April 25, 2024

“We have a whole bunch of work ahead of us to make sure that families are able to fully access credits like the Oregon kids credit,” said Mac Innis, expressing hope that the state might eventually set up an online portal for non-filers, similar to what the federal government set up in 2021 to help parents with no income to claim the child tax credit. The Department of Revenue has also provided a “toolkit” for partners to communicate the benefits of the credit, including a flier in 17 languages. A similar effort is underway in Minnesota, where Walz says the state government is partnering with local organizations and leaders to reach low-income families—particularly those who might be skeptical of state and federal government, such as in tribal communities.

While these measures promise to deliver significant gains, they will fall short of the current version of the federal child tax credit—to say nothing of the far more generous version that was offered by the federal government in 2021, which lifted more than three million children out of poverty and cut the child poverty rate nearly in half nationwide. States have “a little bit less fiscal capacity” to enact child tax credits at the level offered by the federal government, said Joshua McCabe, the director of social policy at the Niskanen Center. Minnesota, Oregon, and Utah have recently benefited from budget surpluses, which can help justify creating a new tax credit. But McCabe worried that Oregon’s credit, which had a sharper rate of phaseout than Minnesota’s, would have a lower poverty reduction rate.

For example, the minimum wage in Portland, Oregon, amounts to just over $30,000 annually—meaning that residents earning the minimum wage would not qualify for the credit at all. “They’ve built some pretty major barriers to even just working full-time minimum wage there,” McCabe said.