Michele Watson and Liza McFadden | Your Turn
Raising a child is probably the most rewarding experience many of us will have in our lives, and undoubtedly one of the most challenging.
As parents and caregivers, we learn over time that no one particular year can be considered the “game-changer” for a child’s development — but rather, it takes continued, ongoing investment in our children’s well-being to ensure they’re able to reach their full potential.
To this end, we have endeavored over the past 20 years to improve support for families in our state raising the next generation of Floridians. Consider: (1) we’ve the largest and most diverse state-funded Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten program in the nation; (2) we are the only state with a significant number of voter-approved special purpose units of government, Children’s Services Councils (CSCs), that fund children’s programs, with 50 % of the state’s birth to 18 residing in an area with a CSC; and (3) every county now has supports for families with young children to help them on their path to success through an array of entities such as Healthy Start and Early Learning coalitions.
Yet, we know that the very best support families can receive is to help parents to be their child’s first and best teacher —and that means supporting parents in myriad ways. One recently proven method is the use of child tax credits, which parents may use in a variety of ways to support their children’s individual, most immediate needs. In fact, many of these critical funds have gone to support healthy living and foundational needs, from food to childcare. The Economic Policy Institute determined that: “the expanded Child Tax Credit—a key element of the 2021 American Rescue Plan (ARP) — lifted 2.1 million children out of poverty. The ARP Child Tax Credit is the leading reason child poverty fell so precipitously from 9.7% in 2020 to 5.2% in 2021, the lowest rate on record.”
U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mike Lee (R-UT) are leading proponents of this bipartisan, data-driven effort, and their fervent support is based on the principal that the ongoing purpose of the Child Tax Credit policy must be to help working families who continually face rising costs of basic necessities including housing, transportation, childcare, and food.
As the omnibus bill is debated nationally, we encourage the inclusion of an expanded Child Tax Credit, and as we look to align federal and state efforts, perhaps we should consider the learnings of the ARP Child Tax Credit policy and explore how we can make it work better for Florida families and taxpayers.
As this holiday season unfolds, if your family is anything like ours, there are bound to be lots of interesting discussions and diverse opinions around the dinner table. We can’t imagine any more important topic on which we can all find common ground than the future of Florida’s families.
Michele Watson serves as the CEO of the Florida Alliance of Children’s Councils & Trusts —a member-based organization of children’s services councils and trusts statewide.
Liza McFadden is the CEO of Liza and Partners and a Governor DeSantis appointee to the Children’s Services Council of Leon County.
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