Editorial | Island Voices Column: Hawaii’s working moms deserve (child tax) credit By Christy MacPherson and Will White March 19, 2023 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! COURTESY PHOTOS Christy MacPherson and Will White March is Women’s History Month, and a time to reflect on the contributions women have made to our society. Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. March is Women’s History Month, and a time to reflect on the contributions women have made to our society. While there is no shortage of prominent women to celebrate for their achievements, we should also honor the contributions of the millions of often unseen women who raise the next generation while also driving our economy forward — working moms. Despite many more mothers entering the workforce and contributing to household financial stability over the last few decades, moms still tend to bear the brunt of child caretaking responsibilities. Even in households where both parents work, 54% report that mothers do more when it comes to managing children’s schedules and activities. Meanwhile, the costs for achieving financial stability here in Hawaii are only getting higher. We need only look at the cost of child care, which is a vital support for mothers to stay engaged in the workforce. The average monthly cost of center-based child care in Hawaii is $1,576 per month, or roughly $19,000 annually. This represents a nearly 10% increase since 2019. For working moms with low incomes, these costs can put child care completely out of reach. Many are already struggling with high costs for housing, food, health care and transportation. Fortunately, we have a highly effective tool at our disposal that the federal government and multiple states are leveraging to provide support for working moms: the child tax credit (CTC). During the pandemic, the federal government expanded this credit, increasing its amount to $3,600 for children up to age 5, and $3,000 for children aged 6-17, and delivering its benefits on a monthly basis, instead of all at once after tax filing. It is estimated that this expansion lifted nearly 3 million children out of poverty and reduced child poverty by nearly 40%. A recent survey of households who received the expanded CTC showed that most parents spent those additional funds on necessities like paying bills, keeping up with rent, or purchasing food for their families. In Hawaii, the federal expansion put an average of $2,456 in the hands of low-wage workers. While the federal CTC expansion expired in 2022, as of February, 20 states and the District of Columbia have introduced bills that either create or significantly expand state level child tax credits. Here in Hawaii, state legislators have an opportunity to create the state’s first-ever “Keiki Credit” with House Bill 233. As originally introduced, HB 233 would create a $1,000 tax credit for children up to age 5 and a $500 credit for children aged 6-17 to fill in the gap left after the federal credit expansion expired. A credit of this size could reach thousands of households across Hawaii, providing much-needed financial relief to families struggling with our state’s high cost of living and high costs for child care. The child tax credit is a proven way to help working moms cope with these high costs. Recent research shows that more than 3 million recipients of the expanded CTC in 2021 were less likely to report child care as a barrier to employment, relative to before the expansion. Parents who reported being unemployed due to lack of child care fell from 26% to 19.9% during the temporary expansion period. Clearly, the child tax credit is a highly effective way to support working families through times of economic uncertainty. Unfortunately, that uncertainty persists for many here in Hawaii. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, we must do more than simply celebrate the thousands of working moms out there — we need to deliver tax justice to them and their families. We can start by passing HB 233. Moms deserve the credit. Christy MacPherson is a mother of two and lead community developer for Hawai‘i Appleseed Center for Law & Economic Justice; Will White is a father of one and director of the Hawai‘i Budget & Policy Center, a project of Hawai‘i Appleseed. Previous Story Editorial: Protecting abortion rights Next Story Column: Isn’t it time to stop making electricity more expensive?