Poverty Reduction and Working Families Tax Credit Advocacy Continues

For more than a decade, child poverty in New York State has exceeded the national rate. More than 18% of New York children live in poverty, and that rate includes one in three children of color. In Syracuse, 46% of children live in poverty; 42% in Rochester, 41% in Binghamton, 35% in Bronx County, and 28% in Oswego County. That’s why the Raising NY coalition has been working together with lawmakers to create change.

In mid-February, families, advocates, direct service organizations, community leaders, and policymakers gathered in Albany with elected officials to champion families and highlight the importance of poverty-reduction policies, like the Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC), that can provide critically needed support for food, housing, child care, transportation, and other costs. With the current rate of child poverty statewide and even more children falling just above the poverty line, it is imperative that the State take comprehensive, sustainable steps to help families.

One of the most effective policies to reducing child poverty is the child tax credit; we saw the power of this policy during the Covid pandemic when temporary emergency increases in the federal child tax credit resulted in almost 3 million children nationally being lifted out of poverty over 18 months.

In addition to the federal child tax credit, New York’s Empire State Child Credit was one of the first child credits in the nation. For the first time this tax year, families with a child under the age of 4 will be eligible to receive this state benefit too, thanks to the efforts of advocates and policymakers, including Raising NY coalition members. This will provide essential support to families with an infant or toddler for healthy growth and development, as we know that young children are more likely to live in poverty and more likely to suffer far-reaching negative consequences of food insecurity, housing insecurity, and other harmful conditions associated with poverty. Child poverty disproportionately impacts children of color, therefore addressing this issue is an important step toward racial equity.

The Education Trust–NY shared the story of Early Childhood Policy and Advocacy Lab Parent Leader Amy Funes, who was forced to leave the workforce because there was no appropriate child care available for her son. After months in a shelter, Amy now has housing and says that she will use the child tax credit to subsidize basic needs, like diapers, wipes, and food.

The Empire State Child Credit is a key start, but there’s a lot of room to go in fully supporting families and ensuring that no child grows up in poverty. The Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC) is an expanded, improved tax credit that combines the Empire State Child Credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the dependent exemption into one larger, improved credit. The WFTC would remove the minimum income requirement, so families with the lowest household incomes would be eligible. It also proposes to provide a $500 credit per child, with a maximum amount of $1,600. Critically, this credit is open to immigrant families who file with an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN).

With the passage of the Child Poverty Reduction Act in 2021/2022, New York State, committed to cutting child poverty rates in half by 2033. The Education Trust–NY, Raising NY coalition partners, other advocates, and parents, have joined forces to support and enact policies such as WFTC and other poverty reduction initiatives. The NYS Legislature passage of this bill would be one step forward toward that goal. Robust tax relief for New York’s families, especially those earning the lowest incomes, is among the most effective and equitable ways for New York State to fulfill this commitment and support family economic security, especially for the most vulnerable families.