(CBS4) - Starting this summer, almost every family in Colorado will receive monthly checks of at least $250 for a year. You can thank Sen. Michael Bennet. A child tax credit bill Colorado's senior senator introduced 5 years ago was included in the American Recovery Act that President Biden just signed into law.
Single parents with incomes of up to $75,500 and married couples with incomes of up to $150,000 will receive a $3,600 tax credit per child for children under age 6 and a $3,000 tax credit for children 6 to 18 years old. The money will be paid out monthly and is expected to lift 57,000 kids in Colorado out of poverty and cut the national child poverty rate by nearly 50%.
Kelly Shanley is among those who will benefit most. She's a single mom with two kids who struggles to make ends meet.
"I want my kids to be able to have things as little as, you know, the extra money for us to get them the valentines for their classmates and the new pair of shoes when my son rips a hole in his," she said.
The only way to escape poverty, she says, is with a college degree.
"I cannot sustain, with my two kids, on minimum wage," Shanley explained.
But going to school full time instead of working full time has made her ineligible for the current child tax credit, which is tied to income tax. That made no sense to Bennet.
"Historically the poorest people didn't get the benefit because there was an attitude that said, 'Look you you have to show that you're working before you can get this,'" the Democrat said. "These people are working. They're working incredibly hard, they're just not paid any money."
Under his bill, Bennet says 90% of Colorado families will qualify for the tax credit including, and especially, the poorest. Shanley will begin receiving monthly checks of $550 as early as July.
"$550 as little as it might seem to some, that is my monthly budget," Shanley said.
While critics say the money will disincentive work, Bennet says it will do exactly the opposite.
"This is a pro-work bill because what it's going to enable people to do is pay for an unexpected expense or pay for a babysitter so they can stay at work," he said.
Shanley says it will make it possible for her to finish school and get her bachelor's degree.
"I want nothing more than to contribute to society and show my kids what's possible," she said.
Bennet says he introduced his bill after hearing story after story of hard working parents who just couldn't get ahead. While $100 billion a year -- the cost of the tax credits -- is a lot of money, he says, studies show children who grow up in poverty have lifelong impacts that cost far more.
Bennet says the child tax credits are his most important achievement in the U.S. Senate. They are approved for one year now, but Bennet hopes Congress will see the benefit and make them permanent.
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