Across the state of Utah and the nation at large, families are struggling to meet basic needs. As rent and food prices steadily rise, more of our neighbors find themselves on the precipice. For people already living in poverty, the view from the bottom of that cliff may be even more daunting.

There are ways individuals can help, of course, but the biggest impact could come from our federal government. One opportunity to ensure not only that families don’t fall off the fiscal cliff, but also to help those living in poverty start the long climb out, is the reinstatement of last year’s expanded monthly Child Tax Credit payments.

The CTC isn’t a new credit, but it was expanded in response to the pandemic and turned from a yearly payment to a monthly boost for families until its expiration in December 2021, amounting to $250 monthly per child ($300 for children ages 0-5). A recent study from Moody’s Analytics found that is about equal to the monthly cost of inflation for the average family. Restoring the expanded CTC — including its full availability for children in the lowest-income families — would have an immediate positive impact on 36 million families. In Utah alone it would lift 44% of Utah children currently living in poverty out of that abyss.

As a group of religious, community and labor organizations, United Today Stronger Tomorrow — Utah commends Utah Sen. Mitt Romney for his strong support of an expanded CTC. He is not alone in recognizing the value of the tax credit, not only for the financial health of his constituents but for the preservation of families across our state. Keeping a family financially stable, and thereby relieving one of the most detrimental pressures on this basic social unit of society, is a worthy pursuit.

We are encouraged by Sen. Romney’s advocacy for monthly CTC payments to people who are in poverty not because they refuse to work, but because a job alone is rarely enough to move a family above the poverty line, especially when the costs for food, fuel, housing and other needs are rising rapidly. We also appreciate that Sen. Romney’s proposed Family Security Act corrected the biggest problem with the CTC before 2021 (and today in 2022), which is that it phased in gradually so that the children of a working single mom earning less than $12,000 a year received less than the full credit — or nothing at all.

The CTC has critics, of course. Some claim it disincentivizes work, a familiar and unfounded fear based on the persistent myth that people live in poverty by choice. A recent letter to Congressional leadership signed by 448 economists from top universities across the nation, including Brigham Young University and the University of Utah, stated that “recent empirical studies suggest that the income provided through the program is unlikely to meaningfully reduce parental labor supply.”

The economic research reinforces what we who have long served people in poverty know — the vast majority of people living in poverty will do whatever they can to get out, but the barriers to success multiply rapidly and are insurmountable without assistance.

In a separate letter, 133 economists from across the political spectrum challenged a second common criticism, that the CTC will exacerbate inflation. The economists explained that “the expanded Child Tax Credit is too small to meaningfully increase inflation across the whole economy, but it will make an important difference for family budgets, especially families in the bottom half of the income spectrum.”

In short, there is no reason not to revive the monthly CTC payments, especially if we believe strong families matter to the health of our communities.

Rabbi Sam Spector is the rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami in Salt Lake City. Most Reverend Scott Hayashi is Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah. Rev. E. Brian Diggs is Executive Director of Family Promise Salt Lake.