Biden letter on the child tax credit
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Parents, advocates and political leaders push to extend the monthly check from the Biden administration that is lifting a historic number of kids out of poverty.

RICHMOND—“When we talk about childcare, you have housing. You have transportation, food, daycare, clothing—and that’s just to name a few.”

A working mother of three, Richmond-area resident Daytriel McQuinn-Nzassi knows a thing or two about caring for children’s needs. And those were just the basics. 

“Then you factor in the personal desires to enhance and advance their lives with experiences that will benefit them such as trips providing exposure, sports, and activities for their development and that could possibly give them a jumpstart on their future,” McQuinn-Nzassi said. “But even with that, you have those unforeseen expenses that just pop out of nowhere.”

In July, McQuinn-Nzassi’s kids became three of the estimated 1.6 million children across Virginia that benefited from the expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC). That overall number includes 249,000 children in the commonwealth who are currently in poverty.

The expanded credit impacted 60 million eligible children nationally, giving families the option to automatically receive either $250 or $300 per child per month from July to Dec. The American Rescue Plan increased the CTC eligibility age from 16 to 17, as well as the credit from $2,000 to $3,000 for kids age six and older and from $2,000 to $3,600 for children under age six. 

For McQuinn-Nzassi’s family, the expanded CTC provided “relief” and “security.” Those feelings remained when her three-year-old started preschool and when her seven-year-old switched to a full-day childcare program, both at an additional expense to their previous childcare. Soon, CTC will aid her third child, a baby girl born in June, who will enter a childcare program in the coming weeks. 

But come Jan., that could all change. Why? Because the monthly payments that many parents rely on end after households receive the Dec. allotment. 

Now, It’s Time to Extend the Credit

Now, McQuinn-Nzassi, along with Democrats throughout the US, are asking Congress for a further extension of the expanded CTC.

“On behalf of mothers and families, I am asking Congress to consider families trying to make ends meet. Consider moms who have to quit their jobs to care for their children during the pandemic. Consider dads who are working overtime to provide for their entire family. And consider growing, working families just like mine, who just need help right now,”  McQuinn-Nzassi said. “At the end of the day, every situation is unique and different, but what remains to be true is the world needs children and children are extremely expensive. The needs of children, the bills, the childcare and so [on] will go far past 2021, past the pandemic and past our lifetime.”

The Richmond mom has the backing of one delegate already. That’s her own mother, Del. Delores McQuinn, who serves the 70th district. That area covers Charles City, Richmond, Chesterfield and Henrico County. 

McQuinn called on Congress to extend the expansion, noting how the extra funds helped parents feed their children, pay for childcare, pay for educational expenses and build wealth.

“These are particularly challenging times as we have seen across our nation how families are affected, how women are affected,” McQuinn said. “And I think that being able to extend this, to expand this, would be just such a blessing to so many individuals.”

The Credit’s Impact

An Urban Institute study, which referenced data from the Supplemental Poverty Measure, found that if the Biden administration extended the CTC expansions until 2025, that move would reduce child poverty by more than 40% annually. 

Looking at the numbers, that means 4.3 million fewer children would be in poverty, including just shy of 100,000 Virginia kids. A permanent change would decrease child poverty by 50% or more in 11 states. The projected Virginia impact would be right around 35.5%.

“This opportunity to slash child poverty in half is just—it’s really going to set kids up for success in years to come,” said Kristina Hagen, state director of the Virginia Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy, an advocacy organization focused on economic policies that lift up Virginia women and families. 

A recent study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation in partnership with the Social Policy Institute at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, examined how Virginians utilized their CTC funds. Approximately 37% of Virginia families reported mostly using the funds to pay down debt, while 32% mostly spent the money. A total of 31% mostly saved it.

Of those that spent the money, 51% of Virginia families purchased food, while 34% managed bills and 29% put the funds toward their rent or mortgage. Other expenses included purchasing clothing, childcare costs, buying toys and more. 

The study also found that Virginia families experienced lower rates of food insecurity, trouble with bills and difficulty with housing payments.

“I really cannot overemphasize just how transformative this program is,” Hagen said. “It’s already going a long way toward providing relief to Virginia families.”

Becoming Part of the Progress

If extending the expanded CTC would help you or someone you know, now’s the time to act.

While it’s important for voters to let their elected representatives know how they feel about issues that impact them, Virginians can go beyond writing letters to effect change. One way is to get others involved.

“I think there are, I guess, a multiplicity of ways of trying to, you know, get everyday individuals involved besides, you know, certainly contacting the congressional representatives,” McQuinn said. “Social media is a big deal. How do you spread the word through social media? Through [a] Twitter account, through email, through Facebook. I mean, name it. [That’s one way] to get everyday individuals talking about this particular issue and how important it is.”

Hagen also encouraged those passionate about the issue to speak up. 

“One of my calls to action for folks would be, frankly, to share your story,” Hagen said. “I mean, you know, we really are hearing from folks all the time, but it really is by putting a face, I think, to the issues that really helps to paint the picture for our elected officials over just how important and how impactful these programs are.”

From helping with childcare costs to putting food on the table, extending the CTC could be a major improvement for families not only throughout the commonwealth, but also across the country.

“It’s making a difference in more ways than one,” Ashley Kenneth, president and CEO of the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis. “And now federal lawmakers have a unique opportunity to make an even bigger difference in the lives of families by making long-term changes to the Child Tax Credit and the Build Back Better plan. Congress can—and they should—decide not only to extend the increase of the credit, but to make it permanently available to children and families with the lowest incomes by making it fully refundable.”

Amie Knowles reports for The Dogwood. You can reach her at amie@couriernewsroom.com