The families of some 61 million children could see theirend after next week if Congress does not move quickly. The Build Back Better Act, which passed in the House, includes a of the monthly payments, but the legislation still faces hurdles in the Senate.
The IRS has told some lawmakers the bill needs to pass by December 28 for payments to continue smoothly heading into January, according to Senate and House congressional aides. Monthly payments so far have been distributed on or around the 15th of each month, meaning the January 15 payment could be in jeopardy.
Eligible families will receive their sixth and final monthly payment as part of the American Rescue Plan on December 15. The payments — $300 per child under six and $250 per child ages 6 to 17 — started in July. Now Democratic lawmakers are racing to keep them going.
"I'm very concerned. Disruption is the right word, and families have been relying on this to pay the rent, to buy groceries, to pay for a few hours of daycare so they can stay at work," said Senator Michael Bennet, who has been a champion of the extended monthly payments. "We should be fighting very hard not to disrupt it at the end of the year."
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday that voting on the president's roughly $2 trillion social spending agenda, including the extended Child Tax Credit payments, is still on track for before Christmas.
"Families need to know that critical programs like the Child Tax Credit will continue uninterrupted," he said Monday. "This program has already done immense good for millions upon millions of families."
The American Rescue Plan not only expanded the tax credit and broke it down into monthly payments, it also made the Child Tax Credit fully refundable, meaning families too poor to qualify for the benefit in the past have been able participate. The Build Back Better Act would make that full refundability permanent.
The monthly payments have been credited with reducing the number of children in poverty in the U.S. by more than 40% – which would be wiped out without an extension, the progressive Center on Budget and Policy Priorities warned.
Before the payments, families of 27 million children, including roughly half of Black and Latino children and those in rural communities, received less than the full credit amount received by higher-income children.
An estimated 9.9 million children are at risk of slipping back below the poverty line if the expansion isn't extended, the CBPP found. That includes 3.8 million Latino, 2.9 million White, 2.1 million Black, 426,000 Asian and 280,000 American Indian children.
More broadly, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said Wednesday that it is time for the Senate to act on the Build Back Better package to meet the Christmas deadline.
"We need to get Build Back Better done," Warren said. "We have talked and talked and talked and talked. It's not as if we need to talk some more to figure out what this bill is about and what it does. People need the help."
But Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia pushed back this week on the process being used to pass the legislation. He also said he cannot say whether he supports the bill yet, having not seen the final text.
"I've never seen a situation where we weren't able to make up whatever you thought time would be lost," Manchin said Wednesday on the urgency surrounding the child tax credit. "I'm just saying whatever happens, it shouldn't be made on the timeliness. You should get the bill right."
However, the White House and House Democrats are urging their Senate counterparts to pass the social spending package quickly.
"Absolutely, we're concerned as should millions of Americans be," said White House press secretary Jen Psaki of the extension Monday, noting it's part of the president's domestic policy agenda.
House members passed the president's social spending agenda along near party lines just before Thanksgiving. However, Democrats face an even tighter challenge in the Senate. They need all 50 Democrats to vote for the legislation for it to pass – with Vice President Kamala Harris casting a tie-breaking vote.
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