With no 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. As of July, she gets an extra $500 a month through an enhanced child tax credit for her two children, Violet, 14, and Tristan, 13, of whom she is a single parent.
That money helped the family make a living. Last year, they had to move due to a fire and Johnson had to get a new car after her engine blew up. With housing and vehicle costs on the rise, she now has $1,400 more in expenses per month than she did last year, she said.
“I had $50 left before the child tax credit, and that was just the house, the car, the insurance and the utilities,” she said. “That’s before I buy any food, pay for gas to work, or buy any toiletries.”
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If the payments end in January – as they are expected if Build Back Better doesn’t go through – then she will struggle to make ends meet each month.
“I’m going to do what I’ve done in the past – I don’t eat so my kids can,” Johnson said.
Other parents feel similarly about ending extended credit. Half of those receiving credit said it would be difficult to meet basic family needs without benefits, and 36% said they would no longer be able to meet those needs, according to a survey. Recent observations of FatherTogetherAction.
Since July, families with 61 million children have received advance payments for the child tax credit, which was expanded this year to $3,000 from $2,000 and an additional $600 for Children under 6 years old. The first half is transferred by monthly deposit.
The last payment of the year was made on December 15 and maybe 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 still needs to be passed by the Senate on December 28 so there is no money gap.
“Families that will be going through this holiday are very stressed about the future of these checks and the rising cost of living that is happening,” said Natalie Foster, co-founder and co-chair of the Economic Security Project. out around them.
The poorest children will lose
The credit has been a lifesaver for many families during the pandemic.
Melissa Boyles, 63, and her husband are currently raising their 16-year-old niece, Navaeh, of Clarksburg, West Virginia. Neither Bowles nor her husband will be able to work due to injury and illness and will instead be disabled.
They were not planning on raising a child at this point in their lives with a fixed income. The monthly payments helped a lot – in addition to using the money to eat more, Boyles was able to buy Navaeh an old dress to go to the school’s hometown dance this fall.
“That $250 means a lot,” Boyles said. She also pushed back against the idea of adding work requirements to benefits, something that has been suggested by Senator Joe Manchin, DW.Va..
“Why should my niece, or other people raising their grandchildren, be disqualified because we raised children and are no longer working or unable to work?” she speaks.
According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, without this credit, around 10 million children would fall into poverty or fall further into poverty. About 27 million children – mostly Black, Hispanic or from rural areas – will lose their benefits entirely if this benefit is no longer fully repaid, part of this year’s boost.
Households with the lowest incomes will be hardest hit. According to a study by the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy, if the credit were continued through 2022, the poorest 20% of families would see a 35% increase in income.
That’s important for working parents, but not all have been able to return to pre-pandemic jobs and income.
Amy Hanauer, executive director of the Institute for Economic Policy and Taxation.
Lafleur Duncan, 53, lost her job as a nanny during the pandemic and was unable to return. Now, she’s working to help people improve their credit, but has struggled to earn a steady income, she said. Her husband, a chef who works in a company building, still has to reduce his hours because of Covid.
Lafleur Duncan and her family. Tax credit payments to her son’s children will help pay for rent, school supplies, clothing, and medical expenses.
The $250 they received for her 14-year-old son went to new school clothes, medicine, and food. She also opened a bank account for her son and saved some money for him for college, she said.
“It’s blocking a huge hole and if they take it away it’s going to hurt us a lot,” Duncan said.
Of course, Congress could still pass Build Back Better and extend the payments by a year. But if that action doesn’t happen by December 28, families could see holes in their payments or receive checks later than usual in January.
Even more stable households worry about the benefits being lost. Stefanie Cuene, 45, lives with her two children, ages 7 and 10, in Scottsdale, Arizona. Cuene, who works in media, doesn’t necessarily rely on monthly payments, she said, but still uses the money for her children.
She is happy to have a safety net. Cuene got divorced in 2019 and now lives only on her income. In addition, she has been laid off twice during the pandemic, and her period of unemployment has eroded her savings.
“It made me realize that when things are going well, it can quickly get to the point where the debt builds up and I can’t support the kids anymore,” she said, adding that the money would come monthly. to create stability for her family.
Marla Snead (right), with daughters Kelsie Dillard (left) and Carlee Turner.
Ending benefits will mean some families lose the stability they’ve had over the past six months.
The $250 that Marla Snead, 52, received for her 14-year-old daughter, Carlee, was a godsend, she said. Snead, who lives in Chesapeake, West Virginia, said she used the money on necessities like food, clothing and school supplies, as well as birthday and Christmas gifts.
“I’m really worried,” Snead said of the potentially disappearing payments. “I was able to give her what she needed and deserved. I don’t want that to go away.”
Snead is also battling cancer and living off Social Security benefits.
“I didn’t want to have to look her in the eye and say no when she needed anything,” Snead said.
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