It was Harris’ first visit to Pittsburgh since becoming vice president, and she met with children in a summer camp program at a neighborhood rec center in the city’s Brookline neighborhood.
“What we know is when more families know about the relief that is included in the American Rescue Plan, when more families know about how they can get the relief, that is how we will be able to lift our children out of poverty,” Harris said. “That is how we will lift up our nation’s middle class, as well.”
President Joe Biden said in a statement Monday that the administration had designated June 21 as Child Tax Credit Awareness Day.
The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which Biden signed into law in March, increases the child tax credit to $3,000 for families with children between 6 and 17 years old, and $3,600 per family with children under 6. The credit will be distributed via monthly payments beginning in July.
“Nearly every working family with children is going to feel this tax cut make a difference in their lives, and we need to spread the word so that all eligible families get the full credit,” Biden said.
Harris was joined at the Brookline Recreation Center by Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, and spoke first with a group of 16 children working on designing their own superhero masks. The children are part of the city’s free Citicamp program for children ages 7-12. She complimented the children on their drawings, and gave a shout-out to the teachers, as well.
“I grew up with just the best teachers and neighbors,” said Harris. “If you look closely at people like your teachers, if you look really closely, you’ll see they’re wearing a cape … because they’re superheroes.”
Outgoing Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto joined Harris and Walsh at the rec center along with Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Scranton), U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Mt. Lebanon), and state Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
“This is a wonderful day, a historic day to be able to say ‘Welcome to Pittsburgh, Madam Vice President,” said Peduto. The federal child tax credit, he added, is much needed. “There’s only so much you can do at the local level. You need that critical partner to invest in children.”
Peduto, who was defeated in the Democratic primary election last month by state Rep. Ed Gainey (D-Lincoln-Lemington), said he wanted to see the tax credits kept in place for the next five years.
Walsh spoke about the parts of American Rescue Plan that would help families, including universal pre-kindergarten and 12 weeks of paid family leave.
“Caregiving is the work that stands up the rest of the economy,” Walsh said, adding that the rescue plan was providing $39 billion to states for childcare needs. “The American Rescue Plan is a strong down payment.”
Harris said the American Rescue Plan would benefit 140,000 families in Pennsylvania.
“That could cover a month of rent, a few months of groceries, an entire year of groceries,” she said, reiterating that the credits will come in monthly payments, rather than as an annual one-time lump sum.
Following the rec center visit, Harris and Walsh headed to the IBEW Local 5 hall on the city’s South Side for a roundtable discussion with local labor leaders. Walsh said his parents, who immigrated from Ireland, joined local labor unions in the Boston area, and conversations about unemployment and worker safety were common topics for family discussions. “The union gave my family everything,” Walsh said.
Harris said the Biden administration would “probably be the most pro-Union” administration.
“If we are going to be strong as an economy, we have to support our workers and make sure they are strong,” Harris said.
Kim Lyons is a correspondent for the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where this story first appeared. Pool reports are included in this story.