But it would mean taking money meant for low-income Americans.
Experts say the Family Security Act, an amendment to Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan introduced by Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney on Thursday evening, could help lift American children out of poverty.
Under Romney's plan, the amount of a set tax credit would be disbursed to parents in monthly direct payments for each dependent child.
Romney hopes it will encourage Americans to have more children. The plan, however, would be paid for by eliminating crucial programs that support low-income families.
The text of Romney's proposal notes that its intention is to establish "a firm national commitment to American families," support families "from pregnancy through childhood," revamp outdated federal programs, encourage marriage, and eliminate child poverty.
The plan overview specifically states that part of its intention is to make it possible for Americans to have more children: "Marriage and birth rates in the United States have both steadily fallen to all-time lows. Yet, the average desired family size has remained stable for the last 40 years."
It adds that the "family support and welfare system has not seen comprehensive reform since 1996, while the modern economy has left families further behind."
The plan would give parents $350 a month for each child between the ages of 0 and 5 years old, and $250 a month for each school-aged child between the ages of 6 and 17. The total amount a family would be eligible to receive would be capped at $1,250 a month, or payments for four to five children. Pregnant individuals can apply for the benefit four months before their expected due date.
The payments would apply to individuals making less than $200,000 a year and couples making $400,000 a year.
Romney's program would pay for itself by eliminating head-of-household tax filing status, ending federal deductions for state and local taxes, and ending the child care credit and some other federal benefits for low-income families.
Experts at the Niskanen Center, a nonpartisan think tank, found that the Family Security Act could potentially lift 5.1 million Americans out of poverty and reduce poverty among children by one-third.
Matt Bruenig, founder of the People's Poverty Project think tank, told Vox, "Among the child benefit policies that have been proposed so far, Romney's is the best. It has the highest benefits and the simplest administration. I'd like to see Romney get rid of his proposal's benefit phaseout and child cap, which create hassle without meaningful savings, but otherwise it's a pretty solid proposal."
But Center on Budget and Policy Priorities President Sharon Parrott voiced a few criticisms of Romney's plan. "This proposal shows growing bipartisan support for expanding the child tax credit, but it's misguided to undercut the policy's poverty-reducing impact by using deep cuts in other critical forms of support for low-income people to pay for it. They want to talk about it as consolidation, but they are massive cuts."
Although Democrats have long proposed some version of direct payments to families, Romney's proposal is the first bipartisan endorsement of such a plan. Biden had previously proposed a one-year expansion of the child tax credit plan, offering direct payments to families during the pandemic, but Romney's plan takes it one step further by making it a permanent arrangement.
HuffPost noted that aides suggested Romney — who has five children — is primarily motivated not by aims of poverty relief so much as incentivizing families to have more children.
One aide said, "We simply think this is about making a national commitment to America's families."
HuffPost noted that Utah, Romney's home state, has one of the highest fertility rates in the United States.
Romney said in a press release released Thursday:
American families are facing greater financial strain, worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, and marriage and birth rates are at an all-time low. 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. Now is the time to renew our commitment to families to help them meet the challenges they face as they take on [the] most important work any of us will ever do — raising our society's children.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.