Residents urged to claim child tax credit

Mayor Jim Kenney, left, and School District of Philadelphia William Hite released an open letter to Philadelphians encouraging them to take advantage of the Child Tax Credit. —TRIBUNE PHOTO/Abdul R. Sulayman

Starting next month, more than 90% of Philadelphia families with children will be eligible for new monthly payments from the federal government of $250 or $300 per child from the Child Tax Credit.

Mayor Jim Kenney and the School District of Philadelphia superintendent William Hite sent out an open letter to Philadelphians encouraging them to take advantage of the credit as well as offering assistance.

“The City of Philadelphia estimates that if we work together to make sure everyone who is eligible claims their funds, 75,000 people in Philadelphia will move out of poverty this year. That includes more than 46,000 children,” the letter said.

“We must ensure that every eligible family is signed up. We urge all families to take advantage of this opportunity and to encourage your neighbors, friends and families to do the same.”

Families who have filed tax returns in 2019 or 2020 or signed up to receive the federal stimulus payments will receive payments automatically.

Families who have not filed a tax return in the last two years or signed up to receive federal stimulus payments can complete the IRS non-filer form. Households can also apply for the Recovery Rebate Credit, also known as stimulus payments.

The payments will not count as income, so they will not affect other public benefits like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Family) cash assistance, SSI or Medicaid.

Families who have no income and children who have Social Security numbers are also eligible.

“The best way that families can get the Child Tax Credit is to file taxes,” said Julia Hinckley, policy director for the Mayor’s Office. “The city is partnering with and supporting agencies in the city to do free tax prep.

“We really want people to understand that you don’t have to pay to file your taxes,” she added. “The federal government also just made information available for ways that people can claim the credit without filling the full tax return.”

Child Tax Credit

The enhanced Child Tax Credit was signed into law by President Joe Biden as part of the American Rescue Plan Act in March.

As part of Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, eligible families can receive as much as $3,600 for each child under the age of 6. The credit will be $3,000 annually per child between the ages of 6 and 17.

The payments will be made monthly, which is a first for the program. However, the program is slated to expire after one year, though Biden has proposed extending it through 2025 with the ultimate goal of making it permanent.

“The great thing about the monthly payments is that families can build their household budgets around it as opposed to it being a lump sum that comes at the end that you can’t plan on every month being available,” Hinckley said.

Campaign for Working Families

The Campaign for Working Families is among a network of nonprofit partners the city is working with to help families file taxes and fill out government forms.

Established in 2003, the organization provides free tax preparation, resource building, and asset development to families and individuals.

Graham O’Neill, director of partnerships for the campaign, said the organization has been getting the word out about the Child Tax Credit.

“We’ve been working with different council members with events in their community or on Zooms with their community,” O’Neill said. “We’ve had print digital ads going out and sent fliers out to neighborhood partners all over the city.

“We have some town halls coming up with Congressman [Dwight] Evans and State Sen. [Vincent] Hughes in the next few weeks,” he added. “We’re doing everything we can to get the word out about the Child Tax Credit.”

O’Neill said filing a tax return and how to claim children if someone has already claimed them have been the biggest questions for families so far.

“You still have to file a tax return claiming kids as your dependent,” O’Neill said. “If somebody else has already claimed them it can make the process longer and more drawn out, but you will be able to get that money eventually.

“Even if someone else has claimed your children, you’ll just have to come in and work with us,” he added. “We’ll help you work through that whole process. We really want to see people get this money that’s really going to help out a lot of our neighbors.”

For more information on the Campaign for Working Families, call (215) 454-6483 or visit cwfphilly.org. For more information on the Child Tax credit visit, www.childtaxcredit.gov.

chill@phillytrib.com. 215-893-5716

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