As the first round of monthly child tax credits hit Americans' bank accounts Thursday, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris took a victory lap at the White House, speaking about the "historic day" for American families and emphasizing the sea change the payments could represent for millions of American children living in poverty.
"Today, for families all over our country, for children all over our country, help is here," Harris said, before introducing the president. "This has never happened before. And America, yes, it is a big deal."
Biden and Harris marked the rollout of checks and direct deposits from the child tax credit with a White House event featuring Americans set to benefit. Both leaders nodded to those families in their remarks.
"This has the potential to reduce child poverty in the same way that the Social Security reduced poverty for the elderly," Biden said.
With the policy, families making less than $150,000 a year and single parents making less than $112,500 are now eligible for a credit of up to $3,600 per child. Payments will be going out to 39 million households, according to the IRS.
Biden frequently touted the payments as a "middle-class tax cut," saying it's geared toward "the folks who are struggling, or just looking for a little bit, as my dad would say, a little bit of breathing room."
"Ninety-seven percent of the children receiving this credit come from working families, and the other 3% include kids being raised by retired grandparents or by someone with a serious disability," he said.
Those families who qualify for the credit, which was expanded as part of Biden's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, will receive monthly payments without taking any further action. Initial eligibility will be based on 2019 or 2020 tax returns, the IRS has said.
"I think this will be one of the things that the Vice President and I will be most proud of when our terms are up," Biden added.
The president also took the chance from the bully pulpit to put pressure on Congress to extend the tax cut -- since it's set to expire in after a year.
"These tax cut payments are arriving automatically. But it didn't happen automatically," Biden said.
Through Democrats' $3.5 trillion human infrastructure plan, the tax credit could get an extension. Biden argued the case, speaking directly to lawmakers.
"We shouldn't let taxes go up on working families. We shouldn't let child poverty continue to stain the conscience or drag down our economy. And so, I say to my colleagues in Congress: this tax cut for working families is something we should extend, not end next year," he continued. "So I say to my colleagues in Congress. This tax cut for working families is something we should extend not end next year. And I say to all of you watching. Make sure your family, friends and community know about this tax cut."
The latest expansion under Biden increased the child tax credit from $2,000 to $3,000 for children over 6, and to $3,600 for children under 6.
While Biden laid out the mechanics of the payments in his remarks, he did not give a plan to reach families whose income is so low that they don't usually pay taxes. The Treasury Department has estimated that automatic payments will go out to 88% of childrens' families nationwide, but that leaves about 7.8 million children whose families would have to sign up to receive the payments. He urged families to visit Childtaxcredit.gov, but questions remain about the administration's overall outreach effort.
Biden closed his remarks by highlighting some of his achievements in office, linking the "groundbreaking effort" of the child tax credit to the "wartime effort" to get Americans vaccinated against COVID-19.
"We're proving that democracy can deliver for people and deliver in a timely way -- saving lives, improving lives, helping fuel record-setting recovery, giving working families a fighting chance again," he said.