By Congressman James E. Clyburn (D-SC), House Majority Whip
Persistent poverty is a scourge on our nation. The Covid-19 pandemic exposed the struggle those living in poverty face every day, and their plight was exacerbated by the economic impacts of the virus.
It has been my mission since coming to Congress to do everything I can to address persistent poverty. Those efforts often feel a little like the Greek myth of Sisyphus, who kept rolling the rock up the mountain only to have it roll back down when he approached the top.
This month, we are again making progress on one significant front in the fight against poverty. American families will begin receiving monthly Child Tax Credit checks on July 15; thanks to an expansion of the popular program in the American Rescue Plan (ARP), that was signed into law by President Biden in March with only Democratic support. The Center for Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University projects that this provision will cut the child poverty rate in half this year.
Previously the Child Tax Credit was capped at $2,000 and not fully available to the lowest-income families. Thanks to the ARP, the full amount of the expanded credit—now available for all households filing jointly with incomes up to $150,000 and single parents with incomes up to $112,500—is $3,600 for every child under 6 years old and $3,000 for every child ages 6-17. Starting July 15 and continuing through the end of the year, these households will receive $300 for every child or $250 every month for each child in those respective age ranges. The remainder of the credit can be claimed when filing 2021 tax returns early next year.
Families who filed tax returns for 2019 or 2020, or who filled out the IRS Non-filers tool last year to receive an Economic Impact Payment, will get this tax relief automatically. Families who neither filed a tax return for 2019 or 2020 nor used the IRS Non-Filers tool should go online and use the IRS Child Tax Credit Non-filer Sign-up Tool to sign up today.
Eligible families who get their refunds from the IRS through direct deposit will see these payments in their bank account; those who don’t use direct deposit will receive their payments by mail.
The challenge we face with this life-changing benefit is that it is set to expire after one year. It was a temporary fix to immediately address the economic impacts of the pandemic. We know, however, that persistent poverty existed well before Covid-19, and it will continue well beyond the recovery if we don’t take permanent action.
To keep this huge rock from falling back down the mountain and plunge millions of American children back into poverty, Congress must make the expanded Child Tax Credit permanent. Doing so would be a dramatic, positive change in the life of American families and a real solution to addressing persistent poverty.
Unfortunately, just as Republicans opposed the American Rescue Plan, they also oppose extending this key provision. They don’t seem to understand that stronger families produce a stronger, more productive nation. Whether or not they are persuaded to join the effort to address persistent poverty and strengthen American families, Democrats are working hard to make the expansion of the Child Tax Credit permanent.
Now is the time to break out of this Sisyphean struggle and sustain and build on the progress we have made lifting a significant number of families out of poverty. The public supports these efforts.
In addition to the expanded Child Tax Credit, we must permanently extend other economic lifelines in the American Rescue Plan like the expanded Earned Income Tax Credit, Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, and nutrition assistance for children.
We must also provide the benefits of the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion to those in the 12 states, including my home state of South Carolina, that have refused to participate. Democrats won’t stop moving this boulder until we reach the top—and stay there.