An estimated 50,000 West Virginia children are once again living below the poverty line, since families received their last expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC) payment late last year.
The US bailout increased the CTC in 2021, with families receiving up to $3,600 for each child under age 6 and $3,000 for children ages 6 to 16, split into monthly payments.
Experts say most families used the extra money to buy food and pay bills, and save for emergencies.
Jim McKay, state coordinator for Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia, a program of TEAM for West Virginia Children, said financial stability has had a positive impact on children.
“There has been a 41% increase in child poverty in the state,” McKay reported. “It really helped so many kids in West Virginia get a taste of what it’s like to live without the burden of poverty.”
According to a report by Columbia University’s Center on Poverty and Social Policy, black and Latino children nationwide are more likely to fall back into poverty within months of the expanded CTC expiring.
McKay added that amid inflation and rising gas prices, the situation for low-income families could get worse. He pointed out that families and advocates are frustrated with the lack of action on the tax credit, so much so that a group of mothers from West Virginia traveled to DC last month with 500 bears in plush, in what they call the unbearable campaign.
“So the 500 teddy bears, each teddy bear represented 100 West Virginia children who were pushed back into poverty without the expansion of the child tax credit,” McKay explained.
In addition to increasing housing instability and hunger, many studies have shown that poverty increases stress and affects children’s development, learning and decision-making abilities.
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