The federal government is set to roll out new child tax credit payments as part of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan. As early as July 15, millions of families will start receiving their monthly payments of up to $300. KCRW talks with Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine), a leading proponent of the tax credits, about who’s eligible for the monthly deposits and how much families can receive.
KCRW: There’s no application necessary to receive payments, right?
Katie Porter: “That's absolutely right, you do not have to apply. You should see the payments appearing automatically, beginning July 15 if you have direct deposit set up with the IRS. Otherwise, within a few days after July 15, you should receive a check in the mail.
If you do not, you should reach out to your congressional representatives and go to ChildTaxCredit.gov. There you can look up your eligibility. There are also numbers and contacts on [the website] for how to get help if you don't automatically receive this.”
“It's for people who have children 17 and under. You get $250 each month for children between the ages of 6 and 17, and $300 a month for children under 6. This is a monthly deposit. There is an additional child credit amount that you will get in 2022 when you file your taxes for 2021.
But we know that parents don't just have expenses once a year. They have monthly expenses for children such as food, child care, and medical bills. The goal is to put the money in people's hands when they need it.
Married couples who filed taxes jointly are eligible for the expanded child tax credit if they make up to $150,000 per year. If you're a single parent – like I am — filing as head of household, the eligibility cutoff is lower with $112,500 per year.
One of the things I'm trying to work on — as we try to make this a permanent policy now — is making sure that we eliminate that single parent penalty. There's just no discount for single parents out there who are trying to buy Cinnamon Toast Crunch and shoes for their kids.”
When is this tax credit going to expire?
“This is going to be the law through the 2021 tax year. It'll go on as payments start and continue through the year. When you file your 2021 taxes, you'll get that remaining amount of the credits in 2022. This program will lift about half a million children out of poverty.”
People who didn't make enough money to file taxes last year — will they benefit from this?
“Absolutely. This tax credit is fully refundable. Even if you do not owe tax or did not pay taxes last year, you still can receive the help.”
What about the children of undocumented parents?
“They are also eligible for this benefit. All kids in this country whose families fall under those income thresholds are eligible for this.”
Qualifying households can receive up to $3,600 annually per child. Do you think that’s enough to help families in expensive cities like Los Angeles or in your own Orange County district?
“As a parent, I can tell you that is a significant amount of money. That is real grocery money each and every month of the year.
I think the challenge for high-cost areas, including Southern California, is the income cut-offs for married couples and single-parent households. Those were set at the national level.
What that means is that in many states, that number is maybe double or even triple the median income. I think the amount of the child tax credit is absolutely a big help.”
You recently had your first in-person town hall in more than a year. But the event turned violent with detractors throwing punches and getting rowdy. Were you afraid for yourself and for your supporters at the event?
“I was afraid for everyone in attendance. There were seniors, people with walkers, and people with limited mobility who were in danger of getting hurt.
I actually put my arm around two people. One of them was an elderly lady, and the other one was an elderly gentleman. That elderly gentleman was there to express his displeasure with me, and the elderly woman was there as a supporter. It didn't matter to me. I didn't want anyone to be hurt in this event.
We absolutely did our best to try to create a safe environment, but we had a group of attendees who advertised in advance a confrontation rally. They created unsafe conditions by using hateful language and espousing misogyny and white nationalism. That made it very difficult for everyone at the event.”
Are you planning to have more in-person town halls despite what happened?
“We are going to continue to have in-person events, but we obviously need to do some additional thinking and planning. We will educate the community and work with law enforcement to make sure that these conditions never occur again.”