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Bipartisan bill would let new parents draw on child tax credits doubled by 2017 GOP overhaul

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by Kimberly Leonard

A bipartisan bill would let new parents tap into the recently boosted Child Tax Credit to fund time off work, care for babies, and needed supplies.

The bill represents a shift by members of Congress on paid family leave. Until Wednesday, legislation to fund paid leave went in two different directions, with Democrats backing legislation to fund both sick and parental leave through a payroll tax and a handful of Republicans backing legislation to let new parents take from Social Security in exchange for delaying retirement.

Even though the bipartisan bill doesn't yet have the same amount of support as the Democrat legislation, it tries to build consensus on the lack of available paid leave by approaching the issue differently: It leverages a portion of the 2017 Republican tax overhaul, which doubled the Child Tax Credit for parents to $2,000 a year.

"This is the sweet spot between where Republicans and Democrats can agree," said Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, a Republican and one of the lead sponsors of the new bill, called the Advancing Support for Working Families Act.

Other legislation has failed to gain bipartisan support because Republicans oppose raising taxes or imposing mandates on employers, while Democrats object to beneficiaries taking from retirement. Even though Democrats didn't vote in favor of the 2017 tax overhaul, a handful of them favor taking advantage of the larger Child Tax Credit to advance the party's long-sought goal of paid family leave.

Cassidy worked with Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona on the bill and picked up other Senate co-sponsors along the way: Republican Sens. Steve Daines of Montana and Shelley Moore-Capito of West Virginia and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. The House version of the bill, also introduced Wednesday, came from Democrat Colin Allred of Texas and Republican Elise Stefanik of New York.

The bill would give parents the option to receive $5,000 from the Child Tax Credit upfront and then adjusts their tax credit to $1,500 a year for the next 10 years. Parents otherwise get $2,000 a year for each of their children under the age of 17. Should they choose to tap into the credit early, parents would be able to decide what they want to use the money for, whether supplies for babies, childcare, or replacing lost wages.

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