HHS secretary celebrates tax credits, vows action to combat overdoses

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Jul. 15—MANCHESTER — Celebrating an expanded child care tax credit and vowing a more vigorous campaign to reduce the record drug overdoses linked to the pandemic, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra came to New Hampshire Thursday.

Moms Rising organized a rally at Derryfield Park with Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig and Becerra to mark the first day when 130,000 New Hampshire families began to receive monthly checks of up to $300 to support child care for 216,000 children in the state.

"Check your bank account, check your mail, you may have a $300 check or deposit," Becerra said to applause. "We want to give back parents a tax cut for their kids."

Becerra said families will plow this tax credit money back into the local economy.

"Guess what? They aren't going to invest it in some boondoggle in another country," Becerra said. "They are going to use it to buy clothes for those kids, make sure those kids have good food on the table or fix that roof which is leaking again."

Carrie Duran, a single mother of three, full-time student and part-time worker, said she received her first check hours earlier.

"I've got a birthday in August, this will help me get the car registered, inspected and get any work done on it," Duran said.

The tax credit is available for two-parent families with incomes up to $150,000 a year or $112,500 for a family with a single parent.

The $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan passed last spring expanded the credit and, for the first time and only for 2021, offered the monthly benefit. The tax credit traditionally is given to families when they file their income tax returns.

After the rally, Becerra was the guest star at a child care roundtable at Southern New Hampshire Services in Manchester.

Much of the day was spent by Becerra and activists campaigning for permanent benefit changes in the American Families Plan President Biden proposed in the spring. Last week, Senate Democrats announced they had reached agreement on a $3.5 trillion package for "human infrastructure" to include expanding Medicare and more spending on other human service programs.

Duran said for a time she had to quit her part-time job as one of the "sandwich generation," caring for her children as well as her father, who had Alzheimer's disease.

"What would have helped our family was paid family and medical leave," Duran said.

Jodi Newell, an advocate for the homeless, said Congress needs to make the child care tax credit permanent.

"Please pass the most ambitious American Families Plan possible," said Newell, who also lobbied for universal paid family and medical leave.

The visit also came a day after the Centers for Disease Control reported there were 93,000 drug overdoses in 2021, a 12-month high that analysts said was linked to COVID-19.

"We lost women, moms and dads working right here in New Hampshire," said U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., who served with Becerra in Congress. "It's an awful tragedy."

After the Manchester events, Becerra attended a substance abuse disorder roundtable at Harbor Health Care, and then took a tour of the Revive Recovery Center, both in Nashua.

Becerra said COVID-19 and the overdose deaths have also led to the first reduction in life expectancy in recent history for black males.

"There are still parts of America that are suffering tremendously," Becerra said. "We have had an unequal and unbalanced health care system for the longest time."

Rachel Lee, spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, said Becerra didn't talk about the alarming economic news last week — inflation at a 13-year high.

"On the Biden administration's watch, many middle-class families are now facing a new hidden tax: rising prices. As Biden continues to pressure Congress to pass trillions more in spending, economists warn that doing so would be a recipe for more inflation and higher prices — with New Hampshire families paying the price," Lee said in a statement.

Klandrigan@unionleader.com

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