The monthly payments from the expanded child tax credit that have been given to roughly 35 million families in the U.S. during the pandemic will expire at the end of the month, after Congress failed to renew the program that would have been part of the Build Back Better plan.
The payments, which ranged from $250 to $300, started going out in July. Aside from increasing payments, the expanded program sent checks out monthly, and it broadened the number of families who were eligible.
Studies have shown that the monthly payments have helped to significantly reduce child poverty and child hunger in the country. The White House says the program would have the potential to could cut child poverty in half.
Pediatrician Dr. Megan Sandel, who runs Boston Medical Center's GROW Clinic to help malnourished children, says the monthly payments helped families get back on their feet.
"A lot of that has to do with being able to have that consistent check every month that they know they're getting," Dr. Sandel told NPR earlier this month.
But hunger in the U.S. is worsening just as the monthly payments are ending. The Census Bureau estimated that more than 21 million Americans didn't have enough to eat in early December, a five-month high.
"I really have to call out that with the Build Back Better bill not being passed, that we are seeing now families really losing hope," Sandel said. "So time is of the essence. We need to really make sure that families don't fall off the cliff, especially in this time with such high food inflation."
The expanded child tax credit program was passed as part of Biden's American Rescue Plan in March, and the administration hoped Democrats would pass an extension of it before the end of the year as part of the Build Back Better Act. But because of opposition from Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the bill did not come up for a vote in the Senate.
Machin had said he had concerns about the bill's cost and how it would contribute to inflation. Privately, he also reportedly voiced concern that parents who received the monthly credit would use the money on drugs, according to the Huffington Post.
The last payment was sent to eligible families on Dec. 15.
If Congress doesn't pass an expanded child tax credit, the program reverts back to being a smaller amount in the form of a yearly credit.