State senator proposes $600 state tax credit to try to address ‘devastation that this pandemic has brought’

Simmons’ first bill, which he introduced last month, would provide a $600 state-level child tax credit for individuals who earn $40,000 a year and for those making $60,000 a year who file their taxes jointly. The bill would provide $600 per child.

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State Sen. Mike Simmons at a news conference in April.

State Sen. Mike Simmons and Janet Soto, a resident of his Senate district, attend a news conference about a proposed $600-per-child state tax credit on Wednesday.

Rachel Hinton/Chicago Sun-Times file

Hoping to help working parents hit hard economically, newly appointed state Sen. Mike Simmons on Wednesday pitched legislation that would provide parents a $600 tax credit per child that he argues will help undo “the damage of this pandemic.”

Simmons’ first bill, which he introduced last month, would provide a $600 state-level child tax credit for individuals who earn $40,000 a year and for those making $60,000 a year who file their taxes jointly. The bill would provide $600 per child.

“This is really best targeted at our single moms and single dads and working parents all across the 7th District,” Simmons said, referring to the North Side area he represents in the Illinois Senate. “This legislation will help to bring relief to our working families and ensure that we have a long-term solution that undoes the damage of this pandemic.

“In the wake of a year that has imposed so many anxieties and so much grief, and so many heavy burdens on our parents and our young people in particular, COVID-19 has fallen hard upon children in the way we may not fully realize for years to come.” 

The credit would be a permanent change to the state’s income tax code.

One out of every three hospitality workers in Illinois lost a job within the last year — essential workers who are overwhelmingly women or people of color, who are increasingly the sole breadwinners of their households have exposed themselves to real danger in the last year, Simmons said.

Since being appointed to succeed former state Sen. Heather Steans in February, Simmons said he’s met with working parents who’ve told him about the toll of the pandemic on their children or other young people.

Newly appointed state Sen. Mike Simmons sits at his desk for the first time at his district office in the Edgewater neighborhood in February.

Newly appointed state Sen. Mike Simmons sits at his desk for the first time at his district office in the Edgewater neighborhood in February.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia / Sun-Times file

Standing with Simmons at his news conference, Janet Soto, a mother of three who lives in Uptown, said every person she’s met or talked to in the community has faced some sort of hardship due to the pandemic. 

The closure of her kids’ childcare center earlier in the pandemic, forced Soto and her husband — who were both working — to make the tough choice of “work or caring for the kids.”

Soto chose to stay home. That meant an “incredibly strict budget” around the holiday season. For Thanksgiving, some neighbors gave them special dishes they couldn’t afford. 

“I’m aware as I look at our finances that even as we’re that much closer to not being able to make ends meet, other families are already not able to make ends meet, and have been having to work so hard during the pandemic to try to figure out a way to make it back,” Soto said. “They need help and they need long-term support, not just a quick fix.”

Simmons said COVID-19 recovery must include a reinvestment that acknowledges the “devastation that this pandemic has brought on families of color and working families.”

The senator said his bill would benefit the entire area because recipients would put the money back into the economy.

“These are folks that currently are not able to meet basic expenses, are not able to put food on the table, are not able to keep up on their rent, essential workers [are] two months behind on their rent right now,” Simmons said of his first piece of legislation. “And when we give them this relief, they’re going to be able to pay their rent, they’re going to be able to go out and buy that food which is going to stimulate the local economy with a multiplicative effect.”

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