U.S. Capitol
The U.S. Capitol Credit: Orhan Cam / Shutterstock

With President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better legislation halted in the U.S. Senate, Connecticut Democrats hoped to drum up support Monday by highlighting the bill’s extension of a recently-expired monthly tax credit for families with children. 

“I think the outcry you’re going to hear from people — when they checked their bank accounts this January, they found out they were on average about $400 fewer for a tax credit that had been enormously successful in lifting children out of poverty,” U.S. Rep. John Larson said during a morning press conference. “It’s those kinds of questions … that motivate people to vote.”

Larson appeared with Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin and labor union leaders to tout the impact of the pandemic-era expansion to the child tax credit, which expired in December. The American Rescue Plan Act expanded an existing tax credit and distributed the money on a monthly basis rather than through annual tax returns. Since July, the policy has sent monthly payments of between $250 and $300 to the parents of qualifying families. 

Here in Connecticut, Larson said the expansion of the tax credit helped the families of 583,000 children. 

But those families received their last payments under the program in mid-December and a proposed extension included in the Build Back Better bill seemed unlikely to pass as the Democrats’ social spending plan languished in the U.S. Senate.

Larson said he was optimistic the bill, which the House passed a version of in November, could see a vote in the narrowly divided Senate if Democrats there overcame opposition from Republicans by voting to overhaul the chamber’s filibuster rules. 

However, that outcome appeared unlikely as Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kysten Sinema of Arizona both signaled last week they would not support changing the rules. 

During the Monday press conference, Larson brushed aside those political realities and said a vote should be held. 

“Most of America, frankly, is not caught up in the cloture vote and the filibuster. That escapes them,” Larson said. “What they want to see is the country working together to solve problems and the child tax credit is going a long way towards solving major problems and lifting so many children out of poverty in the wealthiest nation in the world. I think there will be a continued push to make sure this vote takes place.”

Barring action from Congress, the child tax credit will not cease to exist but it will revert back to a benefit which families see annually when they file their tax returns. Bronin said the change would have a negative impact on families, including some in Hartford, who are struggling to make ends meet. 

“There are thousands of kids in this small city that regularly go to bed on an empty stomach and were it not for school meals would not know for sure that they’d have a breakfast or a lunch every day,” Bronin said. “A budget for food or for rent or for health care or for a warm winter coat or for school supplies doesn’t get paid annually. It gets paid daily, weekly, monthly.”