Saturday, Jan. 15, marks the first month since summer 2021 that more than 1.2 million Ohio families will not receive a monthly child tax credit payment.
The expanded child tax credit, part of the American Rescue Plan, gave parents $300 per month for children ages five and younger, and $250 per month for children ages six to 17, totaling $3,600 for one year for younger kids and $3,000 for older kids. The payments were divided into monthly payments from July through December of 2021.
Parents can still claim the remaining half as a lump sum when they file their federal tax returns. However, the monthly payments expired when Congress did not pass the Build Back Better Act by the end of 2021.
There is still a possibility Congress could act to reinstate those payments going forward, according to Will Petrik, budget researcher for Policy Matters Ohio—by passing Build Back Better and including the monthly child tax credit payments in that. Petrik said the payments made a big difference for many Ohio families, as well as millions of families across the nation.
“Ultimately, I believe no child should have to go to bed hungry,” Petrik said. “No parent should have to worry about keeping a roof over their head. Ultimately it's about security, stability and basic human dignity, and we have the resources to do that.”
Petrik said the payments helped families pay for rent, childcare, food, utilities and more. In Ohio, 2.1 million children received the payments.
“There's so much at stake for families right now, particularly with the emerging omicron variant,” Petrik said. “Parents are having their kids back at home. And that means struggling to find childcare, struggling to work while caring for their kids at home. But it also means that parents are actually paying more for food because [of] those meals [that] their kids were having at school.”
With that monthly payment going away, Petrik said a lot of families will “struggle with those basic expenses to support their kids.” But it’s also “about people’s dreams.”
“Parents have a dream when you have a baby, you want the best for your kid and you work hard to provide and want the best for your kid,” Petrik said. “For some families, it's a dream of owning a home, and that might be further away when there isn't that monthly child tax credit payment coming in to families.”
That’s the case for Jason Carter and his wife. The Cincinnati-area couple, parents to a one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, said this was going to be the year they could take the next steps toward their dreams.
“This is something that we’ve talked about for years, something that we’ve dreamt about for years,” Carter said.
That dream: home ownership, somewhere their little girl could run and play. The monthly child tax credit payments helped offset some of their costs, including childcare, allowing them to save some money toward a down payment, closing costs and other expenses of buying a house.
The cost of childcare at the first place their daughter attended was as much as, if not more then, their monthly rent. They eventually transitioned to a more affordable center, but the assistance still helped, because by that point Carter had lost his job.
“So now in the job I have, it takes two, two and a half paychecks to make up for one paycheck I was previously making,” Carter said, adding that they “definitely still need” the child tax credit payments.
Carter said they would file for the remainder of the credit in their tax returns.
“We need it,” he said.
With all that’s happened, though, from the cost of childcare to his lower pay, Carter said home ownership “doesn’t seem to be as attainable as it once was.”
“I’m not saying it's impossible, because we never know what other resources are out there, but it's definitely going to be a struggle,” Carter said.
He added, “My wife and I talk a lot about what the American dream is, talking about working really hard to be able to afford the lifestyle that you want to live, and that was a direction that we were moving in. And I believe that the child tax credit was something that also helped in that process.”
Carter said he and his wife have “tremendous goals that we want to accomplish, and we worked very hard to get to where we are.” But they come from families caught in a system of “being impoverished and not having these resources.” He said he’s realizing costs like child care can also put you back into that situation.
“I will say that we are fortunate to be a bit better off than I know a lot of people are, but it still affects us heavily,” Carter said. “Without the child tax credit, we can't achieve our American dream, so it's very important. And so I would love to have it back so that we can take steps towards rebuilding and getting back to what we know to be a promised future for us.”
For Sophia Whitehouse, a mother of two children under the age of five who lives in Powell, near Columbus, the child tax credit payments meant her family received $600 each month. That money, she said, “was really meaningful for me and my family.”
“I worked in public schools for the last eight years but resigned at the end of last school year to open my own small business to better serve mental health needs in the community,” Whitehouse said.
The child tax credit payments helped her provide care for her children while she and her business partner worked to get the business, Achieve Psychology, off the ground and start seeing income from it.
“Things are a little bit better now that we've been established for six months or so, but it was absolutely necessary at first. I wouldn't have been able to do it without it,” Whitehouse said.
Without the payments, Whitehouse said her family will have to pay for childcare out of pocket, or “what's more likely is that I'm going to end up staying home and not working during whatever period of time that money was covering. And as a result of that, less kids in my community are going to get the mental health support that they need, so there's kind of a domino effect going on.”
While families can still claim the rest of the tax credit by filing federal returns, Whitehouse said the monthly payments were helpful because that’s how many people pay their bills.
“That's how you pay for everything. You pay your mortgage monthly, you pay for preschool monthly. I pay my babysitters when they come,” Whitehouse said. “It's easier for me to budget it out monthly than a lump sum.”
Whitehouse believes the payments had more of a positive effect than people realize, especially for people living in communities with higher poverty.
“Six hundred dollars a month is what I was able to get with the two kids under five and that can literally be life-changing for people, especially so many women left the workforce during the pandemic because of homeschooling,” Whitehouse said.
“Ultimately for us, Build Back Better is about people and it's about families, and it's also about the economy,” Will Petrik, the budget researcher, said.
He noted that Policy Matters Ohio had heard from families who said the payments were “just taking a little bit of stress off their backs, to have a little bit of extra regular money in their pocket to be able to help their kid with school expenses.”
“I read a tweet today that was talking about a family, and their child was really struggling with math. And in the pandemic, again, there's a lot of educational challenges, and the child tax credit helped them pay for a math tutor and just boosted this child's confidence,” Petrik said. “And she was ready to go and she was interested.”
Ohio’s families are among millions more across the country.
“There's just so much at stake,” Petrik said. “I think, broadly, it's like we have the resources as a country to provide security for all families. We now just need the political will.”