For millions of American families with children, the 15th of the month took on a special significance in 2021: It was the day they received their monthly child benefit, part of the Biden administration’s response to the pandemic.
The payments, which started in July and amounted to hundreds of dollars a month for most families, have helped millions of American families pay for food, rent and child care; kept millions of children out of poverty; and injected billions of dollars into the U.S. economy, according to government data and independent research.
Now, the benefit — an expansion of the child tax credit — is ending, just as the latest wave of coronavirus cases is keeping people home from work and threatening to set off a new round of furloughs. Economists warn that the one-two punch of expiring aid and rising cases could put a chill on the once red-hot economic recovery and cause severe hardship for millions of families already living close to the poverty line.
“It’s going to be hard next month, and just thinking about it, it really makes me want to bite my nails to the quick,” said Anna Lara, a mother of two young children in Huntington, W.Va. “Honestly, it’s going to be scary. It’s going to be hard going back to not having it.”
Ms. Lara, 32, lost her job in the pandemic, and with the cost of child care rising, she has not been able to return to work. Her partner kept his job, but the child benefit helped the couple make ends meet at a time of reduced income and rising prices.
“Your children watch you, and if you worry, they catch on to that,” she said. “With that extra cushion, we didn’t have to worry all the time.”
The end of the extra assistance for parents is the latest in a long line of benefits “cliffs” that Americans have encountered as pandemic aid programs have expired. The Paycheck Protection Program, which supported hundreds of thousands of small businesses, ended in March. Expanded unemployment benefits ended in September, and earlier in some states. The federal eviction moratorium expired last summer. The last round of stimulus payments landed in Americans’ bank accounts last spring.