Food insecurity rises as families lose child tax credit payments, data shows

Food insufficiency among U.S. families with children rose 12% in February after child tax credit payments expired under a federal Covid-19 relief plan, new data from Children’s shows. HealthWatch, a nonpartisan group of healthcare workers and researchers.

Food inadequacy had fallen by 26% last year, when more than 36 million families received the payments, which ceased in December after Congress rejected Build Back Better legislation that would have made them permanent.

The expanded child tax credit, part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, gave eligible families $250 to $300 per child each month.

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“The fact that we saw a significant reduction in food insecurity is really a testament to the fact that people were using it to meet their basic needs,” said Allison Bovell-Ammon, director of policy strategy at Children’s HealthWatch.

The organization also found wide disparities in who received the payments. Families without an active bank account were less likely than those with one to receive payments, and families whose mother was an immigrant were less likely than those whose mother was born in the United States to get the credit.

“Among the immigrant community, in particular, there is a lot of fear around access to government programs at all levels,” Bovell-Ammon said recently. “There is also a huge information gap, with information potentially not available in multiple languages ​​and in communities, by trusted members of the community where people live.”

One of those affected by the cut is Kristen Olsen, who is raising the youngest of her three sons, George, as a single mother in West Virginia. At the grocery store, she only buys fruits and vegetables when they are on sale. Instead, she mainly buys rice, beans, potatoes and sardines, which she packs every day for lunch at work. Last winter, she visited a food pantry for the first time and is enjoying clothing giveaways in her neighborhood.

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“I wasn’t used to having to pinch pennies like that,” said Olsen, who was getting $300 a month in child tax credit payments. “We struggled, but we…always felt like somebody was struggling more, somebody needed it more. But it got to the point where we were out of food.

The double whammy of losing the expanded Child Tax Credit and having to pay more for rent, gas and utilities due to inflation has led her to look for new ways to support her family. family.

In his home state of West Virginia, 93% of children were eligible for the child tax credit.

Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia was the only Democrat not to support the Biden administration’s Build Back Better proposal, which would have made the extended child tax credit permanent, saying he saw it as a deterrent to the work. He also privately expressed fear that people would use the money to buy drugs.

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Olsen, who is recovering and working multiple jobs, said it hurt to hear that from a senator she voted for.

“He’s just saying you’re not worth investing when they’re not giving us that money,” she said. “Your kids aren’t worth it.”

Children’s HealthWatch said it wants Congress and the Biden administration to fix the disparities found and make the expanded child tax credit permanent.

Lawmakers are considering options but disagree on how the program should work. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and others say they want to renew the expanded 2021 child tax credit. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, is pushing for a version that should include a requirement of work.

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Olsen said she called Manchin’s office to ask her to support a monthly child tax credit. While the extra money didn’t make all her financial worries go away, it did ease the stress of opening a bill and wondering if she’d be able to pay it, she said.

“When I first got that $300 in my account, it gave me some breathing room to be a better parent, to be a better mom, to enjoy my life a little bit,” she said. declared.

She said if the payments were restored, she would use the money to re-enroll George in jiujitsu classes and buy him new clothes, sneakers and books as he heads off to kindergarten. She and other West Virginia families, she said, need relief.

“It’s not just about the money in my bank account. It’s also about being heard and feeling heard,” Olsen said. “I would feel like I was heard, finally, like we were all heard.”

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