Stimulus Update: Fourth Child Tax Credit Installment Arrives Today

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Another batch of Child Tax Credit is on its way.

Though September's jobs reports pointed to fewer new hirings than economists were hoping for, there was some positive news as well. Last month, the national unemployment rate dropped to 4.8%, marking the lowest level of joblessness since the beginning of the pandemic. Seeing as how weekly jobless claims have been on a decline, that news wasn't too surprising.

But while an improving economy is a very good thing, the one downside is that a dropping unemployment rate makes a fourth stimulus check less likely this year. And whether there will be one in the future is up for debate.

But that doesn't mean Americans have no more windfalls to look forward to. Thanks to the recently expanded Child Tax Credit, many people who check their bank accounts today will see that their balances are higher. That's because the fourth installment payment of the credit has arrived.

A lifeline for so many families

Normally, the Child Tax Credit maxes out at $2,000 per dependent and is only payable as a single lump sum in the form of a tax refund. It's also normally partially refundable, which means someone eligible for the credit who owes no tax won't get the credit in full.

But thanks to the American Rescue Plan -- the relief bill signed in March that was responsible for the third stimulus check that went out -- the Child Tax Credit has been expanded. Now, it's worth up to $3,600 for children under the age of 6 and up to $3,000 for those aged 6 to 17. Plus, the credit is fully refundable, so recipients can collect it in full regardless of what their tax liability looks like.

Another important change to the credit is that half of it is being paid in monthly installments through the end of the year, with the remaining half to be paid as a lump sum in 2022. Those monthly payments began arriving in mid-July, and today is the day when the fourth monthly installment is set to hit bank accounts. That said, if you haven't been getting your Child Tax Credit payments via direct deposit, then you may need to wait longer for your fourth payment to arrive in the mail.

How long will monthly payments continue?

There are two more monthly installment payments of the Child Tax Credit scheduled for mid-November and mid-December. But from that point onward, those monthly installments run out.

Furthermore, unless lawmakers are successful in extending the boosted Child Tax Credit, this will be the last year in which recipients get it in installment form. The American Rescue Plan only enhanced the credit for the current year, though some lawmakers are fighting to make the current version permanent. The logic is that the boosted credit has already lifted millions of children out of poverty, and we shouldn't do anything to risk that progress reversing.

With a fourth stimulus check unlikely to happen and boosted unemployment having run out, right now, many families are banking on the enhanced Child Tax Credit to stay afloat. And losing out on that money could set a lot of households back in 2022.

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