With Their Agenda Stalled, Democrats Urge Parents To File Taxes

WASHINGTON- Democrats have failed to extend the monthly child tax credit payments that most American parents received last year, but they have some useful advice for parents missing that extra cash: File your taxes.

More than 36 million households received as much as $300 per child each month from July through December. The monthly payments have ended, but households that were eligible for the maximum benefit stand to receive lump-sum checks for the first six months of 2021 in the form of a tax refund.

Democrats called a press conference Tuesday to publicize the coming refunds.

“This being tax season, I want to just put in a pitch this year so that families will make sure that they get the second half of the child tax credit payment,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.).

Since Democrats boosted the maximum value of the child tax credit to $3,600 in 2021 for kids under 6 ($3,000 for kids age 6 to 17), and the IRS only made monthly payments for half of the year, eligible parents can get refunds worth as much as $1,800 per child under 6 and $1,500 per child age 6 to 17.

Shannon Russell is a 34-year-old mother of four in Hemet, California, whose husband died from cancer five years ago. She said the monthly payments had been a big help — and she didn’t know more money would arrive via a tax refund.

“It’s useful, of course, but Joe Biden promised to bring single-parent households out of poverty, and it wasn’t supposed to be for just a year,” Russell said.

Russell worked at a drug manufacturer’s warehouse until the pandemic hit and hasn’t been able to return. “They offered to bring me back but I don’t have child care,” she said. “I’m kind of out here on my own.”

Russell said she has been searching for a babysitter since last year but hasn’t had any luck. She needs someone who can watch her 4-year-old, who has autism, and also pick up his older siblings from school. She has interviewed potential caretakers but not found one who could do the work on a schedule that fits her own. Even before the pandemic, she said, she would sometimes miss shifts because of the kids.

“There’s no way I’m going to pull this off without the child tax credit,” she said.

Democrats had said they would continue the child tax credit payments as part of the Build Back Better Act, but the bill stalled last year after Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) said he wouldn’t support it.

The senators who spoke out on Tuesday said they still hoped to strike some kind of deal with Manchin, such as by reducing the number of higher-income households that qualify. (The 2021 benefit only began to phase out at households with incomes above $150,000.)

Sen. Manchin has not slammed the door on this,” Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) said.

Separately on Tuesday, however, Manchin suggested he hadn’t needed to slam the door, saying he’s “not part of any organized discussions” about the credit. For weeks, Bennet and others have insisted they’ll eventually come to some agreement with Manchin while Manchin has suggested nothing is happening.

Manchin’s staff last week told a group of West Virginia moms that had traveled to Washington to lobby for the credit that Manchin wouldn’t support it as part of a broader bill. But that’s what the other Democrats said they wanted on Tuesday: the child tax credit as the centerpiece of a major social policy bill that includes child care and green energy subsidies. It’s unclear how the Democrats will resolve their disagreement.

The bigger tax refunds will likely alleviate some of the hardship parents have faced since losing the monthly payments. Bennet told HuffPost that Democrats did not think of the refunds as buying them time.

“It’s certainly good to have that enhancement,” Bennet said. “But everybody up here knows how important this monthly credit has been. It’s been a lifeline.”

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