Child Poverty Task Force Update

By John Wagner, Child Poverty Task Force Chair

Fifty years of research on alleviating child poverty has identified the best approach to reducing child poverty – direct payments to families with children. The research has led at least 20 first-world countries to provide financial support to families with children with great success (Economic Policy Institute 2018)1. This approach to reducing child poverty has also been successfully tried in the U.S. during COVID (the CARES Act) and more recently in many states. Unfortunately, these efforts were not made permanent.

Two things are very clear: we know how to significantly reduce child poverty, and there is bipartisan support for supporting American families. Over the last 20 years, congressional representatives from both sides of the aisle have written and introduced bills in both houses. Unfortunately, these bills rarely make it to the floor for debate. The most recent example was an increase in the Child Tax Credit (CTC) which became part of the 2024 tax passage (Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act). The bill was passed in the House 357 to 70 (84%), was sent to the Senate in January but was not acted on before April 15, and now lies dormant. There is a possibility that the CTC increase will be resurrected in 2025, but it is difficult to imagine that it will receive meaningful attention in this election year.

Another issue is that funds to support families are typically managed by states. This is problematic in Wisconsin due to the current super-majority in our state and its refusal to support “welfare” programs like Medicaid expansion and direct payments to families. It is hopeful that redistricting will result in a more favorable legislative environment in 2025.

Finally, the 2024 BRAIN Conference was held on April 17. There were two keynote speakers: Rob Krecak (Impact of Technology on the Brain: Promoting Technology Mindfulness) and Justin Patchin, Ph.D. (Teens and Technology: Promoting Positivity and Responsibility Online). The conference attracted 144 county and city health and education professionals. Please contact me if you would like more information regarding the presentations.


  1. “The United States has the economic means to do much more to reduce child poverty. The 1968 Poor People’s Campaign was about calling attention to the injustice of poverty and the fact that U.S. policymakers had not done more to invest in real and lasting solutions. 50 years later, this sad reality remains.” V. Wilson and J. Schieder , “Countries investing more in social programs have less child poverty”, Economic Policy Institute, June 1, 2018.