A brand new tax credit score might reduce youngster poverty in half and maintain households alive coronavirus

Shatina McNair wanted to cash out her car last year.

But then the pandemic hit and the 40-year-old single mother of three girls saw that her income was slashed month after month. She's used to making between $ 25,000 and $ 35,000 annually as a server at Applebee & # 39; s Grill + Bar in Auburn Hills – but she brought home less than $ 19,000 in 2020.

The US $ 1.9 trillion bailout plan, which went into effect this month, aims to help people like McNair.

It includes a major change to the child tax credit that could cut child poverty in half nationwide, according to an analysis by the Columbia University Center for Poverty and Social Policy. The Center for Budgetary and Policy Priorities is more optimistic and estimates that 90% of children could be lifted out of poverty.

Most importantly, the tax credit cap will be increased from $ 2,000 per child to $ 3,000 per child or $ 3,600 for children under six. The age limit for those who can be claimed for the loan has also been raised from 16 to 17 years. As a short-term support measure, half of the loan is distributed to families in advance as a monthly payment from July to December.

McNair, who lives in Pontiac, is likely to receive about $ 6,000 from the loan. She'd qualified for the child tax credit in the past, but never for the full amount, she said. Under the previous tax law, those who owed little or no income tax could only qualify for up to $ 1,400 per child, according to the Brookings Institution.

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Shatina McNair (right), 40, of Pontiac, discusses the weekly schedule with her daughters and niece as she takes her youngest student to school at Donelson Hills Elementary School in Waterford.

According to the Congressional Joint Taxation Committee, 48 million households are expected to apply for the 2020 child tax credit.

"How much that money will help us depends on what happens to the coronavirus," McNair said. “When the restaurants close again, it's just enough to keep us afloat. But if the business continues to grow, that will help pay off debts and buy a few things for my daughter to graduate from college. "

McNair has been with Applebee for 10 years and is raising her daughters. They are an energetic group, all of whom participate in cheerleading competitions from a young age. When the meal closed, her dream of paying for the 2015 Mazda she uses to drive her daughters to school and cheerleading practice was put on hold. McNair switched to running carry-out for the restaurant and helped her three girls Madison, 18, Lauren, 16, and Alana, 10 figure out how to keep up with the virtual school.

In October, all but their youngest daughter contracted the virus and forced the family into quarantine for more than a month. Unemployment benefits have enabled her to keep her family's life as normal as possible, she said amid the constant flurry of life and financial adjustments.

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Shatina McNair, mother of three in Pontiac, one of 48 million families across the country expected to apply for the expanded child tax credit.

"Unemployment helped me a lot, but I had a job since I was 16. It was a new experience because I never needed unemployment," said McNair. "Honestly, everything helps and I am very grateful for what they are going to give families because it is more than what we had before. But I have still seen a significant drop in income over the last year."

Susan Benson, director of specialist student services at Oakland Schools, also says she is grateful for the new tax law. She has worked with thousands of homeless and impoverished students across Oakland County for 22 years.

Like McNair, she emphasizes her appreciation for the financial aid, but also knows that in the end it won't go far enough to discourage families from crossing the poverty line and living there.

"This doesn't change the availability of affordable housing, or the provision of daycare or transportation for families who are homeless or often homeless. We're excited that people will lend a hand, but we know bigger chores too are, ”said Benson.

The new day care plan includes a little more money for families. The child and dependent tax credit for child or elderly care expenses increased from $ 3,000 to $ 8,000 for those with one child. For those with two or more children, it was increased from $ 6,000 to $ 16,000.

"Anything, anything helps, our families really need it," said Benson. "But it is imperative that we have an education that families have to file taxes to get that money. There's a big shift now where a lot of people are making just enough to get through and maybe they didn't have to file taxes to take advantage of these loans. It will be a big undertaking bringing people's attention to it. "

Benson and her team are working to identify and support children in local school districts through the McKinney-Vento Act, a federal program to support the education of students in volatile protective situations. According to Jennifer Erb-Downward, Senior Research Associate at the University of Michigan's Poverty Solutions Center, around $ 800,000 will be used under the American Rescue Plan to help identify, enroll, attend school, and provide all-round care for children and adolescents with homelessness.

“This is crucial now as the number of homeless students has decreased during the pandemic. If homeless children are not identified, they will not get the support they need to go to school and be successful, ”said Erb-Downward. “This funding provides a real opportunity not only to identify homeless children and support them in school, but also to connect families with resources that could fundamentally end their homelessness. This is an opportunity for transformation. "

For families like McNair, the American rescue plan is an unexpected and welcome aid. How far the dollars will go for programs and individuals will depend heavily on the impact of virus and vaccination efforts.

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Shatina McNair (right), 40, of Pontiac, discusses the weekly schedule with her daughters and niece as she takes her youngest student to school at Donelson Hills Elementary School in Waterford.

Through the turbulent last year, McNair decided to return to school. She is now looking forward to starting a nursing program at Oakland University this spring semester. Their eldest daughter will also apply to colleges to study medicine. The additional $ 6,000 will help her calm down a bit as she and her daughters prepare for their next chapter in life.

"I'm just grateful for the opportunity to go back to school and try to pick this up," she said. "Nothing is impossible, the word itself is" I am possible "."

Residents struggling to keep up with housing costs in the face of the pandemic will soon receive more rent support from the state.

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