That’s how many monthly payments of the federal child tax credit are left, unless Congress acts to renew this year’s expanded version.
The IRS sent out the final advanced payment of the 2021 child tax credit Wednesday, and has now distributed almost $93 billion since July through monthly payments worth up to $300 per eligible child. Advocates estimate the money has reduced child poverty by 40%, lifting 4.1 million children above the poverty line and helping many families pay for essentials including food, clothing and child care.
The new credit, which pays more per child than in 2020 and expands eligibility even to those who don’t earn enough to otherwise qualify for a tax offset, only applies to 2021 unless Congress passes an extension, as Democrats and advocates for lower-income families hope. The latest version of the president’s Build Back Better bill proposes to do just that, but faces a battle in the Senate, where even Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia—echoing Republicans who oppose the credit—has questioned why it doesn’t come with a work or education requirement for the parents.
The Build Back Better bill, a massive social benefits bill passed virtually along party lines by the House last month, would extend the higher amount—up to $3,600 rather than $2,000 per child—and the monthly distribution (for those under a certain income) for another year and permanently make it so lower-income families qualify for the full amount.
On the other hand, if we returned to the old rules, the families of an estimated 27 million children—including roughly half of Black and Latino children and half of children in rural communities—wouldn’t earn enough to qualify for the full credit amount, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a progressive think tank. About 9.9 million children would slip back below the poverty line or deeper into poverty, their researchers said.
“If Build Back Better isn’t enacted, the Child Tax Credit would revert to providing the least help to the children who need it most,” the researchers wrote.
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