, Associate Coordinator of Advocacy, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
Amy Reumann, Director of Advocacy, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Rev. Gabriel Salguero, President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition
Ann Scholz, SSND, Director for Social Mission, Leadership Conference of Women Religious
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas – Justice Team
Dr. Reginald Smith, Director of Diversity, Christian Reformed Church of North America
Rev. Ron Stief, Executive Director, National Religious Campaign Against Torture
Rev. Lori Tapia, National Pastor for Hispanic Ministries, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Rev. Adam Russell Taylor, President, Sojourners
United Church of Christ Justice Witness Ministries
The United Methodist Church - General Board of Church and Society
Rev. Jim Wallis, Founder and Ambassador of Sojourners
Rev. Cecilia J. Williams, President/CEO, Christian Community Development Association (CCDA)
Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, Co-Convener, National African American Clergy Network