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Nearly one out four Montana children under age 18 live in poverty. According to the 2010 Census data, this is up nearly 5 percentage points from just a year ago. In Gallatin County the poverty rate for children went from 11 percent a year ago to 17 percent.

If that weren't bad enough, thousands more Montana children live in families with incomes barely above the poverty line. More than 116,000 Montana residents received food stamp assistance in May of this year. This is a 21 percent increase from the same time last year. What these families all have in common is that they are struggling to pay bills, to put food on the table, and for them, the end of the Great Recession is a long way off.

Lower and middle-income working families need tax relief — particularly in states like Montana where average wages are low and have stayed stagnant. Montana's per capita income decreased by more than $1,000 last year while the cost of rent, utilities and food continued to rise. Nearly half of Montana households earning less than $35,000 a year use 35 percent or more of their income to pay rent.

Extending the current provisions of two federal tax credits — the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit — would make a big difference to the health and well-being of Montana families.

In 2009, Congress reduced the “marriage penalty” in the EITC so that two-parent families would receive more of the tax credit and increased the amount available to families with three or more children.

Congress also changed the Child Tax Credit so families whose earnings were previously too low would now qualify for some of the credit.

Ninety-eight percent of this tax credit goes to Montana families with low to moderate incomes. Eligible families can receive up to $1,000 per child. If Congress fails to extend the CTC improvements more than 40,000 taxpayers would lose an estimated $25.4 million in tax credits.

The state of Montana starts taxing single working parents with two children at a lower income than any other state in the country. If improvements to these federal tax credits are allowed to expire, working parents who earn near or just above minimum wage will suffer a loss of $1,500 or more. Studies show that money from tax credits such as the EITC and CTC quickly circulates back into the economy as workers are able to pay their bills and buy needed goods and services.

Extending these provisions makes sense morally and economically. But some members of Congress want to strip the 2009 provisions on the EITC and CTC and instead make sure that the wealthiest 2 percent in the country continue to receive tax cuts while there is no evidence that those tax breaks stimulate the economy.

We have a clear choice to make. Will we support hard-working Montana families and provide them needed tax relief or will we give that money to people who can already well afford to meet their basic needs and then some?

In 2009 Congress did the right thing by providing extra tax relief for those who needed it most, but the recession is far from over. Please urge Sens. Baucus and Tester and Rep. Rehberg to continue those provisions in the EITC and the Child Tax Credit.

Terry Kendrick is special projects director for Montana Women Vote, a coalition of nine nonprofit organizations working statewide to educate and mobilize low-income women and their allies to participate in the democratic process. Contact MWV at 406-543-3550 or http://www.montanawomenvote.org.

Terry Kendrick is special projects director for Montana Women Vote, a coalition of nine nonprofit organizations working statewide to educate and mobilize low-income women and their allies to participate in the democratic process. Contact MWV at 406-543-3550 or http://www.montanawomenvote.org.

Terry Kendrick is special projects director for Montana Women Vote, a coalition of nine nonprofit organizations working statewide to educate and mobilize low-income women and their allies to participate in the democratic process. Contact MWV at 406-543-3550 or http://www.montanawomenvote.org.

 

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