Overdue From Uncle Sam and LinkedIn: Recognition of Moms’ Sacrifices
Cash benefits coming for parents, along with family-friendly online career categories
It took a global pandemic that hit women especially hard to push LinkedIn to add one of the world’s toughest jobs to its list of career titles: stay-at-home mother.
Users can now choose “self-employed” as a job description and not be required to add in the name of a business. LinkedIn is also working on adding other non-paying job descriptions, such as “parental leave” and “family care.”
The federal government is also belatedly recognizing how hard the pandemic has been on working parents, forcing women out of the workplace at a far higher rate than men. While the best-known provision of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, signed into law in March, sends direct payments of $1,400 to lower-income households, the law also includes additional cash payments to support families with children.
Starting this summer, millions of families with children younger than 18 are going to start receiving a monthly stipend of as much as $300 per child, delivered as a monthly check, not some obtuse benefit that you receive when you file your federal taxes.
The child tax credit as a working mom lifeline
The federal child tax credit (CTC) has been around for years, but the American Rescue Plan gives it a complete renovation that greatly expands who can get it, how much it will pay out, and how the credit is delivered. Again, it is going to be a monthly check.
—The maximum annual credit for a child younger than 6 is $3,600. For kids between the ages of 6 and 17, $3,000. The previous max was $2,000 per child.
—Single filers with income below $75,000, a parent filing as head of household with income below $112,500, and married couples with income below $150,000 are eligible for the full CTC benefit. (Above those limits, the benefit phases out.)
—You don’t need to work to claim the credit. This change effectively creates some income for stay-at-home parents.
—The benefit is authorized to cover all of 2021, but the IRS needs time to get the payment system set up. Monthly checks are scheduled to start in July and continue through December. Those payments will only cover half of what a family is due for all of 2021. The rest will be disbursed when families file their 2021 federal tax return, when families can claim their remaining benefit as a refundable tax credit.
This CTC change is currently only authorized for 2021. That said, the Biden administration is eager to extend it, if not outright make it permanent law.
Should you buy some childcare and return to work?
There are no strings attached to what the money can be used for. For many families, it may create some breathing room on rent and groceries.
But in households where the mother has stepped away from her career, the money could help pay for childcare, and allow her to go back to work. If you have two kids under the age of 6, that’s $600 a month of help.
Or maybe it’s the money for some extra help around the house, to reduce the extreme burnout many mothers are experiencing juggling work and the bulk of home chores. A fall 2020 survey by LeanIn and McKinsey found that one in four working women is considering quitting or scaling back their workload.
Even before the pandemic pushed many working mothers out of their jobs, the cost of being a mother loomed large. Not just lost earnings for time off, but the cascading fallout from those lost earnings.
The motherhood penalty
A 2017 academic study estimated that on average, the Social Security benefit for women with one child is 16% less than the benefit for a woman with no children. And each additional child reduced the mother’s retirement benefit by another two percentage points.
The all-in lifetime cost of lost earnings, raises, retirement savings and Social Security benefits for taking just a few years off of work can end up creating a lifetime loss well into the six figures.
The free childcare cost calculator at the Center for American Progress will spit out an estimate of the potential hit based on your wages and expected time off. Search for “Center for American Progress Childcare Cost Calculator” or go here.