Stimulus Update: Child Tax Credit Payments Still Aren’t Getting to Those Who Need Them Most

A young husband and father sits at a dining table looking through the household bills and holds his head in despair .
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The U.S. government will send out its final advance Child Tax Credit payments for 2021 this week, and many of the neediest American families still aren’t getting the payments five months after they were first distributed.

See: Stimulus Update — December’s Child Tax Credit Arrives in Two Days — Will This Be the Last Check?
Find: Stimulus Update — What Should You Do If You Lost Your Child Tax Credit Check?

Those most affected are poor households whose incomes are so low they don’t have to file federal income taxes — a key factor in determining who qualifies for the payments and where they should be sent.

Americans don’t have to file income taxes to qualify for the enhanced CTC benefits, which were included as part of the American Rescue Act. Those who don’t file taxes were instructed to visit the Internal Revenue Service’s Child Tax Credit Non-filer Sign-up Tool and enroll before the Nov. 15 deadline.

But many haven’t done that. And efforts by the IRS and community groups to spread the word haven’t been nearly effective enough to ensure all qualified families get their payments, CNN reported.

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The result is that thousands or even millions of needy Americans might be missing out on payments that could total as much as $3,600 per child for 2021.

See: Stimulus FAQ — IRS Updates 2021 Child Tax Credit Frequently Asked Questions
Find:The Big Increase and More Changes to the Child Tax Credit in 2021

As CNN noted, many low-income families who don’t file taxes are reluctant to apply for the enhanced CTC benefit, either because they believe doing so might jeopardize other government benefits, reveal their immigration status or force them to pay back taxes, student loans or child support they owe.

“People that have been avoiding doing taxes for a reason still don’t want to do this,” Jessica Brown, director of strategic initiatives at Community Development Advocates of Detroit, told CNN. “[They are] worried that that was going to ignite a whole ‘nother bit of ‘you owe me, you owe me, you owe me’ from the government.”

An estimated 3 million to 5 million kids in the U.S. belong to families who had to take action to get the advance CTC payments because of their tax-filing status. The IRS is still in the process of determining how many parents used its online tool to sign up.

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See: Are Child Tax Credit Payments Taxable?
Find: Didn’t Get Your Child Tax Credit? Here’s How To Track It Down

It’s still not too late to receive the benefit another way. Families who missed out on the advance monthly payments can get the full enhanced credit if they submit a 2021 tax return next year. The IRS and other groups plan to keep spreading the word during the upcoming tax season.

However, it is too late to sign up for the 2021 advance payments. The last of this year’s six monthly payments is being distributed on Wednesday, Dec. 15 — and it could be the last ever.

As GOBankingRates reported, Congress must approve an extension to the enhanced CTC benefit if it is to continue next year. President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Act includes a one-year extension of the advance payments. The U.S. House has approved the bill, but there’s no guarantee the Senate will do the same.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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