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Poor Families May Be Denied New Monthly Payments For Parents.

Poor Families May Be Denied New Monthly Payments For Parents.

Under a new program launched by the Biden administration, the poorest American families are at risk of missing out on monthly payments unless the government can find a way to reach parents who are virtually anonymous to the IRS.

Beginning July 15 and continuing through 2021, the Internal Revenue Service will send checks of up to $300 per child to American families. Families earning $150,000 or less will receive the full benefit, while families earning up to $400,000 will receive some benefit.

President Joe Biden, Democratic lawmakers, and administration officials have repeatedly stated that the policy will reduce child poverty in the United States by half; however, in order to do so, the government must find a way to ensure that aid reaches the very poor, which it has failed to do in the previous year with similarly targeted financial relief.

Those who need help the most may miss out unless the government makes a concerted effort to reach out to these families.

“A lot of people are unaware that the credit is coming,” Sergio Mata-Cisneros, a policy analyst with the Christian anti-hunger organization Bread for the World, said. “These are people who have a high rate of experiencing food insecurity and will benefit the most from the credit, and it’s mostly also children of color, so we are urging the administration to reach out and work with community organizations in this regard.”

The money being distributed monthly is a boosted child tax credit. The American Rescue Plan, the nearly $2 trillion COVID-19 relief bill signed by Biden in March, increased child tax credits for middle- to low-income families from $2,000 to $3,600 and also directed the IRS to pay the credit in advance, effectively creating a temporary child allowance through 2021.

That means that families will receive up to $300 per child per month from the IRS this year through December, with the remaining benefit, which is capped at $3,600 per child, being distributed to parents with their 2021 tax return.

According to the People's Policy Project, a leftist think tank, more than a third of children in poverty in the United States live in non-tax-filing households, and more than half of those in deep poverty (50% below the poverty line) live in non-tax-filing households.

This is something Democrats and administration officials are well aware of.

“I think it’s important to remember that setting up this program this quickly is a huge undertaking, especially given everything else the IRS has been doing during the pandemic,” said Nick Martin, a spokesperson for Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), who has been leading the lobbying push in the House to make the child tax credit expansion permanent.

So far, the solution has consisted of a massive outreach effort.

“While most taxpayers will not be required to take any action in order to receive their payments, Treasury and the IRS will continue outreach efforts with partner organizations in the coming months to make more families aware of their eligibility,” the agency said in a statement on Monday.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, passed in March 2020, and two subsequent COVID-19 relief bills, including the American Rescue Plan, approved three rounds of direct payments.

According to researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, an estimated 12 million working-age Americans were denied COVID relief direct payments because they did not file federal taxes.

The IRS used data from the Social Security Administration, the Veterans Administration, and the Railroad Retirement Board to reach out to more nonfilers and set up an online tool for Americans who do not file taxes to register for the payments, but only 5.4 million people used it.

According to a Treasury Department official, the IRS will use all of the data collected last year under the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan to expand the reach of the child tax credit program.

Outside groups were working to expand their outreach ahead of Monday's Tax Day, and are now encouraging states to share data from antipoverty programs they administer, such as Medicaid, SNAP, or housing assistance. Many groups, as well as House Democratic leadership, have also pushed the Biden administration to support a permanent expansion of the child text credit.

Mata-Cisneros stated that the administration is open to a coordinated campaign with local organizations to raise awareness about the credit and sign people up for the online portal even if they do not file taxes. Biden supported a four-year extension of the program in his recent American Families Plan proposal.

Democratic lawmakers, meanwhile, spent the last week hosting roundtable discussions with organizations to encourage people to file federal taxes, even if they didn't owe anything — a campaign dubbed the "Child Tax Credit Week of Action."

“It is not a benefit if it is not used by those who are supposed to benefit from it,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on May 11 during a panel discussion on the issue in San Francisco.

Reporting was provided by Arthur Delaney.

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