Unveiling plans

Cory Booker speaks at a house party in Keene earlier this year.

Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker recently unveiled a child-poverty policy plan, building on his Baby Bonds proposal to try to eliminate childhood hunger and give families a “Child Allowance” for each kid.

Booker discussed his Baby Bonds plan — which would give American children a nest egg adjusted to their parents’ wealth to be used upon turning 18 for approved investments like tuition and housing — in May on The Sentinel’s politics podcast, Pod Free or Die.

New Hampshire is one of 10 states that saw an uptick in child poverty recorded in 2018, according to KIDS COUNT, a research branch of the Annie E. Casey Foundation based in Baltimore.

While the problem’s prevalence had been trending downward in the Granite State over the past decade or so, the number of children living below the federal poverty line — currently set at $25,465 in annual income for a family of four — jumped from 20,000 in 2016 to 26,000 in 2017 and then 27,000 in 2018.

Those statistics, according to the KIDS COUNT database, show 11 percent of New Hampshire youth living in poverty and potentially going hungry in 2018. However, the 2018 data set puts the Granite State at the nation’s third lowest child poverty rate, with only Utah and North Dakota lower at 10 percent each.

Booker, the junior U.S. senator from New Jersey and former mayor of Newark, N.J., says he would expand the child tax credit to give families a $300 monthly cash allowance for each child 5 years old and younger, and $250 for kids up to 18.

The plan also targets a loophole in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which allows wealthier families to qualify for the credit while reducing deductions for larger families and limiting it to 15 percent of earned income over $2,500. Booker’s plan would reverse that measure, and phase out the credit for single parents earning more than $130,000 per year and couples taking in more than $180,000 annually.

The Booker campaign estimates this change would cut the child poverty rate nationwide in half, citing similar European models that achieved the same goal.

The United Kingdom’s 1999 universal child benefit, for example, halved childhood poverty by 2009.

“When it comes to child poverty, we cannot be silent. In the richest country in the world, we have a moral responsibility to look after each other and make sure that every child living in America has the opportunity to grow and thrive,” Booker said in a news release accompanying the plan.

Booker’s proposal would also increase the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP benefits — commonly known as food stamps — by 30 percent.

In Cheshire County, around 2,800 families rely on the program, according to the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services. The average New Hampshire family receiving food stamps gets about $200 a month, according to the state agency.

President Donald Trump’s approach to these benefits also comes under scrutiny in the Booker plan.

Aside from nearly lapsing at the end of January during the longest government shutdown in American history, SNAP could change under Trump’s July proposal that would cut the number of families eligible for the program.

To buttress these benefits, Booker proposes increasing access to summer meals in rural communities and including kids receiving free and reduced school lunches on the Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer program, which gives families supplemental money for food when school is not in session.

The Booker campaign estimates 498,900 Granite Staters would benefit from the plan’s Rise Credit — essentially an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit — which is also folded into the plan.

Booker’s campaign team asserts that of the more than 170 policy plans they have counted as being released by other candidates so far in the 2020 presidential primary race, none has focused on child poverty, and the topic has not been broached in a presidential debate since 1999.