As of July, all families in the country except the wealthiest have received child tax credits in the form of monthly cash payments – a one-of-a-kind political jujitsu that converts tax relief, usually given in the form of lump sum at the end of the year, into additional income that expanded America’s safety net.
The program represented the first significant change in U.S. government support for families in decades. Since the 1990s, the Child Tax Credit has only been available to parents who were actively working or looking for work, making the United States an outlier among other developed countries where child subsidies are common.
President Joe Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion US bailout, in addition to turning the tax credit into monthly checks, increased the total amount received by parents and other caregivers and removed it from all working conditions, making more money available to more households.
The initiative, which was originally scheduled to last six months, has now ended with the last of checks sent out on December 15.
Democrats had hoped to make the tax credits permanent as part of Biden’s Build Back Better plan. But this week, the administration’s broad national agenda was effectively blocked, at least for now, by centrist Sen. Joe Manchin DW.Va., who voted to extend the child tax credit during of its introduction but did not support its extension.
“I cannot vote to keep this bill,” Manchin told “Fox News Sunday,” citing concerns that the Build Back Better plan would increase the national debt and rise in inflation.
The argument echoed that of her fellow Republicans – Senator Lindsey Graham, RS.C. and the senior Senate Budget Committee official, Republican, described the administration’s plan as an “inflation bomb” – who were united in their opposition to the Build Back Better legislation.
Experts have noted that since payments of up to $ 300 per child began to land in bank accounts alongside other COVID-related relief, child poverty has fallen to record levels.
In an October Census Bureau report, about half of the estimated 300,000 beneficiaries surveyed said they used the money for food – an indication that the tax credit was also helping to reduce hunger and food shortage. . Many beneficiaries also reported spending the funds on child care and school supplies.
Interviews with four families revealed other day-to-day expenses they used the funds for – from doctor’s appointments to car repairs – and the joys of a bit of a break for households that might otherwise live on cash. pays in paycheck.
Miaya and Thaddeus Bennett
Children: Thaddeus Jr., 4; and Bailey, 3
Monthly credit: $ 600
In 2019, months before the pandemic took hold, Miaya and Thaddeus Bennett, who are both 31, decided to pack their bags in Connecticut and move to Las Vegas to be closer to their family. Thaddeus quit his job as a supervisor in the call center of a bank where he had worked for over a decade. Miaya continued to work as a medical dispatcher from Las Vegas.
But in April 2020, Miaya Bennett was fired from her job and the couple suddenly found themselves living off unemployment checks for the first time in their lives. Miaya Bennett began studying for a real estate license, and her husband took part-time jobs to keep an income.
When the child tax credits arrived this summer, it was “a blessing and a relief,” she said.
For their two children, they received a total of $ 600 per month. The money helped pay for Thaddeus Jr.’s preschool, which costs around $ 200 per week for full-time care. “We’re not getting enough to put two kids in kindergarten, so right now it’s just my son,” his mother explained.
But being able to use the checks to pay for a child’s preschool has kept the couple paying for their children’s extracurricular activities – karate for Thaddeus Jr., ballet for Bailey.
“We consider ourselves lucky that we don’t have to say ‘no today’ to our children for simple things,” said Thaddeus Sr., who in May landed a full-time job with a mortgage company.
Children: Jaden, 18; Gavin, 15; Liam, 11 years old; and Mason, 10 years old
Monthly credit: $ 750
Last December, Kelly Bonner, 46, had only $ 50 left in her bank account after being fired in April from her job as a waitress. She and her children could only afford unhealthy meals, like ramen or processed foods. Some nights she did not eat at all so that there was enough food for her sons.
“The amount of food stamps we were getting, I could use up all that monthly allowance in a week,” she explained.
She did all she could to stretch her unemployment checks and food stamps as much as possible, but she still had very little money left. She dreaded having to tell her sons that they might not be able to celebrate Christmas.
It was only because a generous friend gave her extra money that she was able to pay rent in December and cook a Christmas dinner for her family.
“Every month it’s just like, how are we going to get by?” she said. Then, last summer, his car broke down. The doctor’s appointments and therapy for her youngest son, who suffers from autism and attention deficit disorder with mild hyperactivity, have become impossible to access.
When the first child tax credit check arrived in July – a total of $ 750 for three of her four boys – the timing couldn’t have been better, Bonner said. He went straight to the repair of his car, which cost $ 550. The other vouchers helped her buy healthier foods, such as fresh produce, for her sons. Over the summer, she took the boys for a swim in an indoor pool, which costs around $ 25 for all five of them. She could even afford to take 15-year-old Gavin to a Dropkick Murphys concert.
“It was a real luxury,” she said, “but then I built this memory with him, which is so special to me.”
And this year, she said, she will have the money to cook an even better Christmas dinner.
Eau Claire, Wisconsin
Blayne and Kayla Midthun
Children: Jonas, 12 years old; Stella and Nora, 10 years old
Monthly credit: $ 750
As owners of an ice cream parlor, Blayne and Kayla Midthun, who are both 38, expected seasonal ups and downs in their business, but not those presented to them during the pandemic. Like most other small business owners, they believed that closing their store, Ramone’s, during the early lockdown would be quick and temporary. “I remember thinking, OK, we’ll be back to business by our peak summer season,” said Blayne Midthun.
Instead, they had to apply for loans from the Paycheck Protection Program, adding to the debt their 4-year-old business had already accumulated. They have pivoted their business model from being primarily focused on in-store catering to relying more on take-out and delivery.
“We’ve literally never had an online store before,” said Kayla Midthun. “So I had to set that up, watch video tutorials online, take pictures of our products, with the kids running around. “
At the end of 2020, the glacier was making $ 100,000 less than in 2019. “It was a great success for us,” said Blayne Midthun.
He accepted a few side gigs, installing drywall and painting, to keep the money coming. In November, the couple took out another business loan. But since they also own a few properties in town that they rent out, they have remained financially stable with a bit of austerity. When they started receiving a $ 750 per month child tax credit for their three children, they reinvested the money directly into their business – to keep their operating expenses under control.
Maria Silva and Orlando Granillo
Children: Miguel, 15 years old; Elysie, 11 years old; Eileen, 9 years old; Evelyne, 6 years old; Orlando Jr., 3.5 years old; Emelia, 1.5, and one more on the way
Monthly credit: $ 1,650
A few months after the start of the pandemic, Maria Silva’s car was taken back.
His partner, Orlando Granillo, a barber, had lost his job in April 2020, and unemployment checks were barely enough to cover rent and food. They put electricity and internet bills on four different credit cards, racking up debt. “Every day we lived in fear that our water or gasoline would be cut off,” she said, so they just couldn’t keep paying for the car.
It was for them the lowest point of the pandemic. “It’s one of those things where you just don’t realize how lucky you are to have certain things, like a vehicle, until it’s gone,” Silva said.
Granillo, 37, finally returned to work in September 2020, which Silva, 40, said was scary due to the risk of exposure to COVID-19, but they needed the money. He used his mother’s car to get around.
The Child Tax Credit has helped the Granillos get back on their feet: it covers utilities, Silva said, and helps them pay off some of their credit card debt. It also allowed them to rent a used car.
Receiving the monthly payments has been “surreal and incredible,” she said.