By ASHRAF KHALIL, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) – Senator Joe Manchin’s reluctance to approve the Biden administration’s expanded child tax credit program is reverberating in his home state of West Virginia.
Manchin, a moderate Democrat, is one of the latest to delay passage of President Joe Biden’s massive social and environmental package, dubbed the Build Back Better Act. The West Virginia senator has raised concerns about several aspects of the roughly $ 2 trillion program, including the continuation of the expanded child tax credit program.
The expansion, passed earlier this year as part of pandemic relief legislation, has increased monthly payments for parents and significantly expanded the reach of eligible people. In West Virginia, one of the poorest states in the country, the effect was immediate, supporters say.
“No state is more affected by the CLC,” said Kelly Allen, executive director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. “Frankly, West Virginia was not doing very well before the pandemic. So it is absolutely necessary now and in the long term. “
On December 15, CTC payments were made to 181,000 West Virginia families, according to Treasury Department figures. Payments averaged $ 446 and reached 305,000 children. Those payments could end this month, if the Biden package doesn’t go through in the next few days.
A coalition of West Virginia groups lobbied Manchin from the local end, emphasizing ground-level stories of families who benefited from the expansion.
“We hear it from all over the state,” said Jim McKay of TEAM for West Virginia Children. “This program really has a profound and positive impact. “
Allen warned that 50,000 children in the state are at risk of falling into poverty if payments expire or if negotiations drag on for so long that the Jan. 15 payment does not take place. An estimated one in five children in West Virginia live in poverty, and 93% of the state’s children are eligible for CTC payments, tied for the highest rates in the country.
“Households across the state would be struggling to meet their basic needs,” Allen said. “There is a real urgency right now to make sure families don’t find themselves short. “
Faced with a unified Republican opposition, Biden is trying to push through with the Democrats alone, which the House has already done. But the path into the 50-50 50-50 Senate is more difficult, with no room for dissent. Biden is in talks with Manchin, who appears to be the last hurdle for Democrats trying to get the big bill through by Christmas.
The difficult status of the Biden-Manchin talks was described on Wednesday by a person who spoke only on condition of anonymity. The person said Manchin was pushing to scrap the extended child tax credit extended benefit bill, a keystone of Democratic efforts to reduce child poverty.
Manchin told reporters on Wednesday that claims he wanted to scrap the child tax credit enhancements were “a lot of bad rumors.” When asked if he supported the elimination of one of the Bill’s child tax credit enhancements – monthly checks sent to millions of families – he replied, “I am not negotiating with. none of you.
Last month, a group from West Virginia gathered outside Manchin’s office in the state capital, Charleston, to present the senator with a quilt covered with personal testimonials from CTC recipients describing how the payments had improved their lives. life.
“It’s life changing,” said Rick Wilson of the American Friends Service Committee who attended the protest. “People say they’ve paid off their debts, kept the lights on, or bought or repaired their cars so they can go to work.”
Studies suggest that increases in the child tax credit should reduce child poverty by 40%, of which 9 in 10 American children will benefit. In total, some 4.1 million children are on track to cross the poverty line, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities analysis.
In West Virginia, recipients spent 52% of their CTC money on food, including 39% on clothing and other essentials for their children, according to a study by Washington University in St. Louis’ Social Policy Institute.
Allen, of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, said the CLC money doesn’t just benefit recipient families. With few people able to save the funds, the money is immediately spent in the community. She estimated that more than $ 530 million in CTC funds had flowed into West Virginia’s economy.
“When families have money in their pockets, they spend it in grocery stores, clothing stores and daycares,” she said. “Households know what they need and they spend it in a way that most people would think is responsible.”
Associated Press editors Lisa Mascaro and Alan Fram contributed to this report.
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