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Childhood hunger declines as tax credit payments arrive

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A person collects a box of food at a walk-up food distribution bank for people facing economic hardship or food insecurity, in a church parking lot in Los Angeles, California, August 10, 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

A person collects a box of food at a food distribution bank in Los Angeles in August 2020. Recent Census data shows a decrease in hunger and poverty for households with kids, especially among Black and Latinx households. Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

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Census data released Wednesday shows a recent decrease in both hunger and poverty for households with kids. That coincides with families receiving the expanded Child Tax Credit, a per-child monthly payment of up to $300 that started in July.

Those payments, part of the American Rescue Plan, are temporary and set to run out at the end of the year. But that influx of cash has been especially helpful for very low-income Black and Latinx families.

“We could see significant poverty reduction in the Latino community, as much as 40% of Latino kids,” said Eric Rodriguez with the nonprofit UnidosUS.

Susana Salgado’s children could be among those. She and her husband work but still struggle to make ends meet for their family of four in Chicago. Her husband works at a restaurant and his hours were cut recently because of the delta variant. Salgado put the monthly deposit toward back-to-school expenses.

“So, we’re buying backpacks, uniforms, school supplies and also paying for the registration for programs that our children want to participate in that sometimes are not free, and we have to pay,” she said.

The benefits also affect white families. In the case of Denver-based Heidi Laursen, a single mom who works in the hotel industry, the credit helped pay for child care for her 8-year-old son.

“It couldn’t have come at a better time,” she said. Laursen hopes the cash payments and increased credit will become permanent. “This child tax credit takes some of that stress that I was feeling about, ‘How am I going to do this? How am I going to keep going?'”

Extending the direct cash payments for households with kids is part of the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion budget bill making its way through Congress.

And once people experience these kinds of benefits, they’re more likely to become permanent, according to Katherine Michelmore, a public policy professor at the University of Michigan.

“Once these changes happen in the tax code, they tend to stick because they tend to be fairly popular among the populations,” Michelmore said.

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