Richmond Times-Dispatch: Abigail Spanberger column: July 15 child tax credit payments will reach 80% of central Va. families, mark a turning point in our economic recovery

RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH, REP. ABIGAIL SPANBERGER

Across Virginia, businesses are reopening, COVID-19 cases are plummeting, and families are gathering in person with their loved ones for the Fourth of July, family barbecues, and long weekends at the lake or the beach. These developments are good news, and our progress should be celebrated.

But even amid this promising moment, there still are thousands of families in our region who are recovering from an acute financial hardship or living paycheck to paycheck.

Increasingly, daily expenses are causing families to face an uncertain future over the next few months — particularly for those who have recently returned to the workforce after a long period of unemployment or underemployment. Many are worried about keeping the lights on, paying for gas or covering the cost of child care. I have heard these concerns directly from central Virginia families, especially those with young kids.

The cost of child care continues to be a major burden and a serious impediment to our economic recovery. Prior to the pandemic, infant care in Virginia was more expensive than in-state tuition at a public university. And during the COVID-19 crisis, closures limited availability and increased child care costs for families across the 7th District.

In Congress, I have worked to remain responsive to the health care and economic effects of the pandemic. In March of this year, I wrote in the Richmond Times-Dispatch about an emergency relief package known as the “American Rescue Plan.” I had just voted in the U.S. House of Representatives to pass this legislation, and President Joe Biden had signed it into law.

This landmark legislation is a primary reason for our recent successes. The American Rescue Plan strengthened many facets of Virginia’s COVID-19 response — including a major deployment of vaccines, additional stimulus checks, and support for family-owned restaurants, bars and breweries through the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. Virginians quickly felt the impacts of these provisions.

However, Virginians have yet to feel one key component of the American Rescue Plan — the expansion of the child tax credit.

The American Rescue Plan expanded the child tax credit from $2,000 per child to as much as $3,600 per child. Additionally, it ensured that this credit is fully refundable. This month, child tax credit payments will start hitting bank accounts.

Central Virginia families will begin receiving yearly payments — up to $3,000 per child ages 6-17 and up to $3,600 per child under age 6 — distributed in monthly increments. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) plans to start these payments on July 15 by sending families half of their monthly payment — which means they will receive up to $300 per child under age 6 and up to $250 per child ages 6-17. In the 7th District alone, nearly 150,000 children and their families will benefit from these payments. That means 80% of children in the 7th District will benefit.

Amazingly, there is little to no effort required for most families to start benefiting from these payments. Central Virginia families will get the full credit if they make up to $150,000 for a couple or $112,500 for a single parent. Families who make more than this will receive a prorated amount of the credit. Families who filed taxes in 2019 or 2020 — or who signed up to receive a stimulus check from the IRS — should automatically receive this tax relief.

This expansion is money directly into the pockets of Virginia families. Immediately, they will be able to use this additional assistance to pay the bills, keep up with the rent or the mortgage, and purchase essentials like groceries, gas and back-to-school clothes. Wherever families are feeling the sting in their checkbook, this new child tax credit can help.

As we return to normal, this extra relief also will help cover the costs of child care — allowing more workers to feel comfortable about getting back into the workforce and allowing more businesses to recruit the skilled employees they need.

And from a wider economic perspective, the temporary expansion of the child tax credit promises to dramatically cut child poverty. In 2019, the National Academy of Sciences released a report indicating that an expansion of the child tax credit would slash child poverty rates in half — while improving health care outcomes, widening educational opportunities and increasing future earnings.

We know that our economy only is as strong as the strength of our workforce and the next generation of Virginians. This payment marks a turning point after an extraordinarily difficult year, and it recognizes that Virginia families are the foundation of a stable and successful future.

This boost is a smart investment in our region’s economic security and the opportunities available to our region’s children.

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