For Pasha Benjamin, a disability adjudicator from Conyers, and her now-18-month-old son Chance, the federal expanded child tax credits came at the perfect time.
“I was previously working from home and keeping him, but then my office was starting to come back to work,” she said. “Unfortunately, I don’t get paid enough to truly justify paying $680 a month for daycare. It was almost cheaper for me just to stay at home. So it wasn’t a good feeling to feel like I’m going to have to quit what I’ve been doing for a while, but I felt like I kind of had no choice.”
The expanded child tax credit, which began in July, provides up to $250 a month for every child between 6 and 17 years old, and up to $300 a month for kids younger than six like Chance.
For Benjamin, the extra $300 would not cover daycare entirely, but it was enough for it to make sense for her to keep working once her employer transitioned back to the office.
“It is helping me to be able to continue to work and maintain my family,” she said. “And daycare is really great for my son. He needs the social skills, it’s helping him to talk and helping him to learn things, so he needs to be in daycare, not only for me to go to work, but also for him to gain those social skills.”
And even if he weren’t in daycare, there are still plenty of baby-related expenses, Benjamin said.
“If it didn’t go to daycare, it would go to diapers and wipes,” she said with a laugh. “Like, literally, for Christmas, he has so many toys I’m asking people for diapers and wipes. We spent so much money on that alone. Not to bash it being $300, but $300, it’s essentially a tear in the bucket, but it’s a helpful tear.”
December’s payments went out last week, and they are the last monthly payment currently approved, though parents can expect at least one more installment after they file their taxes in the spring.
For most, half of the credit has been coming through the monthly payments, with the balance to be paid out after they file their 2021 taxes. Parents who opted out of the monthly payments should receive the full amount in the spring.
Unlike previous child tax credit programs, payments are fully refundable, which means families can receive them regardless of how much they pay in taxes.
That has helped the money reach children whose families make too little to pay taxes, and Democrats have touted the expansion as a big-time reducer of child poverty.
It is credited with lifting about 171,000 Georgia children above the poverty line, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and another 183,000 Georgia children living below the poverty line were expected to be brought closer to it. About 91% of Georgians under 18 benefit from the expansion.
President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan includes a one-year extension of the program, but the plan appears stalled in the Senate, and even the president appears to acknowledge it will not pass this year.
If Democrats cannot reach an agreement, families should plan to go without a January payment. That could mean an extra-tight start to 2022 for some family budgets as inflation continues to increase the price of consumer goods and student loan relief is set to end before February.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the White House will consider doubling February payments to make up for those that will likely be skipped in January.
That’s not very encouraging for Benjamin.
“My husband and I have discussed it and talked about it. We will crunch the numbers again and see if I have to stay at home,” she said. “It’s not what we want, it would almost be devastating for my son not to be able to go to school, but at the same time, if we can’t afford it, we can’t afford it. So, we talk about it, but we try not to harp on it, make us have a bad day or anything like that, but we’re kind of prepared for the worst, to be honest.”
“The mom is the one who’s going to usually take that brunt and have to leave the workforce, or have to figure out other ways,” she added. “This can keep moms like me being able to continue to work. If childcare is an issue or being able to support our child is an issue, then it’s going to continue to be the great resignation, but it’s going to affect us the most.”
Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity.