When Joe Biden said his COVID relief package would 'cut child poverty in half' he wasn't joking
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Shortly after taking office, President Biden got to work selling Congress and the country on a massive coronavirus relief package. One of the centerpieces of what would become a $1.9 trillion dollar bill was raising the Child Tax Credit (CTC) from $2,000 to $3,000 per child (or $3,600 for a child under age 6) and making it refundable.

The program gives parents who make $400,000 and under filing jointly ($200,000 and under on a single return) direct payments of around $250 to $300 a month from July through December 2021.

The president made a bold statement while talking about the CTC that seemed a little far-fetched at the time. "If we get this done, it will cut child poverty in half," Biden said at a roundtable in February. The White House stood by the claim with Press Secretary Jen Psaki repeating it in three separate beings.


In America, one in seven children lives in poverty.

The bill was passed and signed into law by the president in March and we're now beginning to see the benefits of the CTC played out in real-time.

A study by the Poverty Center at Columbia University found that after parents began receiving direct deposits in their bank accounts it had an immediate effect on child poverty rates.

"Using our innovative approach to tracking monthly poverty rates, we project that ongoing COVID relief efforts continue to have a sizable effect on reducing child poverty keeping 6 million children from poverty in July 2021 alone (a reduction of more than 40 percent)," the Poverty Center wrote in a study.

Researchers believe that as the rollout continues, "the expanded Child Tax Credit has the potential to achieve even greater child poverty reduction." If all eligible children are enrolled in the program, the CC has the "potential to reduce monthly child poverty by up to 40 percent on its own."

When combined with other COVID-19 relief measures, the CTC could contribute to a 52% reduction in child poverty.

A survey from the Census Bureau found that most families are spending the money on clothing, food, housing, and utilities.

The key to maximizing the CTC's benefits making sure that all eligible children are enrolled in the program. An estimated 67 million children are thought to be eligible for the program although the Treasury Department estimated that it made payments for 61 million children.

The CTC's dramatic success has the president and Democrats in Congress pushing to expand the program until 2025. Earlier this month, House Democrats proposed an extension of the increase in the tax credit as well as making the funding permanent. The proposal was cheered by pro-family advocates such as MomsRising.

"The child tax credit expansion has made historic gains for our families and our economy in 2021, lifting 50% of all children out of poverty and boosting the economy," executive director Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner said according to CNBC.

A group of 450 economists signed an open letter last week saying that the CTC should be extended. "It's very rare to find an issue where so many economists agree on everything," Jacob Goldin, an assistant professor at Stanford Law School, told CNBC. "But there's just very, very strong evidence that providing extra financial assistance to kids growing up in low-income households yields big benefits in their lives."

When a child is lifted out of poverty it has a lasting impact on their life. Columbia's Poverty Center says that it leads to a decrease in infant mortality, improves the health and life expectancy of poor children, and increases future productivity. The Poverty Center estimates that the CTC's societal benefits outweigh its costs by 8 to 1.

The fact that child poverty still persists in the wealthiest nation of the world is one of the biggest disgraces in American life. The CTC has shown that there is an easy, and effective way to combat this serious issue by simply giving people a break on their taxes. Let's hope that our leaders realize the impact the CTC is having on the lives of children and will make it a permanent part of the effort to eradicate child poverty in America once and for all.

Courtesy of Elaine Ahn

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The energy in a hospital can sometimes feel overwhelming, whether you’re experiencing it as a patient, visitor or employee. However, there are a few one-of-a-kind individuals like Elaine Ahn, an operating room registered nurse in Diamond Bar, California, who thrive under this type of constant pressure.

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Due to a perfect storm of supply chain issues, product recalls, labor shortages and inflation, manufacturers are struggling to keep up with formula demand and retailers are rationing supplies. As a result, families that rely on formula are scrambling to ensure that their babies get the food they need.

Naturally, people are weighing in on the crisis, with some throwing out simplistic advice like, "Why don't you just do what people did before baby formula was invented and just breastfeed?"

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Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

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Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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However, a new study out of Japan has found that cats may be paying more attention to their fellow felines and human friends than most people thought. In fact, they could be listening to human conversations.

"What we discovered is astonishing," Saho Takagi, a research fellow specializing in animal science at Azabu University in Kanagawa Prefecture, told The Asahi Shimbun. "I want people to know the truth. Felines do not appear to listen to people's conversations, but as a matter of fact, they do."

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