“I have this new monthly allotment to make sure that the health and well-being of my family is provided for,” Lori Ament in Gilbert, Arizona, said. “More than making sure that I can afford daycare for my kid, which is a huge factor, or putting food on the table, which is a huge factor, I also see it as a mental well-being of both the parents and the child.” She can pay for after-school care for her son Avery, who’s just going into kindergarten. Maybe even swim lessons. She didn’t think she’d ever be able to do that, but now “I’m giving that to my kid.”
Stuart Wood, in Los Angeles, is contemplating having an actual family vacation. “Six hundred bucks for us is huge,” he said, and “felt akin to a life-changing amount of money.” His and his wife’s salaries working for nonprofits keep them on edge every month in their expensive city. “Things are just normally very tight,” he explained. “It’s not going to go directly toward meeting like a basic need, but it is going to empower us to do something that we wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. And the mental-health element of that is no small thing for us.”
Gwnendolyn, a trans mother of two said even when she and her wife were both working before the pandemic “making ends meet was a real struggle.” They’ve had to declare bankruptcy. “If we get the CTC or the Biden Bucks around the same time every month, that will cover two payments for two different medical debts that we have, and that also covers the trustee payment for our bankruptcy,” she said. She can also look after her own health. “It’s actually facilitated me getting a little bit of transition-related treatment as well that really helped one of the big areas that I have trouble with.”
The payments are helping low- and middle-income families. They’re giving breathing room, they’re making budgeting and planning just a little bit easier in a time of continuing uncertainty. They need not to expire after a year. They’ll be paid out monthly for the remainder of this year, then the first half of this year’s payments will be paid as they usually are, in a tax refund next year. The most effective anti-poverty initiative enacted in decades needs to be made permanent.
Fifty mothers, from every state in the country, are asking for just that. “While we know that the CTC will help cut child poverty, we also know that the permanent expansion of the CTC will provide critical relief to mothers who are juggling needs at home—including serving as teachers and nannies—with demands at work, or trying to get back into the workforce,” they wrote in an open letter to President Biden and Vice President Harris. “As mothers, we say loud and clear: we need help. Many moms want to be at work right now, but have either been laid off or can’t return because of demands at home. It is time for our government to have our backs.”
This tax credit expansion, as a monthly instead of annual benefit, can be included in the reconciliation bill, along with all of the other groundbreaking and transformative economic proposals that are already in it. Biden wants to do just that. “The goal of this is not just to be one year. I think that people have somewhat different legislative strategies but I think that every advocate has the same goal: that we want this to be ultimately permanent,” a senior administration official told USA Today. “There’s no disagreement on that the ultimate goal is for this to go on indefinitely.”
It is going to be included, but right now it’s unclear how long the extension will last. It’s also possible that it will be spun off as a stand-alone bill if Democrats can’t get it in to the reconciliation package, which is not a particularly viable plan. Republicans will have few qualms about blocking it, figuring that by November 2022 people who won’t be getting monthly “Biden Bucks” will be less motivated to vote for Democrats. Getting it done for at least one more year—if not three!—would be political manna.
More importantly, it would go most of the way toward eliminating child poverty in this country. Finally.