Senator Josh Hawley, R-Mo., recently announced that he is proposing a bill to give parents up to $12,000 in fully refundable tax credits to help parents start a family.

The Parent Tax Credit would give single parents up to $6,000 in tax credits and married parents up to $12,000 in tax credits if they have a qualifying child under age 13.

To be eligible, single parents must report earnings from the prior year, showing they worked at least 20 hours per week earning the federal minimum wage or more, which would total at least $7,540. Married parents would be required to show the same, which “creates an explicit marriage bonus of 100 percent” according to Sen. Hawley’s office.

“Starting a family and raising children should not be a privilege only reserved for the wealthy. Millions of working people want to start a family and would like to care for their children at home, but current policies do not respect these preferences,” Sen. Hawley said in a press release. “American families should be supported, no matter how they choose to care for their kids.”

According to Sen. Hawley’s office, the proposed legislation would allow families who qualify for the tax credit to receive the payments monthly directly from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This is reminiscent of the several rounds of direct payments the federal government sent to millions of Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, parents could also choose to receive the credit as a “lump-sum” when they file their annual taxes.

Sen. Hawley’s justification for the proposal is that in recent decades, “it has become increasingly difficult for working- and middle-class parents to afford to raise a family.… Although most American families believe children are better off when one parent stays home to care for them, often both mom and dad feel they must enter the workforce to be able to afford kids.”

As most parents will quickly admit, raising children can be extremely expensive.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as of 2015, “a family will spend approximately $12,980 annually” per child, totaling $233,610 to raise one kid through age 17. That does not include the rising costs of a college education. Add in two or three more children, and a family could reasonably expect to spend $1 million to raise a family.

One of the ways parents are dealing with high cost of raising a family is choosing to wait later to have children. According to The New York Times, over the past five decades, “The average age of first-time mothers is 26, up from 21 in 1972, and for fathers it’s 31, up from 27.”

Additionally, parents are also choosing to have fewer children, in significant part due to financial insecurity. One recent poll conducted by Morning Consult found that three of the top four reasons that young adults are having fewer children than they would like is because of the financial concerns about raising children.

The top reasons were because child care is too expensive (64%), while 49% said they were worried about the economy and 44% said they couldn’t afford to have more children.

This is borne out by the falling fertility rate among American women, which has continued its decades long decline. “American women, for example, are now projected to have about 1.71 children over their lifetimes – down 1% from 2018 and below the rate of 2.1 needed to exactly replace a generation,” U.S. News reports.

Parenting is difficult, and though government leaders cannot solve all our problems, every parent would appreciate it if it were made just a little easier.

In one particularly touching moment in the hit-series The West Wing, White House Communications Director Toby Zeigler and Chief of Staff Josh Lyman sit down at a bar after a long day’s work. One man, Matt Kelly, who depicts and represents the average American, begins telling them about his family and financial situation.

He says that his daughter is looking at colleges, particularly Notre Dame.

“I never imagined at $55,000 a year, I’d have trouble making ends meet. And my wife brings in another $25,000,” he says. “It should be hard. I like that its hard. Putting your daughter through college, that’s a man’s job. A man’s accomplishment…

“But it should be a little easier. Just a little easier,” he says, “because that difference is everything.”

Focus on the Family seeks to help provide that little bit of difference through our myriad of parenting resources to help parents raise their children well.

You can follow this author on Parler @ZacharyMettler

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