The most effective anti-child poverty measure in decades has lapsed — and its future is in doubt

The most effective anti-child poverty measure in decades has lapsed — and its future is in doubt
person sitting on bench

On Jan. 15, around 36 million households with children won’t get a payment that many had come to rely on over the previous six months. Thanks to Sen. Joe Manchin and every single Senate Republican, the expanded child tax credit lapsed, and Democrats aren’t sure how to move forward on restoring it.

Senate Democrats have shifted to bashing their heads against the problem of getting voting rights—another top priority—passed. They and the White House continue to hope for a way to get Manchin and fellow problem Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema on board with some version of President Joe Biden’s signature Build Back Better agenda. But that means getting through Manchin’s right-wing—but also notably boneheaded—opposition to the most successful anti-child poverty program in decades over his offensive and inaccurate view that the benefit is being used to buy drugs.

Thanks to Manchin’s specific opposition to the child tax credit, even attempting to pass it as a stand-alone bill while the rest of Build Back Better is negotiated would be unlikely to work.

Meanwhile, not just the poor families that Manchin has such contempt for but many middle-class families as well will deal with the loss of income. Under the expanded child tax credit, all but the highest-income families have been eligible for monthly checks of $250 per child aged 6 to 17, and $300 per child 5 and under.

“The CTC went away, but grocery prices haven't gone down,” said Stormy Johnson, a single mother of three in Manchin’s home state of West Virginia. “Now that I don't have that payment, the reality of life is that there will be times I won't eat to make sure my kids can.”

Johnson’s income as a student support specialist pays the rent, car payments and car insurance, and utilities, but leaves just $50 per month over those basic bills.

A woman caring for an orphaned granddaughter worries that without the checks, the family won’t be able to afford to keep a puppy they got to comfort the girl after the deaths of her parents.

A data center architect with a middle-class salary nonetheless will feel the loss of the money, which the family has dedicated directly to special help for his autistic daughter. “It just boils my blood that a 74-year-old man who drives a Maserati is holding this up,” Matthew Taylor told HuffPost.

These individual stories are examples of the child tax credit’s broader effects. Food insecurity in households with kids dropped from 11% to 8.4%. The tax credit brought 3 million children out of poverty almost immediately. And for families that have been getting by, able to pay the bills but living paycheck to paycheck, it meant a little added security, maybe an extra or two for the kids. That, not drug money, is what Manchin has yanked away from 36 million families—and what Democrats have to find a way to bring him around on.

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