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Children at a rally for the child tax credit

Children from the KU Kids Deanwood Childcare Center complete a mural celebrating the launch of the child tax credit on July 14, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Community Change)

Democrats, Struggling Parents Blast Lapsed Child Tax Credit

"I don't know what my family is going to have to do this month, or even the next," said a mother of four in Florida. "Will we go without a car or necessary medication?"

Jessica Corbett

Progressive lawmakers, advocates, and working parents spoke out Friday as millions of families weighed what they will do without the temporarily expanded child tax credit that has now ended after Democrats failed to pass the Build Back Better Act.

"The CTC payments have kept us afloat for the last six months."

More than 30 million families have received the boosted benefit over the past six months, but the Senate hasn't yet voted on the House-approved package due to total Republican opposition, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) rejecting various provisions, and negotiations with the White House breaking down.

"The Senate has failed to extend this critical program at a time when coronavirus cases reach new highs and families feel the burden of corporate greed at the pump and register," said Fighting Chance for Families spokesperson McKenzie Wilson.

As the Omicron variant drives a nationwide surge in Covid-19 cases, experts warn that ending the monthly payments of up to $300 per child—which were popular with voters across party lines—could push millions of children back or more deeply into poverty.

"As a mother of four, I stay home to care for my family while my husband provides the sole income for our household," said Jen Cousins, a Florida resident with four children. "Between covering the cost of necessary prescription drugs, especially for my youngest child who has health challenges, and expenses like car repairs for my family's sole vehicle, we're strapped on resources to provide for our family."

"My husband works hard, we budget, we're thrifty and buy generic drugs as much as possible. But healthcare is expensive, maintaining our sole car is expensive," she continued. "I don't know what my family is going to have to do this month, or even the next, in order to make ends meet without the monthly child tax credit payments. Will we go without a car or necessary medication?"

Benjamin Van Dyne, father of two in New York City, also shared how the expanded child tax credit (CTC) has made a difference for his family and how its expiration will impact them.

"Currently, I live with my two young children in the Bronx in a one-bedroom apartment with a foldout mattress," he said. "When I saw the CTC was expiring, my immediate reaction was that I can't afford to move my family into the larger space we need and deserve."

"Had the payments continued, I would have been able to finally move my family into a two-bedroom apartment to improve the quality of our lives. As they grow, my kids need their own space, and god knows, I need mine," he added. "The CTC payments have kept us afloat for the last six months."

U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) emphasized that they are far from alone, explaining that "in the past year, I've heard from countless parents that just having an extra $250 to $300 per month often meant the difference between keeping food on the table or going hungry, making rent, or getting evicted."

"Opposition to the Child Tax Credit risks sending 10 million children back into poverty," she warned, citing research from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. "It is shameful that we have let these payments lapse even one day."

Lee vowed to "continue fighting in Congress and alongside advocates to pass Build Back Better and permanently address child poverty," and while she wasn't the only House Democrat to highlight the CTC on Friday, there is no clear path forward for the package.

While not calling out Manchin by name, Mary Kay Henry of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) made a clear reference to his obstruction Friday, highlighting that his opposition is at odds with the needs and demands of his constituents.

"Voters—including the voters of West Virginia where CTC has supported eight in 10 children—are demanding a game-changing investment in home care, action on climate change, and good union jobs," she said. "It's time for the Senate to pass Build Back Better, deliver for children and working families, and lift up entire communities. Our future depends on it."

U.S. Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) did call out Manchin by name, saying that he "turned his back on our families."

Polling results released Friday by Invest in America and Data for Progress show that 65% of U.S. voters across the political spectrum, including 92% of Democrats, support the full package.

While advocates for families are demanding that "Congress send them the relief they desperately need," as ParentsTogether Action campaign director Allison Johnson put it, some are calling on lawmakers to go even further.

"Our priorities are out of line if we fail to extend a program that nearly cut child poverty in half," said People's Action director of federal affairs Megan Essaheb. "Working families continue to struggle, and they need a lifeline. Congress must extend and make permanent the child tax credit."

This post has been updated with a new poll about the Build Back Better Act and comment from Fighting Chance for Families and Rep. Cori Bush.

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