Millions to lose family allowances as Biden’s social spending bill comes under question

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Latia Reliford has struggled financially during the pandemic.

A divorced mother of five children aged five to 14, Reliford ran a daycare center in New York City with her mother, a job that allowed her the flexibility to care for her children. But the Covid closures have bankrupted her and left her unemployed.

Although Reliford has interviewed several roles over the past few months, she says employers are reluctant to hire her because she has to quarantine herself at home whenever one of her children is exposed to the virus.

To stay afloat, Reliford depleted his savings and relied on the six $ 1,250 advance payments of the Expanded Child Tax Credit that were part of President Joe Biden’s $ 1.9 billion stimulus package. Of March.

“I’m the main supplier and still haven’t had a job since last year,” she says, “so these payments were very important to my family to help us get through this. And you know, looking after five kids is expensive.

But the December 15th payment will be the last Reliford and some 35m other families receive unless Congress decides to renew the program.

The extension of the child tax credit has become a point of tension in the ongoing debate over Biden’s Build Back Better program, its $ 1.75 billion spending bill that also includes investments in medical leave. paid and family, affordable housing, renewable electricity and health care.

The cost of the tax credit is a sticking point for West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, the final vote the president needs to pass the bill in the face of fierce opposition from Republicans. Manchin said he would not vote for the bill in its current form during an appearance on Fox News on Sunday, despite weeks of negotiations with the White House.

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Checks were the country’s first experiment with the type of child allowance that is typically paid to parents in other developed countries. Millions of parents received half of their tax credit in monthly installments of $ 300 for each child under six and $ 250 for those under 18 from July to December. The rest will be added to their annual tax return.

The expansion also made the credit fully repayable for the first time, meaning that 27m children whose families weren’t earning enough to claim the full credit on their tax returns received the full benefit for the first time, including nearly half of all black and Latino children. The program distributed near $ 93 billion to American families, the Treasury Department said, and is expected to reduce child poverty by 40 percent.

“The Expanded Health Tax Credit provides a vital lifeline for families who need help dealing with the rising costs of daily spending,” said Kris Cox of the progressive think tank Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

“So it’s very important that Congress embraces Build Back Better and does not pull the rug out from under millions of families by letting the expansion expire at the end of this year.”

Allison Weinger, a mother of two who works as a college administrator in New York City, said she used the checks to pay for her babysitter and to cover her increased grocery costs.

“I barely manage and I have the resources,” Weinger says. “There is money being put into everything except the kids right now. There is money to test for Covid and pay people to get vaccinated, but there is never enough money for children. “

The payments were part of a temporary but historic expansion of America’s social safety net during the pandemic. Most Americans received three federal stimulus checks, while millions more received federal top-up to state unemployment benefits.

Republicans accuse strengthened federal benefits of keeping parents out of the job market and prolonging a labor shortage that business owners say has stalled economic recovery after shutdowns. Covid from last year.

But the recent Census Bureau household pulse survey find that recipients spend about one-third of checks on food, clothing, and education expenses, and use 40 percent to pay off debt. Mother-of-five Reliford said she spent hers on shelter and bought a new laptop for her children’s distance learning after the one provided by the school district stopped turning on .

Manchin would support both expanding the tax credit and using it to pay advances to families. But he is wary that the Build Back Better bill’s revenue estimates do not take into account the true cost of extended credit if it is continually renewed. Proponents say the bill will pay itself by increasing the incomes of businesses and the ultra-rich.

Reliford says she will use the rest of her savings to fill the gap in her monthly budget as the checks stop. It is almost certain that no payments will be sent on January 15, as the Internal Revenue Service would need permission to prepare them by December 28. Biden said last Thursday that it could take “weeks” to pass legislation that would renew the expanded child tax credit.

“It’s getting so hard to deal with, so [the payments] are certainly still needed, ”said Reliford. “Everyone is still very affected, and the Covid is not yet gone. “

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