Sen. Raphael Warnock in Columbus

Sen. Raphael Warnock told those in Columbus who participated in the discussion that he would work to make sure the expanded child tax credit becomes permanent.

Credit: Nick Wooten/Ledger-Enquirer

An extra $300 a month gives Columbus mother Carnitra Cannon-Tillman a little breathing room.

The 40-year-old was laid off from her job at Aflac during the COVID-19 pandemic, reducing her household to one income. Her 2-year-old daughter, Cairo Tillman, has a speech delay and is in therapy twice a week. Some of the extra money the family receives from the expanded Child Tax Credit goes towards purchasing books and helping their little girl.

“It can get costly just trying to build their speech, build things up academically,” Cannon-Tillman said. “It’s been very helpful for us to have that little cushion.”

Cannon-Tillman was among a handful of parents who told U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) about the importance of the expanded child tax credit during a round table discussion in Columbus Tuesday. The expanded tax credit was passed as part of the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package signed into law by President Joe Biden earlier this year.

Under the American Rescue Plan, families will receive tax credits up to $3,000 for each child between the ages of six and 17 and up to $3,600 for children under the age of six. Families will get the full credit if they earn up to $150,000 for a couple, $112,500 for a family with a single parent or $75,000 for other filers, according to the White House.

For eligible households, half of the money comes in the form of direct payments each month through the end of 2021. The other half is claimed when filing a 2021 income tax return. Each monthly payment is up to $300 for each child under age six and up to $250 per month for each child ages six through 17.

The first child tax credit payments were sent to households in July, and Georgia households received roughly $520.3 million. The average monthly payment was $418, according to data from the U.S. Treasury Department.

In Muscogee County, the legislation affects an estimated 13,800 households and 45,000 children. The average credit amount is $3,300, Warnock’s office said, citing methodology from Co-Equal, a data analytics group that assists Congressional offices.

Cannon-Tillman wasn’t the only parent who spoke about the importance of the expanded tax credit.

Danté Dowdell and Alicia Taylor said the first monthly payment helped cover costs for school clothes and extracurricular activities for their 10-year-old daughter, London Taylor. The fifth-grader will start basketball soon, and London presented Warnock with a painting as a thank you gift.

For local hairstylist Will Godfrey, the payment helped fund karate-related expenses for his daughter, Birdie. The 12- year-old is a second-degree black belt and a junior instructor. The money allowed the family to fund a few extra tournament trips.

“These tournaments are very expensive,” he said. “It’s made a huge difference.”

Warnock told those who participated in the discussion that he would work to make sure the expanded child tax credit becomes permanent.

“We don’t get to pass legislation this transformative for ordinary people often,” he said. “Experts say that this will cut child poverty in half. I don’t think you can cut child poverty in half one year and then go back and double it the following year. That is poor public policy, and it creates uncertainty in the household budgets of people like this.”

The round table talk was Warnock’s first event in Columbus Tuesday. He was also the guest speaker at the United Negro College Fund’s kickoff lunch event at the Green Island Country Club.

Warnock, a graduate of Morehouse College, spoke for about 25 minutes during the event. He praised the accomplishments of historically Black colleges and universities, discussed the importance of voting rights and talked about the infrastructure bill waiting on approval in the U.S. House.

Warnock is running for re-election to the Senate in 2022. Several Republicans, including former Heisman trophy winner and University of Georgia football star Herschel Walker, look to unseat Warnock.

This story comes to GPB through a reporting partnership with The Telegraph.