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Latest Child Tax Credit payment delayed for some parents

Inflation impatcing middle-income families
Inflation impatcing middle-income families 08:19

Some U.S. parents eagerly expecting their third enhanced Child Tax Credit payment last week say they experienced a delay in getting the money as expected. Some families said they eventually received payment — but for a fraction of the amount they were supposed to receive.

The IRS said the emergency relief, which Congress approved earlier this year as a way to help millions of households suffering the economic effects of the pandemic, was sent September 15 to about 35 million families. Some people may receive the checks through the mail, which could take several days to weeks to arrive in mailboxes, or get a direct deposit to their bank account in a few days. 

But delay worried some parents who had previously received payments as scheduled in July and August but said they didn't get the September 15 installment as expected. More than two dozen parents contacted CBS MoneyWatch to flag the delay.

"I looked at it as reliable — and it should be as reliable as my dad getting a Social Security check every month," said Tacey Harp, 38, a home phlebotomist in Banks, Oregon, who was expecting $500 to land in her account this week for her two children, who are 12 and 14. "I set up bills and orchestrated my budget around expecting that money."

Under the program, parents of eligible children under 6 receive $300 per child each month, while those with children between 6 and 17 get $250 per child.

Reduced CTC payments?

Some parents reached out to CBS MoneyWatch late last week to say they had received payment, but that the money arrived more than a week after they had expected it, and was only a portion of the amount they had anticipated. For instance, one parent who expected $500 received $313 instead. 

The IRS said checks were delayed for some taxpayers "who recently made an update on their bank account or address on the IRS Child Tax Credit Update Portal and affected payments to married filing jointly taxpayers where only one spouse made a bank or address change."

As for the checks that were smaller than expected, the IRS said there could be a number of reasons for the differences. 

"If only one spouse changed an address or bank account, the other spouse's half could be going to the old address or bank account," the IRS said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch. "In these instances the full payment will still be distributed. Monthly payment amounts can also change depending on recently processed tax returns."

Taxpayers should continue to check the CTC Update Portal for the latest payment information, the IRS advised.

"Really frustrating"

Harp said she bought her daughter shoes last weekend and took her son to see a movie, partly because she and her husband expected to have the extra cash from the CTC payment to help with their budget. But the payment didn't arrive yesterday as anticipated. 

"Now my bank is overdrawn," she told CBS MoneyWatch. "It's really frustrating."

In August, the IRS flagged a "technical issue" that caused about 15% of recipients who had received their CTC money via direct deposit in July to instead receive paper checks in August. Paper checks typically take longer for parents to receive given that the mail system can require days to weeks for delivery.

The September delay isn't likely to turn into a major glitch, said Jackson Hewitt chief tax information officer Mark Steber. He recommended that parents continue to check their bank accounts because it can take a day or two for the money to land. They can also check the Child Tax Credit Update Portal to ensure their information is correct, such as their bank account data. 

Biden and Harris on Child Tax Credit payments... 15:55

Chris Walker, 37, a journalist in Madison, Wisconsin, told CBS MoneyWatch he was expecting a $250 Child Tax Credit payment (for his 13-year-old son) to land in his account by direct deposit on September 15. A day later, with no evidence of a direct deposit, he said he called the IRS for information and was told it was possible it could be a glitch. That glitch could take up to five business days to get corrected, Walker said he was told, noting that a delay in getting the funds would "make it a little tighter around the household."

Reduction in child poverty

The latest payment marks the halfway point of the direct cash assistance, with three monthly payments remaining under the plan signed into law by President Joe Biden through the American Rescue Plan. While the CTC isn't a new tax credit, the American Rescue Plan expanded it to include more low-income tax payers, while also paying half the credit through six monthly checks. 

The IRS has faced delays disbursing some COVID-19 relief funds, as well as making sure that all eligible people receive the payments. Earlier this year, millions of Social Security recipients were slow to get a third federal stimulus check, for example.

So far, the monthly CTC checks are helping to reduce poverty and hunger among families with children, experts say. For instance, the share of family households with children that sometimes or often didn't have enough to eat dropped to 8.4% from 11% after the first check arrived, according to an analysis of Census data by the Senate Joint Economic Committee. Food and educational expenses ranked among the top uses of the checks, with 7 in 10 families putting the funds toward goods, services or paying down debt, the JEC report found.

Some Democratic lawmakers are pushing to extend the CTC program through 2025, although it remains unclear if that effort will succeed. Some advocates would like the expanded aid to become a permanent feature of the tax code, citing its effectiveness in reducing child poverty. 

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