Sen. Joe Manchin reportedly doesn’t like the expanded child tax credit because parents might use the money to buy drugs. But in reality, he’s getting in the way of parents buying their kids food. That’s the primary way families have been spending the monthly checks, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
The expanded child tax credit, included in the American Rescue Plan, gives all but the highest-income families a $250-a-month payment for children aged six to 17, and $300 for children five and under. According to the Census data, 59 percent of families bought food with the money, 52 percent made utility payments, 45 percent paid the rent or the mortgage, 44 percent bought clothing, and 40 percent paid education costs. Nine out of 10 families spent money on at least one of those things. Paying down debt has been another widespread use
Another poll previously found that building emergency savings was a top plan for the money, while routine expenses, essential items for children, and food were runners-up.
Either way, the use of the money for food shows up in data finding a significant drop in food insecurity in households with kids—from 11 percent before the checks started going out to 8.4 percent after. And while people are unlikely to tell a pollster that they’re going to use the money on drugs, Manchin’s insistence that this was likely is a longtime right-wing trope that’s been disproven again and again. When Florida imposed drug testing for welfare benefits, so few people tested positive that the cost of the testing was higher than the number of benefits not distributed. Then-South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley was caught in a false claim that half of the unemployed people were testing positive for drugs, when in fact, of the people tested, less than one percent failed.
Many families in this country are hanging on by their fingernails. They don’t have enough or good enough food, they’re behind on the rent or the mortgage, their kids are outgrowing their clothes and there’s no money for replacements. That can be just as true of families with members working at the poverty-level federal minimum wage—which Manchin worries about raising too much—or of families with members laid-off or unable to work in the still-ongoing pandemic. For these families, the child tax credit has been a lifeline. Manchin has cut off that lifeline based on a lie.
Article reprinted with permission from Daily Kos