Maxine Thomas received her first child tax credit payment in the spring of 2021. She was skeptical, like it was too good to be true.
“I really didn’t think I was going to get it for any reason,” she said.
Thomas is a single mother of five children. She works full time at a food bank in Indianapolis.
The temporary expansion of child tax credits under the US rescue plan made the payments available to low-income and no-income families for the first time and increased the amount provided. Families could receive monthly payments of $250 for each child aged 6 to 17 and $300 for each child under 6.
Since the pandemic forced schools to close, Thomas’ children have been home every day, driving up the costs of food and other bills. The payments therefore arrived at the right time. Thomas received $1,000 a month – a $250 credit for each of his children at home.
“The Child Tax Credit has filled a lot of financial gaps,” she said. “Just being able to help keep food at home, pay my ever-increasing utility bills, because we were home full time all the time.”
Critics of expanding the child tax credit warned the move would discourage work, but data shows it had the opposite effect. The money has helped with things like childcare and transportation costs, allowing more people to invest in their own businesses, work, pay off debts and go back to school.
About 70% of families spent the credit on everyday expenses like food and utilities, According to research from the Brookings Institute. The temporary expansion lifted 3.7 million children out of poverty, as of December 2021.
When the expanded child tax credit was eliminated in January of this year, child poverty has skyrocketed Again.
As many states, including Indiana, are taking steps to toughen abortion laws, conversations have been reignited on how best to support families and babies. And many policy experts point to a permanent child tax credit, available to low-income and no-income families, as one way to achieve this.
Many families who have been helped are struggling againThe expansion of the child tax credit reduced food insufficiency by 26% in 2021, according to Allison Bovell-Ammonwho has studied the issue.
“Food insecurity affects not only a child’s physical health or physical growth, but also their cognitive development, their ability to concentrate and do well in school to really reach their full potential,” Bovell said. -Ammon, director of policy and communications at Children’s Healthwatch. at Boston Medical Center. “Even brief periods of disruption in access to food can have truly lasting effects on a child’s ability to grow and be healthy.”
These disturbances can negatively affect the outcome of life in general.
Food insufficiency and insecurity disproportionately burden black and Latino families, as well as single adult families. Research indicates that these same populations were hardest hit by the expiration of Child Tax Credit payments earlier this year, Bovell-Ammon said.
For Thomas, a mother of five, the expiry of those payments has made life more difficult. She had to start making sacrifices – like when her sons went back to school and needed new clothes.
“It seemed like everyone just sprouted at the same time,” Thomas said. “I felt it when it was a bit difficult, juggling who to get new shoes.”
In the month after the credits expired, an additional 3.7 million children fell into poverty. The the child poverty rate has increased from 12 percent in December 2021 to 17 percent in January 2022. Rates of food inadequacy increased by about 25 percent among families with children from January to July this year, according to a study from the Boston University School of Public Health.
This is one of the main reasons many are advocating bringing credit back — and making it permanent. This would lift people out of cyclical poverty, said David PlasterSenior Policy Associate of Results, a national child tax credit advocacy group.
“When you live in poverty, job loss is quite common. You get a job and you think, OK, well, this will be the one. Then your car breaks down, or you lose your place, or a child gets sick, and you get fired because you couldn’t go to work,” Plasterer said.
A permanent child tax credit would help people overcome these barriers to stable employment.
“This would allow families to achieve greater financial stability and increase their long-term earning capabilities,” Plasterer said.
Who benefits from the credit?
For years, the child tax credit has been available to families who meet income and other requirements.
Without the expansion of the child tax credit, families earning less than $2,500 per year are not eligible. People earning more than $2,500 a year are entitled to pennies on every dollar they earn above that amount – up to $2,000 per child 16 and under for families earning at least $30,000. $ per year. The credit begins to disappear once a family’s income level exceeds $200,000 per year for single filers, or $400,000 per year for joint filers.
These income requirements are based on the idea that an eligibility threshold would encourage people to work more and increase their income.
The temporary expansion of the Child Tax Credit in 2021 made the full tax credit available for low-income and no-income households for the first time. Without the expansion, we estimate 27 million children are excluded from the full child tax credit because their family was not making enough money.
It’s the opposite of what should be, Plasterer said. Families with the lowest wages are eligible for the lowest amount, and often not at all.
“There are married couples who make $400,000 a year and get full credit,” Plasterer said. “And there are single parents who work part-time and earn $15,000 a year,” who only qualify for a fraction of the full credit.
“So you basically have to get yourself out of poverty before you qualify for the child tax credit, which doesn’t make sense,” he said.
Plasterer, and many other advocates for permanent expansion of the child tax credit program, argue that work and income requirements unfairly hurt children and families.
“There are a lot of people in this country supporting children, who are unable to work for any number of reasons,” said Bovell-Ammon, the Children’s HealthWatch researcher. “Or they’re between jobs or struggling to work and we really shouldn’t be punishing children by excluding them from this incredible benefit which has been shown to have such profound impacts on children’s ability to satisfy their basic needs.”
In the era of the abortion ban, what are we doing to support vulnerable families?
Many Indiana lawmakers who voted to ban abortion — now on hold due to legal challenges — have also said they want to increase support for mothers and babies.
State Representative Sharon Negele (R-Attica) is a leader in Indiana’s efforts to financially support mothers and families. She says this became particularly important when the almost total ban on abortionshe supported, was enacted.
“I don’t think you can just ban something without making sure all of these other variables are in place. So we tried this last special session, but it’s not perfect,” she said.
Negele said she would push for more support for mothers and families in the next legislative session, such as making birth control more accessible and childcare more affordable. Negele did not say whether she would favor a permanent state-sponsored child tax credit.
“If we want to encourage people to have babies, we have to make it as affordable and as inciting as possible,” Negele said. “As a society, we know the importance of growing our population base. And we just have to make sure that we give everyone that appropriate opportunity.
Outside of her full-time job at the food bank, Maxine Thomas also works with Experts on Poverty, an advocacy group that employs people with first-hand experience navigating federal safety net initiatives like the supplemental nutrition assistance and tax credit programs.
Thomas spoke about his experience with lawmakers and community members. She would like lawmakers to make the credit permanent with no work or income requirements.
“When we put stipulations on who is deemed eligible or good enough to get these types of credits and refunds, I think that removes the human dynamic from humanity,” Thomas said. “I know that [the credit] lifted families and children out of poverty, and that should be the ultimate goal.
A handful of states — including California, New Jersey and New Mexico — have introduced or expanded state child tax credits in the past year. In Indiana, conversations between lawmakers and lawyers are taking place but are still in their infancy.
Parents who did not receive the 2021 Child Tax Credit installments can still claim them online at getctc.org before November 15.
This story comes from a reporting collaboration that includes the Indianapolis Recorder and Public media on side effects – a public health information initiative based at WFYI. Sydney Dauphinais is an economic equity reporter at WFYI. Follow her on Twitter: @syddauphinais.
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