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The Rev. Drs. Liz Theoharis and William Barber appeared on stage at the Poor People's Moral Action Congress forum for presidential candidates at Trinity Washington University on June 17, 2019.

Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis and Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II are seen on stage with Democratic candidate Joe Biden during the Poor People;s Moral Action Congress forum for presidential candidates at Trinity Washington University on Monday, June 17, 2019. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Poor People's Campaign Denounces Dems' Push for Means-Tested Child Tax Credit

"There are no work requirements on tax cuts for the wealthy or corporations. There is no means-testing on the Pentagon," said co-chairs Bishop William J. Barber II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis.

Jessica Corbett

Leaders of the Poor People's Campaign on Tuesday blasted Sen. Joe Manchin's proposal to means-test a child tax credit that expired because the Senate hasn't passed the House-approved Build Back Better Act—largely due to opposition from the West Virginia Democrat.

"Sen. Manchin and others want to do away with it now—not because it didn't work, but because it did."

The campaign's co-chairs, Bishop William J. Barber II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, warned that further restricting access to the child tax credit (CTC)—which gave parents monthly payments of up to $300 per child until it ended in December—would be a "dangerous 'compromise.'"

"Means-testing puts a cap on who can access government assistance and welfare programs," Barber and Theoharis said. "It's usually measured against the poverty line (too low!) so means-tests usually underestimate who needs these programs and how much they need."

"It seems like every time a means-test is lifted or made more generous, more people benefit—not because they don't need those programs, but because they do," the pair added, noting that "Medicaid is means-tested, but when it was expanded during the pandemic, 10 million more people enrolled in Medicaid!"

The co-chairs called out not only Manchin, but also the third-ranking Democrat in the House, South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn, who said last week that he was "not opposed" to means-testing the CTC, sparking swift backlash.

Barber and Theoharis also highlighted how many families were helped by the program last year, according to Megan A. Curran of the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University.

"We will not accept means-testing that makes the CTC or any program we need less than what it needs to be for us."

"As of December 2021, the expanded child tax credit has delivered six monthly payments, reaching over 61 million children in more than 36 million households nationwide," Curran wrote in a report near the end of last year.

"The American Rescue Plan changes to the child tax credit are a meaningful policy shift. Before this year, one-third of all children—numbering anywhere from 23 to 27 million—were left out of the full child tax credit; these children are now included," she noted. "More than 90% of all children are now eligible for the credit, which was delivered as a monthly payment, rather than an annual tax credit, for the second half of 2021."

In addition to helping millions of more families than the previous program, "perhaps most importantly, the expanded CTC lifted the stigma of receiving welfare," Barber and Theoharis said. "Sen. Manchin and others want to do away with it now—not because it didn't work, but because it did."

"Remember, there are no work requirements on tax cuts for the wealthy or corporations. There is no means-testing on the Pentagon," they added. "We will not accept means-testing that makes the CTC or any program we need less than what it needs to be for us."

West Virginia pastors, miners, and low-wage workers have invited the co-chairs to join a Thursday afternoon press conference to call out Manchin and demand action from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

According to organizers:

Along with low-wage workers from Schumer's home state of New York, the West Virginia speakers will release a letter to Sen. Schumer to demand that he call the question on the For the People Act, restoration of the Voting Rights Act, and a Build Back Better plan that includes a permanent child tax credit, family leave, and a living wage. The country and the 140 million poor and low-income people demand an uncompromising vote on all three.

The organizers' statement added that "full-page ads will run Sunday in several West Virginia newspapers detailing how Sen. Manchin's obstruction hurts his own constituents and poor and low-income people across the country."

One West Virginia mother who recently spoke with CNN about how the expired CTC has hurt her family urged Manchin to check in with his constituents.

"Go speak to the working class and see how they feel," Joi Lansdowne said. "I will tell you, it helped a lot. And now I'm in a predicament where I can't work because there is no child tax credit to help me with day care."

Lansdowne has a four-month-old as well as a two-year-old who's just started toilet-training to cut back on diapers, which cost the family hundreds of dollars each month.

"That is a huge expense," said Lansdowne. "When you don't have the funds to cover those things, you've got to get creative."

Manchin—who is also under fire for taking over $1 million from corporate-tied political action committees (PACs) last year as he blocked the Build Back Better agenda—made clear to reporters on Tuesday that the status of the sweeping package has not changed.

"What Build Back Better bill? There is no… I mean, I don't know what y'all are talking about," Manchin reportedly said when asked about the bill, which requires support from every single Senate Democrat to reach President Joe Biden's desk.

Asked if he is negotiating the pacakge, Manchin added: "No, no, no, no. It's dead."

Politico Playbook reports that the senator was later asked to clarify those remarks and said that "if we're talking about the whole big package, that's gone," but as for the possibility of a smaller version, "we'll see what people come up with. I don't know."


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