ATLANTA – Nearly 700,000 Georgia kids will be lifted near or above the poverty line as a result of the expanded monthly child tax credit that many families across the state and throughout the U.S. will receive starting July 15, according to an analysis by the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.
The monthly credit — up to $3,600 per child, paid out in monthly installments and a lump sum this year — was introduced as part of the American Rescue Plan Act.
Ray Khalfani, a research associate at GBPI, said in a news conference Thursday the policy is expected to cut child poverty in half and will help lower- and middle-class Americans, especially those of color.
“While the economy may be recovering for some … [it’s] been inequitable,” said Khalfani. “This policy will help our families recover from the pandemic, and a permanent expansion of the child tax credit will ensure these benefits don’t go away.”
Genesis Appiah, a mother of a 6-year-old daughter, represented families impacted by the tax credit at the news conference.
Appiah said that in addition to helping pay for food, childcare, and rent, the monthly credit will allow her to take her daughter out for ice cream or to Chuck E. Cheese— a luxury she has not been able to afford, despite working two jobs.
“Children … don’t care about bills that need to be paid,” Appiah said. “They want to have fun and that’s what they deserve.”
She called for the benefit, which was introduced for one year as part of a coronavirus aid package, to be made permanent.
“I know too many families that have to worry about more than just taking their children to Chuck E. Cheese,” Appiah said.
Most families that qualify will automatically receive the payments without having to sign up if they filed taxes in 2019 or 2020, or if they signed up to receive a coronavirus stimulus check. The maximum amount for a child under six — $3,600 — is distributed in six monthly installments of $300 and a lump sum of $1,800 when the head of household files taxes.
Families who wish to receive the credit all at once can opt-out and get the full payment when they file their taxes.
The expanded child tax credit is expected to lower national poverty rates from 13.9% to 5.9%, according to GBPI’s analysis.
For Pamela Grisham, an unemployed mother of four who also spoke at the event, the payments will allow her 8 and 10-year-old daughters to restart gymnastics and therapy.
Grisham said she’s been unemployed since the beginning of the pandemic. Back in March, her unemployment checks stopped arriving, and she doesn’t know why.
“It was a lot,” said Grisham. “My kids were stripped away of everything. I want to give them a life again.”
While the expanded child tax credit is the largest families have ever received, and includes those who don’t make enough to be required to file taxes, it only lasts until the end of 2021, said Kimberly Scott, the executive director of Georgia Women’s Action for New Direction, an Atlanta-based nonprofit.
She echoed calls to make the credit permanent.
“Congress must act, and they must act now … so that the economic gains we have seen in the last few months aren’t erased, particularly the gains made by the communities of color, which have been hit the hardest,” Scott said.
Scott described the expanded credit as “especially meaningful” for Black women and people of color, as they often face persistent discrimination in pay and hiring and are frequently relegated to the lowest-paying jobs.
Prior to the expansion, about 470,000 Black Georgians under 17 were left out of the child tax credit because their head of household made too little money to file taxes, according to GBPI.