Norwich — Nearly 80% of eastern Connecticut families qualify for the newly expanded federal child tax credit designed to help pay rent, car repairs, all-important child care and food and clothing.
But many low-income families who do not file federal income tax forms might be unaware of the expanded benefit, which was included in the American Rescue Plan COVID-19 relief package.
Officials from Thames Valley Council for Community Action told U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, during a discussion Friday at the TVCCA office that they are working to reach families who do not earn enough to file tax returns to ensure they receive the child tax credit.
The changes add 17-year-olds and boost the maximum annual tax credit for families with children aged 6 to 17 from $2,000 to $3,000, and for families with children under age 6 from $2,000 to $3,600. Families with higher incomes received reduced amounts.
Rather than a refund on annual tax forms, families now receive the child tax credit monthly, the first payments issued July 15 and the second on Friday. Families with children under age 6 received $300, and those with children 6 to 17 received $250.
Deborah Monahan, TVCCA executive director, said her staff will ask families applying for fuel, food or other assistance if they are receiving the expanded child tax credit.
The expanded child tax credit was authorized for two years in the American Rescue Plan, but Courtney said congressional leaders are discussing extending the benefit through the federal budget “to ensure this doesn’t fall off the cliff.” He estimated about 78% of families in his congressional district qualify for at least a portion of the expanded child tax credit.
“No question, the biggest impact is on low-income families with young children,” he said. He noted that dividing the benefit into monthly payments was designed to help families meet daily expenses, including child care, food, clothing and rent.
Rosie, a tax credit recipient who attended the TVCCA gathering but declined to give her last name, said the new monthly payment has done just that for herself and her adult daughter. The Mystic resident has three young boys, one of them autistic, and two adult daughters. Her oldest daughter has an autistic child and a new infant.
“Once she got the credit, she was so happy,” Rosie said. “Single mothers needed to stay home (during the pandemic). They couldn’t get child care. The day cares were closed. Rent and bills are piling up for some families.”
“It was very, very intense,” she added, “very frustrating.”
Rosie said her daughter now could pay for a much-needed car repair, buy diapers, clothes and food. “She is so happy having it every month.”
Kim Barry, social services manager at TVCCA’s New London office, and Emily Fisher, TVCCA financial and education coordinator, both help families fill out income tax forms through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. Barry said most families who file income taxes are “taking full advantage” of the child tax credit.
But the agency now is trying to reach families on Social Security or disability income and others who do not file income tax forms.
“If you’re not in the (IRS) system, you’re not getting the tax credits,” Barry said.
Families can sign up for the child tax credit at www.getctc.org, set up by the IRS. Fisher said the website is easy to navigate on a smartphone. The IRS main website, www.irs.gov, also has a portal to sign up for the tax credits.
Families have the option to forgo the monthly payments and receive the entire credit through their annual tax filing. While officials recommend the monthly payment to help with immediate bills, some prefer a large refund in spring. But Courtney cautioned that the IRS is experiencing a major backlog in processing forms, and refunds could be delayed for months next spring.
Barbara Crouch, senior director of marketing for TVCCA, said word of mouth might help persuade families to sign up for the monthly payments.
“Once someone has gotten it,” she said, “I say ‘Where’s mine?’ And it’s so easy for nonfilers to sign up.”
Originally published Published By Claire Bessette The Day August 13. 2021 3:47PM | Updated August 13. 2021 9:54PMAugust 13th, 2021