Parents and caregivers with the Economic Security Project gather to advocate for the expanded child tax credit before the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in Washington, D.C. on September 20, 2022. (Photo: Larry French/Getty Images for SKDK)

Food Insufficiency Up 25% Since Manchin, GOP Killed Child Tax Credit Boost

"A permanent expansion would be a game-changer for reducing child poverty for good," said one study co-author.

A Boston-based research team on Friday reiterated the negative effects of ending the expanded child tax credit by releasing a study that shows a huge jump in U.S. households not having enough food.

"Even brief periods of deprivation during childhood can have lasting impacts."

The expanded child tax credit (CTC) in the American Rescue Plan gave over 35 million U.S. families up to $300 a month per child until it expired last December, and congressional Republicans and right-wing Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) opposed continuing it.

Published in the journal JAMA Network Open, the new study focuses on food insufficiency, "a marker for economic strain... defined by household lack of enough food to eat in the last seven days."

Researchers at Boston Medical Center (BMC) and Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) found that ending the monthly payments "was associated with a 25% increase in household food insufficiency by early July 2022 compared with the period just before CTC expiration."

Lead author Allison Bovell-Ammon said in a statement that "this significant increase in food insufficiency among families with children is particularly concerning for child health equity, as child health, development, and educational outcomes are strongly linked to their family's ability to afford enough food."

"Even brief periods of deprivation during childhood can have lasting impacts on a child," added Bovell-Ammon, director of policy and communications for Children's HealthWatch at BMC.

The study states that "low-income, single-adult, non-Hispanic Black, and Hispanic households experienced greater increases than the overall sample, suggesting implications of deepening inequities linked to the policy expiration. Without further congressional action to extend the expanded CTC and reinstate monthly payments, reductions in food insufficiency, poverty, and inequity following the advance CTC payment introduction in 2021 may continue to erode."

Bovell-Ammon noted that "Black, Latino, Indigenous, and immigrant families in the U.S. consistently experience food insecurity--a broader measure that assesses quantity, quality, and variety of food--at higher rates than white families as a result of current and historical marginalization and systemic racism."

Study co-author Stephanie Ettinger de Cuba, a research associate professor at BUSPH and executive director of Children's HealthWatch, highlighted that some immigrant families struggled to access the CTC program.

"These barriers were due in part to specific eligibility exclusions, but they also occurred even when immigrant families were eligible," she said. "Following the expiration of the payments at the end of 2021, the gains in racial equity were eroded, potentially further exacerbating racial and health inequities and increasing distrust."

As various studies and data sets have made clear that the CTC payments lifted millions of children out of poverty and cutting them off harmed families, some progressives in Congress and policy experts have called for not only reinstating the program but making it permanent.

"The six short months of these child tax credit advanced payments clearly made a big difference for American families, a permanent expansion would be a game-changer for reducing child poverty for good," said study co-author Paul Shafer, an assistant professor at BUSPH.

"There is more to do to make sure that very low-income families actually get the monthly payments, prompting efforts like," he added, "but a permanent expansion allows resources and awareness to build around the policy in a way that short-term fixes don't."

The study comes just weeks before the midterm elections, which will determine which party controls the U.S. House and Senate.

"For now, the choice for Democratic candidates couldn't be clearer: Campaign on renewing the expanded child tax credit," Jim Pugh of the Universal Income Project and ShareProgress recently wrote for In These Times. "It will help their chances at the polls in November and bring the country closer to reviving the most impactful anti-poverty program in a generation."

Leading up to Election Day, Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)--who caucuses with the Democrats--has urged party members on the campaign trail to emphasize how all of their economic policies will serve working-class people, unlike plans by Republicans, who want to cut Medicare and Social Security.

The two-time Democratic presidential primary candidate has also repeatedly called for reviving the CTC program. In a tweet this week, Sanders said that "at a time when child poverty is spiking, we need to focus on supporting low-income families by extending the expanded child tax credit."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.