Senators Manchin and Sinema need to vote for the Build Back Better Act

January 14, 2022

In 2021, the expanded monthly Child Tax Credit (CTC) drastically reduced child poverty, provided a buffer against rising costs, and dramatically improved the overall wellbeing of children in America. But that lifeline ended December 15th for more than 200,000 children in Maine and tens of millions of families across the country, because Congress failed to pass Build Back Better Act.

The Center on Poverty & Social Policy at Columbia University reported that the child tax credit reached 61.1 million children, lifting about 3.6 million kids out of poverty. A U.S. Census Bureau report found that most families were using the payments for necessities like food, rent and utilities.

“The relief parents have felt across the country from CTC is hard to understand if you haven’t had to scrape by month to month, knowing your children are missing out on everyday essentials that others take for granted. With incomes not reflecting inflation and not indexed so they would have increased over time, too many Mainers live on the edge. They need these funds to help them and their children,” said Solon Center for Research and Publishing President Ramona du Houx. “It’s Dickensian to have two Democratic US Senators hold up this essential lifeline for millions. They need to align their principals to their votes and ensure the Build Back Better Act passes.”

According to Maine Center for Economic Policy analysis, 45 percent of Maine families couldn’t afford an unexpected $400 expense in 2018 – and since the start of the pandemic the situation has worsened considerably, with nearly a third of U.S. households having trouble paying for normal expenses like mortgage payments.

Hundreds of economists agree: The expanded, monthly Child Tax Credit payments are working. Parents are encouraged to go back to work knowing that monthly payments are coming to help foot the bill for child care and prepare for the unexpected costs of an emergency — whether it’s a sick kid or the car breaking down.

If Congress had passed Build Back Better Act by Dec. 31, the CTC would have continued to be paid to families every month, and families would have continued receiving up to $1,600 per year more than they did before the American Rescue Plan Act became law.

Now Senate leaders and the White House are negotiating the details to try and reason with Sen. Joe Manchin (WV) and Sen. K. Sinema (AZ) who are members of the Democratic Party but are not embracing its principals.

“The CTC has been the best tool to lift children out of poverty since F.D.R.’s New Deal. Every child needs to be given a chance to grow up without want, without stretching pains in their stomachs because of hunger,” added du Houx.

The expanded monthly CTC put up to $3,600 more a year, per child, into the hands of nearly every family with children and brought more than an estimated $435 million to Maine families.

At more than $1,000 a month, on top of the expenses that everyone has, the costs of raising a child are staggering. Expanded monthly CTC payments have helped parents pay for daycare, diapers, and formula. Everyone should have the means to care for their families. The CTC ensures that our country’s economic recovery is felt by everyone, from working families struggling with basic needs like food, rent, and bills, to middle-class families that need help with child care and college savings.

The CTC also helps close the gap between white families and families of color, who have disproportionately borne the brunt of the pandemic.

Democrats in Congress and President Joe Biden expanded the Child Tax Credit and made it a monthly payment rather than an annual tax credit as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

The monthly payment gave parents up to $300 per child ages five and younger and up to $250 per child ages six to 17.Without the Build Back Better ACT, the CTC payment will drop to $2,000 and be paid once a year rather than monthly.

The CTC is now fully refundable, which means that for the first time, families whose incomes are too low to pay income tax are getting their payments. But people who do not file a tax return do need to apply separately, and they could miss out on thousands of dollars. (More data on why people may not file taxes and claim IRS benefits, and who is missing out on the expanded CTC.)

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