WASHINGTON (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — The majority of eligible U.S. families will get their first monthly payment of the expanded child tax credit on July 15.

Until now, the credit had been an empty gesture to millions of parents. That changes today when the first payment of $1,000 hits bank accounts — and dollars start flowing to the pockets of more than 35 million families across the country.

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Many parents didn’t even know the tax credit existed until President Joe Biden expanded it for one year as part of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that passed in March.

Previously, only people who earned enough money to owe income taxes could qualify for the credit. Mother Tamika Daniel went nearly a decade without a job because her oldest son is autistic and needed her. So she got by on Social Security payments. And she had to live in a public housing project.

But the extra $1,000 a month for the next year could be a life-changer for Daniel, who now works as a community organizer for a nonprofit. It will help provide a security deposit on a new apartment.

“It’s actually coming right on time,” she said. “We have a lot going on. This definitely helps to take a load off.”

Biden has held out the new monthly payments, which will average $423 per family, as the key to halving child poverty rates. But he is also setting up a broader philosophical battle about the role of government and the responsibilities of parents.

Democrats see this as a landmark program along the same lines as Social Security, saying it will lead to better outcomes in adulthood that will help economic growth. But many Republicans warn that the payments will discourage parents from working and ultimately feed into long-term poverty.

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Some 15 million households will now receive the full credit. The monthly payments amount to $300 for each child who is 5 and younger and $250 for those between 5 and 17. The payments are set to lapse after a year, but Biden is pushing to extend them through at least 2025.

The president ultimately would like to make the payments permanent — and that makes this first round of payments a test as to whether the government can improve the lives of families.

Biden will deliver a speech today at the White House to mark the first day of payments, inviting beneficiaries to join him as he seeks to raise awareness of the payments and push for their continuation.

“The president felt it was important to elevate this issue, to make sure people understand this is a benefit that will help them as we still work to recover from the pandemic and the economic downturn,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday.

Treasury Department estimates indicate that 97% of recipients of the tax credit have wages or self-employment income, while the other 3% are grandparents or have health issues. The official, who requested anonymity to discuss internal analyses, noted that the credit starts to phase out at $150,000 for joint filers, so there is no disincentive for the poor to work because a job would just give them more income.

The child tax credit was created in 1997 to be a source of relief, yet it also became a driver of economic and racial inequality as only parents who owed the federal government taxes could qualify for its full payment. Academic research in 2020 found that about three-quarters of white and Asian children were eligible for the full credit, but only about half of Black and Hispanic children qualified.

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CBSDFW.com Staff