We asked North Carolinians if child tax credit payments helped them. Here’s what they said.

This month, the advocacy org MomsRising decorated sidewalks in Washington, D.C., to ask lawmakers to expand the child tax credit and fund child care and food/nutrition for women, infants, and children. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for MomsRising)

By Leah Sherrell

February 29, 2024

Most of the North Carolinians we talked to said the Biden tax credit payments made a big difference at the end of each month. Right now, there’s a push in DC to restore them.

Most people don’t like taxes and don’t want to talk about them. Tax policy is complicated, after all. Most people just want to know if these policies help us or hurt us. For families, there are many reasons to believe President Joe Biden’s child tax credit policy helps—or helped. 

To find out what the impact has been locally, we turned to you, our readers. You had lots to say—like one commenter who told us that the “‘extra’ money a month allowed me to buy my kids beds & household necessities after we were homeless.” But before we reveal everything our readers said, here’s a quick primer on what the federal child tax credit is. 

In March 2021, the Biden administration passed the American Rescue Plan to help Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan increased unemployment benefits, expanded state-level food assistance, and—in one major shift—increased the federal child tax credit (CTC) from $2,000 to $3,000 for any child aged 6-17, and $3,600 for kids younger than 6. 

Another big change: Instead of applying the credit in one lump sum during tax season, half was distributed in six advanced monthly payments of $250-$300. That means many parents were getting monthly checks to help them make ends meet.

The temporary change was credited with cutting child poverty by 40%. In 2022, NC Gov. Roy Cooper said the expanded child tax credit had benefited more than 2 million children in the state. 

And yet Republicans and some conservative Democrats blocked making those changes permanent after the pandemic.  

Advocates have continued asking federal lawmakers to restore the tax policy—and there’s been some new movement in recent weeks. In January, the US House passed a watered-down version of the pandemic-era policy, packaging it with corporate tax cuts to incentivize Republican votes. It faces a difficult road to passage in the US Senate, but debate is ongoing.  

The new bill would partially reinstate the CTC over the next three years and, according to the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, would benefit 16 million children whose families don’t currently receive the full credit. We’ll keep watching as the bill heads to the Senate. 

We wanted to find out what North Carolinians think about the policy, so we reached out to our readers for their thoughts. 

Here’s what you said

Cardinal and Pine asked its audience on Facebook how the child tax credit impacted their lives. 

We got a lot of answers. Some people without children wrote about how it didn’t impact their day-to-day lives. (Remember, though, that America’s success depends on the success of its children—so you can be in favor of the CTC without benefiting directly.) But most people had positive things to say:

“It made sure we had what we needed for our kids without worrying where we were going to find the money on a[n] already tight budget,” said commenter Bobby-Tamera Davis. “For our family it was something that helped us tremendously. We would rather see that money every month than to see it at the end of the year on a tax return.”

“Going to the grocery store is more fun,” said Kasey Steffen. “[We] caught up on school fees and they get to play a spring sport. Also shoes… they get shoes.” 

“That ‘extra’ money a month allowed me to buy my kids beds & household necessities after we were homeless, helped with bills, helped me get their homeschooling subscriptions set up again,” wrote Jacksonville resident Nessa Farmer. “ Right now it’d save my life with groceries since I make too much for food stamps… I miss it.”

Stacy Staggs from Charlotte commented that it helped her “make ends meet and gave a slight reprieve from the financial anxiety in our household – and millions of others.” 

The new version of the CTC, if passed in the Senate, will benefit some families, but leave others behind. While the 2021 CTC had no income requirement, the current and proposed credit only benefits households earning more than $2,500 per year. That’s because it’s meant to encourage parents to work—a key requirement for most Republican lawmakers.

“I can’t get it for my 6-year-old granddaughter who I have been raising since she was born because I draw Social Security,” Alida Hartley wrote to us on Facebook. “It is an earned income tax break. Not for all children. Not for the ones that need it the most.” 

And Debra Lively from Albemarle shared those sentiments, writing that “there needs to be a big change for those raising grandkids.” 

What’s a child tax credit? 

A tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the amount of taxes a household is required to pay. It varies per person and household, depending on things like whether they own a business, how much money they make, and—in this case—how many children or dependents a household claims.

The Biden child tax credit policy was particularly impactful in rural North Carolina.  

According to NC State University’s nonpartisan Institute for Emerging Issues, rural families are more likely to live below the poverty line than urban families, and 2020 census data revealed that a third of the state’s population lives in rural areas. 

Stay tuned to Cardinal & Pine for updates on this important federal legislation. 

Have something you want to add to the conversation? Email us at [email protected] to tell us what you think. 

Author

  • Leah Sherrell

    Leah Sherrell is a multimedia reporter for Cardinal & Pine. A graduate of UNC-Wilmington, she's a resident of Kernersville with a background in video production and communication. Leah uses many forms of media to explore the multifaceted lifestyles and cultures present in North Carolina.

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