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The December child tax credit payment may be the last

Children draw on top of a Treasury check prop during a rally in front of the U.S. Capitol on Dec. 13, 2021.
Alex Wong | Getty Images

The IRS and U.S. Department of the Treasury are ending out the final monthly child tax credit payment of the year to millions of American families Dec. 15.

It may be the last monthly payment of the benefit ever.

If the enhanced credit isn't extended, nearly 10 million children are at risk of falling back below the poverty line or slipping even deeper into poverty, according to an analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a progressive think tank. Another 27 million will lose all or part of the credit.

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The child tax credit was enhanced by the American Rescue Plan, which increased the benefit to $3,000 from $2,000 with an additional $600 for children under age 6, made it fully refundable and introduced six monthly payments that ran from July to December.

"If we fail to do the right thing, we are going to see in our nation a tremendous rug being pulled out from under so many families who right now have had a bridge from being stressed to being blessed," said Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., during a Tuesday call with reporters.

The timing

Without an extension, families will stop getting the monthly sum during a difficult time of year.

Inflation has surged, making the prices of many everyday items such as food, rent and gasoline more expensive. It's also the dead of winter, when many families experience their highest utility bills of the year.

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"For working class families and middle-class families at a time that prices are going up – gas prices and the price of food – this has been a lifeline," said Booker.

That lifeline has relieved financial instability and anxiety for families, helped them put enough food on the table and even lowered child poverty. It's projected that if the enhanced benefit continued, child poverty would be slashed by 40%, progress that will be reversed if the credit isn't extended.

A looming deadline

Democrats want to extend the benefit for one more year and have included the measure in Biden's $1.75 trillion Build Back Better bill.

But time to pass the bill without interruptions to the monthly payments — which many families have come to rely on — is running out.

Unless the legislation is approved by Dec. 28, the IRS will not have enough time to make sure that families receive a payment by Jan. 15, Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has said.

If we miss this moment, it's not coming back again
Rep. Rosa DeLauro
Democratic Congresswoman from Connecticut

"Executing payments to tens of millions of families is subject to many variables and we will communicate a firm date to communicate to families that rely on the credit, once the legislation is signed into law," said a Treasury Department spokesperson.

Losing the enhanced credit and monthly payments would also roll back one of the most significant wins that Democrats have had since Biden became president.

"If we miss this moment, it's not coming back again," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., on a Tuesday call with reporters.

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