By Cory Turner and Anya Kamenetz
The COVID-19 relief bill working its way through Congress is full of big ideas to help people. But there’s one idea that’s so big, it was politically unthinkable not that long ago.
President Biden and Democratic lawmakers want to fight child poverty by giving U.S. families a few hundred dollars every month for every child in their household — no strings attached. A kind of child allowance.
If this proposal survives the wrangling in Congress and makes it to Biden’s desk, experts say it could cut child poverty nearly in half.
The idea even has some bipartisan support. Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah has pitched a smaller version of a child allowance.
More than 10 million of the nation’s children lived below the federal poverty line in 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And the pandemic has made life even harder for those already vulnerable families.
Over the past year, job losses have been especially concentrated among single mothers. And with so many school cafeterias still closed and not feeding kids experiencing food insecurity, researchers are seeing alarming levels of child hunger.
Compared with other wealthy nations, the United States does little to reduce child poverty. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the U.S. ranks 37th among OECD nations — barely ahead of last-place Turkey — for how little it spends on family benefits: just 0.6% of gross domestic product in 2019.