Sens. Cory Booker and Mitt Romney have each proposed their own amped-up child-benefit programs amid President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package, lending bipartisan credence to the goal of reducing child poverty through legislation.
Neither plan has passed Congress, but together they signal an emerging consensus on the issue.
Under Romney's Family Security Act, introduced on Thursday, families would receive $350/month (or $4,200 per year) for each child aged 5 and under and $250/month ($3,000 annually) for each child aged 6 to 17.
"Parents are eligible to apply to receive the benefit 4 months prior to the child's due date with a maximum monthly payment of $1,250 per family," the proposal states, adding that the payment would be "administered monthly through the Social Security Administration and available to all children with a required SSN."
According to the proposal, the benefit will be $50 lower for every $1,000 that single-filers earn over $200,000 and joint-filers earn over $400,000, which is also the current income phaseout thresholds of the child tax credit.
In a release on his website, the Republican senator from Utah said of his proposal, "American families are facing greater financial strain, worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, and marriage and birth rates are at an all-time low."
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"On top of that, we have not comprehensively reformed our family support system in nearly three decades, and our changing economy has left millions of families behind," Romney, 73, added.
The release states that, among other goals, the proposal would "cut child poverty by up to one-third in America," "support families from pregnancy through childhood," "provide equal treatment for both working and stay-at-home parents" and "establish a firm national commitment to all of America's families."
"Now is the time to renew our commitment to families to help them meet the challenges they face as they take on most important work any of us will ever do — raising our society's children," said Romney. "This proposal offers a path toward greater security for America's families by consolidating the many complicated programs to create a monthly cash benefit for them, without adding to the deficit."
In response to the proposal, White House Chief of Staff Ronald Klain tweeted Thursday, "Really looking forward to see what @SenatorRomney will propose here — an encouraging sign that bipartisan action to reduce child poverty IS possible."
Booker, 51, also reintroduced his own American Opportunity Accounts Act, or "baby bonds," proposal on Thursday — a plan he has spoken about in the past and promoted during his presidential run ahead of the 2020 election — alongside Rep. Ayanna Pressley.
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If Booker's bill were to be passed, not only would children (born after Dec. 31, 2021) receive a savings account starting at $1,000 upon their births but they would also receive up to $2,000 a year deposited into said account, depending on household income.
"The funds will sit in an interest-bearing account, which can be accessed by account holders at age 18 for allowable uses like buying a home, paying for educational expenses or starting a business," according to a press release on the Democratic New Jersey lawmaker's website.
Booker and Pressley, 47, spoke about the proposal meant "to heal the wealth gap" during an Instagram Live session on Thursday. According to the release, Booker said, "This legislation represents an ambitious, evidence-based and practical approach to building a foundation for wealth-building and opportunity for all Americans."
Pressley argued the baby bonds program is "one of the most effective tools at our disposal to help close the racial wealth gap and break generational cycles of poverty," adding, "By establishing Baby Bonds, our bill will provide every child an opportunity to pursue higher education, purchase a home, and build wealth for generations to come."
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in the release that he is "proud" to support to baby bonds proposal "because it will help address inequality, establish the foundation of a solid financial future for our kids and serve as a down payment on the milestones that too many families find are out of basic reach."
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