Millions have billions waiting for them from Uncle Sam

Thirteen months after the violent insurgency he helped spark, Donald Trump’s latest sociopathic ramblings continue to garner attention from MSNBC, The New York Times and The Washington Post. It’s largely a function of the analytics echo chamber where Trump’s hate-soaked red meat can generate the clicks that preempted what we used to call news judgment.

This web traffic is then used to streamline its continued relevance in our national conversation. It is an echo chamber that makes it difficult to heal and overcome this protracted national nightmare that is fueled by a media that profits by fostering conflict and controversy. All the oxygen is absorbed by who gains and who loses power in the peripheral. Meanwhile, the real situation of the American people is simply not on anyone’s radar.

This obsession with tracking everything Trump crowds out other news stories like the fact that five million households struggling week to week to make ends meet have yet to claim up to $3,600 per child under the expanded child tax credit that was part of President Biden’s US bailout.

That’s more than $13 billion sitting in the US Treasury as these families face the expiration of eviction and foreclosure moratoriums put in place earlier in the pandemic. But with a media machine designed to sell cruises and luxury cars, there’s simply no benefit in clogging the sales channel to reach people with low disposable income.

And like too many members of Congress, too much of their time is spent to bring campaign money, without providing much-needed help to their constituents.

In New Jersey, according to the Centraide ALICE (Limited Asset Income Limited Employee) project More than 138,000 eligible families in New Jersey have not yet applied for their benefit. The non-profit ALICE initiative began over a decade ago and calculates the true cost of living for households with two children, including housing, childcare, utilities, healthcare health and other essentials which can vary greatly from postcode to postcode. It provides a much more accurate snapshot of what is happening on the ground where tens of millions of Americans are struggling. In contrast, the federal poverty level only takes into account the cost of food and is a relic of the Johnson-era “war on poverty”.

“The so-called ‘poverty line’ was determined in the mid-1960s by calculating the amount of money it cost to buy a basic food basket and then multiplying that amount by three,” according to one white paper by Rourke O’Brien and David Pedulla in Stanford’s Social Innovation Review. “The measure doesn’t take into account living costs other than food, and the federal poverty line is the same whether a person lives in New York or McAlester, Oklahoma.”

The federal poverty formula is indexed annually to inflation and is currently $13,590 per person or $27,750 for a family of four. Consider that in 2018, before this latest spike in inflation, the United Way calculated in our state that a “survival” budget was $30,240 a year and for single seniors it was $33,552, which which represents an increase in health care costs. For a family of four, with a baby and a four-year-old child, the “survival” family budget was $88,224.

“Between 2007 and 2018, New Jersey experienced consistent economic improvements by traditional measures,” according to the latest United Way report. “Unemployment in the state, as well as in the United States, has fallen to historic lows, GDP has increased and wages have increased slightly. Yet in 2018, 37% of households are still struggling to make ends meet. While 10% of these struggling households lived below the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), an additional 27% were ALICE: Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. These households earned more than the FPL, but not enough to pay for household necessities. »

When you break the data down county by county, you see that in Cumberland County, when you combine the cohort of families living below poverty and those that are part of the ALICE cohort, you have 51% of households struggling to week to week to get by. Passaic is 48%, Atlantic 46%, Essex 46%, Salem 44% and Ocean 40%.

It’s a scorecard that incumbent politicians ignore at their peril, as former senator Stephen Sweeney discovered. In 2018, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shook up conventional political wisdom when she defeated fellow Democrat and Power Broker Representative Joe Crowley in a district where ALICE households had become the majority, with Queens having 52% of struggling households. week after week and the Bronx 66% in this case. same crucible.

That shouldn’t surprise Rep. Ocasio-Cortez has an easy to use link on its website where ALICE households can calculate what they could recover when they file a claim with the CTC.

Couples earning less than $150,000 or individuals earning less than $75,000 may qualify. Undocumented parents whose children have Social Security numbers issued before May 17, 2021 may also be eligible as long as the filing adults have an individual tax identification number.

In the end, while nationally 41% of Americans living below the ALICE threshold have yet to collect their extended Child Tax Credit, here in New Jersey, half have not. , meaning there’s over $415 million that could be put to work for ALICE households. , which are often led by lower-paid essential workers who have borne the brunt of the pandemic.

As the concentration of wealth has concentrated and income disparity has widened, the cohort of families living below the ALICE line has only grown here in New Jersey and across the country. These trends did not happen overnight, but are the result of decade after decade rigging of the US economy to foster the accumulation of vast amounts of wealth in fewer and fewer hands.

According to Economic Policy Institute between 1948 and 1979, worker productivity increased by 118.8% while worker compensation increased by 107.5%. Contrast this with what happened between 1979 and 2020 when productivity increased by 61.8% but hourly wages only increased by 17.5%.

It’s no coincidence that the wage slowdown came as industries like trucking and airlines were deregulated as the percentage of Americans in a union dropped dramatically.

“A closer look at the trendlines reveals another important piece of information,” according to EPI. “After 1979, productivity grew at a markedly slower rate than in previous decades. But as wage growth for typical workers has slowed even more sharply, a significant gap between productivity and wages has emerged. ‘

EPI’s analysis continues. “The widening gap amid slowing productivity growth tells us that the same set of policies that suppressed wage growth for the vast majority of workers over the past 40 years has also been associated with slowing of overall economic growth. In short, economic growth has become both slower and more radically unequal.

This is precisely what President Biden attempted to address with the provisions of the Build Back Better program which not only included the continuation of the expanded child tax credit, but supported universal access to child care and to pre-K. People still have time to claim the child tax credit when they file their taxes. Still, Dr. Stephanie Hoopes, national director of United Way’s ALICE project, warns there are myriad barriers they need to navigate, including lack of web access or experience with web apps.

“The main reason they don’t get it is that you’re not in the IRS system – if you haven’t filed a tax return in previous years

and you don’t have a direct deposit, the IRS doesn’t know where to send it,” Dr. Hoopes explained. And the other important thing is whether you have a bank account to put the money in. There is a whole unbanked population.

Dr. Hoopes warns that families on a tight budget are considering using the nonprofit tax preparer network because

Commercial tax preparers, who have a powerful lobbying presence in Washington, can take a big chunk of the tax return ALICE families rely on. “They must be cousins ​​of payday lenders and cash registers,” she said.

If Democrats don’t want to crash and burn in 2022, they need to pick up the narrative. Rather than let Senator Manchin get more press proclaiming that expanding the Child Tax Credit and Build Back Better are both dead, House Democrats should follow the AOC’s lead and do more. registration of their eligible voters a top priority.

It looks like a great talking point for Vice President Harris in front of an audience of essential workers when she comes to Newark on Friday. Let the nation see who qualified.

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