Stimulus Update: Almost Half of Families Are Struggling to Buy Food Without Child Tax Credit Payments

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  • The boosted Child Tax Credit did not get extended for 2022.
  • New data reveals how badly families are hurting in the absence of the monthly payments they received during the second half of 2021.

Talk about a scary statistic.

Last year, as living costs began to rise due to inflation, parents all over the U.S. got a lifeline in the form of the boosted Child Tax Credit. In 2021, the maximum value of the credit increased from $2,000 to $3,000 for children aged 6 to 17, and $3,600 for those under the age of 6. The credit also became fully refundable, whereas previously it wasn't, so that if a family had no tax liability, they could still receive their money in full.

Just as importantly, lawmakers arranged for half of the boosted Child Tax Credit to be paid to recipients in monthly installments in 2021. Those monthly payments hit bank accounts from July through December, and the consistency of those payments made it possible for more families to manage their expenses.

Initially, lawmakers had hoped to keep the boosted Child Tax Credit -- and its monthly installment payments -- in place for 2022. But ultimately, the bill that allowed for that stalled out in the Senate.

Now, as inflation soars, families across the country are grappling with sky-high living costs -- and no financial relief. And the problem has gotten so bad that almost half of families are having trouble putting food on the table.

A devastating problem

In the absence of the boosted Child Tax Credit, some families are being forced to make hard choices. There are stories of parents skipping meals, for example, to ensure that there's enough food for their kids to eat. And as inflation continues to surge, the problem could get worse before it gets better.

In fact, almost half of families who received the boosted Child Tax Credit last year say that now, they can't buy enough food to feed their families, according to a May survey from Parents Together Action, a nonprofit group. Specifically, 45% of families have been forced to use food banks in the absence of the boosted Child Tax Credit, and 45% of parents have deprived themselves of food so their children could eat.

Is there any chance of the boosted Child Tax Credit coming back?

To be clear, the Child Tax Credit itself isn't gone. Rather, it's those monthly payments that are off the table this year. Also, the credit's maximum value for 2022 will revert back to $2,000 unless lawmakers step in and push changes forward.

But at this point, it's not looking likely that the boosted credit, monthly payments and all, will make a return in the near term. Still, some lawmakers are advocating for long-term changes to the credit that make it more robust, so parents who relied on it last year shouldn't lose hope.

But for now, families struggling with food insecurity should see what resources are available to them. That could mean applying for food benefits through programs like SNAP or researching local food banks and community initiatives.

Rampant inflation could be with us for quite some time, which means the cost of food isn't likely to shrink this summer. And at a time when school's not in session, that could prove problematic. Many families rely on schools for free or reduced meals. And so those who can't afford to feed their families shouldn't hesitate to tap any resources that may be available to them.

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