Cheryl Block took issue with tax provisions enacted in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, saying that they will not help the people "we saw waiting for rescue on the roofs" ["This Aid Will Float the Wrong Boat," Outlook, Oct. 2].

But she does not mention these facts about the law:

First, it allows low-income families who were displaced and are out of work because of Katrina to use last year's income so they won't lose the earned-income tax credit or the refundable child tax credit.

Second, the law provides the Treasury with the authority to waive rigid rules within the tax code to ensure that taxpayers do not lose any deductions or credits, or their filing status, because they were displaced by the hurricane.

Ms. Block also argued that tax expenditures are unwise because they are never subject to formal reviews, but she apparently missed the committee hearing at which witnesses involved in past disasters testified as to the effectiveness of tax incentives.

I agree with Ms. Block that we should spend this money wisely and responsibly, but we should not lose an opportunity to fight poverty in a meaningful way. Tax provisions that benefit the poor -- such as the earned-income and refundable child tax credits, and the low-income housing tax credit -- must be part of our post-Katrina rebuilding plan.


U.S. Senator (D-Mont.)


The writer is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee.