New York should make permanent a pandemic-era tax credit for low- and moderate-income families to help them raise their children, advocates said at a rally on Thursday.

Dozens gathered outside City Hall Park to push for a legislative proposal to expand state tax credits to provide cash infusions to families, cementing the expansion of the federal Child Tax Credit, which was put in place during the height of the pandemic to help offset the cost of raising children and ended after 2021.

The bill introduced last month by state Sen. Andrew Gounardes (D-Brooklyn) would roll two state-level tax credits into one and broaden the eligibility for some of the state’s poorest residents. If passed, the average benefit would amount to a little more than $1,000 per family.

Two decades ago, New York was one of the first states to create a state-based child tax credit, but excluded a chunk of people, Gounardes said.

“We want to undo all those wrongs. We want to fix all those mistakes,” Gounardes said at the rally. “And we want to use this as an opportunity to step in where Congress and the federal government has failed to act.”

Gounardes’ bill, which he says has the support of more than a dozen senators, proposes to:

  • Consolidate the Empire State Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit into one tax credit and raise the benefits.
  • Expand the tax credit to include families with children ages 3 and younger, who are currently excluded from receiving any benefits.
  • Make all families eligible for benefits, regardless of immigration status.

President Joe Biden expanded the federal child tax credit at the height of the pandemic in 2021. The policy helped lift millions of children out of poverty nationwide, including 120,000 in New York City, according to a report issued this week. But the program ended after a year.

Amy Tsai, 38, of the Bronx, is a stay-at-home mother of five. Her family lives paycheck to paycheck on her husband’s income as a state police officer. She said the extra money would allow her family and other families to set aside money for emergencies.

“And a rainy day means for these families — a dozen eggs to make a healthy breakfast for their kids before school, a warm jacket or some clothes for the summer,” said Tsai, one of the speakers at the rally. “A thousand dollars may not seem huge, but it makes a huge difference.”

Yiselle Alejo is a single mother of three girls. She said on Thursday that the extra money would help her pay for her children to go to college.

Since Congress did not renew the expanded federal child tax credit, state lawmakers are stepping in to adopt their own programs. Ten states have enacted some form of a child tax credit to boost the incomes of poor families, according to the left-leaning Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

California became the first state to do so in 2019, according to the Institute. In 2022, New Jersey, Vermont and New Mexico followed. Like California’s, New Jersey’s and Vermont’s new credits are permanent, while New Mexico’s is scheduled to expire in 2027.

In 2022, Connecticut and Rhode Island provided one-time payments to children from low- and middle-income families and New York provided a one-year increase to the state’s Empire State Child Credit.