As you may know, the American Rescue Plan dramatically expanded the Child Tax Credit (CTC) to a maximum of $3,600 per child under 6 and $3,000 per child up to age 17. The credit is being issued in installments of up to $300 per month. The first checks were distributed automatically by direct deposit beginning on July 15 to those who filed income tax returns in 2019 and 2020.
The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities estimates 4 million children are in danger of missing out. Unfortunately, the current expansion of the credit only lasts through the 2021 tax year, unless it is extended again (hopefully) by Congress. Time is of the essence to ensure poor children can benefit from one of the biggest policy changes since the Great Society.
This expansion of the CTC has the potential to reduce child poverty in the United States by over 50%. Early rounds have already made a huge difference. According to the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University, between June and July, the monthly child poverty rate fell from 15.8% to 11.9%.
Children who are likely to miss this opportunity are the roughly 2.3 million who don’t appear on an existing tax return but have health coverage of some kind; the 1.6 million new births expected during 2021; and uninsured children who don’t appear on a parent’s existing tax return. For low-income families who don’t usually even file a tax return, or who don’t have a permanent address or even a job – they can still sign up by October 15 to get advance CTC payments at https://www.irs.gov/credits-deductions/child-tax-credit-non-filer-sign-up-tool.
Community Health Centers have a unique role as trusted messengers in the communities they serve. By using existing outreach and enrollment workers, enabling services teams, case managers, or front office staff, health centers can reach out to families who may not even know about the CTC. Just think about the impact on a family with 2 or 3 young children and how that $600-900/month can make a difference!
The Children’s Defense Fund has released specific resources available to you and your health center, including a number of FAQs that address questions such as how the CTC impacts other benefit programs such as Medicaid and SNAP (it doesn’t – CTC is not counted as income.) See https://www.childrensdefense.org/child-tax-credit-resources/ for more information.
Joe Kennedy is a former Congressman from Massachusetts, a senior advisor to NACHC and the founder of the Groundwork Project, an organization that aims to address disparities in the American political system.