It’s Not Too Late: Georgia Families Can Still Get Their Checks

Note: This piece has been updated to reflect an extended deadline to use Code for America’s IRS-approved portal. The deadline to use this tool is now November 15.

Key Takeaways:

  • About 159,000 Georgia children live in families at risk of missing out on the expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC) and other economic relief payments.
  • November 15 is the deadline to either file taxes or complete a non-filer form through Code for America’s IRS-approved portal for the CTC’s advance monthly payments; after that families can still submit their information to the IRS but will have to wait until 2022 to claim their lump-sum payments.
  • The monthly Child Tax Credit has already had a positive impact on families’ economic security.
  • In addition, non-filer families are also eligible for other tax benefits like the Economic Impact Payments when they submit their information to the IRS.
  • Community groups play an important role in connecting families to tax benefits.

September 15 marked the third monthly payment of the expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC), but about 159,000 children in families across Georgia, including about 59,000 newborns living in families with low income, are at risk of not accessing the expanded credit or other economic relief payments because the families have not filed taxes nor completed an Internal Revenue Service-approved (IRS) simplified form for non-filers. Eligible families who have not yet claimed the CTC have until November 15 to either file a tax return or complete a non-filer form in order to access the advance monthly payments (Families have until October 15 to submit documentation through the IRS website.) After that, families can still submit their information to the IRS but will have to wait until 2022 for the CTC lump sum.

The CTC benefits have already provided much-needed stability to Georgia families with children still struggling through the economic consequences of the COVID pandemic. State, local and private institutions should continue their outreach to ensure that all eligible families access this powerful anti-poverty benefit.

The American Rescue Plan, which passed last March, temporarily expanded the CTC. Under the law, the CTC credits increased from $2,000 a year per child to $3,000 a year for each child ages 6 to 17 and $3,600 a year for each child under 6. And for the first time, families with very low or no earnings can receive full payments, and all eligible families can receive half of their credit in advance monthly payments.

The first few CTC payments have already had a noticeable impact on families’ economic security. The Social Policy Institute at Washington University’s analysis of US Census Household Pulse Survey Data found that in Georgia, food insecurity among families eligible for the CTC dropped from 18.3 percent to 13.7 percent after the first two CTC payments. Additional analyses from Columbia University show that, nationally, the monthly child poverty rate dropped from 15.8 percent in June to 11.9 percent in July after the first CTC payment. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that a permanent expansion of the CTC will reduce child poverty in Georgia by 46 percent and would reduce poverty for Latinx, Black and Asian children by 52 percent, 46 percent and 37 percent respectively.

Non-filer families could receive more than the CTC when they submit their information to the IRS. They are also eligible for the past three Economic Impact Payments (commonly known as the stimulus checks). If they fully file their taxes instead of completing the non-filer form, they can possibly access the Earned Income Tax Credit as well. That’s thousands of dollars to families with very low or no income, which could help them pay rent, fix a car, pay down debt or buy other essentials.

However, there are many reasons why some eligible families have not yet received the CTC and other economic relief payments. Families with very low income have not had to file in the past. They may not know that they can file taxes or that they are eligible for the benefits.  Though the IRS created a simplified form for non-filers, families may still struggle to collect all the proper documentation or using technology to authenticate their identity to complete the form. Code for America’s IRS-approved mobile app addresses several of these concerns, but families may still need assistance using the portal. Limited internet access, lack of transportation to tax assistance sites, disability and language barriers may further complicate access to the CTC.

Critical cash resources are on the line for families with the lowest income. Government, religious and private institutions can all play a role to inform and support families who have not accessed the CTC as many are uniquely situated to connect with families with very low income. For example, Georgia’s Division of Family and Children Services can target outreach to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) families with children with little earnings who are likely to have not filed taxes. Community groups, religious and faith-based organizations and direct service providers may be able to reach families who do not receive public benefits or otherwise may be missed by government agencies. As trusted resources in the community, these groups can inform families about benefits and help them access the CTC.

It is not too late to reach out to families and help them file taxes or complete a non-filer form. Below are some useful resources to support organizations’ outreach and sign-up efforts, including strategies to overcome common challenges families with very low or no income experience when submitting documentation to the IRS.

Outreach materials for state, local, private and faith-based agencies

Helping families submit information to the IRS

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