The expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC)—a life-changing policy that provided most American families with monthly payments of up to $300 per child—expired this month because Senator Joe Manchin and every Republican in the Senate blocked the passage of the Build Back Better Act (BBB).
Today, January 14, families should have received another monthly CTC payment. Instead, because of the Senate’s failure, tens of millions of families must contend with the frightening impact of losing this essential cash benefit amid a still-worsening pandemic and the sharpest increase in cost of living in four decades.
“The CTC went away, but grocery prices haven’t gone down,” Stormy Johnson, a mother and student support specialist from West Virginia, told CBS News. “Now that I don’t have that payment, the reality of life is that there will be times I won’t eat to make sure my kids can.”
In the absence of monthly payments, which reached 61.3 million children in November, the unprecedented reduction in child poverty achieved by the CTC in 2021 will evaporate. Nearly 10 million children are at risk of slipping back below the poverty line or deeper into poverty, with poverty rates projected to rise disproportionately for Black, Latino, and Inidgenous children. For these children and their parents, the loss of the CTC means the loss of basic security and the peace of mind that comes with it.
For Kristen Olsen, an educator from West Virginia, the expanded Child Tax Credit meant being able to ensure her 4-year-old son “had food, a roof, electricity and heat” along with the ability to keep her job because she could now afford child care, she told WV News. She and her children can no longer rely on monthly CTC payments to help keep the lights on.
The urgency of extending the expanded Child Tax Credit through the Build Back Better Act cannot be overstated. The expanded CTC is the only provision in Build Back Better that can keep millions of children from sliding back into poverty in 2022. Families like Stormy’s and Kristen’s who relied on the expanded CTC deserve consistency, reliability, and the ability to provide for their kids. And their kids deserve the right to be kids, to experience a joyful childhood uninhibited by the material consequences of poverty.
The fight for the extension of the expanded Child Tax Credit is not over. In fact, I began this year renewing the call for the policy, with CDF board member and president of the Marguerite Casey Foundation, Dr. Carmen Rojas. The Children’s Defense Fund and our coalition partners will only speak louder and fight harder until the CTC’s opponents in the Senate recognize that a robust expanded Child Tax Credit is not a luxury but an absolute necessity.
For our children,
Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson
President & CEO
Children’s Defense Fund