- The emerging federal cash bailout, which could top $500 billion and is designed to shore up the finances of lower- and middle-income families, should not penalize marriage. Tweet This
- Too many of today’s means-tested programs, such as Medicaid and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), often end up penalizing marriage among lower-income families. Tweet This
The coronavirus pandemic underlines a truth forgotten by many on the left and the right: The government and market can only do so much in dark and desperate times. As the plague spreads, the stock market tanks, and jobs disappear, Americans will be forced to turn more and more to their families for help. Families headed by married parents — because they have access to more potential income streams, not to mention more heads, hands, and hearts — will weather the crisis more successfully and be better able to help others outside their circle than will other families.
It’s for that reason that the emerging federal cash bailout, which could top $500 billion and is designed to shore up the finances of lower- and middle-income families, should not penalize marriage. Too many of today’s means-tested programs—such as Medicaid and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)—often end up penalizing marriage among lower-income families. These penalties fall particularly hard on working-class Americans, with one study showing that more than 70 percent of American families with incomes in the second and third quintile facing such penalties. That’s a problem because studies suggest these penalties reduce the odds that couples with children tie the knot.
That’s why the federal relief package—the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act—working its way through Congress right now should take a page from plans by Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) and by Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.). Both plans end up doubling the threshold for married families, compared to single-parent families, which means that their approaches to helping lower- and middle-income families do not end up penalizing marriage, unlike so many of our current federal welfare programs. For instance, Hawley’s bill begins to phase cash assistance out at $50,000 for singles and $100,000 for marrieds, thereby minimizing the chance this assistance would make marriage costly for working families.
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