Expanded Tax Credit is Reducing Child Hunger – But It Can Do Much More

Last week, Congress voted to proceed on a transformative bill that would, among other things, keep a potent new weapon in the fight against child hunger.

The expanded Child Tax Credit, which North Texas families first began receiving in July 2021, helps offset the growing cost of raising kids. The program has already proven its worth as an investment in a healthier future. In just two months, food insecurity rates for Texas families with children have fallen 27% statewide. Texans who received the credit report that food is their most common purchase. It’s working!

We’re not surprised. The last year has been extraordinarily challenging for many Texas families, and household food budgets are most susceptible to unforeseen change. Even prior to the pandemic, one in five North Texas families was forced to make hard choices between affording enough food and other needs, like health care, housing and transportation.

This includes neighbors like Adimir, who has always worked hard to provide for his family. And with three kids under the age of 7, there are a lot of hungry mouths to feed. Adimir was worried when the COVID-19 pandemic began. Almost overnight, he lost his source of income as an electrical contractor. He was faced with a scary question: Would he be able to afford paying bills and feeding his family?

Adimir and his family at an NTFB Mobile Pantry distribution.

Prior to the distribution of the Child Tax Credit, Adimir has received help from the North Texas Food Bank and its Mobile Pantry Distribution program so he can receive food assistance and focus his resources on other critical needs for his family.

With the help of our community, the North Texas Food Bank successfully weathered the intense demand that followed the pandemic’s early days. But the long-term need will remain steady for some time. Based on our experience following the 2009 recession, we expect hunger to fall slowly while many families dig themselves out of a deep financial hole.

Congress can expedite their recovery and build a solid foundation for cutting child poverty in half by making the current Child Tax Credit permanent. This money will help our families like Adimir’s feed themselves for today, as well as make investments in a more stable future for their children.

It’s common sense that when families can afford to live, kids do better. Research on similar programs across the country has demonstrated not only that participants’ basic needs are met, but that associated improvements in stress and health boost full-time employment and academic achievement. As these families’ spending and earning potential grows, so does our economy. That benefits everyone.

Congress has their marching orders – but we can all do more to promote the Child Tax Credit locally. Families with very low incomes who did not file taxes in 2020 will not receive the tax credit automatically. They must go online to a portal like GetCTC.org to claim their credit. There are many ways that our nonprofit community, local government officials and state agencies like the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) can ensure that every eligible North Texan knows about the credit and how to request it.

We ask you to help with these two action items:

This historic opportunity to reduce child hunger and poverty in North Texas is an idea that everyone should get behind. The outcome will be healthier families and a healthier society.

Dr. Valerie Hawthorne is the Government Relations Director for the North Texas Food Bank. This post was written with content support from Feeding Texas