By Caitlin C. Schnur, Senior Federal Policy Associate, Heartland Alliance
January 13, 2022
All families deserve the safety and stability of being able to afford the basics for their kids. The enhanced Child Tax Credit (CTC), enacted through the American Rescue Plan, has meant that 36 million families across the country were receiving additional income support to do just that.
For the past six months, parents with children newborn to 17 years old, who qualified based on income, have had the opportunity to get a monthly CTC check to use how they see best. About 90 percent of children in the United States, including more than 2.3 million children in Illinois benefited. Overwhelmingly, families used these checks to pay for housing, food, and clothing.
As public policy, the CTC has slashed child poverty rates by 40 percent and improved racial disparities in child poverty. The monthly checks have eased the financial stress of the pandemic for millions of families and made it easier for families to budget. As K.M., the mother of an East Side, IL, family of five puts it, “These payments helped my husband and I make sure we could afford our monthly bills since the pandemic affected his job hours. The Child Tax Credit payments [ensured] that we had food, household goods, and a roof over our head.”
But as of January 15, 2022, there will be no more monthly checks to families. The enhanced CTC expired last month, and the Build Back Better Act—which would temporarily extend the CTC expansion and permanently make the credit available to families with low or no incomes—has stalled in the Senate. Families in Illinois and across the country, especially families of color and those with low incomes, will be left without this critical lifeline amidst surging COVID cases, rising inflation, and a still-shaky economy. And it hurts: “Families are struggling, especially through this pandemic,” says Kyrie Kenny-Sumrak, the mother of a Warrenville, IL, family of four. “By stopping the child tax credits, Congress is essentially telling their citizens, ‘We don’t care enough about you to help you.'”
Congress can and must take action by passing the Build Back Better Act now. Congress’ inaction so far is unacceptable: the monthly CTC checks are just too important for millions of families with kids who are struggling to make ends meet. We urge you to join Heartland Alliance and other advocates to call on Congress to pass the Build Back Better Act, and bring back the enhanced CTC and monthly checks.
Now is the time to let Congress know that, as Kyrie says, “If we want a thriving country, we need to better support families with young children. We matter. Our children matter. Our communities matter. The Child Tax Credit is the key to raising us all up.”