We hear it ad nauseam: Athens County is the poorest county in Ohio. We are at the top of the list in what seems like every study in every publication, every year. While the rankings are certainly demoralizing on paper, the consequences have been devastating for our children.

Poverty poses significant challenges for a child’s emotional, educational, and social wellbeing. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children in poverty are more likely to experience food and housing insecurity which can then cause significant trauma to the brain, affecting their perception of the world well into adulthood.

Socioeconomic experts, child welfare professionals, and pediatricians have expressed for decades that a viable solution to ending child poverty is expanding the Child Tax Credit. It is expensive to raise a child. More money for families means fewer trips to a food pantry, less chance of eviction, and a decreased likelihood of children being separated from their families and placed into the foster care system. Luckily, millions of families across the country will see such a solution take shape this summer.

This March, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to mitigate the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Included in this rescue plan is the Child Tax Credit, which has the potential to cut child poverty in half.

The Child Tax Credit provides $3,000 to $3,600 per child for nearly all families. Automatic monthly payments are starting this July. For every child ages 6-17, families will receive $250 per month. For children under age 6, families will receive a monthly payment of $300. The remainder of the credit can be claimed on next year’s tax return.

Families who have filed for tax returns for 2019 or 2020 will receive these payments automatically. However, if your family did not make enough money to file taxes, or if you have not otherwise provided your information to the IRS, you are still eligible for this credit.

If a couple makes under $24,800, or if a single parent makes under $12,400, they can use a simple, easy tool to sign up for the Child Tax Credit at ChildTaxCredit.Gov. From there, you will need to provide a reliable mailing address, an email address, Social Security numbers for each child, and Social Security numbers for you and your spouse. Providing your bank account information will allow you to receive the payments through direct deposit. Otherwise, you will receive monthly checks in the mail. For now, this is a temporary change to the Child Tax Credit, however, advocates are urging Congress to permanently expand the program.

As the Director of Child Development at Hocking Athens Perry Community Action, I know how meaningful these payments will be to parents seeking to provide the best life possible for their families. This reform demonstrates an investment in our community’s children, and I encourage any eligible family to take the appropriate steps to access their payment. HAPCAP is here to help. If you need assistance please contact one of our Community Resource Navigators at (740) 767-4500 (Athens County), (740) 385-6813 (Hocking County), or (740) 342-4113 (Perry County).

Chris DeLamatre

Director, Child Development

Hocking Athens Perry Community Action

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