Published June 16, 2022
With gas prices topping $5.00 and grocery store prices through the roof, the Family Security Act 2.0 announced today by Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah), along with Senators Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.), comes as welcome news to families across the country.
In 2017, Congress and the Trump administration doubled the size of the Child Tax Credit, helping millions of families receive much-needed tax relief. But families who make below the median income and don’t owe enough in taxes to claim the full amount of the Child Tax Credit were unable to benefit in the same way.
Now, the plan’s revamped approach to the Child Tax Credit would ensure that nearly every family receives support for doing the hard and socially essential work of raising children. And even more importantly, it would extend that support to four months prior to birth, ensuring pregnant woman have a little more money in their pocket to help them prepare for children.
If conservatives adopt the Family Security Act as a key pro-family policy proposal, it will be a huge win for the cause of life. It cuts against the progressive lie that pro-lifers only care about babies up until birth. And it will represent the best of applying sound conservative insights about the importance of family and work to the challenge of making sure parents have the resources they need.
Romney’s basic approach is to take assorted provisions and credits in the tax code and roll them up into a simple, monthly payment for nearly all families. Parents would receive $250 per month per child, with an extra $100 per month for children under six. Instead of family policy proposals that often focus on things like covering the cost of child care, which not every family needs or wants, the straightforward approach of this plan lets parents choose how their family could benefit most from some cash on hand at the end of the month, be it parochial school tuition, babysitting, or even just paying a little more at the store for more nutritious food.
Because it would be administered by the Social Security Administration, rather than the IRS, it would avoid some of the flaws that plagued the Biden administration’s attempt to roll out an unconditional child cash benefit. And it would avoid adding to the federal deficit, by rolling back a tax deduction primarily used by high-income individuals in high-costs states like New York and California and consolidating some other tax provisions.
Romney introduced a version of this plan last year but has made some important modifications this time around in the Family Security Act 2.0. First, the updated plan places a renewed emphasis on the importance of work, and provides an inducement for parents to be engaged in the labor force. Households that record at least $10,000 in income (except for very high earners) will be able to receive the full amount of child benefits they would be eligible for. Families that do not have a stable worker at home will see their benefit commensurably scaled down, to encourage them to participate in the workforce and set an example for their children about the importance of holding down a job and providing for one’s family.
Second, the updated Family Security Act removes a cap on how much child benefit payments a family can receive. The original plan said families could not receive more than $15,000 in benefits annually, which would have shortchanged large families with young kids. Now, the plan allows families to claim monthly benefits for up to six kids, recognizing the economies of scale that come with having a large household while making sure that large families still come out ahead.
Take a family of eight, relying on the husband’s high school teacher salary to provide for two kids under six, two in elementary school and two in middle school, with mom having left her office job to raise the kids. Under the new plan, they’d be receiving $1,700 a month to use as they see fit. That would certainly help fill up the old 12-passanger van for those many trips to swim meets and summer camp.
We know families are under pressure, both economically and culturally. And we know parents, especially expectant moms who might not have been planning on being pregnant, could use a little extra support. This plan is not the final word in what an economic agenda aimed at making parents’ lives easier could look like. But it is an essential first step in fleshing out how the tax code can be reformed and improved to better support families as the cornerstone of a healthy society.
With the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs due to be released any day, those who have been fighting for the cause of life can rest assured that the plan offered by Senators Romney, Daines, and Burr offers an ambitious yet prudent path forward in putting our money where our mouth is.
Patrick T. Brown is a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, where his work focuses on developing a robust pro-family economic agenda and supporting families as the cornerstone of a healthy and flourishing society.