More than 90,000 Connecticut households filed for the state’s new child tax rebate in the program’s first week, Rep. Sean Scanlon, the Guilford Democrat who spearheaded the program in the legislature, announced Wednesday.
The applications from 90,320 households would benefit 144,313 children from low- and moderate-income families, said Scanlon, who also announced a new coalition of nonprofit service providers that will help households navigate the application process, which remains open through July 31.
“I think it’s a great start,” Scanlon said, who has been traveling the state to promote the program. More importantly, he added, “it shows the incredible need for this.”
State officials estimate roughly 350,000 Connecticut households are eligible to receive the $250-per-child rebate, which the Department of Revenue Services is expected to send out in August. The maximum payment is $750 per household.
Scanlon said it would be a “huge victory” if two-thirds of those 350,000 households receive the rebate.
Families must file with the state Department of Revenue Services between June 1 and July 31 to receive a payment. It can be claimed on behalf of children born on or before Dec. 31, 2021.
Tax reform advocates had argued for a recurring credit of as much as $600 per child — up to a maximum of $1,800 per household — against the state income tax to help counter inflation and other pressures against poor and middle-income households.
The full legislature and Gov. Ned Lamont settled this spring on a one-time child tax rebate of $250 per child — up to a maximum of $750 per household. But Lamont also said he would prioritize converting the rebate into an ongoing credit during the regular 2023 General Assembly session, if state finances remain strong at that point.
Republicans have said that Lamont and his fellow Democrats in the legislature’s majority are using the rebates as a political stunt to boost their campaigns this fall. Lamont is seeking a second term as governor, and Scanlon is running for state comptroller.
But Democrats counter that the rebates are providing needed relief when families are struggling with high gasoline prices and surging inflation.
Both Scanlon and Lisa Tepper Bates, president and CEO of the United Way of Connecticut, said they hope to maximize participation in the rebate program to intensify grassroots support to make the tax break an ongoing benefit.
Families that already have applied for the credit have indicated the funds are helping them cover rising grocery bills, catch up on rent or pay for child care.
“That [$750] can be very, very powerful,” said Bates, whose organization lobbied for a permanent child tax credit. “Child care in the single-most-expensive part of a family budget.”
The United Way has been drawing attention in recent years to Connecticut’s high cost of living and extreme income inequality by offering a new methodology for assessing poverty.
The organization’s ALICE system — an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed households — evaluates key expenses tied to health and child care, transportation, utilities, and other costs that aren’t major factors in other systems.
For example, the Federal Poverty Level, a metric dating back to the 1960s that focuses chiefly on a household’s pre-tax earnings and the adjusted cost of a minimum food diet, estimates a family of four needs to earn more than $27,750 per year to avoid poverty.
The ALICE methodology says that family of four, in Connecticut, needs more than $90,000 per year to cover a basic “survival” budget.
The Connecticut chapter of United Way and its 2-1-1 infoline service are working with 11 other nonprofit human service agencies and policy groups to answer questions and provide other free assistance to families that lack computer access or otherwise need help applying for the tax rebate.
Other groups in the coalition include: the Connecticut Association for Community Action; the Connecticut Association for Human Services; Connecticut Legal Services; Connecticut Voices for Children; the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund; Greater Hartford Legal Aid; HRA of New Britain; the New Haven Legal Assistance Association; Simplify CT; Unidad Latina en Accion; and The Village for Families & Children.