Families in Missouri have been receiving Child Tax Credit payments of $300 to $350 a month per child since the summer, and one local expert says making them permanent could benefit families long-term, across the nation.
So far, 45% of Missouri families have reported using their payments for food, 33% for essential bills, and 30% on other household expenditures.
Researcher Stephen Roll, an assistant professor of research at Washington University in St. Louis, said the pandemic tightened many families’ budgets, but he noted they were struggling even before the COVID crisis as expenses increased. “Even before everyone was paying attention to all these economic crises, things were not good for poor parents, for middle-class parents,” he said. “And the Child Tax Credit is one way of solving that issue, by providing some fundamental, unconditional support for these parents.”
The American Rescue Plan, passed in March, expanded the Child Tax Credit and provided for advance payments for 2021. The Biden administration’s Build Back Better framework includes funding for the credit through 2022.
When families are at risk of eviction or utility shutoffs, Roll said, it can’t help but affect children’s everyday lives. He said it can hurt their ability to do well in school, and that research shows childhood poverty can limit future educational and work opportunities, as well as long-term health outcomes. He said he thinks the CTC is one measure that can help provide more stability for families. “So, what we’re seeing right now,” he said, “is actually, these sort of early-term improvements – like improvements in nutrition, improvements in economic stability – that we strongly suspect will continue to pay dividends over the next few decades.”
Surveys from the U.S. Census Bureau reveal that rates of families facing food insecurity and trouble paying household expenses dropped as soon as CTC payments went out in July. Nearly 10% of those receiving the payments, and more than 17% of those with a child younger than age 5 reported using it to help pay for child care.