It turns out that money is an easy and straightforward way to end America’s endemic hunger and poverty. New data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey shows that adults with children report lower levels of food insufficiency, after receiving their first Child Tax Credit check (CTC). Respondents were asked if they are having trouble paying their bills. While adults with children report that it is becoming harder to put food on the table for them, the survey shows that there appears to be an association between food security and $300 monthly checks. Who knew?
Practice of CTC checks have existed since 1997, with significant expansions in 2001 and 2009. The New Republic reported that checks in years past have left many of the most vulnerable families unsuitable. The new measure is part of the Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan. Households can receive $300 per month for children under 6 years old, and $250 for children aged 6-17 years. Direct checks were sent to 35 million families in July. They will continue receiving monthly payments until December.
According to the HPS survey, nearly half of recipients spent their money on food while others were able to secure childcare.
“In a sense, this tax policy can be considered feminist because it supports parents with children and recognizes that there are many single mothers,” Lucy Marcil (executive director of StreetCred) says. StreetCred helps families to navigate tax credits. Marcil pointed out that the United States is one of the most wealthy countries in the world. However, we have a higher rate of child poverty than other poorer nations. 14.4% of American children lived below the poverty line as of 2019. 71% of these children were children of color. Unsurprisingly, the COVID pandemic only exacerbated poverty rates across the country – and, also unsurprisingly, money can help.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro has been fighting for the end of child poverty since childhood. She believes it is crucial that we extend the child tax credit. During a recent MSNBC appearance, she stated that “the extent of the policies over several months, if I may, with the CARES Package and the Rescue Plan, as well as the Heroes Package, et cetera,” has had a profound effect on lowering child poverty in America. “It doesn’t matter if the program is only for one year, or if it is extended for two – or three years. If this is to be successful, it must be permanent. Families are at risk. They are at the edge of a fiscal cliff. They cannot afford childcare and diapers.”
The checks will reduce child poverty by 45% according to the Columbia University Center on Poverty and Social Policy. “Even if it only happens for a year, that’s a big deal,” Irwin Garfinkel, a Columbia School of Social Work professor, told The New York Times. And if the checks extend indefinitely? Garfinkel stated that it is of equal importance as the Social Security Act. Yes, it’s so big.