U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet was among those leading the charge Monday to increase awareness about the expanded child tax credit, a program the Colorado Democrat wrote and helped pass this year that starts delivering payments directly to families next month.
The expanded credit increases the existing $2,000-per-child tax credit to $3,600 for children under six and $3,000 for children through age 17. It also makes the benefit fully refundable, meaning parents can get the payment even if they don't make enough to pay taxes.
Perhaps most importantly, its backers say, the money will be paid in monthly checks for $250 or $300, depending on children's age, starting on July 15, instead of paid in a lump sum at tax time.
Payments should start arriving via direct deposit or in the mail for most parents who qualify, but eligible recipients who haven't filed 2019 or 2020 tax returns can sign up on a non-filer portal run by the IRS, officials said.
"This is the most significant investment Washington has made in children and families in decades," Bennet said during a virtual event. "It’s going to make a massive difference in the lives of kids and families here in Colorado and across the country."
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris also drew attention to the payments on what the administration had designated as child tax credit awareness day. Democrats appeared at events and across social media in an effort to spread the word about the program and to encourage eligible Americans to register for payments if they haven't been required to file tax returns.
"If we’re able to get every family signed up, it will mean significant tax relief for America’s working families and will help bring us even closer to cutting child poverty in half," Biden said in a statement.
A study by Columbia University's Center on Poverty and Social Policy found the expanded credits will reduce child poverty in the United States by 45% by moving roughly 5 million children above the poverty line. Bennet said the new payments will lift an estimated 57,000 children in Colorado out of poverty.
Bennet made a pitch to make the expanded credit permanent during a virtual discussion with Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who wrote the legislation with Bennet.
"Our job now is to make these tax cuts for working people and for the middle class permanent," Bennet said. "Washington has cut taxes over and over again since 2001 for the wealthiest Americans. This is an opportunity now to make sure we do the right thing for working Americans and for the middle class on the back end of this pandemic."
The expanded credit was part of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package signed by Biden in March, but it's only in place for the 2021 tax year. Biden has proposed extending the increased credit for five years as part of his American Families Plan, but Bennet and other Democrats are pushing to make the program permanent.
Failing to make the expansion permanent "just doesn’t makes sense if we've decided we’re not going to accept childhood poverty as a permanent feature of the economy," Bennet said during a Facebook Live event later in the day.
"For families, it’s going to mean direct help to cover groceries, cover rent, to save for a college fund or maybe summer camp," he said.
Julie Van Domelen, executive director of Boulder's Emergency Family Assistance Association, said during the virtual discussion with Bennet and Brown that the importance of the monthly, dependable payments cannot be overstated.
She said families the nonprofit works with experience "toxic stress" from not knowing how they'll be able to cover monthly expenses. In a recent focus group, she added, a parent said, “'My whole life revolves around coming up with rent — every waking hour.'”
"Having a predictable amount that you know is going to land in your budget, that you control, is a huge benefit," Van Domelen said. "Just making life more manageable will have all kinds of benefits to the family dynamics."