Historic Child Tax Credit starts in July—up to $300 per child monthly
Rep. Barbara Lee (third from right) with Poor People's Campaign supporters. | Marilyn Bechtel / People's World

OAKLAND, Calif.—A new, historic provision of the American Rescue Plan will take effect next month, that could lift more than five million children across the U.S. out of poverty and cut child poverty in this country in half.

But for that to happen, word must reach the eligible families. To further that objective, the Biden administration declared Monday, June 21 a national Child Tax Credit Awareness Day—a time for legislators, community organizers, and families who will benefit from the program to come together and spread the word about how the new expanded Child Tax Credit will help eligible families.

Here in Oakland, U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., whose district encompasses this city and several surrounding communities, gathered with community leaders and members of area families for a press conference at the Unity Council in the Fruitvale neighborhood.

“In my district, California’s 13th Congressional District, 108,600 children are living in poverty,” Lee told reporters. “That’s a shame!”

Even before the pandemic, she said, some 140 million people in the U.S. were poor and low-income, “living each and every day about $400 or less away from financial ruin,” and millions more have joined them since the arrival of COVID-19.

“Like COVID, poverty is a public health crisis,” Lee said. “In the wealthiest and most powerful country on earth, hundreds of thousands of people die every year from poverty alone. This is a disgrace!”

Under the newly expanded Child Tax Credit, in mid-July eligible families will start receiving monthly payments of $300 for each child under six years of age, and $250 monthly payments for each child ages six through 17.

All working families will get the full credit if they make up to $150,000 for a couple or $112,500 for a single-parent family, and those who filed tax returns with the IRS for 2019 or 2020, or signed up to receive an Economic Impact stimulus payment from the IRS during the pandemic, will automatically be enrolled for the credit.

Parents who didn’t file tax returns in those years, and who didn’t sign up for Economic Impact payments can sign up at ChildTaxCredit.gov, Lee said. They will need to provide Social Security numbers for parents and children, a reliable email address, and a mailing address.

Though the expanded Child Tax Credit currently only applies to 2021, President Biden’s American Families Plan would continue it and other tax credit programs, and Lee urged press conference participants to support that legislation.

Lee said she knows many families in her district don’t have computers or access to broadband. She urged parents to contact her office for referrals to organizations in their neighborhoods that are ready to help and pointed to the Unity Council as one such resource.

“Experts say the Tax Credit could lift more than five million children out of poverty and cut childhood poverty in America in half,” she added. “But over three million children live in households that are at risk of missing out on payments. What you all are doing here today is pivotal to make sure all eligible families in the Bay Area and across California are receiving it.”

Nell Myhand of the California Poor People’s Campaign addresses the gathering. | Marilyn Bechtel / People’s World

Calling the expansion of the Child Tax Credit “long overdue,” Nell Myhand, a leader in the California Poor People’s Campaign, told reporters that poor women and families have demanded such an initiative “for a very long time,” from the Welfare Rights Movement to the Civil Rights Movement and the original Poor People’s Campaign Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., began shortly before his assassination in 1968.

“We know this is a marked change from the last four decades of the anti-poverty policies that have been in place in our nation, our economy, and our politics,” Myhand said, “with policymakers beginning to center on those who are affected by systemic racism, poverty, and other injustices.”

The California Poor People’s Campaign features the Child Tax Credit on its COVID Resource Access Guide, getcovidresources.org.

Among Poor People’s Campaign participants offering testimony about the importance of the tax credit was Sharon Lungo, “a single mother among many single parent families trying to survive on one income.” Saying economic instability is “one of the most stressful things about raising a family, especially under an economy that doesn’t value the labor of caring for children or other family members,” Lungo urged that the credit become permanent.

Lungo was joined by Annie Banks, who with her partner is raising “an almost-two-year-old.” Banks said that while she and her partner both work full-time jobs if they missed even one pay period, they would not be able to pay rent.

The fact that child poverty is three times higher for Black children than for white children shows the impact of systemic racism, Banks said, observing that ending the “forced impoverishment” of Black and Indigenous families and families of color is an essential part of eradicating white supremacy and systemic racism.

Julia Liou, chief deputy of administration at Asian Health Services, a community health center in Oakland’s Chinatown offering medical, dental, and behavioral health services in 10 Asian languages, said her organization is “very excited and thrilled” about the launch of the expanded Child Tax Credit because nearly a quarter of the children it serves are low income, and nearly all the families it serves should be receiving their automatic payments in mid-July. Liou said Asian Health Services looks forward to helping patients apply for the tax credit.

Thanking the Unity Council’s Chief Executive Officer Chris Iglesias for his “tremendous leadership,” Rep. Lee highlighted the Council’s role as “an institution in our community where people know they can come, they can rely on the staff, rely on the services, and get help” to navigate government systems at federal, state, county and city levels.

In addition to its importance as a step toward eliminating child poverty, Lee called the expanded Child Tax Credit “one part of our fight to make sure the structures in our country—the tax system, the systemic racism, and economic disparities that are embedded in our system—are cracked open and that we totally reform what we need to do in terms of our policies, to ensure that everyone has the quality of life that they so deserve in this country.”


CONTRIBUTOR

Marilyn Bechtel
Marilyn Bechtel

Marilyn Bechtel writes for People’s World from the San Francisco Bay Area. She joined the PW staff in 1986, and currently participates as a volunteer.

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