Some 39 million Americans will begin receiving monthly checks from the federal government in July as part of the expanded child tax credits Democrats passed in the latest covid relief package.
Families will receive $300 per child under six and $250 per child six or older for the rest of the year, according to the Washington Post. No application is necessary: The payments should arrive as direct deposits in Americans’ bank accounts on the 15th of each month (or close to it).
The monthly payments are the result of increasing the existing child tax credits from $2,000 up to $3,600 for younger children and $3,000 for older ones, and allowing families to collect payments monthly instead of annually, in a tax return. In this form, the checks effectively act as a form of universal basic income, a policy that has long been considered to be on the fringes of mainstream politics in the United States. As with many other progressive policies, its proof of concept has more or less been established during the pandemic, despite many politicians’ insistence that UBI is too pie in the sky.
“ ... It’s very exciting to be having national conversations about this,” Aisha Nyandoro, the CEO of Springboard to Opportunities, a nonprofit that runs UBI pilot programs, told Fortune in March. “But it’s also very sad because it’s taken a pandemic for us to get to a place where we recognize that individuals are poor because of the systems we put in place.”
It’s also taken a pandemic for many people to realize the enormous strain parents are under, and that there are several universal policies lying around—universal pre-K, universal childcare—that could make parenting more tenable. These are also the same policies that have the potential to help boost falling birth rates, supposedly a cause for concern for many conservative “pro-family” lawmakers who routinely oppose them.
The expanded tax credits may seem like a small gesture (and they should certainly be made permanent!). But even in their current, limited form, they have the potential to transform families’ lives and begin to undo the moralism associated with poverty.
“... It’s going to take time to divorce ourselves from the notion that poverty isn’t a moral failing—that morality tale is a lie,” Nyandoro said. “That’s going to take a long time.”