Some 600,000 Colorado households were slated Wednesday to receive their monthly payment through the federal expanded child tax credit program.
But those families should not count on this program continuing. Unless Congress acts to extend the program — and that doesn’t appear likely in this calendar year — there’s no promise of any payments beyond those that go out Dec. 15.
If this program expires, said U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat who has championed this tax credit, “It’s going to make it harder for (families) to pay the rent, to pay for food, to pay for child care.”
“These aren’t small things. A lot of that, all of that, will go away if we don’t find a way to extend the credit,” Bennet told The Denver Post Wednesday morning.
The expanded child tax credit was approved in the spring in the American Rescue Plan, a broad COVID-19 stimulus and relief measure signed into law by President Joe Biden. It made several changes to the existing child tax credit program: It increased the size of the credit, which previously awarded $2,000 to families for each child 16 and under, up to $3,600 for children under 6 and $3,000 for children 6-17; its eligibility rules were relaxed to allow all families to benefit even if they don’t earn enough money to owe taxes; and it gave families the option to get monthly payments instead of an annual, lump-sum tax refund.
In Colorado, as around the country, the result of the expansion has been a dramatic reduction in child poverty. The families of some 1 million children here qualified for advance CTC payments in November, the Treasury Department reported, with total payments in the state exceeding $261 million. The average participating household in Colorado got $434 last month.
This and other forms of cash aid created an unlikely outcome in the pandemic: poverty in Colorado and the country has fallen, state analysts say, despite a recession last year and elevated unemployment.
State Sen. Dominick Moreno, who chaired the legislative budget committee during Colorado’s economic rebound earlier this year, told The Post in October, “It’s not rocket science. If people have enough to live on, then the poverty measures shrink and a host of other social issues are mitigated.”
But Moreno, a Commerce City Democrat, also said, “I don’t really see a sustainable path for continuing (that trend) into the future unless there’s that federal government support. Certainly, in the state we don’t have the resources to do that.”
This is why the child tax credit’s expiration date carries such significance.
The Democrats who control both chambers of Congress are advancing the president’s “Build Back Better” agenda, a social spending and climate package that includes a one-year extension of the expanded child tax credit. That plan would also include a permanent extension of the provision that allows families to benefit whether or not they earn enough to pay taxes.
But it is hold now, in large part due to opposition from the conservative Democrat Joe Manchin, a U.S. senator from West Virginia who is frequently at odds with his own party. Democrats can’t afford to lose a single vote in the Senate, so Manchin’s buy-in is critical. He’s wary of the projection that this program would cost more than half a trillion dollars over the next five years.
Bennet retorts that it would be more costly to not extend the program.
“Child poverty costs this country a trillion dollars a year,” he said. “I’d much rather reduce the amount of child poverty in this country than pay for the cost of mitigating it.”
Bennet said he is still trying to win Manchin over.
“He knows as well as I do that Congress has little trouble extending tax cuts for the wealthiest people in this country,” he said. “For once, maybe what we ought to do is extend a tax cut for working people and middle-class people.”
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