Payments are going out on July 15 to 39 million families with 65 million children, with single parents making $75,000 or less and couples making $150,000 or less getting the full amount. The expanded credit phases out above those income levels. Above income levels of $95,000 or $170,000, households get the previously existing $2,000 child tax credit. (As Rep. Katie Porter has pointed out, single parents face a penalty here that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Why does a married couple need twice as much income to raise the same number of kids?)
That said, this money will make a huge difference to many families. The Washington Post’s Catherine Rampell talked to a woman raising two grandchildren on a limited budget, for whom the monthly tax credit payments will mean concrete things like back-to-school clothes and money for extracurriculars her grandchildren have yearned for. But most of all, “It would mean getting out of the everyday cycle of having to worry, ‘Okay, is this bill going to be paid for? Can I get my medicine?’”
Less worry for parents, and more just being kids for the kids. A mother of two in Mississippi told The New York Times the money would help with rent, but would also let her kids fully participate in things like school trips. “Kids get to bullying, talking down on them—saying ‘Oh your mama don’t have money,’” Tammy Wilson said.
For kids whose lives are shaped by poverty and the accompanying instability, the child tax credit could improve educational outcomes: “Students living in poverty are twice as likely to repeat a grade, and 10 times as likely to drop out of high school, researchers found a decade ago, a sequence of events that makes it difficult for them to escape it. Household income is indelibly imprinted on test scores: On the SAT, students from households that made less than $20,000 scored, on average, 400 points less than did students growing up in homes where earnings exceeded $100,000, according to 2014 data,” The Washington Post’s Moriah Balingit reports.
Democrats are rightly touting the tax credit as a win for families. The next step is making it permanent—and making sure everyone, but everyone, knows which party turned the policy into law and which party opposed it. (In case you need a reminder: Democrats made this policy reality. Republicans voted against it, along with everything else in the American Rescue Plan.)
To find out if your family is eligible and how much you’ll be getting, check out this calculator. People who don’t file taxes may not get the payments automatically, but the IRS has a tool for signing up for both the expanded child tax credit and any relief payments people may have missed.