The number of children in America living in poverty jumped dramatically after just one month without the expanded child tax credit payments, according to a new study. Advocates fear the lapse in payments could unravel what they say were landmark achievements in poverty reduction, the AP reports. Columbia University's Center on Poverty and Social Policy estimates 3.7 million more children were living in poverty by January—a 41% increase from December, when families received their last check. The federal aid started last July but ended after President Biden's Build Back Better bill stalled in Congress. Payments of up to $300 per child were delivered directly to bank accounts monthly.
The Columbia study, which combines annual US Census data with information from the Census Bureau's monthly Current Population Survey bulletins, found that the monthly child poverty rate increased from 12.1% in December to 17% in January. That's the highest level since December 2020, when the US was grappling with high unemployment and a resurgence of COVID-19. Black and Latino children experienced the highest percentage point increases in poverty—5.9% and 7.1% respectively. Last week marked the second missed deposit of the year.
Megan Curran of the Center on Poverty and Social Policy said the sudden spike shows how quickly the payments became core to financial stability for millions of families. "It really had a huge impact right off the bat," Curran said. "We saw food insecurity drop almost immediately as soon as the payments started ... all of that progress that we made could now be lost." Curran said the increase in children living in poverty could also partially reflect rising prices. The original goal of the child tax credit program was to cut nationwide child poverty in half. (West Virginia families dreaded the end of the credit.)