During the COVID-19 global pandemic, Congress passed major funding packages that included financial assistance payments to supplement the incomes of individuals and families. In response, the Get My Payment Illinois (GMPIL) Coalition formed in April 2020 to help low-income Illinoisans receive stimulus funds. The coalition is comprised of the Economic Awareness Council, New America Chicago, Heartland Alliance, and Heartland Human Care Services. In May 2020, the coalition launched a website, GetMyPaymentIL.org. In March 2021, the American Rescue Plan (ARP) increased and expanded the Child Tax Credit (CTC). The coalition began to also work with government and nonprofit partners to spread the word about the Child Tax Credit (CTC).
Heartland Alliance's Social IMPACT Research Center (IMPACT) and New America Chicago engaged in research for GMPIL to (a) share the impact of CTC expansion on low-income Illinois families to bolster the case for a permanently expanded federal CTC and (b) advocate for improvements to the IRS non-filer tool to strengthen access to the CTC and Earned Income Tax Credit in the long-term. IMPACT focused primarily on accomplishing the first research goal. To that end, we analyzed data from the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series, Current Population Survey (IPUMS CPS) and the Household Pulse Survey to estimate Illinois families' take up of CTC payments, including demographics--and how they spent those payments--as well as demographics of eligible families who did not receive CTC payments. We conducted interviews with eight families who claimed CTC payments and were intermittent filers (i.e., did not file taxes every year) to learn about their experiences claiming CTC and the impact of the CTC on their lives.
Results from this study showed that only a little over half of eligible Latino/a/x and two thirds of eligible Asian families received CTC payments, compared to about three-quarters of eligible White, Black, and multiracial families. Middle-income families made up the largest portion of CTC recipients compared to higher and lowerincome families. Most families used CTC payments mostly to pay off debt. CTC payments helped low-income families reduce financial insecurities, but families also experienced barriers in accessing payments. Results on spending behaviors showed that the top use for funds was on food, followed by clothing and utilities / telecommunications.