Working-class families are faced with an extra burden as the new year begins — the expiration of the expanded child tax credit. The expansion provided support for families struggling during the pandemic by changing some key factors of the already existing credit. Namely, the expansion increased the annual amount per child from $2,000 to between $3,000 and $3,600, it paid the credit in monthly installments rather than in one lump sum, and it expanded the full benefits of the credit to families who previously had been ruled ineligible due to their income being too low.
On the same day that the CTC expansion expired, there were almost 450,000 new COVID cases reported, almost double the number reported at the same time in 2021. The 7-day average was over 380,000 cases per day. The expiration of the CTC is just the latest in a wave of COVID protections that have been allowed to end, despite the fact that the pandemic is worse than ever. The Paycheck Protection program ended in March of last year, enhanced unemployment benefits ended in September, the federal eviction moratorium expired over the summer, and we haven’t received a stimulus check since the spring of 2021.
There was an attempt to make the CTC permanent as part of Biden’s proposed social program budget, as supporters of the expansion had been hoping from its inception. In the six months since the expansion started, it kept almost 4 million children out of poverty, reducing the child poverty rate by almost 30% and providing much needed aid to millions of families. However, just like how the social program budget started out with provisions that would provide funding for clean energy, free community college, paid family and sick leave, and tax increases on the hyper-wealthy and corporations that were all eventually removed or drastically reduced, right-wing Democrats have stood in the way of the CTC expansion as well.
Joe Manchin in particular is responsible for killing the CTC extension, citing racist and elitist “concerns” about what families will use the money for, along with the entirety of the social program budget. Research has shown that the CTC extension has reduced child poverty and food insecurity, and that in a time where the system is failing left and right to protect and provide for working-class people, recipients of the tax credit used it to buy food, pay rent and other bills, pay for childcare, buy clothes, create savings and pay down debt. These are all necessities that should be provided to everyone, and while the child tax credit was nowhere close to the full scope of social support that’s needed, it provided an invaluable safety net for families across the country that has now been ripped away.
Despite having control of the House, Senate and presidency, the Democrats have failed at every turn to adequately handle the COVID-19 pandemic. They have repeatedly capitulated to right-wing forces within their own party that stand opposed to instituting, or even continuing, the most meager social benefit programs. They could use their power and influence to apply pressure to Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, and other right-wing Democrats who so clearly and blatantly work to obstruct any legislation that would benefit the working class. Instead, Biden and the Democratic Party shrink their proposed bills, remove key elements, and chip away at reforms that working-class people desperately need in an attempt to find “common ground.”
By allowing Manchin and others to do away with the most progressive elements of the social program budget, by allowing corporate greed and interests to supersede the needs and wellbeing of the people, by allowing themselves to be controlled by the furthest right members of the party, the Democrats have once again failed the same working-class people they claim to represent. They have put themselves in a position where they are unable to pass any but the most limited reforms. COVID cases are at an all-time high across the country, millions of people have gotten sick, and yet the Democrats have let the relief programs that were in place expire, and have failed to implement anything meaningful in their place, leaving millions of struggling people vulnerable to food insecurity, housing instability, serious illness and more.
The expiration of the child tax credit makes the failure of the Democratic Party painfully clear. We need a new system, one that prioritizes human need over the profits of corporations, and cannot be held hostage by the whims of an individual.