According to a new government study, the extended child tax credits—which come in the form of monthly payments of up to $300 per child—drastically reduced food insecurity within mere weeks of hitting families’ bank accounts.
The findings, published by the United States Census Bureau, showed that the payments brought the national hunger rate down from 11 percent to 8 percent—a 24 percent decrease overall, and the lowest rate the country has seen since the start of the pandemic, Politico reports. Households that did not receive the payments saw almost no change in food insecurity.
Hunger in the U.S. hit new highs during the pandemic, with one in eight Americans (or 26 million people) reporting “sometimes” or “often” not having enough food in the fall of 2020. For households with children, this number reached more than one in six, according to the Washington Post. These rising rates corresponded with an increase in people shoplifting food as food banks became overwhelmed and stimulus checks ran out. Unsurprisingly, hunger rates began to drop again once people got more stimulus money.
And so there’s a similar—and again, predictable—effect with the child tax credits. Some 47 percent of respondents in the Census Bureau’s study reported spending their monthly payments on food. (After that, it seems the most popular way to spend the money was to put it toward childcare.)
Findings like these only strengthen Democrats’ case to make the monthly payments permanent—or at least extend them beyond the December 2021 end date. As Tracy Clark-Flory recently wrote for Jezebel, part of the beauty of the tax credits is that families get to decide how they spend them: Maybe this month it’s on food, but next month it may be on back-to-school clothes, credit card debt, or rent. With such dramatic results after less than a month of the new policy, it’s easy to imagine a world where families aren’t struggling to pay for their needs.