Monthly child tax credit payments have stopped. But families who file their tax returns can still get the rest of the credit, officials say.
Katrena Ross started receiving $300 a month last July as part of the expanded monthly child tax credit payments. The Michigan mother of three, including a son with autism, used the money to pay for gas to drive her children to school and to feed them healthier food.
"To a lot of people it doesn't seem like a lot, but when you're already living paycheck to the week before paycheck, $300 – it helps," Ross said. But in January, those payments stopped.
"I'm back to looking at the bills and seeing what I can push around to be able to get groceries for the house and making sure that all of the bills are paid still and on time so nothing gets turned off."
Ross is one of more than 35 million families who had been receiving the monthly payments as part of the American Rescue Plan in the second half of 2021. The payments expired at the end of last year.
How to get the second half of the 2021 Child Tax Credit
As lawmakers in Washington grapple over extending those payments, officials are urging parents to file their tax return so they can get the other six months' worth of the credit. For Ross, the second half of that credit is $1,800 in her refund.
In previous years, some families did not qualify for the Child Tax Credit because they did not make enough money to file taxes. But under the American Rescue Plan, the credit was made fully refundable, meaning even families not required to pay taxes can still get money back this year.
"If you are eligible for the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, we want you to get those credits — and you know why: Working families deserve a break," Vice President Kamala Harris said during an event Tuesday highlighting the expanded credit.
Families who received monthly payments in the second half of last year can still get up to $1,800 for children younger than 6 and $1,500 for children ages 6 to 17 as part of their refund. Those who did not receive monthly payments can receive the full amount – up to $3,600 for those under 6 or $3,000 for kids 6-17. Eligible families who had a baby last year can also receive the money in their refund.
"Right now, the best way – really the only way – to get people this money is for them to file their taxes," said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen at the event, noting when it comes to delivering the refunds, "we're talking about some of the hardest-to-reach people in this country, people to whom the government has far too often been blind."
What families can expect next year
The future of the expanded monthly child tax credit payments remains in limbo. The one-year extension included in President Biden's Build Back Better agenda is stalled in Congress.
The monthly payments allowed Pennsylvania mom Carrie Miller to pay for child care while she works as a family therapist. Now that they've stopped, she has to adjust her work schedule.
"If you are a working mom, you have to try to fit your work hours into a normal workday, but if you work with kids outside of school hours, then you're kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place," Miller said. While Miller will be able to receive the second half of last year's credit with tax filing season, she said it's not the same.
"Monthly payments were much better because I need that money to pay for a nanny," Miller said.
While Democrats in Washington who support the provision said Tuesday they're not giving up on making the monthly payments permanent, support even among Senate Democrats has not been unanimous.
Senator Joe Manchin has raised concerns over the eligibility thresholds and work requirements. On the halted Build Back Better legislation, he has said lawmakers need to start from scratch.
Democrats in support of extending the monthly Child Tax Credit payments on Tuesday pushed back on the idea of work requirements, but said they continue to engage with Manchin.
"We're not throwing in the towel on this. We're going to keep going," said Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut.
If the increased credits are not made permanent, the child tax credit would revert back to $2,000 included in the 2017 tax law and the lowest-income families would not be eligible again in future tax years, as was the case before the passage of the American Rescue Plan.
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