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In Eugene, Senator Wyden calls for Congress to expand the child tax credit

Senator Ron Wyden speaks at a press conference on March 27, 2024.
Nathan Wilk
The legislation would increase the maximum refund given to low-income parents, while also giving filers more ways of qualifying for the child tax credit.

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden met with parents and childcare workers in Eugene Wednesday, as he advocates for Congress to expand the child tax credit.

In a gymnasium at Head Start of Lane County, Wyden spoke in support of the Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act.

"This is one of the most important fights we've ever had," said Wyden, a Democrat.

The bill would boost the child tax credit for the next three years. The new maximum refund would be $1,800 per child for this filing season, and reach $2,000 for taxpayers in 2026. Currently, the cap is $1,400.

In Eugene, local advocates say a temporary increase of the refund for 2021 pulled some community members out of difficult financial positions. Nationally, the boost—giving as much as $3,600 per child under six years old—helped cut child poverty in half.

“You have families that are deciding between whether or not I'm going to pay rent today, or I'm going to eat this month,” said Charleen Strauch, the Executive Director of Head Start of Lane County, at Wednesday's press conference. “What this tax credit has done is helped families, provided them extra income to do both. That's the power of it.”

However, since that increase expired, some in the Lane County community say they're struggling with cost-of-living.

Lizz Rock is a single mother. She said she’ll lose disability benefits if she makes too much income, but she needs more financial aid for emergencies.

“I live on a fixed income. I have to pay rent. I get food stamps to a point that doesn't quite last the month all the time,” said Rock at the press conference. “I need the child tax credit just to be able to save in case there is a problem.”

The bill would include other protections for filers, including future adjustments to the credit based on inflation, and the ability to use earnings from the prior year while calculating the tax credit.

Wyden said suffering people can't wait for this money. But while the bill has passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support, Wyden said some senators want to delay action on the issue until next year.

“Lane County's voice is going to be heard in the next three weeks,” said Wyden, “because I'm gonna take accounts of these stories to the floor of the United States Senate.”

Wyden hopes to pass the bill before the tax filing deadline on April 15. But he said the increase could still apply retroactively.

For Oregon filers this season, there is a separate Kids’ Credit available. Parents who made less than $25,000 can qualify for up to $1,000 per child under the age of six.

Nathan Wilk joined the KLCC News Team in 2022. He is a graduate from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. Born in Portland, Wilk began working in radio at a young age, serving as a DJ and public affairs host across Oregon.