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Child allowances could help to lift children out of poverty

Child allowances are a new type of government assistance, one that started as a result of the pandemic and that might become permanent.

Do we need it?

Can we afford it?

Couldn’t families just take care of themselves?

It might be tempting to say we don’t need it and can’t afford it. We could point to how families have gotten by all these years without a check for children. Some might also mention the ways poor families with children can already qualify for assistance programs.

There has to be some consideration, however, for the high cost of raising kids. Among the concerns are housing costs, technology expenses and the eventual high cost of post-secondary education.

When you have kids you need a certain number of bedrooms. The more you need, the greater the price range for housing that meets size requirements. A huge percentage of modest paychecks often go toward keeping a roof over the family’s heads.

Technology is expensive. American households pay too much for it. It’s a need, however, when it comes to giving kids the tools they need to function in the modern world.

It’s like the $400 encyclopedia sets from the late 20th century. When kids reached school age, parents had to fork over the money for a new set. Now the full assortment of computers and smart devices costs far more than $400, but the principle of providing the best for kids is still the same.

With those and other costs, it’s difficult to put money away for college education. Very few students can remain debt free as they earn a degree. Very often they’re paying student loans as they start families, which carries financial challenges over to the next generation.

The back to school time of year, which we’re observing this month, is a reminder of all those hurdles. It’s also a reminder that kids are our most important resource.

In the future, when almost everyone my age is living in a care center, it’s today’s children who will be providing for our needs.

We should think carefully about their needs in 2021. It’s not a bad idea to provide lower income families with a monthly check per child to help in paying for essential costs. It’s an investment in our own well-being as well as that of young families.

Questions should be sorted out as to income guidelines for child allowances and as to a possible limit in the number of allowances per household. We can leave it to agencies and elected officials to gather input from the public and then reach decisions as to what’s fair.

We shouldn’t set the income limit so high that child allowances would add wealth for those who are already reasonably wealthy, who would probably use the money for trips to distant destinations or for down payments on costly vehicles.

It should be for those who truly have needs, the low to moderate income people who have to stretch themselves just to provide the basics.

In those instances an allowance system could accomplish good things. It might lead to more assurance that every child will have enough food on the table, that every child will have educational resources at home, and that all of them can have adequate housing.

If we know that, it should be an incentive for those who have high enough incomes to pay more in taxes to make children’s living standards better.

Maybe we do need an additional financial boost for families with kids. Maybe we can afford at least a small annual allowance per child.

None of us would be where we are today if it hadn’t been for parents or guardians, along with other adults in our communities, who gave time and money to give us many advantages in life.

It’s important to keep that tradition alive. Today’s kids are tomorrow’s workers, parents and caregivers. They need the kind of start in life that prepares them to fill those roles.

— Jim Muchlinski is a long-time reporter and contributor to the Marshall Independent

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