Stimulus Update: Some Families Are Still Waiting on September Child Tax Credit Payment

A man holding his baby while opening a mailbox and removing an envelope.

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Some parents have yet to receive the latest installment payment.

The expanded Child Tax Credit has already proven to be a lifeline for millions of families with children. Not only has the enhanced credit already made it so that millions of households are experiencing less food insecurity, but the fact that half of the credit is being distributed in monthly installments has helped many families better manage their cash flow.

Normally, the Child Tax Credit maxes out at $2,000 per child. This year, the credit has been boosted to be worth a lot more money. That happened as part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan -- the same relief bill that put $1,400 stimulus checks into Americans' bank accounts.

For this year only, the Child Tax Credit is worth up to $3,600 for children under the age of 6 and up to $3,000 for children aged 6 to 17. Also, while the credit is normally paid as a single lump sum in the form of a tax refund, this year, families can receive the credit without submitting a tax return. They're also getting half of the credit in the form of monthly installment payments, which began in July and are set to run through December. The remaining half of the credit will be paid out in 2022.

So far, three installment payments have gone out for the enhanced Child Tax Credit. But many families who received their July and August payments have yet to see their September payment arrive, despite the fact that it was supposed to hit bank accounts on Sept. 15.

Unwanted delays

Given how heavily some families are relying on their Child Tax Credit payments, the fact that September's installment has been delayed for many recipients isn't a good thing. The IRS, meanwhile, has acknowledged that there's an issue at hand.

While the agency did successfully deliver a third monthly installment payment to about 35 million recipients totaling about $15 billion, the IRS is also aware that some families who received their first two payments did not receive their third payment on schedule. The agency says it is looking into the problem and is working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.

Right now, we don't know what caused the glitch and why certain families didn't get their money on time. It's also unclear as to whether the IRS will pay interest on any Child Tax Credit installments that are delayed substantially.

Families need to sit tight

Anyone who's yet to receive their third Child Tax Credit payment may, at this point, want to give the IRS another week or so to figure out what went wrong. Though it's possible to call the IRS, anyone who goes that route will likely experience a substantial wait to speak to a live person. And even then, that agent may not have enough information available to help.

Hopefully, the IRS will get to the bottom of this issue soon enough so that those who didn't get their September payments receive that money as soon as possible. Similarly, we should hope that the agency works out these kinks so that a delay in payments doesn't happen again.

That said, families may need to take steps to protect themselves in the face of future delays. That could mean putting small amounts of extra money into savings when possible to provide a cushion.

In fact, families shouldn't get too used to their monthly Child Tax Credit payments, because as of now, the enhanced version of the credit is only applicable to the 2021 tax year. Lawmakers are fighting to extend the boosted version or even make it permanent, but that's not guaranteed to happen. Those who are in line for the credit this year may want to regard that money as bonus cash -- and set up their household budgets accordingly to avoid financial stress in future tax years.

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