An Expanded Child Tax Credit is Essential for West Virginia

As Senator Manchin continues to negotiate with his colleagues in Washington, our families here at home continue to suffer.

An Expanded Child Tax Credit is Essential for West Virginia

No matter where we’re from or what we look like, all of us want to provide for our children and meet their most basic needs. Regardless of our zipcode or income level, every child deserves to have food on the table, clothing on their back, and a roof over their head. When children can’t have their basic needs met, our entire society suffers. And currently, hundreds of thousands of West Virginia children risk paying the price for the failure of their elected leaders and for a system that turns its head as children and families descend deeper into poverty.

For the past six months, 36 million families have received a monthly payment from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) through the expanded child tax credit. These payments of roughly $250-300 dollars each month were received by 346,000, or 93%, of West Virginia’s children and were largely spent on basic essentials for daily life, including food, utilities, and clothing. The benefits of the expanded child tax credit were clear: West Virginia witnessed a historic reduction in poverty across the state, and an estimated $539 million dollars were pumped into our local businesses and economy. But now, these monthly payments that buoyed hundreds of thousands of local families are ending, and we have Senator Joe Manchin to blame.

The expanded child tax credit expired and the entirety of President Biden’s historic Build Back Better Act came to a screeching halt when Senator Manchin announced to America over Fox News that he couldn’t support the transformative legislative package. It is because of Senator Manchin’s complete and total disregard for local families that 50,000 West Virginia children will dip below the poverty line as COVID-19 cases continue to rise and winter temperatures continue to drop. This devastating blow to families in need was entirely avoidable, but Senator Manchin turned his back on us.

As Senator Manchin continues to negotiate with his colleagues in Washington, our families here at home continue to suffer. As the founder of a member-led storytelling organization, Black by God The West Virginian, I hear from families all across the state fighting desperately to stay out of poverty, and their stories follow a familiar and devastating pattern. Parents who are doing their very best for their children– already weary and stretched thin after more than two years of a global pandemic– are fearful of the consequences that lie ahead. Some families won’t eat, some will fall behind on rent, and others will be unable to afford their gas bill in the dead of a West Virginia winter. These families need us; our children need us, but our government is failing us.

If Congress had passed the Build Back Better Act, families would have received a child tax credit payment on January 14. Instead, the fate of the legislation lies in limbo, and families will navigate life without the monthly check for the first time in six months. Every family who received the credit will lose out, but it will be low-income children and families who will be hit the hardest. The lifelong adverse impacts of living in poverty are well-documented and pose a detrimental risk to children’s health, education, and future earnings.

Addressing childhood poverty is a complicated issue that is deeply entrenched in racism and other systems of inequality. While our nation is far from eradicating childhood poverty, we know that we have one tool at our disposal that has proven to lessen its impact. The expanded child tax credit has lightened the load for 346,000 West Virginia families for the last six months, and could lighten it for many more if Congress passed the Build Back Better Act. The future of our children’s health, development, and economic security sits squarely in the hands of Senator Joe Manchin. We are counting on him to act.

Crystal Good is a writer-poet, producer and founder of Black By God THE WEST VIRGINIAN Photo By David Flores

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