On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bipartisan tax package that included elements of the historic 2021 Child Tax Credit (CTC) expansion. The new Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act doesn’t include all of the improvements that were part of that expansion, but it is still an important step that will benefit approximately 16 million young people—including more than one in three Black and Brown children under 17.
The CTC was created in 1997 to help families meet everyday expenses raising children, and since then, it has eased economic pressure on many parents and caregivers and helped families afford groceries, clothes, school supplies, and other basics needed for children’s well-being. It was expanded in 2021 as part of the American Rescue Plan, reaching 35 million families—and approximately 90 percent of all children in the United States—who benefited from its immediate relief. Monthly payments—the hallmark of the 2021 expansion—ensured even greater economic security and flexibility for families, and the expansion helped child and youth poverty in the United States fall to the lowest rate on record. But Congress allowed the expansion to expire in 2022, and that rate skyrocketed back up to pre-pandemic levels.
When the expanded CTC was in place, research showed buying food was the most common use for the payments across all income levels, and the payments increased families’ ability to eat more fruit, protein, and balanced meals—but families with children reported a 25 percent increase in not having enough to eat after the expansion expired. A Children’s Defense Fund coalition parent advisory board member who works in social services described the CTC’s impact this way: “[For some families] it meant they could pay their utility bill, get a new pair of shoes for their children, and have enough food for their family. For my family it meant making it to the end of the month without having to [put] gas, groceries, or other needed items on a credit card. It meant I could avoid the constant circle of high interest payments to get our basic needs met.”
Now this new bill will make it easier for millions of children and young people to again get many of the things they need to thrive. Urge your Senators to pass the bipartisan tax package, and let your Members of Congress know they must now keep going towards a permanent, fully refundable, monthly CTC to keep families moving forward. Let’s stay on the right road!
Marian Wright Edelman is the current President of the Children’s Defense Fund.