New State Data on Child Well-Being Indicates Value of Expanding CTC

By Katrina Schmidt

A recently released report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) assessed children’s well-being in every state before and during the pandemic, concluding that policymakers should permanently expand the Child Tax Credit (CTC) to counteract COVID-19’s effects on kids and families. 

The 2021 KIDS COUNT Data Book, an annual report assessing children’s health, education, economic well-being, and family life, provides state-by-state comparisons and rankings. Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Minnesota ranked highest in overall child well-being based on pre-pandemic data, while the worst-performing states correlated strongly with those where families have the lowest levels of household income.

The report urges policymakers to take action to better aid families as the country continues to recover from the COVID-19 crisis, particularly by making expansions to the CTC enacted in the American Rescue Plan permanent. AECF also recommends that state and local governments strengthen policies that positively affect kids and families and that racial and ethnic equity is prioritized in policymaking.

“Making the expanded child tax credit permanent will continue providing critical financial support for families who are struggling to make ends meet and help reduce long-standing disparities that affect millions of families of color,” AECF president and CEO Lisa Hamilton said in a press release.

The report features survey data showing that households with children were especially impacted by the pandemic. In 2019, 12 million children were estimated to live in poverty. COVID-19 pushed millions of families into crisis, and in 2020, over one in five households said they had no confidence or only slight confidence that they could make their next rent or mortgage payment on time.

The expanded CTC, currently set to only last for one year, has been increased and will be distributed monthly beginning this month. Most families with children will receive $250 to $300 per child every month, bolstering monthly income for families struggling to make ends meet.

Making this expansion permanent will institutionalize a greater focus on ensuring children’s well-being, according to AECF, and continue to slash the poverty rate. This year’s expansion is already expected to cut the child poverty rate in half. Simply reverting to pre-pandemic levels of government support for children and families will fail to address longstanding racial and ethnic inequities and leave families without a safety net in a critical time of recovery, the report concludes.