Republican Anti-Poverty Plan Shows EITC Continues to Be Middle Ground for a Divided Congress

By Kyle Parrott and Kate Skochdopole

House Republicans this week unveiled their vision for federal safety net programs and lifted up the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) as one of the most effective ways to lower the poverty rate and increase opportunity for low-income families. But the report received criticism for its lack of concrete policy proposals and for its support of strict work requirements that may cause individuals to be pushed further down the economic ladder.

The Task Force on Poverty, Opportunity, & Upward Mobility, led by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), released it’s “A Better Way” plan Monday evening. The report hinted that House Republicans might support legislation to increase the current EITC and expand the credit for childless workers.

“The Earned Income Tax Credit is another potential solution” to making sure all working Americans can succeed, the Task Force wrote. “The EITC…increases the financial rewards of work. Increasing the EITC would help smooth the glide path from welfare to work.”

Although House Democrats and advocates also support the EITC as a proven method of reducing poverty, many were critical of the bulk of the plan. At an event hosted yesterday by the Center for American Progress, Democratic Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) described the framework as a “new spin on a bad deal” and noted that the report was just another Republican plan to disinvest “in people, education, infrastructure and job creation.”

Rep. Hoyer, who was joined by Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), also argued that policies such as  increasing the minimum wage and expanding other tax credits that help lift working families out of poverty, were not mentioned in the plan and usually do not receive Republican support.

Center on Budget and Policy President Robert Greenstein was critical of the plan’s lack of clear policy proposals. “Most of its proposals are so vague that it’s hard to figure out how they would work or affect low-income people,” he wrote “And in some cases where the plan provides more specificity, the proposals would likely do more harm than good, risking increases in poverty and even homelessness among poor families with children.”

Despite these disagreements, lawmakers and advocates across the aisle can agree on two things: that more action needs to be taken to reduce poverty in America and that the EITC is one of most effective tools in the policy arsenal for helping low-income families reach financial stability.