By: Leo Aquino
- US parents received $250 monthly child tax credit payments from July to December 2021 under Biden’s Build Back Better Act.
- Now that the payments have stopped, many parents struggle to make ends meet.
- Insider spoke with eight families around the US about how life has changed with the loss of monthly payments.
In July 2021, parents all over the US received advanced child tax credit monthly payments of $250 to $300 per child via direct deposit, using the bank account linked to their tax return to support parents during the pandemic.
Previously, parents received an annual child tax credit of $2,000 per child in one lump sum with their tax refunds. Under President Biden’s Build Back Better Act, the child tax credit was raised to $3,600 per child, depending on the child’s age, split up into monthly payments.
In January 2022, the payments stopped due to lack of bipartisan support for the Build Back Better Act. Parents all over the country are scrambling to make ends meet and pushing Congress to extend monthly payments indefinitely.
Insider spoke with eight parents whose lives were directly affected by the loss of monthly child tax credit payments, also known as CTC payments.
1. Faye Ku – Palestine, Texas
Faye Ku is battling breast cancer while taking care of her three children — two teenagers and 8-year-old Zephyr. Ku and her sons live in subsidized government housing that costs $34 per month, but she is unable to work because of her diagnosis.
Monthly CTC payments made it easier for Ku to pay household bills and fill up her gas tank to travel to Houston — two and a half hours away from where she lives — to her doctor appointments.
Without monthly CTC payments, Ku says, “We are stressed out by the lack of cash to do simple things like paying for a guitar lesson, getting new pants, or eating at a restaurant while traveling for my cancer treatments.”
2. Maya Ewings – Tacoma, Washington
Financial hardship during the pandemic forced Maya Ewings, her husband, and her two children to move in with her mother-in-law.
Ewings received $500 per month in CTC payments. She used that money to contribute to household bills and save up for her family to move into their own apartment.
Ewings tells Insider, “Every day, I feel like I’m looking at where my money is going and I’m at a loss for anywhere I can cut back. We cut back on Happy Meals, and I tell the kids we have chicken nuggets at home.”
3. Ashley Cox – Rochester, Washington
Before the birth of her daughter Isabelle, Ashley Cox worked as a manager at a butcher shop, making $2,000 per month, and in restaurants making $14 to $15 per hour. While Isabelle’s father makes a salary of $60,000 per year, he and Cox are separated and she lives on her own.
When the CTC payments started, Cox enrolled in a personal finance class to make sure that she was spending her money in the best way possible for both her and Isabelle. “When January hit, I was like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna get my $360 a month.’ I was budgeting that in and I didn’t get it,” Cox says.
Cox’s doctors then found painful four-inch tumors in her back. “I’ve been extremely sick,” she says. “I don’t feel comfortable taking a job because I’m not the kind of person that calls out all the time. Without monthly $360 CTC payments and unable to work regularly, Cox struggles to keep up with her bills, especially her car note.
4. Emily Fern Dayton – Portland, Oregon
Emily Fern Dayton stays at home full-time to care for her daughter, Juniper Maya, who has disabilities and chronic complex medical conditions. Her husband Michael works part-time as a horticulturalist, and is unable to work full-time because of their daughter’s care needs.
Michael brings home about $1,500 to $1,700 per month and their mortgage is $1,100 per month. Monthly CTC payments of $250 helped bridge the gap to pay for basic expenses like groceries and utility bills. CTC payments also helped them repair their house, which was in dire need of roof repair and pest control.
5. Alexandra Demskie – Conway, Arizona
After getting divorced 10 years ago, Alexandra Demskie moved into her 69-year-old father’s house with her three children, only one of whom qualified her to receive monthly payments of $250 per month. Demskie’s father supports all three children with his income as a truck driver, and he can’t afford to retire.
When the CTC payments started, Demskie was able to contribute to household bills. At 47 years old, Demskie used part of the CTC payments to enroll in a tech course to gain skills that would help her earn more money to support her family independently.
“The unforeseen things, like car repairs, you really don’t have that money saved up for that,” she says. “And the $250 really came in handy.”
6. Ilea Hymes – Memphis, Tennessee
After experiencing homelessness in Arkansas, single mother Ilea Hymes moved her family to Memphis, where she was able to get a job working at a government agency. For years, she had been saving her annual child tax credit refund each year towards a down payment for a house.
A diagnosis of endometriosis and a monthly rent increase of $200 during the pandemic forced her to dip into her down payment savings fund. When the CTC payments of $750 per month arrived, Hymes was relieved to be able to replenish that fund.
With the assistance of the Tennessee Housing Development Agency, which gives first-time homebuyers in a specific income level $12,000 toward their down payment and closing costs, Hymes bought her first home in September 2021.
Once CTC payments stopped, Hymes said she felt that “financial pinch” once again, especially paying for gas to travel to her doctor appointments.
7. Natacha Chavez – Phoenix, Arizona
Because Natacha Chavez struggled with job instability during the pandemic, she was relieved to see an extra $500 arrive directly in her bank account to support her two children. Her husband’s annual salary is $80,000, but they still have trouble making ends meet due to the rising cost of living in Phoenix.
Once the payments stopped, Chavez and her family had to shop differently for groceries, choosing generic brands instead of the snacks and foods that her children enjoyed the most. They also had to cut discretionary spending, like going out to eat or going on shopping trips to Target.
8. Christopher Harkins – Las Vegas, Nevada
On average, pest control professional Christopher Harkins and his wife Shannon, who works as a teacher, make a total of $4,000 per month in Las Vegas, Nevada. They were able to meet their basic needs during the pandemic, until both Harkins and their daughter Abigail got sick with COVID-19.
On top of that, Abigail had to get kidney stones removed. These health issues resulted in nearly $10,000 worth of medical debt, which put a major financial strain on their family’s finances. The CTC payments helped the Harkins family stay afloat, and helped fund gymnastics classes for Abigail.
“It was just those little things that made a huge difference in our life, and I’m really sad that it’s gone,” Christopher tells Insider. “Keeping Abigail in gymnastics is really important because it makes her happy, so we’re still trying to make sure we make that a priority.”
About the Author: Leo Aquino (they/he) is a Spending & Saving Reporter. Before joining the Insider team, they covered relationships, sexual wellness, beauty, fashion and more, always uplifting stories of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities. You can reach Leo at firstname.lastname@example.org.