Special Pandemic Payments Staved Off Hunger for Children’s Families

Originally posted on MedPage Today.

— Should the expired Child Tax Credit policy be carried forward?

The Child Tax Credit safeguarded U.S. families with children from food insufficiency during the pandemic and should be made permanent, researchers urged.

Starting in July and August 2021, the first advance payments of the expanded Child Tax Credit corresponded to a 26% decrease in food insufficiency in children’s households in subsequent weeks, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey.

Across surveyed households, food insufficiency decreased by 2.1%, from 11.7% just before the Child Tax Credit advance payment to 9.6% afterward. In households with children, this decline was even more pronounced: household food insufficiency dropped 4.4% after the first monthly payment from 14.3% to 9.9%, Paul Shafer, PhD, of the Boston University School of Public Health, and colleagues reported in JAMA Network Open.

As part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act passed in March 2021, monthly payments of $250-$300 from the Child Tax Credit were automatically issued to households with children, including households with little or no income.

“The [Credit’s] potential to dramatically reduce child poverty and buffer families against economic hardship is substantial,” Shafer’s team wrote.

The Child Tax Credit was “the closest thing that the United States has ever had to a child allowance, a universal public income guarantee to offset the costs of raising children,” said Heather Hill, PhD, MPP, and Ali Rowhani-Rahbar, MD, PhD, MPH, both of University of Washington, Seattle, in a corresponding editorial.