The California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC) Coalition joined Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) to announce legislation that would expand the Young Child Tax Credit (YCTC) to more families by raising the age limit requirement.

Multiple organizations including United Ways of California, Golden State Opportunity and GRACE/End Child Poverty in California recently gathered at the Central City Neighborhood Partners with Santiago to announce Assembly Bill 1128. It would remove the YCTC age requirement that a child must be younger than 6 years old.

“Day after day, families are forced to make gut-wrenching tradeoffs, whether to put food on the table or gas in the car,” Santiago said during the press conference. “AB 1128 offers hope for Californians who are struggling to make ends meet by providing much-needed financial relief that puts money back in their pockets to reduce the risk of children falling back into poverty while promoting greater economic stability.”

YCTC is a California refundable tax credit of up to $1,083 per tax return, for low-income families earning less than $30,000 annually.

If the bill passes, the requirement would raise the limit up to the age of 17, and increase it further to the age to 24 if the person is in college and dependent on their parents. If the child has a disability, no age limit will be imposed.

Pete Manzo, president and CEO of United Ways of California, said an additional 700,000 families would then qualify for the credit.

“If you have a 3 year old and a 6 year old, you only get one credit – you don’t get a credit per child,” Manzo explained. “We want to make it [so that] families that have children who are older than 0 to 5 be eligible to receive the credit.”

Manzo said that one in three California households struggle to meet the cost of a “decent standard of living,” and providing more money to these families “can help them pay for food, rent or other necessities.”

“As we all know, Latino, Black and other families of color are overrepresented in the low-income population. I think they’ll benefit significantly by having access to this [credit],” Manzo said.

“These families are overwhelmingly working families. There’s a lot of notion that people think, ‘oh, you know, this is a handout.’ No, these families, 97 percent of them, have a working adult in the household. They’re doing their best. They’re working hard.”

Mónica Lazo is the policy manager of Golden State Opportunity, a nonprofit committed to ending poverty in California. She understands that expanding the tax credit eligibility won’t solve the problem, but it would help families that are living paycheck-to-paycheck — especially for those who worked jobs that were deemed “essential” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There’s a lot more to do,” Lazo said. “But for now, this is going to be the stepping stone that’s going to get us to where we need to be to ensure families are not just surviving, but they’re thriving.

“We’re trying to give them a ladder out of poverty. … We want them to understand that this is a great way that we can support them.”

Lazo said the next step is to raise the income requirements for the YCTC, explaining that even families making $50,000-60,000 a year are “still living check to check.”

“With the costs of housing, health care and necessities rising, these families are often one emergency away from homelessness,” Lazo said.

“We’re taking these small steps to help these families. It’s just that we can have that end goal where we actually make poverty a thing of the past. And along the way, we can’t lose sight of what’s tangible because of where we want to get to.”