We all know that raising kids is expensive. An extra $250-300 a month can go a long way in helping families provide food and clothes, and paying for child care and rent.
This year many families are receiving that extra income due to the restructuring of the Child Tax Credit (CTC). Part of the American Rescue Plan passed by Congress in March, it made CTC payments larger -- up to a total of $3,000 per child ages 6-17 and $3,600 for children under six. It also allowed more families to be eligible. The result has been that millions of families have been lifted out of poverty nationwide. While many families are receiving the payment, there are some who do not know they qualify.
Most families have automatically started to receive payments of $300 a month for each child under age 6 and $250 a month for children ages 6-17 between July and December. However, some families who need the CTC most are not currently receiving it -- because they may not have filed taxes in 2019 or 2020. The California Policy Lab estimates that in Alameda County, 27% of children enrolled in SNAP or TANF are at risk of not receiving the CTC. This means that over $53 million in tax credits might go unclaimed in Alameda County alone.
Nearly all families with children are eligible, even if they don’t normally file taxes. The monthly payments will not count as income and not impact their eligibility for programs such as SNAP, TANF and MediCal.
Californians can go to GetCTC.org/California-benefits and fill out simplified forms to get the Child Tax Credit. Live help is available in English and Spanish.
At this site, families can also learn whether it makes sense for them to file a full return to get other benefits such as the Golden State Stimulus. For those families who do want to file a full return, there is free tax help available online and in person at the Oakland Public Library and at the Alameda County Social Services Agency (for those receiving public assistance).
In addition, there is a CTC webinar for service providers and family navigators to learn about how to help families file on Tuesday, October 5, 2021 at 10 am via zoom organized by LightBox Collaborative and featuring Code for America, the creator of getCTC.org
For more information on how to get the word out to families about this important program, check out the California CTC Communications Hub compiled by LightBox Collaborative.
The CTC is scheduled to revert back to the former structure which means lower payments and fewer eligible families at the end of 2021. Efforts are underway in Congress to include the expanded CTC as part of the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation process.
By Julia Forte Frudden, Research Consultant for OSSS and OUSD ECE
Over the past year and a half, Oakland Starting Smart and Strong and Oakland Unified’s Early Childhood Education Department have been meeting with parent leaders from the San Antonio Family Resource Center to discuss their local Early Development Instrument (EDI) results and learn about their advocacy work. The Resource Center’s Parent Action Research Team (SAFRC PART) is a community of multicultural, multilingual parent leaders who live or work in this Oakland neighborhood; they come together to improve services and resources for families with young children.
In our meetings with SAFRC PART, parent leaders told an important and intimate story about their neighborhood, sharing what they love about where they live and work. From that point, they discussed what they lose out on when early childhood systems -- what we dubbed the“ECEcosystem” -- fail to meet their community’s needs. As our relationship developed with SAFRC PART and we built trust with one another, we at OSSS and OUSD wanted to create something tangible to support SAFRC PART’s work, particularly their proposal for a full-service community resource center in San Antonio Park. We hoped that early childhood data could be an asset to their efforts; above all, we wanted to provide support as the community told their own story and advocated for solutions grounded in their lived experience. The result was draft ECEcosystem Zone Profiles, centering interviews with parent leaders and the organization’s community resource center proposal. We used quantitative data to support the rich stories that were shared with us.
These draft zone profiles were then shared with SAFRC PART so their feedback could shape them. We recognize that data about a community should be owned by that community; they have the right to validate, refute, question, and analyze it. The parent leaders made important changes to the profiles and then identified groups to share the profiles with, including other parents in the community, early care providers, and policy makers.
Through this process, we made sure that researchers and early childhood advocates from outside of the community listened to the experts on early childhood needs in the San Antonio neighborhood -- the families themselves. Parent leaders shared their frustration that the language we used when talking about the EDI tool and the EDI results were sometimes contradictory. We would say that the EDI results were a reflection of how systems were doing, but then we used language centered on children (i.e. X% of children are vulnerable or X% of children are not on track). Parent leaders also shared concerns that phrases like “vulnerable” or “not ready for school” focused on deficits, not strengths. We adjusted our language to “X% of children are fully supported” and we further refined this with more feedback from the community to “X% of children were fully supported by the ECEcosystem.”
SAFRC PART provided us with critical feedback -- both on the EDI results and on the research tool itself. Their feedback also helped us think more deeply about how we could use our power and proximity to power to advocate for ECE data and research tools to be more equitable and antiracist. We are now making important changes to how we present data and we are also currently advocating for changes to be made to the EDI tool itself.
We thank SAFRC PART for their hard work and dedication to improving the ECEcosystem for young children and their families in the San Antonio neighborhood. We are incredibly honored to be in partnership with this amazing group of parent leaders. We look forward to more opportunities to support their work and to following their lead as they advocate for the future they want.
Moreover, we look forward to using our imaginations in our roles as advocates and researchers as we think about how early childhood data can truly be in service to community-led systems change, if and when the community wants it.
If you’d like to connect with us and learn more about this project or review the EDI results for your community together, please request a presentation or email Trisha Barua at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SAFRC PART was created through First 5 of Alameda County’s Neighborhoods Ready for School (NRFS) initiative. NFRS funded ALL IN Alameda County which partnered with Lotus Bloom, EBAYC, and Trybe to launch the San Antonio Family Resource Center.