Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) unveiled a proposal on Thursday that would provide a monthly cash benefit to parents.
Romney’s Family Security Act would create a universal child benefit of $4,200 a year–or $350 per month–for each child up to five years old, and a benefit of $3,000 a year–or $250 per month–for children between the ages of six and 17.
For expectant parents, they would be eligible to apply to receive the cash benefit four months prior to the due date of their new child.
Brad Wilcox, senior fellow at the Institute for Family Studies, told CNA in an interview that he applauds Romney’s proposal.
“We’re at a moment when American marriage and fertility rates have reached their lowest levels on record, and COVID will only drive them over,” he said, adding that “creative new policies to make family life more affordable” are desperately needed.
“So I welcome Senator Romney’s proposal to do that,” he said.
Under Romney’s plan, a family would be eligible for a maximum monthly payment of $1,250.
For higher-income families, Romney’s plan sets an income threshold starting at $200,000 annually for single filers and $400,000 for joint filers; for families above this threshold, the benefit would begin reducing by $50 annually for every $1,000 in income above the standard.
Wilcox called Romney’s proposal “distinctive” and praised it for reaching “American families across the income spectrum.” He said it provided families “with a measure of financial security in an economic world that’s becoming increasingly unstable.”
In a press release, Romney’s office said his plan is deficit-neutral because it would “reform and consolidate outmoded federal programs to fully pay for the new proposal.”
Romney cited the “strain” families are facing from the coronavirus pandemic, as he introduced his plan.
“American families are facing greater financial strain, worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, and marriage and birth rates are at an all-time low,” he said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that the U.S. birth rate hit a record low in 2019, and real-time data from certain states shows that the national figure could have fallen even further in 2020.
“On top of that, we have not comprehensively reformed our family support system in nearly three decades, and our changing economy has left millions of families behind,” Romney said.
“Now is the time to renew our commitment to families to help them meet the challenges they face as they take on most important work any of us will ever do—raising our society’s children,” he said, noting that his plan streamlines “the many complicated programs” that families rely upon for assistance.
Romney says his plan would be deficit-neutral by eliminating the State and Local Tax Deduction, making eligibility changes to food stamp benefits, eliminating the head-of-household tax status, and eliminating the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program.
White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain wrote on Twitter that the proposal is “an encouraging sign that bipartisan action to reduce child poverty IS possible.”
However, Romney’s plan was met with some criticism from Republican senators.
In a joint statement on Thursday, Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), advocates of the Child Tax Credit, said they do not support transforming the credit into direct monthly payments such as in Romney’s plan.
Romney’s benefit would be “paid out as a universal basic income to all parents,” they said, calling it “welfare assistance.”
“An essential part of being pro-family is being pro-work. Congress should expand the Child Tax Credit without undercutting the responsibility of parents to work to provide for their families,” the senators stated.
Romney’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the scope of support for the proposal.
Asked about Rubio and Lee’s pushback on Romney’s proposal, Wilcox said he thinks both approaches have merit but it is “crucial we move forward with something real.”
“Senator Romney’s approach would give families crucial financial support,” he said, adding he hopes something is passed this year “to give working class families a leg up.”
Wilcox was one of several conservative intellectuals to call for an increase to tax credits for working families last summer, to provide relief amid the pandemic.