When it comes to solutions to poverty, Puerto Rico has to unite in purpose and actions to transform charity into a transitional instrument that promotes labor incorporation and social mobility to thousands of families lacking resources today.
Getting Congress to approve tax credit extension for families on the island with one or two children is one of those tools that promotes productivity and helps to lift thousands of children and their families out of poverty. To achieve this, it is necessary to unite government forces, the third sector and the diaspora.
In the United States, the Child Tax Credit (CTC) applies to every family with more than one child and income between $ 2,500 and $ 200,000 per year. In Puerto Rico, it is only granted to citizens who contribute to Social Security and who have three children or more.
The proposal to apply parity in credit for Puerto Rico is before Congress consideration. It has been unsuccessfully included in nine legislative pieces sponsored by 53 members of Congress. Now, one year after Hurricane Maria, and in the middle of the congressional election campaign, the island has greater potential to capture federal attention. The Youth Development Institute (YDI) leads efforts to influence the approval of a measure for these purposes. Its cause must have full support on the island and from the Puerto Rican community in the United States.
The YDI estimates that credit extension to families with less than three children would benefit 355,000 families and inject $ 270 million into local economy. In addition, these measures stimulate employment and economic independence for these families. Experience indicates that families that receive the credit use the extra money to pay debts or to save. This produces a beneficial effect for self-esteem, progress and the future of children.
However, we must emphasize that credit for working families with children must be part of many actions necessary to promote the integral development of our youngest children from an early age. Local political will to adopt similar measures is needed to address child poverty - which reduces the island´s development possibilities - in an integrated way.
The YDI has disclosed an analysis of the budget allocated to children in programs and projects distributed in a fragmented way in different local agencies. They also provided a series of recommendations, the first one: to assume poverty reduction, that reaches more than half of our youngest population, as an investment.
According to the budget report, funds allocated for children were reduced by 4 percent since 2014. Social development is the most impacted area with an up to 51 percent reduction.
YDI recommendations, among other entities and specialists, include increasing investment in programs aiming to lift children out of poverty through their parent’s economic mobility. In that sense, incentives such as the accrued income tax credit are proposed. The fact that people who work remain living below poverty levels due to the lack of this type of tool is untenable.
Puerto Rico must relieve its most vulnerable population from the constraints imposed by socio-economic backwardness and governmental negligence. With half of its citizens without resources to enjoy adequate living conditions, the island loses opportunities to improve.
But poverty and inequality structures that perpetuate it are scourges surmountable with social and economic fair policies. Betting on a prosperous future for the island entails opening progress opportunities for our children and teenagers, and their families.
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