WASHINGTON – Families in Arkansas received their last payments this week under the Child Tax Credit program, a Democrat-backed effort to expand federal assistance and give parents up to $ 300 per child on a monthly basis.
But that monthly payment is the last for parents in Arkansas and elsewhere in the country, unless other action is taken.
President Joe Biden’s broad social and environmental legislation includes an extension of the child tax credit, but the legislation faces stiffer opposition from Senate Republicans. Democrats have yet to garner enough support to get the package through the chamber.
Bruno Showers, senior policy analyst at the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, said direct payments help parents pay for things like food, utilities, rent and education expenses as the country continues to be plagued by the coronavirus pandemic.
“It really helps people make ends meet, especially the people who have suffered from it [covid-19] public health crisis and the resulting economic fallout, ”he said.
The children’s rights organization is pushing for Biden’s political bill, commonly known as the Build Back Better Act. The bill was passed by the House last month.
Arkansas children are being raised above the poverty line because of child tax credit payments, Showers said, and that money is spent in the local economy.
“For a lot of families, it will feel like having a carpet pulled out from under them when the payments stop,” he said. “I think some people might not expect it. They’re not necessarily listening.”
Columbia University’s Center on Poverty and Social Policy recently credited the Expanded Child Tax Credit with keeping 3.8 million children out of poverty in November.
This month, families in Arkansas received more than $ 160 million in payments under the program, with an average payment of $ 458, according to Treasury Department figures. The ministry reported that payments were made to 350,000 families with 602,000 children.
From July to December, parents in Arkansas received more than $ 925 million in payments under the program, the department reported.
The child tax credit was expanded earlier this year through the US bailout, which raised the age limit from 16 to 17 and increased the amount of the credit, according to the White House.
The monthly payments continued until the end of the year. But if Congress does not pass Biden’s social and climate legislation, there will be no monthly payments with the child tax credit, according to a spokesperson for the Treasury Department. Instead, the credit would come to $ 2,000 for each child and no monthly payment would be provided, the official said.
“If Congress passes the Build Back Better Act, the Treasury will commit to ensuring that families receive their first child tax credit payments as soon as possible,” the Treasury spokesperson said in a statement .
Biden’s social and climate package was passed by the House weeks ago, with the Arkansas all-Republican House delegation voting against the measure. Republicans have been fiercely critical of the Build Back Better Act, which includes a wide range of other political elements in addition to the child tax credit.
Republicans highlighted the surge in consumer prices by opposing the bill.
The Labor Department said the consumer price index jumped 6.8% for the year ending November, marking the largest 12-month increase in about four decades. The index measures the change in the prices of consumer goods and services.
Representative French Hill, R-Ark., Voted against Biden’s social and climate bill in the House and released a statement saying it was the Republicans who expanded the child tax credit to “reward the work and provide tax relief ”during the Trump presidency.
“Instead of the stand-alone approach, Democrats should work with Republicans to extend the extension of the program into 2017,” he said in a statement. He argued that there was opposition to making the monthly credit payments permanent.
Representative Bruce Westerman, R-Ark. Released a statement saying Democrats in Congress could have passed the child tax credit separately from Biden’s social and environmental bill. But associating the child tax credit with the Build Back Better law “doomed it to failure,” he argued.
“I’m in favor of a reasonable child tax credit, but what’s in the BBB expands the role of the federal government in ways I could never support,” he said in the press release.
Alexia Sikora, spokesperson for Representative Steve Womack, R-Ark., Said in a statement that Biden’s legislative package would ensure inflation and “sweeping government expansion.”