The Word from Lansing: Families are primary cell of society — policy priorities should reflect that

A happy family sitting outside in the grass.

The Church teaches that the family is the core social institution, with Pope St. John XXIII calling it the “natural, primary cell of human society.”

From this observation, it should naturally follow that “economic and social policies as well as organization of the work world should be continually evaluated in light of their impact on the strength and stability of family life,” as the U.S. bishops wrote in the pastoral letter Economic Justice for All.

In the interest of supporting the “primary cell of human society,” lawmakers should make it their constant priority to pass policies that make it easier to start and raise a family in Michigan.

Earlier this year, Michigan lawmakers enacted a family-first policy by expanding eligibility of the state Earned Income Tax Credit to ease the tax burden on lower income working families.

But recipients of the expanded EITC have yet to benefit from the tax cut in a timely manner. That’s because the legislation did not receive enough support to take effect immediately, meaning the increased financial support likely will not take place until at least 2024. Lawmakers should pass a bill to put the expanded EITC into immediate effect, which would allow families to claim the additional funds much sooner.

There is more that can be done to lift families in need, including those who are barely getting through the month financially. To build on the expanded EITC, there is now a proposal to also provide recipients of the EITC with a refundable tax credit of $5,000 per child under the age of three, and a refundable tax credit of $2,500 per child over the age of three and under the age of six. The idea is to help low income working parents by providing a life-changing income boost that could help with the overwhelming cost of childcare, which is vital for parents to attend work and provide for their families.

Addressing childcare costs is an important component to helping working families and something that Governor Whitmer has touted as a priority. The governor has also asked the Legislature to address expanded paid leave to help families in times of sickness and welcoming new children. While any proposed paid leave policy requires careful study and analysis, the Legislature so far this fall has not taken up any proposals related to increasing access to childcare or to paid leave.

Putting the needs of families first is something politicians talk about, but it is not always reflected in the everyday activities of our elected officials. Yet, when families are supported, it helps our entire state: When people see it is viable to start and raise a family in Michigan, they are more likely to do so. Creating such an environment would also align well with the state’s recent interest in growing Michigan’s population.

The Catholic Church in Michigan encourages lawmakers and public officials to embrace the idea that the family is the primary cell of human society, and to consider economic and social policies that promote such a principle — with particular consideration given to families who are struggling to make ends meet.