Without the Child Tax Credit, Stormy Johnson worries about having enough to eat.
Johnson, 44, works as a Student Support Specialist at Preston County Schools in Kingwood, West Virginia. Since July, she has received an additional $ 500 each month thanks to the enhanced child tax credit for her two children, Violet, 14, and Tristan, 13, of whom she is the only parent.
This money helped the family stay afloat. In the past year, they had to relocate due to a fire, and Johnson had to buy a new car after his engine blew up. With the rising costs of housing and vehicles, she now has $ 1,400 more in spending each month than she had to pay last year, she said.
“I have $ 50 left before the child tax credit, and it’s fair with my house, my car payment, my insurance and necessary utilities,” she said. “That’s before buying food, paying gas for work, or having toiletries.”
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If payments stop in January – as expected if Build Better isn’t passed – she will struggle to make ends meet every month.
“I’ll do what I’ve done in the past – I don’t eat so my kids can,” Johnson said.
Other parents feel the same about the end of extended credit. Half of those with the credit said it would be more difficult to meet their family’s basic needs without the allowance, and 36% said they would no longer be able to meet those needs, according to a recent ParentsTogetherAction survey.
As of July, families with 61 million children have been receiving advance payments on the Child Tax Credit, which this year was extended to $ 3,000, from $ 2,000, with an additional $ 600 for children under 6 years. The first half was paid in the form of monthly deposits.
The last payment of the year was made on December 15 and could be the last check. Democrats have included a one-year extension of benefits in the Build Back Better plan passed by the House, but the legislation has yet to be passed by the Senate by December 28 so there is no gap in money.
“Families are going to spend this vacation very stressed by the future of these vouchers and the rising cost of living happening around them,” said Natalie Foster, Co-Founder and Co-Chair of Economic Security Project.
The poorest children will lose
Credit has been a lifeline for many families during the pandemic.
Melissa Boyles, 63, and her husband are currently raising their 16-year-old granddaughter, Navaeh, in Clarksburg, West Virginia. Neither Bowles nor her husband can work due to injury or illness and instead perceive a disability.
They had not planned to raise a child at this point in their life on a fixed income. The monthly payments were a big help – in addition to using the money for extra food, Boyles was able to buy Navaeh a second-hand dress to go to his school’s prom this fall. .
“That $ 250 means a lot,” Boyles said. She also pushed back on the idea of adding work requirements to the benefit, something that was proposed by Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va ..
“Why should my granddaughter or other people who are raising their grandchildren be excluded because we have raised our children and we no longer work or cannot work? ” she said.
Without this credit, some 10 million children will fall into poverty or even more into poverty, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. About 27 million children – mostly black, Latino or from rural areas – will lose the benefit entirely if it is no longer fully reimbursable, which is part of this year’s improvement.
The most modest households will be the most affected. If the credit were maintained until 2022, the poorest 20% of families would have seen their income increase by 35%, according to a study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy
This is important for working parents but not all of them were able to regain their pre-pandemic jobs and income.
“We’ve had a lot of job creation this year, but we’ve got this economy that’s taken a huge hit, and there’s still a lot of people out of work and there’s still a lot of disruption,” said Amy Hanauer, Executive Director of the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy.
Lafleur Duncan, 53, lost her nanny job during the pandemic and was unable to return. Now, she helps people improve their credit, but struggles to earn a stable income, she said. Her husband, a chef who works in a corporate building, still works reduced hours because of Covid.
Lafleur Duncan and his family. Her son’s child tax credit payments will help pay for rent, school supplies, clothing and medical expenses.
The $ 250 they received for her 14-year-old son was used to buy new school clothes, medicine and food. She also opened a bank account for her son and saved some of the money for him for college, she said.
“It was blocking a big hole and if they take it out it’s going to hurt us a lot,” Duncan said.
End of stability
Of course, Congress could still adopt Build Back Better and extend the payments for a year. But if that action doesn’t happen until Dec. 28, families could see a discrepancy in payments or receive checks later than usual in January.
Even households on more stable bases fear that the benefits will disappear. Stefanie Cuene, 45, lives with her two children, ages 7 and 10, in Scottsdale, Arizona. Cuene, who works in communications, doesn’t necessarily rely on payments every month, she said, but still uses the money for her children.
She’s happy to have a safety net. Cuene divorced in 2019 and therefore only lives on her income. In addition, she was laid off twice during the pandemic, and periods of unemployment have eroded her savings.
“It made me realize how quickly it can go from everything is fine to being in debt and not being able to support my children anymore,” she said, adding that knowing that money arrives each month ensures the stability of his family.
Marla Snead (right), with daughters Kelsie Dillard (left) and Carlee Turner.
Ending the benefit will mean that some families will lose the stability they have gained over the past six months.
The $ 250 that Marla Snead, 52, received for her 14-year-old daughter, Carlee, was a godsend, she said. She used the money for necessities such as food, clothing and school supplies, as well as birthday and Christmas gifts, said Snead, who lives in Chesapeake, West Virginia.
“It literally makes me anxious,” Snead said of the payments that might go. “I was able to give her the things she needs and deserves. I don’t want this to go away.”
Snead also fights cancer and lives off Social Security benefits.
“I don’t want to have to look her in the eye and say no to her when she needs anything,” Snead said.
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