Tribal Governments May Need to Reach Out to Low Income Members Who Need Assistance Accessing the Expanded Child Tax Credit Program
One of the largest appropriations in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) went to an expansion of the Child Tax Credit. It provides an eligible family $3000 a year for each child between 6 and 17 and $3600 a year for each child aged 5 and under. Full eligibility is open to families making less than $75,000 a year; the payment gradually diminishes until a family making $240,000 a year will receive no money. Families that file tax returns or received a stimulus check will automatically receive the payment, which will now arrive on a monthly basis paid in advance.
Importantly, under the ARPA a family is now eligible for the Child Tax Credit even if it has never filed a tax return. The payment is not considered income and therefore will not affect the family’s eligibility for other programs, such as SNAP or WIC. To receive the credit, a family that did not file a tax return in 2019 or 2020 needs to file a “non-filer” form. Those who have at least one qualifying child and earned less than $24,800 as a married couple, $18,650 as a head-of-household, or $12,400 as a single-filer can apply by using the IRS non-filer sign-up tool. The online tool also allows individuals and families to apply for the stimulus payments as part of the process.
There is an important role to play here for tribal governments and organizations serving Native American populations. Families in your community that have not filed income tax returns within the last two years—and therefore need to use the non-filer sign-up tool—may not have ready access to a computer or the internet and may find filling out the form challenging. Tribal social service offices and non-profit organizations should be equipped to reach out to families to ensure they are aware of this opportunity to assist them with online signup.
While the ARPA provision is only good for one year, there is a major effort underway in Congress to get it extended at least through 2025. As a result, helping families enroll in the Child Tax Credit program now may well have a major impact on reducing child poverty in Native communities well into the future.
Below are links to the non-filer sign-up tool and more information on the Child Tax Credit.
Child Tax Credit Logic Path to Determine Eligibility (interactive)
This is one of the most important and relatively easy ways we can help alleviate poverty.