Federal Child Tax Credit Program Raises Thousands of People in Tennessee – Tennessee Lookout

While Jessica Crumbley was able to keep her job as deputy manager at Dollar General in Loudon throughout the pandemic, her salary barely kept her disabled husband and three children afloat. Any financial hiccup could be enough to destabilize her family, and in July, Crumbley quarantined herself from COVID-19 without knowing if her job would pay for sick leave.

Crumbley’s saving grace came when she began receiving funds for each of her children through the Child Tax Credit, a federal program meant to help families recover economically from the pandemic.

“It pays for our lights and our water. (Child Tax Credit Program) makes sure children have the Internet for their computers to work. (It pays for) school clothes, ”Crumbley said. “It’s been a big help, really, for us.”

On July 15, families automatically began receiving monthly payments of the child tax credit (CTC) as part of the Biden administration’s US bailout. Families who filed income tax returns in 2019 or 2020 received between $ 250 and $ 300 per child, depending on the age of the children. By the end of the year, children over six will have received total payments of $ 3,000 and children under six will have received $ 3,600.

I’m not getting dangerous pay, bonuses, or other things like a lot of other companies are doing because of the pandemic. Whenever I work, it is the only income I have to help my family survive week after week.

Representative Jim Cooper, a Democrat from Nashville and a congressional sponsor of the Child Tax Credit Bill, said 48,300 families in Tennessee have received payments since the program began.

“It is a game changer because if you can just bring money to families, they will become more stable and cope with the crisis that we are all facing,” Cooper said.

Almost all counties in Tennessee have seen an increase in food insecurity since the pandemic began 18 months ago, according to Feed America.. In eastern Tennessee, Hancock County has experienced the highest rates of food insecurity, which fell from 21.8% in 2019 to 22.5% in 2021.

Relative to other states, Tennessee ranked seventh for food insecurity among women and fourth among residents with a university education, according to the Food Research and Action Center, which uses data collected from the Census Household Pulse Survey data.

Tennessee also ranks second in the country for food insecurity among white residents.

In 2020, 23% of adults with children had little or no confidence in their ability to pay their mortgage or rent, according to the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth. In 2021, rates fell to 13% among white residents, but blacks in Tennessee continued to report a lack of confidence.

Food insecure children can go through a cycle of deprivation and overeating, which in turn can lead to obesity and other health problems.

U.S. Representative Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, pictured at a community service event on September 11, was a Congressional sponsor of the Child Tax Credit program. (Photo: John Partipilo)

“There are a million different reasons why hard work and the right values ​​don’t lift you out of poverty,” Cooper said.

For this reason, advocates for children have hailed the program as a way to halve child poverty and are urging the U.S. Congress to extend the program beyond its December deadline.

“It has the potential to lift many families out of poverty and should be put in place permanently. The nutritional safety net is crucial, but food insecure families also struggle to pay the rent, keep electricity bills paid, put gas in their cars, and pay the cost. school supplies for their children, ”said Signe Anderson, spokesperson for the Tennessee Justice Center.

Tennessee is currently offering $ 375 in food benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for eligible families, and an extension has been approved for October. Families were originally required to have face-to-face interviews to apply, but the requirements were lifted during the pandemic. These deviations from the requirements have not been extended. A 15% increase in SNAP benefits is also expected to expire by the end of this month.

In 2020, states were able to join the federal Pandemic-EBT program, which allowed eligible children to eat meals while schools completed virtual learning. The Tennessee Department of Social Services has been slow to roll out the program and still has not distributed the P-EBT for this school year, Anderson said.

“Media like Pandemic EBT and SNAP helped reduce the damage. The CLC helps even more, ”she added.

Early studies by the Urban Institute show that the CTC, if expanded, could reduce child poverty rates in Tennessee by 45.9%.

Children of all racial and ethnic backgrounds would benefit, although children of color face higher rates of food insecurity than white children, according to the Food Research and Action Center.

Families who have not declared taxes can still apply, including mixed status households. Only children are required to have a Social Security number in order for families to apply for CTC benefits.

Democrats won two seats in Georgia this year, giving the party a majority in the Senate, and are now looking to expand the program until 2025. Negotiations are currently underway in their $ 3.5 trillion budget reconciliation program.

As for Crumbley, she plans to stabilize the family by December, although she hopes the program will be extended.

“I am not getting a salary, bonuses or other dangerous things like a lot of other companies are doing because of the pandemic. Every time I work, it’s the only income I have to help my family survive week after week, ”she said.

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