On Thursday, millions of parents in the United States will receive the first of several monthly payments from the federal government as part of a historic effort to help families with children. Under the policy, families can expect to see deposits to their bank accounts of up to $300 per child through the end of the year.
The monthly checks are the result of congressional Democrats’ success in expanding child tax credits, a wonkish name for a simple concept: handing out cold hard cash to American families. Previously, the tax credits offered significantly less money per child and only allowed parents to collect their tax refunds annually. In their new iteration, the credits amount to a form of guaranteed income, which experts say could reduce child poverty in the U.S. by nearly half.
The no-strings-attached cash payments are more than welcome by (most) American families, who otherwise receive little help from the federal government. Whereas parents in other countries have long enjoyed benefits like paid family leave and universal childcare, parents in the U.S. are largely left to struggle on their own while conservative politicians puzzle over plunging birth rates.
“It’s the most transformative policy coming out of Washington since the days of F.D.R.,” New Jersey Senator Cory Booker told the New York Times. “America is dramatically behind its industrial peers in investing in our children. We have some of the highest child poverty rates, but even families that are not poor are struggling, as the cost of raising children goes higher and higher.”
According to the Times, there may be some bumps ahead when it comes to the program’s rollout. Some four to eight millions children may be missing from the government’s payment rosters, largely because some people who are eligible for the payments are confused about how to enroll or don’t know about the expanded tax credits at all. And so the challenge right now for Democrats—not one Republican voted for the child tax credit measure—and advocates is spreading the word.
Those already familiar with the policy are eager for the payments to hit their bank accounts, and proponents of the credits are hoping that stories like theirs bolster arguments for making the monthly payments permanent.
One woman who spoke to the Times, a 50-year-old Louisiana resident named Tammy Wilson, said she’s relieved to hear that help is on the way: She’s slated to receive a total of $750 a month for her three children, which will more than double her income. She said she plans to use the cash to send her children to camp this summer, or on school trips come fall.
“Kids get to bullying, talking down on them—saying ‘Oh your mama don’t have money,’” Wilson told the Times. “They feel like it’s their fault.”