Ohio House Dems Introduce ‘Priority Investment’ With Family Tax Credit

Families with an annual household income of $65,000 or less would qualify for the full benefit amount.

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Ohio House Democrats are calling on the legislature to take up what they call a “priority investment” in children, in the form of a tax credit based on income.

State Reps. Casey Weinstein, D-Hudson, and Lauren McNally, D-Youngstown, are leading a new bill they’re calling the “Thriving Families Tax Credit,” which would give middle and low-income families a tax credit to make up for the lapse in pandemic-era benefits that held with child care costs and other necessities.

“This is a priority investment that I think we should make, that’s right up there with funding our public schools,” Weinstein said in a Tuesday press conference announcing the bill.

The Democratic bill would have to make it through Republican supermajorities in the Ohio House and Ohio Senate and gain Republican Gov. Mike DeWine’s signature before it could become law.

Though Weinstein didn’t give a total cost behind the bill, he said the tax credit would amount to $1,000 per year per child aged 0 to 5, and $500 annually per child aged 6 to 17.

Families with an annual household income of $65,000 or less would qualify for the full benefit amount, then the level would taper off for those earning more than $65,000, up to the cap of $85,000 per year.

According to calculations made by bill sponsors, Weinstein said 986,000 urban, suburban and rural families would qualify, with more than half of the families in Ohio’s 32 Appalachian counties eligible.

For Benisha Wright, a tax credit could have meant a different life for her and her now grown kids as her college education and even financial classes couldn’t help her make ends meet.

“When we don’t have rich soil, and are planted in bad soil, we are always in survival mode,” Wright said at the Tuesday press conference.

To this day, Wright chooses between necessities that will be paid using her paycheck, and those that will go on a credit card. That system doesn’t allow her or the rest of her family to account for unforeseeable expenses.

“As soon as we get this mere taste of freedom or achievement … we are knocked back down by situational things, whether it be a car breaking down, whether it be providing basic medical needs, someone getting sick,” Wright said.

The tradeoffs that Ohio families have to make are already unacceptable, but food shouldn’t have to be a part of that decision-making, said Sarah Kuhns, advocacy and engagement manager at the Ohio Association of Food Banks.

In the past three years, however, Kuhns said the food banks have served more Ohioans than ever before, which matches the concept that “hunger is a symptom of poverty and structural inequity.”

“Although Ohio’s food banks will be there for Ohioans in need, food banks should be the last line of defense against hunger,” Kuhns said.

Policies that reduce poverty and lessen the strain for families with children have already worked, including the federal child tax credit implemented as part of COVID-19 economic relief programs.

“We saw firsthand that when families are given money, they use it on basic needs,” Kuhn said.

Weinstein said 13 other states already have refundable or nonrefundable state child tax credits, which has helped childhood poverty levels nationwide, which jumped back up after the federal child care tax credit lapsed.

“Reducing these common sense stressors allowed parents to focus on staying in the workforce, paying down debt, helping children with school work, or starting small businesses,” Weinstein said.

The bill will have to be officially introduced and wind it’s way through a House committee before it can see a vote on the House floor, and move on to the Senate.

Ohio Capital Journal is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Ohio Capital Journal maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor David DeWitt for questions: info@ohiocapitaljournal.com. Follow Ohio Capital Journal on Facebook and Twitter.

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