Starting next month, most families with children in Washington state can expect to begin receiving up to $300 in monthly payments as part of the new expanded child tax credit.

Tucked into the federal government’s COVID-19 aid package known as the American Rescue Plan, the expanded credit is a key part of what some consider a breakthrough anti-poverty initiative.

But in order for it to be successful, federal officials say they must make sure eligible families who need it most actually get the money.

On Monday — dubbed by the White House as Child Tax Credit Awareness Day — U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Medina, promoted the expanded policy at a news conference in Seattle held at El Centro de la Raza.

Joined by a handful of parents and community advocates, DelBene, who pushed for the policy before it was included in the federal aid package, touted how many more families could benefit from the expansion.

IRS launches new tool for Child Tax Credit for those who don’t normally file returns
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“The child tax credit is the largest federal investment that we make in our children,” she said. “But until the American Rescue Plan, it left behind one third of all kids and families who earn too little to earn the full benefit.”

“Many families aren’t aware that the benefit is coming,” DelBene added later. “So we need to change that.”

Nearly 90% of children are in households that are slated to begin receiving money without needing to take further action, according to a White House news release.

That leaves the remaining families — like those who haven’t yet filed taxes for 2019 or 2020, and who didn’t enroll in the COVID-19 stimulus payment program — needing to still sign up, according to the news release.

To that end, DelBene and other officials are touting a new Internal Revenue Service website that allows people who didn’t file returns for those years to get into the system to receive their tax credits. That website can be found on IRS.gov under “Credits & Deductions.”

“I want to make sure every eligible family in Washington state knows help is on the way and knows how they can get it. It’s easy to sign up even if you don’t have to file taxes,” U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said in a statement.

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In a news briefing with DelBene last week, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers said there is concern about making sure the public is aware of the tax benefit.

About 80% of families are expected to get their tax credits through direct deposit, according to White House economic adviser Heather Boushey, meaning others will have to keep an eye on the mail for payment.

The expanded tax credit will be fully refundable. Families can receive the full amount they’re eligible for as a check, if their income isn’t high enough to receive a large enough tax offset. According to DelBene, this will allow the payments to reach 1.4 million children in Washington, including 642,000 children of color.

Families can receive up to $3,000 per year for each child between the ages of 6 and 17, and $3,600 for each child under 6. That’s up from the previous maximum credit of $2,000. Joint filers making $150,000 per year or less, or single filers making $75,000 per year or less, will be able to receive the full credit.

The credit will arrive in monthly payments beginning on July 15 and continuing through December.

At Monday’s news conference, Sarah Cody Roth, of WestSide Baby, highlighted one specific area where the tax credit would help.

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“Unlike … food and rent, there is no public assistance for low-income families to purchase diapers, which can run from $80 to $100, per month, per child,” said Cody Roth, executive director of the King County organization that distributes diapers, clothes and other needed items.

Nearly one in four families with young children in King County and one in three Black, Indigenous and people of color families were unable to access an adequate supply of diapers before the pandemic, according to Cody Roth.

“Families need direct cash support now, and continuing into the future, because they have a basic right to be able to meet their basic needs,” she said.

For now, the changes to the child tax credit are only slated to last a year as part of the American Rescue Plan. Monthly payments will end in December and then the rest will be given as part of 2021 tax returns. DelBene said that she will continue to push for a permanent expansion.

“I asked President Biden directly if he supported making the credit permanent — he said he did.” DelBene said. “We’re working hard to make that happen because it will make such a difference across the country.”