How Meals Programs Can Help Families Claim the Expanded Child Tax Credit This Summer

While Tax Day has passed, families can still claim the expanded 2021 Child Tax Credit (CTC). A new portal, GetCTC.org, relaunched in May, making it easier for families to do so. Many of the children most at risk of missing out on the CTC are in summer meals programs. Organizations running these programs can steer families to the new portal to help them claim the credit.

The American Rescue Plan Act expanded the 2021 CTC to benefit almost 90% of children in the U.S, including those in families with no earnings, and increased the amount of the credit to $3,000 (children 6 to 17) or $3,600 (children under 6). The expansion reduced the number of children experiencing poverty by about 30% by December 2021, after six monthly CTC payments had been distributed. And it is critical for Black and Latinx children, who disproportionately missed out on the CTC previously. Many studies have shown that additional income, like the expanded CTC, is associated with better outcomes for kids in families with low incomes, including stronger educational performance, improved health, and reduced stress.

The expanded CTC greatly reduced the number of children going hungry. Families spent 2021 CTC advance payments on basic needs, with food representing the top use of the money. The monthly advance payments were associated with a 26% drop in food insufficiency in households with children‚Äč. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse surveys reveal that between August 2021 and April-May 2022, the percentage of households with children reporting food insufficiency increased by 4.7%, as opposed to a 2.2% increase for households without children across the same time period (only households with children were eligible for the CTC). That is an approximately double rate of change for households with children compared to households without children. While in August 2021, households with children were receiving the monthly expanded CTC payments, by April-May 2022, they no longer were (the monthly payments stopped in December 2021).

As significant as these hunger reduction impacts are, four million or more kids are at risk of missing out on the CTC, because their parents or guardians are not required to file taxes (their incomes are below the filing threshold) or because they face barriers to filing. While the IRS sent 2021 advance CTC payments automatically to recent tax filers, other individuals had to claim the credit. Those who received the monthly advance payments are now eligible for the second half of the credit, and those who have not yet received any of the 2021 CTC, are entitled to the full amount. While the tax filing deadline has passed, families with no or low incomes can still file without penalty to claim the remaining half of the credit or the full amount. Critically, receipt of the CTC does not count as income when determining if an individual is eligible for benefits, or the amount for which they are eligible, under federal programs or state and local programs funded entirely or partially by federal funds. This includes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and summer meals programs.

Summer meals programs are well-positioned to provide families likely to miss out on this critical benefit with information on how to claim the money through GetCTC.org. You and your staff do not need to be tax experts to help families claim the credit. You just need to let families know that they are entitled to this money and that they can get help claiming it at GetCTC.org, which makes filing a quick and easy process.

Ready to take action this summer to help families in your meal program claim the CTC? You can find the ready-to-use, multilingual resources you need to take simple actions to connect families to the credit, at this CTC outreach webpage.These actions include:

  • Distributing flyers, such as these, through summer meals programs
  • Texting, emailing and/or sending robocalls to families in your meals programs, using these sample messages in multiple languages

In collaboration, meals programs, agencies, service providers and other partners can help ensure that families claim the benefits to which they are entitled. With the ongoing pandemic and rising prices, we know this assistance will be critical for families. If you have any questions, want assistance doing outreach through your meals program, or would like to set up a unique GetCTC URL to track the impact of your outreach, please contact Julia Beebe (jbeebe@chn.org) at the Coalition on Human Needs.