Opinion | Iowa lawmakers should support the Family Security Act

The Family Security Act ensures that the federal government will help struggling children and their families.



Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, speaks with reporters outside the Senate chamber at the U.S. Capitol Building on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021, in Washington, D.C.

Shahab Khan, Opinions Columnist

Iowa’s congressional delegation needs to endorse Sen. Mitt Romney’s Family Security Act because it will lead to a substantial reduction of child poverty in Iowa.

The idea of a Republican policymaker improving the welfare-state was unheard of until Romney introduced his bill — a plan that would annually give children up to $4,200 from ages 0 to 5 and $3,000 from ages 6 to seventeen.

The current child welfare system works through a child tax credit in which single filers earning under $200,000 and joint filers earning under $400,000 can claim a benefit of $2,000 a year per child.

However, there are some caveats. To be considered for the benefit, you have to earn $2,500 a year. To then claim the full benefit, you have to make at least $11,833.33. These de-facto work requirements ensure that the poorest families cannot receive aid. Since the child-welfare system works through the IRS, if you cannot pay taxes, you do not get to claim the benefit.

Romney’s proposal improves on this in four key ways.

First, Romney’s plan eliminates the $2,500 threshold that makes sure the poorest of households have access to the child benefits.

Second, parents can earn up to $1,400 before the child is even born.

Third, the plan would give children a lifetime benefit of $62,000, or twice as much as the current benefit.

Finally, the payments would be administered through Social Security and would ensure greater participation.

In total, it is estimated that the nationwide impact of the Family Security Act would cut child poverty by about a third and deep child poverty by nearly half.

In Iowa, Romney’s child allowance would lift nearly 30,000 kids out of poverty. This would provide a huge boost not only for the children, but also their families, as they would be more financially secure.

However, Romney’s plan has been met with criticism from both conservatives and liberals.

Conservative economists argue that getting rid of work requirements means there is no incentive for poor people to find jobs and work.

Contrary to their beliefs, most studies show that work requirements do not actually increase employment amongst poor people and instead contribute to reinforcing the poverty trap.

Liberals on the other hand, take issue with how Romney plans to pay for the bill as the costs of the program would be offset by abolishing the SALT deductible, the Child Tax Credit, and the block grant for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

However, most of these payoffs actually help streamline and improve the safety net. The SALT deductible is a regressive tax policy, the Child Tax Credit is a complicated program that excludes the poor, and TANF is hollowed out to the point that it provides little to no benefit for needy families.

If we want to tackle the rampant inequality and poverty of today’s world, the U.S. needs to establish a modern social safety net that does not penalize children for being poor.

Romney’s bill would be a crucial step in fighting child poverty. After all, no child should worry about where their next meal is coming from.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.