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Lt. Gov. Miller urges expanding low-income tax credits


(AP) —Maryland Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller urged lawmakers Wednesday to approve an extension and expansion of tax credits for low-income residents that helped them during the pandemic but are set to end.

The proposal is a priority for Gov. Wes Moore, a Democrat who included $171 million in his $63.1 billion budget plan for the legislation. It would make permanent an expansion of the state's earned income tax credit approved in 2021 for tax years through 2022. The measure also would expand the state's child tax credit.

“Both of these programs are proven to significantly reduce poverty in the state,” Miller told the state Senate Budget & Taxation Committee. “The earned income tax credit is a popular bipartisan program that supports low-income workers and creates an incentive to participate in the labor force.”

While Maryland has the highest median income in the country, one in eight children live in poverty, Miller told the panel.

Earlier at a news conference with supporters of the legislation, mom of three Chante Westfield spoke of how the help has been “a lifesaver” for low-income families during the pandemic and its aftermath.

Still, she said her family had to find a new place to live last month after being evicted from their apartment due to late fees on top of back rent. Westfield said her family has since found another place to live — and that continuing the tax credits will help them stay current on their rent now.

“This bill will help keep a roof over my family’s head, help keep us stable and allow my kids to further their education without the added stress of homelessness,” said Westfield, whose young children are ages 8 months and 7 and 8 years old.

Del. Julie Palakovich Carr, a Montgomery County Democrat, said the nation saw the benefits when Congress passed a major expansion of the federal child tax credit in 2021 and reduced the number of children in poverty across the country, but the policy lapsed at the end of that year.

“Congressional inaction has also caused us to return to the flawed policy of excluding the very lowest income families from the federal child tax credit and only providing a partial credit to many other low-income families,” Palakovich Carr said.

The 2021 law also expanded Maryland’s child tax credit. However, qualified children had to be under 17 years old with a disability. The measure under consideration would expand to include children under 6 years old, regardless of whether they are disabled. It also would expand eligibility for the $500 credit per child to taxpayers with federal adjusted gross income of up to $15,000, instead of $6,000.

Miller said the state's child tax credit is far too narrow.

“In fact, the current credit was only claimed by 87 families in the entire state last year,” Miller said.

Comptroller Brooke Lierman, the state's tax collector, said her office will be working to raise awareness for families that qualify for the tax credits but may not know it.

“It’s about making sure that we support families now, so that in the future they can grow and become more prosperous and more financially resilient,” Lierman said.