Biden wants to bring back the expanded Child Tax Credit, a monthly check to families with children

President Biden Delivers State Of The Union Address
President Joe Biden called for Congress to renew the expanded Child Tax Credit during his second State of the Union address Tuesday.
Nathan Howard—Bloomberg/Getty Images

In a State of the Union address that focused largely on economic and pocketbook issues, President Joe Biden once again called on Congress to revive the expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC), a policy from the first year of his presidency that significantly cut the child poverty level in the U.S.

Biden called for a number of changes to tax policy in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, including significantly raising the levy on stock buybacks and imposing a Billionaire Minimum Tax.

But the shoutout to the expanded CTC is more immediately significant for the average American family than a tax on billionaires.

The expanded CTC was instituted in 2021’s American Rescue Plan, to help families with children struggling financially amid the COVID-19 economic chaos and rising inflation. The maximum benefit of the credit was increased from $2,000 to $3,000 in 2021 for children ages 6 to 17, and to $3,600 for children under 6. Half of the credit was given in advance, in monthly payments to families to help them throughout the year, and the other half was given as part of a household’s tax refund. Households with no or low income were able to receive it for the first time.

Though it can take years for a policy to have tangible effects, the impact of the CTC expansion was swift and noticeable. Child poverty fell dramatically—by more than 25%, according to a study from Columbia University—as did food scarcity levels. Parents reported using the advance payments for household essentials like groceries, new clothing for school, and utilities. Despite worries from conservatives, researchers found no evidence that the policy discouraged work among parents.

“The success of the 2021 expansion showed us that high child poverty rates are a policy choice, not an inevitability,” writes the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

But Congress failed to renew the expansion in 2022, reverting the credit back to its former, less generous iteration. That’s one of the reasons families could see smaller tax refunds this year when they file their 2022 returns. Some states implemented their own version of a CTC last year to make up some of the difference. Still, without the federal expansion, millions of children fell back below the poverty line in January 2022.

One of the biggest sticking points is whether or not the expanded CTC has a work requirement attached to it, meaning whether or not parents need to receive a certain amount of income to qualify. Most Democrats say it shouldn’t and want the credit to be fully refundable so that it helps the poorest children whose parents can’t work full-time or at all, who need the help the most.

Opponents believe there should be some sort of work requirement. An estimated 19 million children do not receive the standard CTC—which maxes out at $2,000 per child—because their parents or guardians do not earn enough to qualify.

Eliminating child poverty is one of Biden’s stated goals for his presidency, and he has been pushing for an extension of the expanded CTC—as well as other childcare and family-friendly tax policies—for a while. It was part of his Build Back Better plan, but was scraped from what eventually became the Inflation Reduction Act, which was signed into law last year.

Predictably, support for bringing the expansion back on the federal level falls largely along party lines. Democrats—save Sen. Joe Manchin, D—W. Va.—have hailed the credit’s reduction in child poverty, while progressive commentators have called it Biden’s “single biggest policy success.” During his speech Tuesday, Biden touted the expansion’s success, saying it gave millions of families financial “breathing room.”

In addition to wanting a work requirement, Republicans say it is too expensive and complicated to implement. “Additional support for families and children is a commendable goal, but a goal best achieved through a more simplified and targeted policy,” writes the right-leaning Tax Foundation.

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