Community leaders work to educate residents on the expanded child tax credit
Qualified families can still sign up for advanced monthly payments
As a part of the American Rescue Plan, the child tax credit was expanded in a way it never has been before, allowing families to get monthly payments of up to $250 per child ages 6-17 and up to $300 per child under age 6.
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado was instrumental in drafting the expansion and has worked to spread awareness of the program across the state. He said the expansion allows the tax credit to reach the poorest children in the county since it is fully refundable for the first time.
“Tens of millions of kids living in poverty in this country who were not eligible for the full credit before now are eligible for it,” Bennet said in an interview with the Summit Daily News. “That’s why 90% of Colorado’s kids are benefiting from the credit, and it’s why we’re cutting our child poverty rate almost in half.”
Folks who filed their taxes with the Internal Revenue Service are automatically signed up, but those who don’t file taxes will need to sign up separately. Bennet said the easiest way folks can ensure they are benefiting from the expansion is to visit GetCTC.org. The deadline to sign up to receive the October payment is Monday, Oct. 4 at 11:59 p.m.
While there are various eligibility requirements, the main requirement is that the qualifying child has a social security number valid for employment in the United States. Joint filers making up to $150,000 and single heads of households making up to $112,500 are eligible for advanced monthly payments. Whatever amount of tax credit a parent receives must be reported on their 2021 tax returns.
Bennet said increasing the amount of money for kids under 6 was an important aspect of the expansion along with the availability of monthly payments. He said his office is working with about 100 advocacy organizations across the state to spread awareness of the program.
“The IRS has done a very good job of implementing this on a monthly basis, but we haven’t reached everybody yet,” Bennet said. “… Anything anybody at the local level can do to get the word out, especially to people who might not file tax returns, is something that would really help.”
In Summit County, local entities are also working to ensure families are aware of the opportunity. Lucinda Burns, executive director of Early Childhood Options, said the organization is trying to spread the word about the tax credit through all of its child care programs.
“We do think it’s a very important benefit for all families, particularly for those low-income families,” Burns said.
Burns said she thinks there has been confusion for some families without a big tax liability, and they’re trying to make sure they know how to sign up if they don’t file. She also said she thinks some families might think they are not eligible when they actually are because of how different this tax credit is to past programs.
“It’s really significant enough to help bring children out of poverty and help improve educational and health outcomes for children,” Burns said. “So it’s a very exciting opportunity. We just want to make sure all the families know about it.”
Burns cited research from the Center for American Progress that says a $3,000 increase in annual family income can lead to a 19% earnings increase once children reach adulthood.
“That much more money into our economy is great, but also that is enough to really bring people out of poverty,” Burns said.
Danielle McQueen, grant and evaluation manager with the Family & Intercultural Resource Center, said the center will be reaching out to its clients to ensure they know they have access to the child tax credit. She said the center has a new program that assesses clients’ eligibility for different programs and sends them information on how to utilize them.
McQueen said with this new system the center hopes to send out a bilingual fact sheet to help make sure local Spanish-speaking residents are aware of the opportunity. Clients are able to text the center back with questions.
“Our hope is that … if they don’t even know about it, when they file their taxes they will be pleasantly surprised,” McQueen said. “But we want to increase awareness about it so that people are expecting it.”
Summit County Commissioner Tamara Pogue said the tax credit is particularly valuable to local families given the high cost of living in the area.
“Having these funds available to offset some of that additional expense really can make a huge difference in the lives of these families,” Pogue said. “We know child care is very expensive, housing is very expensive and our wages don’t keep up with those costs. So this is one way that I think the federal government, in a very concrete way, can help make it more manageable for families to live here.”
As a single mother herself, Pogue said she faces the same struggles as other working families in the county, and she said the monthly tax credit payments have been helpful for her. She said it’s important to ensure that every family in Summit County knows about the opportunity the monthly payments present.
“I think this is a very elegant way of cutting childhood poverty in this country almost in half,” Bennet said. “We have among the highest childhood poverty rates in the industrialized world, … and I just don’t think we should accept that as a permanent state of affairs for our democracy or our economy. It’s unfair to our kids.”
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