The Child Tax Credit protected U.S. families with kids from food insufficiency during a pandemic. Researchers urged that it be made permanent.
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 for dramatically reducing child poverty and preventing families from economic hardship is significant,” Shafer’s group 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.
“[It] was not designed to address food insufficiency or health per se but to offset the substantial costs of providing children with high-quality housing, nutrition, education, and more,” according to the duo.
” More broadly, the study suggests the best way to promote and produce health is not to invest in specific programs and practices that treat disease but in broad economic and social policies that target its root causes,” Hill wrote.
However, the Child Tax Credit policy expired at the end of 2021. The Build Back Better Act was supposed to extend the Child Tax Credit permanently, but has been stalled in Congress as Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has said that he will not support the legislation without the addition of a work requirement for parents.
“Congress can sustain and strengthen this program by making changes in the [Child Tax Credit] permanent, and restoring eligibility to immigrant children,” Shafer wrote with colleagues. They suggested that alternative routes to receive these advanced payments should be explored for those who do not have to file tax returns.
Their cross-sectional, observational study analyzed data from more than half a million survey respondents from January to August 2021. Just over half of the respondents were female, and 62.5% were non-Hispanic white. A third of the respondents had a 4-year college diploma.
After the first payment from the policy was made in late July 2021, two-thirds of survey participants said they received their Child Ta