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The expiration of Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) has pushed nearly 4 million children back into poverty. The act, which was introduced in March 2021, increased monthly payments low-income families received, and reportedly kept 6.3 million children out of poverty, reducing overall child poverty in the United States by 43%.

The ARPA raised the amount of monthly payments taxpaying parents received and how many people were allowed to claim it. The ARPA expired on Dec. 31, 2021, after Biden’s Build Back Better bill failed to pass the Senate. 

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), families that earn under $35,000 mainly spend their child tax credit on food, utilities, rent or mortgage, clothing, education costs or all of the above. This suggests that those receiving these payments are spending the money on basic needs, not unnecessary luxuries. Without this extended credit, the CBPP estimated that 10 million children will fall back into poverty in 2022.

“The evidence indicates that income poverty itself causes negative child outcomes, especially when it begins in early childhood.”

Kids who grow up living in poverty often experience food insecurity and unstable housing, which causes a lot of stress. A 2019 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report on reducing child poverty found that these difficult circumstances often result in children in low-income families receiving lower levels of education, poorer health as adults and lower wages. “The evidence indicates that income poverty itself causes negative child outcomes, especially when it begins in early childhood,” the report says.

There were hopes from progressives that the COVID-19 benefits would become a permanent fixture. “I really have to call out that with the Build Back Better bill not being passed, that we are seeing now families really losing hope,” pediatrician Dr. Megan Sandel, who runs Boston Medical Center’s Grow Clinic, said to NPR. “So time is of the essence. We need to really make sure that families don’t fall off the cliff, especially in this time with such high food inflation.”