Welch urges families to file taxes soon

MONTPELIER — Trudy Namubiru, a single mother and New American who moved from Uganda in 2018, said she loves her job as an accounts payable specialist at the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity. 
But the pandemic has brought financial stresses, such as increasing costs of housing and of caring for her 5-year-old daughter. As a middle-income earner, Namubiru said she doesn’t qualify for many subsidies that help out low-income families. 
That’s where the child tax credit expansion comes in. The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan includes a one-year refundable income tax credit worth up to $3,600 per child. The maximum was $2,000 last year. Families with household incomes under $150,000 or single heads of household earning less than $112,500 qualify, but must file their federal income taxes before the May 17 deadline. 
The benefit “would help us with accommodation. It would help us with access to transport. It would help us with food and clothing,” Namubiru said. “You know how kids grow almost every day.”  
U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., spoke at a press conference Monday, May 10 to encourage Vermonters to claim the benefit, and called the higher tax credit “one of the most significant, pro-family, anti-poverty programs since the Roosevelt administration” and the New Deal of the 1930s.
The program will benefit 90% of the children in Vermont, about 120,000 of them, Welch said. It will also take 3,900 Vermont children out of poverty, he said. 
“What it reflects is a commitment to the early development of children and a recognition that families with children have real financial challenges,” Welch said.  
Studies have shown that the American Rescue Plan could have a significant impact on child poverty nationwide. The rescue plan could cut child poverty by more than half, according to an analysis by the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University. 
But experts warn that child poverty could return to pre-pandemic rates unless the largely one-time policies are made permanent. 
The American Families Plan, which President Joe Biden presented to Congress in April, would extend the child tax credit program through 2025 and keep the credits fully refundable. Welch said there is “a lot of support” to make the credit increase permanent. 
The Internal Revenue Service plans to send out tax credit checks beginning in July. Instead of a one-time payment next year, families will have the option to receive monthly checks through December before receiving the second half of the credit in April 2022. 
The checks will be $300 per month for children 5 and under, and $250 per month for children between 6 and 17, through the end of the year. 
To receive those checks, families or heads of households will have to file a federal income tax return with the IRS — even if they don’t expect to owe money to the government. 
“To get the IRS to send you the check your family is entitled to under the child tax credit, the IRS has to have your information, which they get from your tax filing form,” Welch said. 
The cost of raising a child was already near an all-time high before the pandemic, and many parents, particularly mothers, were forced to leave the workforce when day cares shut down and schools went to remote learning. 
Vermont’s population is aging, and many top earners are headed for retirement in the next decade. The state’s old and expensive housing stock also complicates things for families or people considering having children. Home sales to out-of-staters boomed in 2020, as did the selling prices.
Advocates say the expanded tax credit could ease some financial pressures by making it easier to start — and keep — families in the state. 
“I think this could be one economic systemic change that would help families kind of grow in place,” Paul Dragon, executive director of the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity, said in an interview Monday. 
Namubiru said she has not been able to save much money lately. Most of her income has gone for immediate expenses. With the tax credit, she said, she can start putting away money for college or homeownership. 
“It would help us with trying to save for the future of our children,” Namubiru said.

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