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Opinion: The Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit can make a huge difference in the lives of children
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Opinion: The Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit can make a huge difference in the lives of children

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Repairing damage is always tougher than preventing it in the first place.

I’ve seen far too many examples of that truth during my career in law enforcement. I’ve witnessed first-hand that steering a young person away from trouble is a far better option than trying to get that youngster back on a good path once he or she has already become mixed up with crime.

That fact is one of the big reasons I’ve supported the work of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids. As a member, I’ve worked with the organization to promote evidence-based policies and programs that help young people and keep our communities safer in the long run.

Getting kids on the right track as early as possible is a great way to improve public safety. Right now, there’s a national discussion happening about these kinds of early investments designed to help kids, especially kids from disadvantaged communities.

One way to help achieve that goal is to lift children out of poverty. Two programs that increase the economic security of many American children are the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit. The two tax programs have historically enjoyed significant bipartisan support, and efforts to expand them have historically come from both sides of the aisle.

The Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit got a recent boost from the American Rescue Plan Act. The act made the Child Tax Credit fully refundable for the first time, expanded the credit, and allowed for up to half of the eligible credit to be sent as direct checks to families, beginning on July 1. Meanwhile, the act boosted the maximum amount of the Earned Income Tax Credit and expanded age- and income-based eligibility rules for the credit.

These changes should have a big impact on poverty. Researchers estimate that the Child Tax Credit enhancements alone will bring 4.1 million kids over the poverty line. Providing these kids’ families with more resources could be a major asset in long-term crime reduction.

Research helps explain why that is. Studies have shown that the Earned Income Tax Credit can increase the likelihood of completing both high school and college and that increases in income by just $1,000 can raise math and reading test scores — especially for kids from disadvantaged families.

These kinds of outcomes reflect more successful academic experiences, which helps kids prepare for the future in a positive way. Just as important, research also suggests that people who benefit from income-assistance programs are less likely to engage in risky behaviors, including substance abuse or criminal behavior.

I believe in the power of programs like the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit to help reduce poverty and give kids a better shot at achieving positive results in life. But the enhancements to these tax-credit programs are, as of right now, only temporary.

Making enhancements like full refundability permanent and extending the expansion of the two programs into 2022 and beyond would help more people escape poverty, and, in turn, give millions of children a better chance at a safe, successful future.

Michael Bell is chief of the Coweta Police Department and a member of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids.

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Michael Bell is chief of the Coweta Police Department and a member of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids.

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