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.

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.

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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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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