Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Children draw on a "cancelled check" prop at a rally for the child tax credit

Children draw on top of a "cancelled check" prop during a rally in front of the U.S. Capitol on December 13, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The Child Tax Credit Improves Lives. Why Is Congress Killing It?

Why would we lift children out of poverty only to slam them back into it a few months later?

Clara Moore

 by OtherWords

Ada Mae's beautiful blonde curls are wild on this sunny, mild winter afternoon.

My family wasn't just surviving—we were on our way to thriving. That's exactly what a safety net is for. But now what's going to happen?

I've just picked her up from the homeschool co-op that supplements the first-grade lessons we've been doing at home, and we're hanging out at the park. This is my favorite time of the week, watching her play with other kids.

But I'm also remembering my own childhood—cold Missouri winters without boots, hats, or mittens. The grind of poverty was tough on my family, and that trauma pursued me into adulthood.

I would do anything to keep my child from that fate, but we've had our close calls.

We were nearly homeless when the pandemic struck. I'd tried to pull myself out of poverty so many times by then—I'd even just finished graduate school. But trying to enter the job market as Covid-19 shut down the economy proved difficult. There wasn't going to be enough money for rent.

Fortunately, the Covid-19 relief programs Congress passed—like the stimulus checks and those monthly Child Tax Credit payments—helped me keep our apartment.

With this help, I could look for work while homeschooling my daughter. I was even able to put a few dollars into a savings account for the first time in my life, which was a huge relief. My family wasn't just surviving—we were on our way to thriving.

That's exactly what a safety net is for. But now what's going to happen?

The credit expired last December because Republicans, plus Democrat Joe Manchin, have stalled efforts to extend this tax relief to working families. Millions of families like mine missed our check in January—and we won't get another unless they're renewed.

Those monthly Child Tax Credits allowed Ada Mae to attend her beloved homeschool co-op, so necessary for her social well-being. They provided financial stability that helped me be more present with her, when I wasn't worrying about how the next bill would be paid. And they gave me space to look for—and get—better-paying work in the field in which I'm now qualified.

There are lots of stories like ours. A Columbia study found that the December payments alone kept 3.7 million children out of poverty, reducing the monthly child poverty rate by about 30%.

But in the first month without payments, Columbia experts project that the monthly child poverty rate may rise from the current 12% to over 17%—the highest it’s been in over a year.

As these numbers show, parents weren't squandering these payments on luxuries. They used them to live less precariously.

The failure to renew the expanded Child Tax Credit isn't just cruel and short-sighted—it's economically unsound.

quarter of parents used the credit on child care so they could return to work. A third of the payments went to essential school expenses. And at least 90% of families were using the credits on necessities for their families.

Perhaps most dramatically, new research has found that cash payments to low-income families significantly improve infant brain development and learning later in life.

This is the sort of lifeline that changes children's lives. So why are we taking a torch to it? Why would we lift children out of poverty only to slam them back into it a few months later?

The failure to renew the expanded Child Tax Credit isn't just cruel and short-sighted—it's economically unsound. For the economy to fully recover, workers and families must be able to survive inflation and other pandemic-related hardships. The enhanced Child Tax Credit was arguably our best tool for that.

It certainly was for me and my beautiful, confident Ada Mae.

All of our children deserve the best chance in life, free from the brutal precariousness of poverty. The enhanced Child Tax Credit is that best chance. Let's not miss it.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Clara Moore

Clara Moore

Clara Moore is a researcher and mom who lives in Newark, New Jersey. She shares her experiences in poverty as an advocate with RESULTS Educational Fund.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Bodycam Footage Shows Ohio Police Shooting Jayland Walker 60+ Times

"The Department of Justice needs to step in to investigate immediately," said former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner.

Common Dreams staff ·


'Impeach Justice Clarence Thomas' Petition Nears 1 Million Signatures

"He has shown he cannot be an impartial justice and is more concerned with covering up his wife's coup attempts than the health of the Supreme Court," reads the petition.

Jake Johnson ·


'Tipping Point of No Return' Feared as Amazon Rainforest Fires Surge

"Up to now, the Biden administration has only legitimized the Brazilian government's anti-Indigenous and anti-environmental agenda," said Greenpeace USA.

Jake Johnson ·


Biden Urged to Embrace Windfall Tax as Exxon Says Profits Doubled in Second Quarter

"It's time for the president to demand that Congress pass a windfall profits tax on Big Oil and use the revenue to provide rebates to consumers NOW!" wrote Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Jake Johnson ·


Texas Supreme Court Allows Century-Old Abortion Ban to Take Effect

"Extremist politicians are on a crusade to force Texans into pregnancy and childbirth against their will, no matter how devastating the consequences."

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo