Build Back Better Impasse Jeopardizes Child Tax Credit Benefits

December 17, 2021 by Reece Nations
Build Back Better Impasse Jeopardizes Child Tax Credit Benefits
Rajni Shankar-Brown

SAN ANTONIO — Although the last Child Tax Credit payments were issued on Wednesday, social justice scholars like Rajni Shankar-Brown of Stetson University believe the program’s benefits far outweigh its costs.

The Child Tax Credit was expanded earlier this year by the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act in March and issued tax credits to families consisting of $3,000 per child annually under the age of 18 and $3,600 per child annually under the age of six. Although the passage of the Build Back Better Act in the House set the stage to extend the program into next year, it has since been obstructed by Sen. Joe Manchin, D- W.Va., over his concerns regarding the costs of further implementing the Child Tax Credit.

Consequently, the full passage of President Joe Biden’s signature spending bill has been postponed until at least next year as lawmakers now aim to pass a number of other legislative priorities. But this hasn’t stopped the discussion surrounding the Child Tax Credit and the numerous benefits that could be left on the table should the proposal fail.

“It is an extremely challenging time for millions of families and individuals across the landscape of the United States, and our children and youth are being most adversely impacted,” Shankar-Brown told The Well News. “Black and Brown communities are disproportionately being impacted, and it is going to be extremely hard because families have needed that extra support and have been able to use it in ways to truly support meeting basic human rights and needs — from rent and utilities to public health kinds of measures that they need, [including] food security.”

Families making up to $150,000 between two parents and single-parent families making up to $112,500 have been automatically receiving monthly payments of $250 or $300 per child since July. Losing those payments presents a number of difficult challenges to adjust to, Shankar-Brown said.

The benefits apply to more than 60 million eligible children, and 30% of the families have used those payments to cover school expenses while 25% of families with young children used them to pay for child care costs, according to the United States Census Bureau.

Although the current version of the Build Back Better Act in the Senate extends the program through next year, Shankar-Brown said it is entirely feasible to extend the credit permanently should lawmakers prioritize it. In addition to being a professor and Jessie Ball duPont Endowed Chair of Social Justice Education at Stetson, Shankar-Ball serves as vice president of the National Coalition for the Homeless. She asserts that the program has limitless benefits for low-income families who face the brink of homelessness.

“[The National Coalition for the Homeless has] actually been part of the Build Back Better legislation,” Shankar-Brown told The Well News. “And we are actively pushing calls of action across the landscape now to help push this forward. … [If] we don’t act with urgency and compassion, millions of children and youth are especially going to be adversely impacted.”

Results from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey published in August indicated that the issuance of Child Tax Credit payments coincided with a nationwide decrease in food insufficiency in households with children. Households saw a 3% decline between surveys conducted before and after Child Tax Credit payments began circulating.

While the bill’s price tag has fluctuated since its introduction, it now sits at roughly $1.75 trillion and would add $158 billion to the federal deficit over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office. But Shankar-Brown told The Well News that cost is negligible in comparison to the human costs of failing to act swiftly in the face of prolonged pandemic struggles and long-standing systemic difficulties experienced in communities of color.

“Is the Child Tax Credit an expense? Yes, of course,” Shankar-Brown said. “However, I would argue that millions of our children living in extreme poverty in one of the wealthiest nations in the world is completely unacceptable. … [When] we think about cost, there is a significant cost if we are not supporting and investing in our children.”

Reece can be reached at [email protected]

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