The sunsetting of the child tax credit expansion could leave many families without enough food on the table

Originally posted on The Conversation.

The discontinuation of the Biden administration’s monthly payments of the child tax credit could leave millions of American families without enough food on the table, according to our new study in JAMA Network Open. The first missed payment on Jan. 15, 2022, left families that had come to rely on them wondering how they would make ends meet, according to many news reports.

The American Rescue Plan Act, a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package passed in March 2021, made significant changes to the existing child tax credit. It increased the size of the credit by 50% or more, depending on a child’s age, to either $3,000 or $3,600 per year. It also made more low-income families eligible and paid half of this money out as a monthly “advance” payment.

Biden’s Build Back Better plan calls for a second year of an expanded child tax credit disbursed monthly. But that package of measures stalled in the Senate after passing the House in November 2021. As a result, the monthly advance payments of the child tax credit that American families with children had been receiving since July 2021 were left hanging in the balance.

Nearly 60 million families with children received the first payment, which was sent out in July 2021. The payments were widely credited with bringing about huge declines in poverty and malnutrition. Our study found that the introduction of these advance payments was associated with a 26% drop in the share of American households with children without enough food.