Some undocumented immigrants aren’t getting their child tax credit payments

Kai Ryssdal and Anais Amin Sep 29, 2021
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The overworked IRS is grappling with the disbursement of child tax credit payments, reporter Chabeli Carrazana says. Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Some undocumented immigrants aren’t getting their child tax credit payments

Kai Ryssdal and Anais Amin Sep 29, 2021
Heard on:
The overworked IRS is grappling with the disbursement of child tax credit payments, reporter Chabeli Carrazana says. Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images
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Undocumented immigrants are among the families who have reported not receiving the federal child tax credit, even after the law was changed and expanded to make them eligible, according to Chabeli Carrazana, an economy reporter at the 19th.

In an article this month, Carrazana mentions that some families with undocumented immigrants are not receiving the funds, adding to the hurdles they already deal with when filing their taxes. Issues with their individual taxpayer identification numbers, direct deposits and “even small mistakes in the applications” can cause delays in their monthly payments.

“Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal speaks with Carrazana about how policies created to help those who need aid the most aren’t delivering on that need.

Kai Ryssdal: Do me a favor. For those who aren’t familiar, or because it’s confusing sometimes, what exactly is the child tax credit?

Chabeli Carrazana: Sure. So the child tax credit is a direct payment that families with children have been receiving every year with their taxes. The big difference in the past year has been that three fundamental pieces of the child tax credit were altered. So, previously, families were getting about $2,000. Now you can receive as much as $3,600 per child. The other big difference is you were receiving this money annually, you are now receiving it monthly as of July 15. Families started to receive it every month for the rest of this year. And then the third big piece is that this money is fully available to the lowest-income families in the country. Now, before those families were limited to only receive a portion of the child tax credit. Now they are receiving the entire thing. So if you don’t pay anything in taxes, you can get this credit. If you are undocumented but your child is a U.S. citizen, you get this credit. So that is sort of the big promise of the child tax credit for the past year.

Ryssdal: Right, emphasis on the word “promise” because, as your piece points out, that is not actually what’s happening with that, that third slice of the plan.

Carrazana: Well, promise and access are two different things, right? And we’re seeing that this year where we have certain groups that are continuously left out and left out as every month progresses. Sometimes we know why, and sometimes we don’t.

Ryssdal: So, give me an example. There’s a bunch in your story, pick your favorite anecdote.

Carrazana: Sure. So undocumented families, we have spoken to a number of them that have told us, you know, “We are still not receiving this money. And we don’t know why.” And you go with them point by point on all of the qualifications that you need to receive this money. And it seems like they qualify, and the IRS can’t necessarily tell us why this is happening. It might be individualized to each person. But we know already from the beginning of this rollout in July that families that had one undocumented person did not receive the credit at all when it initially started to go out. They started to correct that in the following months. But we know that there have been continuing problems month to month. You’re going to get monthly payments until December, and so if your status isn’t cleared by then, you’re not going to be able to share in this promise of, you know, “We’re gonna get this money to you monthly because there is a need right now during the pandemic.” And these are the most vulnerable people.

Ryssdal: Well, so let’s contextualize this a little bit, right? Latinos, who are, you know, the preponderance of the people you’re talking about in your piece, they’re among the most unemployed group of people in the past 18 months in this economy, right? So, in theory, that’s where the need is. And yet, the aid’s not getting there.

Carrazana: Oh, Latinas in particular. I mean, Latinas as a group had the highest unemployment rate of any in the past year and a half, topping 20% last summer. You know, I had one mom tell me, “I would use this for the $85 in school supplies that I need to buy for my two kids, for rent, for, to keep the lights on, to keep the Wi-Fi.” Those are the folks that we know needed the most and also the people who have to jump the most hurdles in order to get it.

Ryssdal: So where does this go? I mean, the IRS says, “I don’t know,” and the people with whom you have been speaking say, “Listen, we need this money for school supplies and diapers and food and what have you.” Where do we go?

Carrazana: Well, I think kind of the big structural problem here is the IRS is under a lot of stress this year. They need more funding to be able to do something this enormous. The need that these families have is not just for the year that this child tax credit has been expanded, but it’s going to be a need that’s going to continue on. And so right now in Congress, that’s what’s being debated. Are we going to make the child tax credit permanent because the need very clearly is not going away?

Ryssdal: Chabeli Carrazana, she writes for the 19th about a bunch of stuff, most particularly now the child tax credit. Thanks a lot. I appreciate your time.

Carrazana: Thanks so much.

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