The IRS has notified millions of parents that they will soon receive monthly payments worth as much as $300 per child, and some have already made plans for the money.
Ally Rykiel of Chico, California, should receive $550 per month for her two kids, ages 5 and 11. She plans to spend it on school supplies, clothes and shoes they’ll need before school starts in the fall. The money will also help with taekwondo classes and swimming lessons that had previously been a burden.
Rykiel, 33, does the family’s taxes, so she was well aware that the child tax credit benefited her family even before Democrats dramatically expanded it as part of the American Rescue Plan. She’s glad to receive the money as advance monthly payments instead of a lump sum at tax time.
“When you get a lump sum, you don’t tend to spend it as intentionally,” she said. “With a monthly amount, you can budget it a little better.”
Democrats increased the value of the credit from $2,000 per child to $3,600, made it more refundable so families could get the full amount as cash, and told the IRS to pay the money in advance monthly installments through the rest of 2021.
The monthly payments are a huge undertaking that the IRS initially said might be impossible on such short notice, but the agency has now told the vast majority of parents to expect payments starting July 15 unless they opt out.
In recent years, more and more congressional Democrats have come around to the idea that the federal government should support parents and try to reduce child poverty with the kind of monthly payments that are typical in every other advanced country. After Congress responded to the coronavirus pandemic with two rounds of direct payments to almost everyone in America, Democrats seized the moment.
“I have to put it in [the budget] because there’s nothing else... We have been hit so hard with COVID.”
“I think they realized that, with the stimulus checks during the pandemic, that ‘People really like it when we help them,’” Rykiel said.
LaFleur Duncan, a 53-year-old mom in Brooklyn, New York, said she has no choice but to budget in the child tax credit to cover everyday expenses. She’ll be receiving $250 a month through December for her 13-year-old son.
Duncan was a nanny for 30 years in New York City, until the family she worked for moved away. Finding nannying jobs has been hard, she said, and unemployment insurance is only temporary. In the past year, her son and her husband both contracted COVID-19, and her husband lost his job. He has been brought back on, but only part-time.
“I have to put it in [the budget] because there’s nothing else,” Duncan said. “I have a 13-year-old I have to feed and he’s going to go into high school in September, and I have to budget to buy clothes for him. We have been hit so hard with COVID.”
“They grow out of their clothes so fast,” she said. “Transportation. There’s all this stuff we have to prepare for.”
If the government can reach America’s poorest families, the child tax credit will go a long way toward alleviating child poverty in the United States. If fully implemented, Democrats say, the tax credit would cut child poverty in half.
Democrats expanded the benefit for only one year in the American Rescue Plan. President Joe Biden, who originally supported making the benefit permanent, has proposed a four-year extension. The plan is to include the proposal in the second half of Democrats’ infrastructure push, which will address what they’re calling “human infrastructure,” such as child care and education.
The money hasn’t even hit Marla Snead’s bank account yet, and she’s already worried about what it will mean for her daughter when the benefit runs dry at the end of this year.
“I don’t understand why this isn’t going to be until the child is 18 instead of the end of the year.”
Snead, a 52-year-old single mother of a 14-year-old from Chesapeake, West Virginia, has been on Social Security Disability Insurance since 2008. She’s had two failed back surgeries and fought through a cancer diagnosis. There are days when she can’t walk. Excluding food, her expenses, like a car payment, rent, utilities, phone and internet, make up roughly three-quarters of the income she has from Social Security.
She hasn’t seen child support from her ex-husband in years.
“I don’t understand why this isn’t going to be until the child is 18 instead of the end of the year,” Snead said. “Every year as they get older, their needs become more.”
She’s budgeting the money from the tax credit exclusively for her daughter’s needs: food, school supplies, books, feminine products.
“Right now I can’t even literally afford a package of loose-leaf paper for her.”
And, Snead said, she’s hoping there will be a little left over for a treat here and there this summer.
“She loves that Korean K-pop group BTS,” Snead said. “They have a BTS McDonald’s meal right now, which is nothing but a chicken nugget meal, but it’s them and she wants that. But I don’t have McDonald’s money.”
HuffPost readers: Are you a parent already budgeting for the child tax credit? If you don’t file taxes, have you signed up for the child tax credit? Tell us about it ― email firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your phone number if you’re willing to be interviewed.