Families with young children around the country and in Nevada will be getting more than just the stimulus checks from the recently passed COVID relief bill.
They will also be getting an advance payment on their child tax credit. Usually, the tax credit is up to $2,000 a year but Congress decided to increase that to up $3,600 a year to be paid out in a monthly allowance.
Families will be getting $250 per child per month and $300 per child under 6. There is no restriction on how the money can be spent.
The payments are supposed to start in July and go through December, but the IRS, which is tasked with sending out the payments, has warned that it may not be ready to distribute the money by July.
When the plan is executed, the money will be directly deposited into the bank accounts the IRS has on file. For families who have not filed a tax return, Nevada Free Taxes Coalition can help them file the necessary paperwork to get the benefit.
And parents here—really parents everywhere—need it. Even before the pandemic, the costs of raising a family - childcare, preschool, health care and more - have been perennial hardship for parents, especially for single-parent families.
Some are saying the allowance has been a long time coming; that the federal government is, for the first time, realizing low-income parents in this country need the help.
“Not only are there large projections of reducing child poverty, and promoting racial equity by reducing racial disparities, but monthly payments are critical to countering income volatility, particularly for Black and Latino families, who experience the most severe income volatility,” said Emma Mehrabi, director of poverty policy for the Children's Defense Fund.
Mehrabi said Black and Latino households tend to have more ups and downs when it comes to income. This steady income will help offset that for monthly budgets and beyond.
“It will also help in the long term with improving children’s health, educational obtainment, employment," she said, "There is plenty of research that shows unconditional and unrestricted cash helps significantly with a child’s health.”
Janet Quintero, the director of community and government affairs with the United Way of Southern Nevada agreed.
“It’s going to help in an immense way,” she said.
Quintero said the United Way strongly supports tax credits to help lift children and their families out of poverty.
“We just see how it helps expand economic opportunities for families all across the country. It does have a permanent effect,” she said.
It can become a cycle for low-income families. For instance, a car repair might require a payday or short-term loan, but when that loan can't be paid back right away, fees and fines start to add up.
“So, freeing up that extra money to do whatever they feel the need to do to take care of their families, we think is huge,” Quintero said.
There are those who argue against using taxpayer money to help families in poverty.
But Francine Lipman, a professor at UNLV's Boyd School of Law, said it actually pays for itself.
“The cost of this one-year program is about $110 billion, but the savings is difficult to monetize because it is so pervasive," she said, "Eliminating childhood poverty makes these kids and their families more healthy, get better education, more likely to be able to get a job and hold a job, and of course, if you have a job and can hold a job what do you do? You pay taxes.”
Lipman said the infusion of cash into the economy would be "phenomenal," and will lift 50 percent of children currently living in poverty out of poverty.
She said there is compelling evidence that lifting children out of poverty also makes it less likely that they'll engage in criminal activity or other risky behaviors.
If a child has a full stomach, he or she is more likely to well in school. When a child does better in school, he or she is more likely to avoid delinquency and other detrimental behaviors. A child who regularly attends school does better in standardized tests, is more likely to graduate high school and more likely to go to college.
"It’s life-long learning," Lipman said, "This makes the child, especially in those zero to five year years where their bodies and brains are developing, this pays rich dividends for the rest of their lives.”
This type of child allowance has been a goal of anti-poverty advocates for a long time. The next step would be to make it a permanent fixture.
“Kids are 100% of our future," Lipman said, "If they’re not great in Nevada, our state is not great.”
Francine Lipman, Professor, UNLV School of Law; Emma Mehrabi, DIrector of Poverty Policy, Children's Defense Fund; Janet Quintero, Director of Community and Government Affairs, United Way of Southern Nevada
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