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Could New Child Tax Credit End Poverty for Many US Children? SU Expert on Impact

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Families with children could benefit from the monthly child tax credit payments to help get youth out of poverty. The payments are part of the American Rescue Plan.

A Syracuse University Professor says changing who can receive the Child Tax Credit will help to lift millions of children across the country out of poverty. The credit had only been available to working families, but the American Rescue Plan allows families, regardless of work status, to claim up to $300 a month per child under the age of 17. Associate Professor of Public Administration Katherine Michelmore says that change is a big one in regards to who qualifies for cash assistance.

“I think that it does in some ways reflect a shift in our attitudes about what we expect the government to subsidize and how we distribute cash assistance to people. To me it potentially marks a really big shift like I said, especially on this course we’ve been on this last 25 years or so tying cash benefits to work.”

Michelmore says in the past, requirements to receive the Child Tax Credit had disproportionately excluded children of color, especially Black and Latinx children. Allowing families with little-to-no income to receive the credit will help lift historically marginalized children out of poverty. The fact that the tax credit is a monthly payment will also make a difference, says Michelmore.

“I think importantly in contrast to something that comes in a lump sum, which has its own benefits itself, getting something on a regular basis gives families something they can count on. So gives them some consistency, so they can count on getting this benefit every month, particularly if there’s some unexpected expenses that come up. This monthly benefit can help families stay afloat, potentially reduce housing instability all those kind of good things we like to see.”

However, getting money to the families who need it could be a challenge. Michelmore says it will be harder to get funds to people who haven’t or don’t file taxes, and children without social security numbers won’t qualify. The biggest challenge may come from changing household situations.

“There’s a lot of children who live with a single parent, who might live with a grandparent and those housing situations might change throughout the year, and this is something that I think will pose a challenge in terms of getting the benefit to the families that need it.”

The monthly payments under the American Rescue Plan will be distributed from July to December. Michelmore said if the removal of the work requirement to qualify for the Child Tax Credit becomes permanent, it could cut child poverty in half.