What if struggling parents got $300 more a month? Introducing the American Family Act

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet introduced plan in 2017

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Raising and providing for children is expensive, even for people who don’t struggle financially from day to day.

In fact, to parent a child from birth through age 17 costs an average of $233,610, according to a 2017 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And in 33 states, day care is more expensive than college tuition.

Time magazine cited those numbers and statistics in a story published earlier this year called, “Democrats' new plan for poor parents: Give them $300 a month.”

The article raised some interesting questions. As for whether it’s possible to give needy parents $300 a month, the answer isn’t so cut and dried.

In 2017, Sen. Michael Bennet, of Colorado, introduced something called the American Family Act, which would revise and expand our existing child tax credit to provide most parents, including low-income ones, at least $3,000 every year.

Bennet has said it’s an adjustment that’s long overdue.

[ Read: The bill in full | A fact sheet ]

Don't we already have assistance programs in place? Sure.

The country does have the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, better known as WIC, which was put into place in 1972, intended to help mothers buy food.

And in 1996, Congress created the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program, which gives states grants for job preparation, child care and other programs, the Time article points out. Then in 1997, the Children’s Health Insurance Program debuted, to ensure that kids whose parents didn’t qualify for Medicaid could still see a doctor.

Still, often there’s red tape involved in applying for help through programs such as these.

“Now, some Democratic lawmakers say they’ve got a simpler solution for needy parents: Give them cash,” the article reads.

According to a 2018 report from the Federal Reserve, 4 in 10 people in the United States can’t afford an unexpected expense of $400. Having children absolutely makes things harder for people who are just getting by. Could giving parents more cash, no strings attached, really be the answer?

Time said the bill isn’t likely to pass in the current session of Congress, but with the 2020 election heating up, it could soon become a talking point for the Democratic presidential candidates, giving its backers hope that it may pass in the next few years.

“... The American Family Act is notably different than other benefit programs. It would essentially just expand the current credit by giving more money to more people. It wouldn’t phase out until single-filers exceeded at least $75,000 per year and joint-filers exceeded $110,000 per year — the same cutoffs that were in place prior to President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cuts. A source familiar with the matter told Time a new version with higher phaseout thresholds could be introduced soon, making upper-middle class families eligible for the cash, too," the article reads.

Worth mentioning: Other countries have tried a similar idea. Canada and Australia, for example, have a type of “child allowance,” in which periodic payments are made out to parents so they can offset how expensive it is to raise children.

Read more specifics about the plan here, and then weigh in:

About the Author:

Michelle is the Managing Editor of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which writes for all of the company's news websites.