TAX & BENEFITS
By affecting where and how we live, learn, work, consume, and save, America’s tax and benefit systems shape economic opportunity and security. Our work on taxes and benefits emphasizes detailed research-based ideas for raising revenues while improving and establishing new benefit systems that address the changing and complex needs of governments, families, and communities.
An America where no one experiences poverty is possible. Already, the U.S. has programs with the potential to make this vision a reality, including programs that provide cash assistance, like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The current TANF program provides very little cash assistance and is marked by stark racial disparities, but it has the potential to reduce child poverty, increase economic security, and advance racial equity. This report offers a vision for an anti-racist approach to the TANF program, with new statutory goals and policy recommendations to advance racial justice.
Ensuring Economic Security & Opportunity in Our Lifetime: America’s Pandemic Relief Response & the Path Forward
In 2020, federal policymakers took extraordinary measures to help millions of families avoid poverty and material hardship during the COVID-19 crisis. These temporary federal relief efforts—especially those boosting household incomes and ensuring people’s access to essential services—“played a central role in stabilizing our families and our nation’s economy, while pushing back on deep racial and gender inequity,” according to GCPI Co-Executive Director Indi Dutta-Gupta’s testimony before the United States House of Representatives Select Subcommittee Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis. Dutta-Gupta also argued that continuing to provide needed support to families would address pre-existing inequities and the weaknesses of social protection programs. Policies in “Build Back Better” proposals—with some crucial additions—would provide transformational investments to protect families and our economy against future threats, meet our national caregiving and job needs, and reduce poverty, hardship, and inequality for generations to come.
The Lasting Legacy of Exclusion: How the Law that Brought Us Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Excluded Immigrant Families & Institutionalized Racism in our Social Support System
In 1996, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act (PRWORA) radically transformed our system of social supports. In addition to decimating cash assistance for families, the law’s immigrant exclusions exacerbated economic and racial inequities and harmed children and families in the 25 years since. This report—published jointly with the Center for the Study of Social Policy—examines the racist roots of PRWORA’s anti-immigrant exclusions and highlights the law’s role in institutionalizing and legitimizing anti-immigrant exclusion in a range of public benefits and tax credits.
Building the Caring Economy: Workforce Investments to Expand Access to Affordable, High-Quality Early & Long-Term Care
High-quality caregiving, including child care and long-term services and supports, is essential but out of reach for too many families. At the same time, care workers—who are disproportionately women of color—face poor job quality, low pay, and inadequate benefits, which undermines access to quality care. This brief offers recommendations for caregiving investments that promote the well-being of children, older adults, people with disabilities, and their families by creating and sustaining good jobs in the caregiving sector.
No Choice: The Implications of Unmet Child Care Needs For Unemployment Assistance & Paid Leave Access During The COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 crisis has exposed the clear need for child care, paid leave, and unemployment assistance, but many state and federal unemployment assistance and paid leave programs fail to account for the child care needs of working families. For many parents of dependent children, widespread closure of child care and in-person school made searching for work and securing and retaining formal employment nearly impossible. This brief describes how unmet child care needs intersect with and can be mitigated by state and federal unemployment assistance and paid leave programs, and provides policy recommendations to address the care crisis in the short-run and beyond. An accompanying workbook chronicles and analyzes state-by-state policies on the availability of wage replacements for workers without child care.
Refundable tax credits are powerful tools for advancing economic security and opportunity, reducing poverty, and improving the lives of families in need. Despite their successes, these tax credits are limited by a key misalignment: unaffordable living expenses, unstable pay, and persistent hardship are experienced consistently or unpredictably throughout the year, unlike the single annual tax credit disbursement. This report provides a framework for policymakers and advocates seeking to create periodic payment options that align tax credit disbursement timing to need and advance economic, racial, and gender equity. The report also outlines specific periodic payment design recommendations for the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, including flexible disbursement options.
GCPI, the National Employment Law Project, and the Century Foundation created a flowchart to clarify which pandemic-response or regular unemployment assistance benefits may be available to workers from late March 2020 through late December 2020 and under which circumstances.
COVID-19 response legislation greatly strengthened and expanded the dollar amount, duration, and coverage of unemployment assistance. These changes have prompted questions about the implications for workers receiving disability benefits. This brief discusses and clarifies the interactions between disability benefits and unemployment assistance. It is published jointly with Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan, The Arc, Association of University Centers on Disabilities, The Century Foundation, and The National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities.
Sheila Naughton, Kali Grant Michael Evangelist, & Patrick Cooney
Using Tax Based Policies to Support Workers & Families During The COVID-19 Recession: The Urgent Need for Additional Measures
The COVID-19 pandemic and recession have wrought unprecedented hardship for families with low incomes, particularly Black and Brown families. The federal government alone can and must spend more to help families weather the crisis, emphasized Indi Dutta-Gupta, in his testimony before the United States House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means. He highlighted the key role tax policy, particularly cash transfers and refundable tax credits, can play in supporting families. With its ability to reach tens of millions of households with speed and efficiency, the tax system can play a vital role in delivering immediate assistance and jumpstarting a lasting economy.
As unemployment soars, a substantial share of unemployed jobseekers—including new entrants, such as many students completing school—are excluded from the regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) system and new emergency unemployment programs. This brief argues that a Jobseeker’s Allowance could fill gaps in the UI system and help workers, families, and the economy by providing cash and employment supports for jobseekers left out of UI. The brief is jointly published with Employ America, the Economic Policy Institute, the National Women’s Law Center, the National Employment Law Project, and the Century Foundation.
Automatic stabilizers—policies that make public spending responsive to economic conditions—boost our economy by reducing income losses and supporting consumer spending. This memo, published jointly with Data for Progress and the Groundwork Collaborative, analyzes new polling data on automatic stabilizers. By a two-to-one margin, voters support Congress implementing policies to automatically increase social spending during periods of increased unemployment.
Considerations for Child Care Providers & Workers Navigating Financial Support Options During the COVID-19 Crisis
Child care providers have been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis and are facing tough decisions about how to do what’s best for the families they serve, their own families, their workers, and their businesses. This fact sheet, published jointly with the National Women’s Law Center, outlines financial supports available to help cover providers’ business expenses and to help workers who face layoffs or reduced hours.
The novel coronavirus has brought sudden attention to the important role unemployment insurance (UI) system plays in quickly delivering aid to families and stimulus to the economy. This fact sheet, published jointly with The Century Foundation, the Economic Policy Institute, National Employment Law Project, and the National Women’s Law Center, emphasizes the importance of focusing both on immediate changes to help individuals and sustained, structural fixes to fully respond to a crisis of this magnitude and gird the nation for the challenges of a recession and future economic crises.
The COVID-19 pandemic is devastating to families with low incomes, our communities, and our economy. This fact sheet, published jointly with the National Women’s Law Center, proposes that providing cash transfers to cash-strapped people through EBT is an expedient, cost-effective, and efficient mechanism to help people maintain living standards while quickly boosting our economy.
An administrative proposal to artificially lower the poverty line is “technically questionable, economically unwise, and morally troubling” according to Indi Dutta-Gupta’s testimony before the United States House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform. Over time, this change would harm millions of people by taking away their access to foundational support programs—including Medicaid and SNAP. His testimony emphasized the proposal’s inevitable harmful impacts, highlighted the proposal’s questionable assumptions about people experiencing poverty, and underscored the need to reform the poverty measurement to improve its accuracy and usefulness for the federal government and the many other stakeholders who rely on it.
Unemployment insurance provides temporary support to unemployed workers who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. This fact sheet, published jointly with the National Women’s Law Center, National Employment Law Project, and Center for American Progress, shows the importance of unemployment insurance for women and families and suggests changes that would improve the program’s effectiveness for women, their families, and the economy as a whole.
A Tax Code for the Rest of Us: A Framework & Recommendations for Advancing Gender & Racial Equity Through Tax Credits
This report, published jointly with the National Women’s Law Center, offers a new vision for a tax code that works for women, people of color, and low- and moderate-income families. Centuries of racist, sexist policy choices and discrimination have created significant barriers for women and people of color to build the kind of wealth our tax code now rewards. At the same time, insufficient tax revenues—exacerbated by tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations—constrain budgets for programs that help people afford their basic needs. The paper proposes a framework to help policymakers, advocates, and the public evaluate when and how refundable tax credits can advance equity, economic mobility, and opportunity for all.
The Paid Family & Medical Leave Opportunity: What Research Tells Us About Designing a Paid Leave Program that Works for All
At some point in our lives, nearly all of us will need to take time away from a job to address a loved one’s or our own serious illness, or to welcome a new child into our family. In this report, GCPI synthesizes research on paid leave and makes recommendations for designing a national paid leave policy that advances equity.
This analysis finds that block grants (characterized by capped amounts of federal funding to states and other entities paired with expansive flexibility for how the funds are spent) are fundamentally ill-equipped to support basic living standards compared to other structures, especially those that meaningfully guarantee access to adequate benefits or services. Specifically, block grants struggle to respond to need, can be less accountable to program goals and to the people who participate in the program, and can exacerbate inequities–especially racial inequities.
Unworkable & Unwise: Conditioning Access to Programs that Ensure a Basic Foundation for Families on Work Requirements
This working paper outlines the ramifications of taking away Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and housing assistance from those who do not document meeting new work and community engagement requirements. The paper underscores how proposals that take away basic assistance from people who don’t meet work requirements are ill-informed, ineffective, inefficient, and inequitable, while alternative policies would produce far better outcomes.
The Difference Between Surviving and Not Surviving: Public Benefits Programs and Sexual Violence Victims’ Economic Security
This new report from the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence along with the Georgetown Center on Poverty & Inequality highlights the urgency of strengthening public benefits policies at the state and federal levels so that they better meet the needs of people facing domestic violence and sexual assault.
Security & Stability: Paid Family and Medical Leave and its Importance to People with Disabilities and their Families
This report by The Arc and GCPI is the first to contribute an overview of the disability angle on paid leave. The findings highlight why a comprehensive, national paid leave program is needed in the U.S. for all workers, including people with disabilities and their families. We also propose that a national paid leave approach should be accessible to all working people, including those with disabilities and their families.
In partnership with the Center for American Progress (CAP) and National Employment Law Project (NELP), the center released a report on modernizing unemployment insurance for a 21st century economy and establishing a new Jobseeker’s Allowance.
This document succinctly summarizes recommendations laid out in the 2016 CAP, GCPI, and NELP report, “Strengthening Unemployment Protections in America.”
Strengthening Unemployment Protections in America: Intro & Summary
Summary of the 2016 CAP, GCPI, and NELP report, “Strengthening Unemployment Protections in America,” on modernizing unemployment insurance for a 21st century economy and establishing a new Jobseeker’s Allowance.
CAP, NELP, and GCPI identify the main challenges facing states’ unemployment insurance (UI) programs; provide recent state-level data; and recommend steps that states can take to substantially strengthen their UI programs.
Strengthening Unemployment Protections in America: A Discussion
Rep. Sandy Levin (D-MI) and White House Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Jason Furman explain the need for unemployment insurance (UI) reform. Co-Executive Director Indivar Dutta-Gupta served on a panel of experts to debate UI and the Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA).
Wall Street Journal article feature: “Should an Unemployed Uber Driver Be Eligible for a “Job Seeker’s Allowance?”
The Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality’s report on Job Seeker’s Allowance is referenced in identifying the main challenges facing unemployed Uber drivers eligibility for job seeker’s allowances.
Updated, independent analysis from the Urban Institute commissioned by the center, CAP, and NELP—which shows that just three of the center’s proposed reforms would significantly increase the share of newly unemployed workers who are protected by UI.
The center submitted comments on the discussion draft of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) reauthorization bill to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human.