Monthly payments of half the federal child tax credit from July to December 2021 have provided some New Jersey families with not a nice amount of change, but rather essential money to put food on the table. , according to a report from the Rutgers Center for Women and Work in collaboration with the New Jersey State Policy Lab.
Co-author and postdoctoral researcher Sarah Small said the report analyzed data from Census Bureau surveys to find that more than a third (34%) used federal money for food, 17% used it for clothing and 25% of parents of children under 5 spent at least some time on childcare.
Small said the need for advance payments was highlighted when looking at low-income families.
“We looked, for example, at households earning less than $50,000 in New Jersey and found that they were even more likely to have spent Child Tax Credit payments on food, utilities , clothes and rent,” she said. . “Very few people spent them on hobbies or charitable giving or more frivolous things. They were spent on a lot of essential things.”
To compound the problem, Rutgers said, while nearly all parents in New Jersey were eligible, a much smaller number took advantage of the monthly payment.
“We found that only about 55% of eligible households actually received it, and it was even worse among low-income households. Many low-income people simply did not receive these credit payments. ‘child tax in advance,’ Small said.
To his point: The percentage dropped to 41% among households earning less than $25,000.
The Rutgers study suggested the discrepancy could be due to under-reporting or some families choosing to take the lump sum in 2022, but Small pointed to a different reason.
She said low-income families may simply not have been aware of advance payments, or alternatively may not have filed tax returns in 2021, which would have ranked their eligibility.
“We’re really trying to encourage people to file their taxes,” Small said. “There are many free tax preparation aids in the state of New Jersey.”
New Jersey Citizen Action and United Way of Northern New Jersey are among the organizations suggested by Rutgers for free tax preparation. The IRS also maintains a list of these sites, searchable by postal code.
Patrick Lavery is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]
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