Only a little over a week before Christmas, thirty-six million American parents were in line to receive direct cash payments via the enhanced child tax credit on Wednesday.
But there is fear growing among these parents who have come to rely on the monthly funds that the money will come to a screeching halt unless Congress can come together and quickly pass the Build Back Better legislation, which includes a one-year extension of the popular direct payments.
If the bill does not pass, then maximum child tax credit would sink by $1,000 per school-aged child and $1,600 per child under six. Furthermore, millions of the nation’s lowest-income families would become ineligible for the credits once again.
“Parents are heading into the new year with no idea whether they’ll be able to put food on the table for their children, keep their babies in clean diapers, or pay rent to keep a roof over their family’s heads,” Patricia Cole, the senior director of federal policy at the child advocacy group Zero to Three, told NBC News.
Credits Are ‘Essential’
Currently, the Build Back Better legislation faces tough opposition from Democratic West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who has taken issue with the high cost of the safety net enhancements. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, during her weekly news conference, claimed that the child tax credits are “essential.”
When asked if there could be a separate bill that would extend the credits immediately, she responded by saying that is not currently an option and added that “whether we could pass it in the Senate remains to be seen.”
“But I don’t want to let anybody off the hook on BBB (Build Back Better) to say, ‘Well, we covered that one thing,’ so now the pressure is off,” Pelosi said.
“I think that that is really important leverage in a discussion on BBB that the children and their families suffer without that payment,” she continued.
Millions of Children in Danger
If an extension isn’t granted to the credits, then the consequences would likely take direct aim at the nation’s poorest children. One analysis released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has revealed that nearly ten million children could potentially fall back into poverty without an extension of the enhanced credits.
“The enhanced tax credit has enabled parents across the country to pay for food, clothing, housing, and other basic necessities and is expected to lower the number of children experiencing poverty by more than 40 percent as compared to child poverty levels in the absence of the expansion,” the think tank says in the report.
“But Congress must pass the Build Back Better bill to maintain this progress. If Congress fails to act, monthly child tax credit payments will not be made on January 15, and many families will struggle to make ends meet,” it continues.
In addition, according to a survey conducted by the nonprofit ParentsTogether Action, 36 percent of the respondents admitted that they will no longer be able to meet their family’s basic needs if the child tax credit payments stopped after this month.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.