To say that childcare is expensive is a gross understatement. It can easily cost thousands of dollars a month per child, which is a big reason why mothers opt out of the workforce. And after the unprecedented exit of mothers from the workforce that came along with the pandemic, it is clear something needs to be done.
Enter the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package designed to help America recover from the devastating economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Included in this plan is the largest Child Tax Credit to date for the most families ever and it is helping them survive.
The credit increased from $2,000 per child to $3,000 per child for children over the age of six, and from $2,000 to $3,600 for children under six, and the age limit was raised from 16 to 17. And guess what? Families can get up to half of the credit in advance monthly payments of $250 or $300 per child, as of July 15, through December 2021.
American households will get the full credit if they make up to $150,000 for a couple or $112,500 for a family with a single parent (also called Head of Household). You are eligible to receive advance Child Tax Credit payments even if you have $0 in income or have not recently filed a tax return. All you have to do is fill out the Non-Filer tool for Economic Impact Payments on IRS.gov. And if you have completed filed tax returns for 2019 or 2020, or if you signed up to receive a stimulus check from the Internal Revenue Service, payments should come to you automatically.
So if your kids are 17 and under, chances are good that you have received — or will receive — some cash from the federal government. And after over a year of unexpected hardships, the Child Tax Credit comes as a much-needed relief for families that have been struggling to get by.
David Watson, a single father of two, shared with Vox, “I was on my last $60 and wondering how to make it stretch for two weeks when I got a text message saying I got a deposit of $500 into my account. The Child Tax Credit came through. I can’t tell you how relieved I was.”
And Katie Strelk, married mother of two shared with AP News, “”Every little bit is going to help right now,” she said. “I’m paying for school out-of-pocket. I’m paying for the boys’ stuff. The cost of food and everything else has gone up. We’re just really thankful. The tide feels like it’s turning.”
NPR reports that Columbia University’s Center on Poverty and Social Policy estimated the American Rescue Plan could lift 5 million children out of poverty with the expanded child tax credit and other measures. But get this … not one Republican voted for the bill, and many on the right see this as a “socialist” agenda that will “bankrupt America.”
But the truth is that most parents aren’t using the funds to scam the system. They are simply covering the expenses that come with raising children in a society where people are being forced to choose between working and caring for their kids. And yet, some people think that the child tax credit is not fair, or discriminates against childless people. (Please give me a moment while I roll my eyes).
But frankly, the Child Tax Credit is not a handout or some way for low-income parents to get out of seeking work. This is a tax credit that families have been able to claim since the credit was established through the Taxpayer Relief Act enacted in 1997.
India Hatcher told CBS News, “I know some people will down it because they look at it as another handout. I don’t understand how that is possible since we are working adults, and I don’t know any parent in the world who couldn’t use another $250 for their child.”
In our current economic climate, so many families are struggling to survive. And making it possible for families to receive an advance on a tax credit resulting in $250 or $300 per child for the next six months is the least our government can do to help families get back on their feet. And anyone who thinks otherwise needs to check their privilege.
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