Child Poverty Soars After GOP, Manchin Block Child Tax Credit Payments

Advanced child tax credit payments had a drastic impact on child poverty in the US, according to nonpartisan analysis of last year's COVID recovery program. (Photo by Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

By Michael McElroy

February 18, 2022

It’s exactly what nonpartisan groups warned would happen if Congress allowed the expansion to expire.

The expansion of the Child Tax Credit helped drastically lower child poverty after it passed through Congress last year. 

The expansion, which was part of President Biden’s Build Back Better plan, gave parents up to $300 a month per child from last March to the end of last December. Most children received $4,380 in 2021, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center said, almost double what they would get in a normal year under the credit. 

The payments helped feed, clothe and nurture 61.2 million children in December alone. Food insecurity plummeted, and long-standing disparities in racial equity began to improve too.

But the US Senate blocked its renewal late last year. Can you guess what happened?

Child poverty surged by 41% in January, a study by Columbia University’s Center on Poverty and Social Policy found. 

This is no surprise. It’s exactly what non-partisan groups warned would happen if Congress allowed the expansion to expire.

“An estimated 9.9 million children are at risk of slipping back below the poverty line or deeper into poverty if the expansion is not extended,” the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities warned in December. 

Republicans in the US House and Senate were unified in their opposition to the expansion, and in the Senate, conservative Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia voted against it because he said it was too expensive and because he wondered if parents were using the payments to care for their children.

According to Census data, parents spent the vast majority of their child tax payments on food, clothing and utilities.


  • Michael McElroy

    Michael McElroy is Cardinal & Pine's political correspondent. He is an adjunct instructor at UNC-Chapel Hill's Hussman School of Journalism and Media, and a former editor at The New York Times.

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