As Child Tax Credit Payments Expire, Many Maine Families Face “Hard Choices”


Samantha Donley came to rely on the $ 300 per month tax credit the federal government sent her family this year.

The checks help pay for things like child care for her 14-month-old son and gasoline when she travels to Portland from Wilton three days a week to attend the University of Southern Maine.

While in school, her family lived off her husband’s income and the remaining educational grant. The expansion of the child tax credit is one of the reasons she decided to go back to school.

“It definitely helped us,” Donley said. “We started to plan it in our budget. Without it, it will make everything tighter in our home. “

These payments could belong to Donley and thousands of other Maine residents. Congress expanded the tax credit and distributed it in monthly installments under this year’s American Rescue Plan Act. And under that law, the extended credit expires this month, and the last monthly check was mailed to families on December 15.

President Biden’s Build Back Better bill includes an extension that would maintain controls. But Congress failed to pass the move before the holidays, and its outlook is uncertain.

There are an estimated 200,000 children under the age of 18 in Maine whose families have benefited from the extended credit, which was promoted by the Biden administration as a way to protect families from poverty as the pandemic has upset so many lives.

Columbia University’s Center on Poverty & Social Policy reported that the child tax credit has reached 61.1 million children, helping an estimated 3.6 million children out of the poverty. A US Census Bureau report found that most families used the payments for necessities such as food, rent, and utilities.

While Biden’s Build Back Better bill would extend the tax credit, the $ 2.2 trillion spending program suffered a heavy blow when West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin announced last week that he couldn’t support it. With all 50 Republicans opposing, Democrats cannot afford to lose a single vote in the equally divided US Senate.

In fact, the inclusion of the expanded child tax credit has been a key sticking point for Manchin. In private negotiations with the White House last week, Manchin said he would support a bill if the child tax credit was removed, The Washington Post reported.

The White House has been firm in its belief that the child tax credit is paramount.

“Maybe Senator Manchin can explain to the millions of children who have been lifted out of poverty, in part thanks to the child tax credit, why he wants to end a program that helps reach this milestone,” he said. Press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement. Sunday statement.

Senators in Maine are divided over the Build Back Better bill, with Independent Senator Angus King pledging to support and Republican Senator Susan Collins opposed.

Collins, however, said she was open to overhauling the child tax credit program, something her Republican colleague Mitt Romney proposed this week as a way to continue some form of monthly payments. It’s unclear what kind of support this might have.

Donley said she was not convinced many senators think of people like her when debating programs like the expanded child tax credit.

Roxy Kai-Petrovich, who lives in Woodstock with her husband and 8-year-old daughter, said her family has also benefited greatly from the monthly tax credit payment.

Roxy Kai-Petrovich, center, worries about the impact on her family if the expanded child tax credit payments end. She is shown here with her husband, Alex, and 8-year-old daughter, Nova. Photo courtesy of Roxy Kai-Petrovich

Prior to this year, households received a tax credit of up to $ 2,000 when they filed their annual taxes, paid as a lump sum. Under the current plan, which expires this month, families earning less than $ 150,000 received $ 300 per month for each child aged 5 or under, and up to $ 250 for children ages 6 to 17. year. Over the course of a year, that’s up to $ 1,600 more per child.

“Seeing this reduced amount will have a pretty big impact for us,” Kai-Petrovich said. “It’s the difference between buying food and paying another bill for a few months. I think a lot of families with children could be put in places where they have to make these difficult choices. “

Lindsey Clancy of Kennebunk wrote in a newspaper column this month that monthly child tax credit payments largely paid for child care costs for her two daughters, ages 3 and 8.

She and her husband both work, but their child care costs totaled $ 18,000 last year. When the pandemic hit Maine in 2020 and forced their daughters’ daycare center to close for two months, they had to decide whether to keep paying or risk losing their place. They chose to keep paying, even if it meant stretching their budget in other ways.

“Our child tax credit payments, which began in July, fully paid for our oldest after-school care. They also gave us the peace of mind knowing that we have money to pay for emergency child care expenses, like our daughters’ daycares are closing temporarily, ”Clancy wrote.

The fate of Biden’s Build Back Better bill will have many other ramifications beyond the tax credit. Among other provisions, it includes funding for universal preschool for 10 years, an extension of the Obamacare health insurance system and hundreds of billions of dollars to fight climate change.

Biden said this week he’s still confident he and Manchin can come to a compromise on the bill, though it’s not clear how a deal would affect the tax credit provision. The White House has also suggested that if Build Back Better doesn’t arrive in time to resume payments in January, it could double monthly payments in February.

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