Brookings Survey Discusses Tax Credit
WHEELING — A survey conducted by the Brookings Social Policy Institute says families spent their enhanced child tax credits last year on basic needs such as food, but also found other ways to invest in their children’s growth and education.
Leah Hamiliton, associate professor of social work at Appalachian State University, presented the results during a briefing at WesBanco Arena Tuesday organized by TSG Consulting of South Charleston.
The temporary expansion of the Child Tax Credit in 2021 provided families with up to $3,600 per child under the age of 6, and up to $3,000 for children ages 6-17.
Working families received the full credit if their household income was under $150,000 for a couple, or under $112,500 for a family with a single parent.
A major component of the program was that families would receive half of the credit in the form of monthly installments.
The Brookings survey was conducted July 8-13, 2021 after parents began receiving child tax credits, and again on Dec. 17, 2021 through Jan.14, 2022 as the benefits were being eliminated.
“I think it helped families cover immediate needs, put food on the table, and cover housing and routine expenses,” Hamilton said.
“It also helped families with routine investments in their children’s education by helping to cover the cost of extracurricular activities, tutoring and other things.
“It reduced economic precarity for a lot of families, and it adds evidence to refute that it (CTC) might decrease employment or that it might be misspent.”
The majority of those receiving the monthly CTC payments — 63% — indicated it was much easier for them to budget the money they received than if they received it all in one lump sum as part of their annual tax return, Hamilton said.
The survey indicated that 70% of respondents said they had used their CTC payments to cover routine expenses. Among them, 58% said they had used the money for essential items, with 56% noting they had purchased additional food with the funding. Another 49% responded they had used the money for emergency savings, with 42% noting it was directed toward debt payment.
There were 36% who said they used the money to purchase “better food,” while 28% put it toward their child’s activities and 27% paid health expenses.
The study also found that the monthly CTC payments to families did not encourage parents to not work, but likely led them to seek professional training and classes
The percentage of West Virginia parents employed dropped 10% when the CTC expired, while non-parents increased their employment rate.
The purpose of the study was to understand the effects of the expanded CTC on families and to inform current proposals to make the credit permanent, according to organizers.
West Virginia Sen. Owens Brown was among those present, and he expressed his belief that the expanded CTC was a good government policy and should be reinstituted.
He said he and other supporters had tried to pressure U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., to back President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan. Expanded CTC was a major component of the policy.
Manchin would vote against Build Back Better legislation.
“For whatever reason, he is the culprit here in this whole situation,” Brown said of Manchin. “He led many people in West Virginia to believe it was a bad thing, when it was a very good thing to have. I don’t know what his reasoning was.
“I have been reading he might reconsider looking into the Child Tax Credit again,” Brown said.