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Big Sky Connection -- Data has found the expanded Child Tax Credit from 2021 lifted 3.7 million kids out of poverty, including at least 211,000 in Montana. Advocates for those families now are calling on Congress to reinstate that program. Comments from Jackie Semmens, policy analyst, Montana Budget and Policy Center.

Click on the image above for the audio.  A survey from this summer found 12% of Montana families "sometimes or often" didn't have enough food. (avtk/Adobe Stock)

Eric Tegethoff

November 4, 2022

A program that sent money to families with children helped pull millions out of poverty early in the pandemic, including about 211,000 kids in Montana. And as families continue to struggle, there's a renewed campaign for Congress to reinstate that program.

The expanded Child Tax Credit sent $300 to $360 per child to families last year, and research shows it ended up lifting 3.7 million children out of poverty. However, Jackie Semmens, policy analyst for the Montana Budget and Policy Center, said many of those families have slid backwards since the credit expired at the end of 2021, and they're also facing new financial challenges.

"Inflation, especially when it comes to the cost of food; families are struggling to find child care still," she said. "And having this extra money that can help them fill those gaps with child care is not only good for families, but for businesses and our economy. It helps parents get back in the workforce."

The number of families with children who are considered food insecure has increased by 50% since the tax credit expired, according to recent data.

Opponents of the program say giving families more money to spend could backfire by increasing inflation.

Semmens said the drop in poverty rates from the expanded Child Tax Credit was especially dramatic for children of color in Montana. She said families spent the money they received to make ends meet.

"People were spending the tax credit on basic needs - on food, on utilities, on rent - and using it to help with the cost of raising kids," she said.

Semmens said expanding the Child Tax Credit is one of the only steps the country has taken in a long time to specifically reduce the number of children in poverty.

"So, if we want to keep up the successes from that temporary expansion," she said, "we need to make sure that the expanded Child Tax Credit is permanent."

 November 4, 2022
  By Eric Tegethoff - Producer, Contact