Nearly 4 million children fall into poverty as expanded child tax credit ends
Christopher Wilson, Senior Writer – February 18, 2022
Nearly 4 million American children fell into poverty in the month of January, due to the expiration of the expanded child tax credit at the end of last year. According to new data released Thursday by Columbia University, there was a 41 percent increase in child poverty between December and January, as millions of families stopped receiving the extra $300 per month. The Columbia release noted that “Latino and Black children experienced the largest percentage-point increases in poverty.”
Democrats passed the expanded child tax credit as part of their pandemic relief bill in March of last year, which resulted in payments beginning last July worth up to $250 per child ages 6 to 17 and up to $300 per child under 6. The last of those payments went out in December, as opposition from Republican senators and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., stopped an extension of the program. A November poll from Yahoo News and YouGov found that 49 percent of U.S. adults support extending the credit for an additional year, with 31 percent in opposition.
Studies last year from Columbia and the left-leaning think tank Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that the expanded tax credit cut childhood poverty in the country by at least 40 percent. Due to the extension’s failure to pass, 61 million children in 36 million households who received the payment in December were affected.
While President Biden pushed for an extension of the credit, passage in the Senate required either the support of all 50 Democrats or votes from at least 10 Republicans — none of whom voted for the American Rescue Plan, which contained the expanded credits, in March 2021.
While nearly every other Democrat was on board, Manchin didn’t support a continuation of the plan as it was originally passed, calling for work requirements and a lower income cap on the families eligible to receive it. An analysis last fall found that Manchin’s proposed changes would have resulted in nearly 190,000 West Virginia children, and 37 million nationwide, no longer receiving the aid. In December, ABC News reported that Manchin had expressed concerns to colleagues that parents would use the payments to buy drugs.
Following the release of the Columbia data, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., blasted Manchin in a series of tweets citing the uptick in child poverty.
“One US Senator ‘heard stories’ about people allegedly using the Child Tax Credit ‘for drugs’ without any evidence or data to back it up,” the progressive congresswoman wrote, citing Manchin. “He then used that as justification to nuke the entire national program, causing millions of kids to fall into poverty in weeks. Horrifying.
“Meanwhile the press talks about it like it’s some beltway drama without ever showing the people who are sleeping in bubble jackets with no heat or the kids going hungry waiting for some guy in a yacht to decide if they are fully human or not,” she continued, referring to Manchin’s boat in Washington, D.C., where protesters gathered to urge him to support Biden’s full domestic agenda. “It’s just shameful, all of it.”
Manchin met with White House chief of staff Ron Klain on Thursday, afterward telling reporters there was no talk of reviving elements of Biden’s agenda, which includes the child tax credit. Some Democratic leaders expressed an openness to reducing the eligibility for the program, while Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, has continued to push for his own plan, which would administer a similar payment through the Social Security Administration, hoping for bipartisan buy-in.
Democratic lawmakers expressed hope during a press conference last week that Manchin might eventually come around on the program.
“Sen. Manchin has not slammed the door on this,” said Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo. “We know over the last six months that people have spent the money the way we said they were going to spend the money, which was to buy groceries, to pay for rent, really importantly to pay for child care so they could stay at work.”
Republicans have argued that the child tax credit disincentivizes work, while proponents rebut that raising children itself is work. Speaking about Biden’s broader Build Back Better agenda, which would include paid family leave and subsidies for child care, Manchin had said he did not want America to become an “entitlement society.”
In September, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that pandemic relief programs that were passed in 2020, such as expanded unemployment benefits, prevented more than 5 million people from falling into poverty. Meanwhile, direct stimulus payments pulled more than 11 million Americans above the line, dropping the overall poverty rate 3 percent. Those programs, however, were temporary, with the expanded unemployment ending last September and Congress not issuing any further stimulus payments.