Leave it to Washington to spend a bunch of money propping up convoluted programs that, time and again, don’t work for today’s American family. Fortunately, this isn’t what Utahns depend on. The value placed in hard work, marriage, the family as the foundational unit, and nurturing every child is at the core of our success. Therefore, it’s no surprise that Utah continues to lead the nation in both family size and economic growth.

Over the last 50 years, Congress and federal agencies have inadvertently discouraged marriage by creating numerous policies and programs that cause unmarried couples to often see their taxes go up or benefits go down if they decide to marry. Little, if anything, is done to help large families. And too many programs trap people in poverty by making sure it pays better to stay on welfare than to work.

Federal policy should do the opposite in every case. That is why I, along with my Senate colleagues Richard Burr and Steve Daines, have put forward the Family Security Act 2.0 — the pro-work, pro-marriage, pro-life sequel to welfare reform for the 21st century. 

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This reform would replace multiple complex federal programs with one straightforward monthly benefit that directly empowers working parents to best care for their children how they see fit. And importantly, unlike proposals offered by Democrats, our plan would not worsen inflation because it’s fully paid for by consolidating existing federal spending.

Families would receive $350 a month for each young child, and $250 a month for each school-aged child. Every parent knows that the cost of raising a child doesn’t begin the day the baby arrives, but long before. Expectant parents would be eligible to receive the benefit four months prior to an unborn child’s due date, helping them tackle the expenses that start even before a baby is born. Important anti-abortion voices, like National Right to Life, have said, “this life-affirming provision not only empowers mothers, but acknowledges that life begins before birth.”

Our plan would also ensure that families don’t have to wait a year to get much-needed support. The average working family will pay a tax preparer a few hundred dollars simply to find out how much of the child tax credit or earned income tax credit they will receive. Instead of making families wait for a once-a-year payment, our plan lets families get a portion of their benefit each month to help with everyday costs associated with raising children, such as child care, groceries and gas.

We should also do everything we can to support individuals who wish to marry, which most often leads to more stable home lives for children. That’s why our plan removes existing marriage penalties in the earned income tax credit and head of household filing status, which increase taxes on single moms, particularly those that are low-income, should they choose to get married. We treat a household that chooses to have one stay-at-home parent the exact same as one with both working parents — which further empowers families to decide what works best for them.

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This plan will also help boost our economy by bringing more workers into the labor force. We created a work requirement for families to earn at least $10,000 to receive the full benefit. Families earning less than $10,000 would still receive a benefit proportional to their earnings. This target is both attainable and easy to understand in order to encourage those who have been out of the labor market to reenter the workforce.

Starting a family is an aspiration for many Americans, yet there has perhaps never been a more challenging and costly time than now to raise children. The historic spike in inflation has made this challenge even greater. It’s no coincidence that marriage rates in the United States have fallen to all-time lows, and birthrates have dropped 20% since 2007. Instead of more Washington bureaucracy, we must be better stewards of the taxpayer dollars we already spend, and make sure parents are the ones in charge. The Family Security Act 2.0 does exactly that without worsening inflation or adding to the debt.

While Democrats and Republicans may disagree on a number of issues, I think we can all agree that federal support for families should empower parents instead of Washington bureaucrats. Congress can and must rise to the occasion and pass legislation that meets the needs of hardworking families across our country without increasing the national debt.

Sen. Mitt Romney has served as a U.S. senator from Utah since 2019. He previously served as the governor of Massachusetts and was the Republican Party’s nominee for president in 2012.

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