In January, the expanded child tax credit expired, ending monthly payments to parents across the country.
The direct payments began as part of the U.S. bailout in July 2021. They extended the existing child tax credit from $2,000 per child in 2020 to $3,600 in 2021. The Internal Revenue Service distributed in advance half of the fully refundable tax credit via monthly payments.
The result was that eligible parents would automatically receive monthly payments of $250 or $300 per child under the program, unless they chose to opt out and receive it all during tax time.
It worked much more directly than the regular child tax credit that had been around since 1997. Instead of a lump sum payment during tax season, parents found the money in their bank account without paperwork, apps, or government websites. .
As long as working families filed their taxes, they woke up with more money and no stipulations were made on how they used it.
Better yet, the federal spending plan hasn’t given Republican lawmakers in Texas an opportunity to say no and pass up a good opportunity as they continue to do so by expanding Medicaid with federal dollars under the affordable care.
A plan to extend the expanded child tax credit to 2022 and beyond died in Congress, mostly because Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) thought parents would use the money to buy baby. dope.
Fortunately, the Census Bureau conducted a large, detailed survey throughout the pandemic and throughout the life of the expanded Child Tax Credit, providing the best insight into what families actually used the extra money.
In a survey conducted a week after the first payments, about 4.7 million Texas households received a check. More than two million Texas families used their first child tax credit payment for food, 1.4 million used it for clothing and, with the school year starting a month later, 1, 3 million used it to buy books and school supplies, according to the US Census Bureau Household. Impulse survey. Those numbers include 2.6 million families in the Dallas and Houston metro areas who also received checks.
After the tax benefit came into effect, the same census data revealed that food insufficiency in households with one child decreased significantly across the country. A more detailed state-by-state analysis from Washington University in St. Louis found that Texas families’ food insecurity fell from “severe” to “moderate,” or 18% of food-insecure families. serious at 11.6%.
In a letter thanking President Biden and a sample of the real impact of the tax credit, a Texas mother, Leeana, wrote about how the monthly payments have helped her daughter Barbara.
“I work full time and my daughter is 13,” she wrote. “The monthly $250 keeps our fridge full, gas tank full, and helped me with school supplies and school clothes for a (stressful) teenager.”
“Please keep the tax credit alive,” she wrote, attaching a photo of herself and her daughter. “I know some senators want to kill him. I live in Texas. Tell the Democrats about Barbara and me.
Graciela Camarena, program director in the Rio Grande Valley for the Children’s Defense Fund, a nonprofit child advocacy group that has been raising awareness and messaging for the advanced tax credit, said she spoke with families who used the payment for basic necessities like toiletries, rent, mortgage, mechanical repairs to their car, and childcare so they could go to work.
“It’s mostly low-income families in marginalized communities living paycheck to paycheck,” Camarena said, describing the aid as a godsend and recalling a disabled mother living on Social Security.
“She said it was really helpful because her social security check doesn’t go far and it was helpful for buying school supplies for her daughter and things like that,” Camarena said. “So I think it was really important for families to have that extra support at this time, especially those who don’t have the means to get other types of income or resources available to them.”
With the end of monthly payments, more and more Texas families are already experiencing the crisis.
Census data shows that American families have had a harder time meeting their usual expenses after the loss of child tax credit payments. A Columbia University study found that the lack of payments drove an additional 3.7 million children into poverty, with the child poverty rate falling from 12.1% in December 2021 to 17% in January 2022.
In Texas, a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that more than one million children are at risk of falling back below the poverty line or sinking deeper into poverty. Overall, 6.6 million children, or 91% of Texas children, will lose benefits.
In January, the North Texas Food Bank announced that it was preparing for an increase in demand with the expiration of the expanded child tax credit.
Feeding Texas, a network of 21 food banks that reaches 5 million Texans a year, is pushing to make pandemic benefit permanent.
“That was a really critical benefit for the families we serve,” said Celia Cole, CEO of Feeding Texas. “With the loss of this benefit, we are concerned about the one million children who will be pushed deeper into poverty.”
Cole said Feeding Texas saw a noticeable increase in need in January when the expanded child tax credit expired. She said the food bank network is still seeing a 30% higher need from the communities it serves than before the pandemic.
“You consider the expiration of the expanded child tax credit combined with the extraordinary inflation we’ve seen in the prices of food and fuel and other goods, it’s sort of a double whammy for the families we serve,” Cole said.
Cole said they are also concerned about the expiration of the SNAP COVID-19 emergency benefits that allow families applying for a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to receive the maximum benefit amount for their family size. The option for states to offer this increase is scheduled to end in July 2022.
The Houston Food Bank, which serves 1 million people in 18 counties, is also hoping for the permanent return of the expanded child tax credit.
“We’ve heard directly from families who have made a dramatic difference to them,” said Katherine Howard Byers, government relations manager at the Houston Food Bank. “Unfortunately, with Congress’s decision not to extend the Child Tax Credit, many millions of children across the country who have been lifted out of poverty are returning to it.”
Even though Texas is no longer experiencing the peak of the pandemic, Byers said the Houston Food Bank is still handing out 600,000 pounds of produce a day — proof that the need for such benefits remains.
“You hear so much about the economy opening up, more jobs being available, and it’s all true, but families who were struggling before suddenly couldn’t access jobs that doubled their incomes” , Byers said. “They have returned to work or had more opportunities to work, but are still having regular difficulties and having to make impossible choices.”
To illustrate the point, Byers said she recently spoke to a grandmother who was the primary caretaker for her autistic teenage grandson.
“He goes to get the hot meal or anything that looks like nutritious food that she has at home, and then once he goes to bed, because she doesn’t want to draw his attention to the fact that she’s barely going to eat, she grabs a can of food or whatever’s left on the shelf and eats it,” Byers said. “And I said, ‘well, that’s not good for health” and she said “no”. What kind of choice does she have?
For now, the Build Back Better plan to revive and expand these tax benefits remains dead in the water.
The political fallout from their expiration is already becoming clear. A February poll by the Morning Consult showed Democrats had “virtually given up” their advantage with families who received Child Tax Credit benefits, and an April poll showed Congressional Republicans are now leading a wildcard poll among child tax credit recipients — a six-point drop in favor of congressional Democrats among recipients since the tax benefit ended.