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With tax credits, could Congress help lower costs to play youth sports?

U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a Democrat from New Jersey, poses Aug. 16, 2023, with baseball players in Fort Lee, New Jersey. (Provided Photo/Josh Gottheimer Website)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – A U.S. congressman is trying to lower the costs to play youth sports through tax credits.

U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a Democrat from New Jersey, and Rep. Mike Lawlor, a Republican from New York, hope to advance the Promoting Lifelong Activity for Youth Act, also known as the PLAY Act, to lower the cost of playing sports.

If approved in Congress and signed by the president, the legislation would provide tax credits for families to lower the cost of youth recreational sports and equipment.

“Only 37% of children ages 6 to 12 played team sports on a regular basis in 2021, far below the 45% just a few years back in 2008,” Gottheimer said in a news release. “So we’re seeing the numbers heading in the wrong direction and that’s alarming to me. We’ve got to do something about it.” 

Gottheimer said the average family pays $883 a year on just one child’s primary sport. Between the cost and battling screen time, recreational sport participation is down sharply, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need to get our kids back on the fields,” Gottheimer said in the statement. “So they can learn sports, be active and create good, lifelong habits and relationships.”

If passed, the tax credit would be available to be put toward all sports, but, Gottheimer said in his release “The cost of baseballs has increased 50% in recent years, and the cost of umpires has increased 20%.”

His office also noted, “Studies show that children from lower-income families are half as likely to play sports as children from homes with higher incomes.”

Gottheimer added that the legislation also would helps parents pay for their children’s league registration fees and sports equipment using pretax dollars, and boost the maximum contribution of these dollars per household.

He also says the bill would create a federal grant program to invest in recreational youth sports programs and organizations, expanding opportunities for kids to get involved while helping lower costs for parents and families.