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Senator Manchin, Don’t Forget West Virginia’s Grandparents

Why a work requirement for the child tax credit isn’t the answer.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) listens during a business meeting with the Senate Committee on Veteran Affairs on Capitol Hill on October 20, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

While I applaud Senator Manchin’s efforts to reduce the cost of the massive $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, I am alarmed to hear that he wants to gut the popular child tax credit.

West Virginia’s population is in decline, and many of its young people are leaving the state for better opportunities and jobs. Family formation is struggling in our great state. During this last census, West Virginia lost a congressional district, meaning less representation in Washington.

It is no secret that the D.C. elites couldn’t care less about the needs of West Virginian families. Just this week, Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL) called West Virginia, “an irrelevant part of our economy.” Our rural communities have been devastated by the decline of American-made manufacturing and radicals’ crusade against coal. As West Virginia families work to chart a better a way forward, the national establishment thinks we’re irrelevant.

To ensure a prosperous future for our young people, we need policies that can restore and strengthen the family. We must help struggling families in West Virginia to make certain our state can have a brighter future.

As a young mother with a toddler and another little one on the way, I decided to run for local office to make sure I did my part to make a better West Virginia for my children. As a county commissioner in Jefferson County, I’m working on ways to expand jobs access and keep my local community safe. Eliminating commercial impact fees and maintaining competitive tax rates are just some of the solutions that can attract and retain businesses in my county. I’m doing everything I can to build a strong West Virginia at the local level, and Senator Manchin needs to do his job at the federal level.

By demanding a work requirement and family income cap of $60,000, Senator Manchin is directly harming the people he’s taken an oath to represent: West Virginians.

While a work requirement may sound like a good policy, in practice, it could be devastating for many of our rural families. That’s because many of the non-working, low-income households that Senator Manchin wants to make ineligible for the child tax credit include a group essential to the development of West Virginia’s youth: grandparents.

Our Appalachian region has been plagued by substance abuse and a continual decay of family foundations. The opioid epidemic has led to an entire generation of children with parents unable to care for them. In the majority of cases, the responsibility of care then falls to grandparents, and most of them are no longer in the labor force.

At 54.4 percent, West Virginia has the second-highest rate in the country of grandparents raising their grandchildren. That number is just the median percent; in counties such as Braxton, the rate of grandparents raising their grandchildren is 82.8 percent. Whole school districts have over three-quarters of their students living with their grandparents. It’s a direct result of the opioid epidemic that has plagued the Mountain State.

In September, Manchin told CNN’s Dana Bash that tying the credit to parents with jobs would ensure assistance was provided to “the right people.” Is Manchin willing to throw West Virginia grandparents under the bus to reduce the cost of the reconciliation bill? Are hardworking grandparents who step up to care for their grandchildren not the “right kind of people”? Would Senator Manchin rather have these children taken in by the state?

Why isn’t Senator Manchin focusing his efforts to cut costs by tackling the disastrous Green New Deal programs that comprise the reconciliation bill? Instead of punishing West Virginia’s grandparents, Senator Manchin should take a closer look at the massive and unrealistic wish list that’s still included in the bill. Some $12 billion for government electric cars, $3 billion for tree equity, $25 million for bias training, and the list goes on and on. Shouldn’t strengthening our families take priority over Priuses and planting trees?

For far too long, the politicians in Washington, D.C., have prioritized big business and wasteful government programs that kill jobs and harm rural communities. The child-tax-credit is an opportunity for lawmakers to finally prioritize the needs of the family and potentially open the door for what family policy can look like in the United States moving forward. Instead, Senator Manchin wants to stop the conversation before it even begins.

Senator Manchin needs to take a closer look at the child tax credit and the impact it could have on his constituents and rural families across the country. Gutting the child tax credit is not the solution for decreasing the cost of the reconciliation bill. In order for this country to prosper, we need strong families. Stronger families mean stronger communities, and stronger communities are exactly how we can begin to heal the devastation that has rattled small towns and counties across West Virginia and Appalachia.

Clare Anne Ath currently serves as a county commissioner in Jefferson County, West Virginia. She is also a Ph.D. student at Liberty University where she focuses her research on pro-family policies.

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