“That is a huge expense,” said Lansdowne, 26, who worked as a case worker for the state of Maryland until the fall and had hoped she’d continue receiving the $300 monthly infusion this year. “When you don’t have the funds to cover those things, you’ve got to get creative.”
Lansdowne, who also cut off cable at her Martinsburg, West Virginia, home to help her afford the mortgage, is looking for a job. But it’s not easy since she’d have to shell out hundreds of dollars a month for child care for Kaleasi and her baby sister, Lalani, who is four months old.
“Go speak to the working class and see how they feel,” she said. “I will tell you, it helped a lot. And now I’m in a predicament where I can’t work because there is no child tax credit to help me with day care.”
Senate negotiations stalled
However, President Joe Biden recently acknowledged that the beefed-up credit might wind up on the cutting room floor.
Democratic supporters of the enhanced credit aren’t giving up so easily. Five senators — Michael Bennet of Colorado, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Raphael Warnock of Georgia and Ron Wyden of Oregon — last week wrote a letter to Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris urging them to “secure” an extension of the credit.
“The expanded CTC is a signature domestic policy achievement of this administration and has been an overwhelming success,” wrote the senators. “The consequences of failing to extend the CTC expansion are dire, particularly as families face another wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
“After historic progress, it is unacceptable to return to a status quo in which children are America’s poorest residents and child poverty costs our nation more than $1 trillion per year,” they wrote.
Prior to the expansion, eligible parents received a credit of up to $2,000 for children up to age 17 when they filed their taxes. That is what is in effect for 2022 since the enhancement has expired.
Fighting child poverty
Without a payment in January, the monthly child poverty rate could increase from 12.1% in December to 17.1%, the highest share since December 2020, according to the center.
“This is a moment when those benefits would be even more important than they were six months ago, in many respects, and they are no longer there,” said Zachary Parolin, senior research fellow at the center.
“That stability and predictability of the income support is hugely important for families for planning their weekly and monthly expenses, for having the peace of mind that they’re going to — at least more so than before — be able to afford their basic necessities and provide for their families,” he said.
The increased costs, combined with the end of the $300 monthly credit for her 5-year-old daughter, Addison, has forced her to delay some critical home repairs, including fixing the roof and reinforcing the foundation. Addison could really use a new winter coat but is making do with her current one for another season.
When she was receiving the credit, Washington was able to sign Addison up for swim lessons and soccer, as well as take her to the zoo and rock climbing gyms — which she considers essential because she is homeschooling her daughter. Without the credit, she’s looking for a swim scholarship, as well as less expensive or free extracurricular options.
“It gave me some breathing room,” said Washington, 32, who works in program management for a nonprofit group. “It really allowed me to be confident that I could afford the basic needs and have a little bit extra to give my daughter an increased quality of life.”
Recently, she paid a friend to take her 17-year-old son to the doctor so she didn’t have to take time off from work. But the doctor then called and said she should accompany him next time.
Harris is not sure why there is opposition to extending the enhanced child tax credit, particularly the monthly payments, since many parents plow it back into local businesses.
“It keeps us spending, and it helps the economy,” she said. “It’s going back one way or the other.”
Small business owners are also affected by the enhanced credit’s expiration.
Take Zondria Lansdowne, a day care owner and Joi’s mother. When the monthly payments began last summer, parents flooded her center. She expanded her hours to accommodate those working late shifts at area warehouses, hired additional staff to care for nearly three dozen children and looked into moving to a larger space.
“They were using that money to pay me,” she said of the parents. “People have chosen to just stay home. The little jobs that are out there — my $75 (weekly charge) sucks up their paycheck. They just don’t find it worth it.”