By Katherine Ungar, JD, Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio and Tina Coleman, Cuyahoga Job and Family Services
As a result of federal legislation that expanded the Child Tax Credit, nearly 90 percent of families with children are eligible to receive up to $3600 per child under 6 and $3000 per child 6-17 years of age. Research has shown that the expanded Child Tax Credit reduced child poverty and allowed families to meet their basic needs. Child Tax Credit dollars were used to purchase food, pay rent, and afford other household needs.
In the latter half of 2021, many families automatically received advance CTC payments in monthly installments of $300 or $250 respectively. However, only those families who filed taxes in 2020 or 2019 or filed for a stimulus payment received these payments automatically. Those families who aren’t required to file taxes because they make under certain amounts ($12,400 individual or $24,800 married filing jointly) had to sign up for the CTC using a simplified filing portal.
Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio and Cuyahoga Job and Family Services (CJFS) recognized the opportunity and need to raise awareness with families about the expanded CTC that they were entitled to. Based on research from other states demonstrating the success of text messages from trusted agencies, CJFS sent text messages to 60,300 Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients with children to let them know about the unique opportunity. Specifically, the message provided:
(“Cuyahoga Job and Family Services doesn’t want you to miss out on up to $300 per month, per child, through the new Child Tax Credit. You can sign up today, even if you don’t usually file taxes, or earn little or no money. Sign up by November 15th at GetCTC.org/CTCOH to get your credit this year.”)
These messages resulted in a large increase in number of visits to the GetCTC portal webpage, intakes started, and ultimately, returns accepted. We estimate that the first message sent on November 8th led to 238 submitted returns, of which 53 were accepted by the IRS. The second message sent on November 12 led to 148 submitted returns, of which 48 were accepted. As a result of this effort, over $500,000 flowed directly into the pockets of over 100 Cuyahoga County residents, many of whom may not have otherwise known about the money they were entitled to and were at risk of missing out on this money as a result.