Beginning in July, RoDena Lloyd’s five children were lifted out of poverty thanks to the Biden administration’s expansion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC), which provided cash injections to families across America.
But at the end of December, the CTC expired and Congress has yet to extend it.
By the end of January, 3.7 million American children had been pushed back into poverty, according to a recently published study. Columbia University report.
Lloyd, a home health aide who lives with her children, ages 4 to 11, and her disabled husband, Adrien Sr., in Morton, Delaware County, said they fell under the strain again. poverty line – about $42,000 for a family of seven. : “The money is gone, and now there is a big hole.”
With the stipend, which was about $250 to $300 a month for each of the children, Lloyd, 34, was able to buy more nutritious food, pay for the older children to play sports and get all the new shoes.
Since the flow of money stopped, however, Lloyd said she began looting the savings accounts she set up for the children to pay their bills.
“We were getting out of a bad place,” she said, “and now we’re back in there.”
The Biden administration had anticipated that the expanded CTC would be so popular that Congress would automatically renew it for 2022 and beyond.
That it didn’t happen “is a tragedy, a self-inflicted wound,” said Indivar Dutta-Gupta, director of the Georgetown University Center on Poverty and Inequality.
During his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Biden referenced the CTC when listing his goals for the nation: “Let’s raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and extend the tax credit for children, so that no one has to raise a family in poverty.
Between July and December 2021, the Internal Revenue Service issued monthly CTC payments at an annual rate of $3,000 per child ages 6 to 17 and $3,600 per child under age 6, reaching over 61 million children, according to the Columbia report.
“It was a historic achievement,” said Deborah Weinstein, executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs, a Washington-based nonprofit that helps low-income Americans. “It’s almost unthinkable that we’re pushing them back into poverty, but that’s what happened.”
According to Columbia, the monthly child poverty rate rose 41%, from 12.1% in December to 17% in January, the highest rate since the end of 2020.
One in four black children in the United States lived with a monthly income below the monthly poverty line in January, an increase of more than 600,000 black children from the previous month and a 30% increase.
Latino children, 1.3 million of whom fell into child poverty during this period, saw a 43% increase.
The expiration of the CTC almost immediately increased poverty in households with children proves that “keeping children in poverty is a political choice”, said University of Pennsylvania sociologist Pilar Gonalons-Pons, a specialist in families. “We have tools to support families with children living in poverty.
“When we use these tools, the harmful experience of child poverty can be corrected. When we don’t, we let it continue.
Much of the damage inflicted by poverty is endless stress, which cripples future health and well-being, said Janet Chrzan, a nutritional anthropologist at the Penn School of Nursing.
One of the main stressors is food insecurity. While many low-income parents go hungry to allow their children to eat, Chrzan said, “the children see what is happening. And seeing their parents starve themselves actually causes stress in children, even if they eat.
“This stress will affect children’s health, income and life into adulthood.”
It’s important to remember that helping people in poverty benefits the whole country, said Ashley Putnam, director of the economic growth and mobility project for the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
Programs that alleviate poverty, she said, are investments in the future of our economy: “It’s about our businesses, our region, our collective growth.
Opponents of the CLC expansion, including West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, as well as many Republicans, say providing money to families would serve to thwart anti-poverty efforts by persuading people not to work and simply to collect public funds. They called for attaching work requirements to any stipend program, which helped prevent the extension of the CTC.
In a widely recognized study last fall, Columbia University found that “enhanced CTC had no negative impact on parental labor force participation.”
Although the CTC’s expansion was short-lived, it was worth it, said Dutta-Gupta: “Even a short period of poverty hurts a lot, so we have made a significant investment in the future of our country, even if it was for six months.
“Delaying difficulties is valuable.”
And, say proponents, it’s worth remembering that the CLC was meant to be a one-year program. Since many people, like the Lloyd family, started receiving benefits in July, they still owe six months of money, said Kathy Fisher, director of government affairs at hunger relief agency Philabundance.
But there are two conditions. First, the money will only be paid out to people who file their 2021 tax returns this year. This could be a problem because many low-income people never file returns, often because they don’t earn enough. People who didn’t file last year got a break they won’t get in 2022.
Second, even if people file their tax returns, the CTC will not be mailed to them in monthly installments as was the case last year. Instead, the money will come in a lump sum, making it harder to pay monthly bills.
In the end, said Latonya Brandon, 46, of Camden, a cosmetologist who watched her three grandchildren escape and then fall back into poverty as CTC payments stopped, people were grateful for “that little nudge”.
But, she added, “When it goes, it’s messed up. It’s almost as if you have rice and broccoli in front of you, someone tears the rice away.
“These are difficult times for everyone. We are just working to move forward.