Congress soon will break for the holidays, but there's still a big issue on the table whether or not to make permanent or even just extend parts of the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit.
Child welfare advocates, such as David Lloyd, director of the Fiscal Policy Center with Voices for Illinois Children, say these credits help about 900,000 Illinois children. But the credits are slated to expire in 2017.
"It's really critical that Congress, when they're thinking about putting in extensions for business tax credits, that they also take care of children and families," says Lloyd.
Last week, a group of House Republicans laid out their tax credit priorities, which includes letting the CTC expire unless there are "significant improvements to the programs." But both tax credits have a long history of bipartisan support.
The EITC was enacted by Republican President Gerald Ford in 1975, and later expanded by President Ronald Reagan.
Lloyd is hopeful that lawmakers will extend the credits during their upcoming talks. But he points to numbers from the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) that show about 322,000 children could end up "pushed into or deeper into poverty."
"The kids who receive the Earned Income Tax Credit make more as adults," says Lloyd. "Even, you see less incarceration. All sorts of positive benefits, much of which we'll lose if provisions to these credits expire."
Ralph Martire, executive director of the Chicago-based Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, says the credits have had support from both sides of the political aisle because it's an economic driver for low-income families.
"Every additional dollar they get, whether it's in direct income or, in this case, through a tax credit, they spend in their local community," says Martire. "So, that then becomes the income of the dry cleaner or the grocery store."
Still, some House Republicans say many people are abusing the tax credits with fraudulent claims. Congress may decide on the tax extenders before lawmakers adjourn for the holidays on Dec. 18.