CLEVELAND — The 2021 expansion of the child tax credit put hundreds of dollars a month into the pockets of 35 million American families, increasing the credit to $3,600 for each child under the age of 6 and $3,000 for those between the ages of 6 and 18. Increases that went out in $250 to $300 monthly payments. In July of last year, Myesha Watkins of Cleveland, a mother of two girls, told Sen. Sherrod Brown it was money already spent.
"There are times where it feels like I'm paying a second mortgage for my children to be in childcare, where $700 a month is just too much," Watkins said at the time.
Those checks stopped coming late last December just as inflation was taking off. We caught up with Watkins on Thursday who said it was back to square one.
"It's a struggle still trying to figure out how to live comfortably and budget at the same time," she said. "Being part of the working poor you don't think that there's an opportunity to save but with life happening, lately it's just really hard."
That's why Brown is one of the leaders behind an 11th hour push in Congress to restore the benefits that went, he said, to 90 percent of Ohio families with children under 18.
"Think about with the rate of inflation having that $250 or $300 a month per child made a huge difference for these families to be able to blunt some of the effects of inflation," Brown said.
So why does he think this might pass now when it was on the back burner for a year? Because there were some tax breaks for businesses in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that are set to expire. If Republicans had gained control of the Senate last month, they could have restored them on their own, but with Democrats maintaining control of the Senate and the House still for another three weeks, there's room to negotiate.
"If Congress is going to extend these tax breaks for corporations, some of which are legitimate, then we also should extend child tax credits, the biggest tax break for working families in our history. So that's the deal on the table, and I'm asking Republicans to step up and accept it, there's simply no reason we shouldn't be able to do both," he said.
Opponents argue that adding money into the economy at a time of record inflation does nothing to reduce it. Brown disagrees.
"This doesn't add to inflation in any appreciable way. What it does is help those families at the end of the month, especially when so many struggle, be able to blunt the effects of inflation," he said.
Initial feedback from Republicans is not encouraging. "Still not sure they want to do it," Brown said. "Republicans are always fighting for more tax breaks for corporations, and they see these benefits trickle down. My philosophy is if you want to help workers, you help them directly."
Watkins, for one, has her fingers crossed.
"We have to incentivize parents that want to continue to survive and thrive in an economy that doesn't always support the working poor," she said.