Though the Internal Revenue Service sent out the third monthly child tax credit payment last week, some families are still waiting for the funds.
Angry parents have contacted CNN, taken to Twitter and posted to other online sites complaining that they did not receive the money on Sept. 15 as expected. Eligible families can get up to $300 for each child up to age 6 and up to $250 for each one ages 6 to 17.
The agency, which distributed $15 billion in credits to about 35 million families last week, acknowledged Friday that "some individuals" had yet to receive their September payments, though they were sent ones for July and August. It also noted that these parents may not be able to see the status of the payment on the IRS' child tax credit portal.
The August distribution, however, also didn't go that smoothly. The agency said last month that some families — fewer than 15% — who received direct deposit in July were mailed paper checks for August. But it expected to have the problem resolved in time for the September batch.
The IRS, which acknowledged Friday that it was looking into the situation, did not immediately provide CNN with an update on Tuesday.
John Belfiore, a father of two teen boys, is getting antsy. He lost his job as a telemarketer for a finance company in February after contracting COVID-19 and spending eight days on a ventilator. The monthly child tax credit payments of $500, along with the pandemic unemployment benefits, were helping keep his family of four afloat.
But now that the enhanced unemployment benefits have ended, the child tax credit has become even more important for the Lake Forest, California, family. They received the funds for July and August via direct deposit, but the IRS portal says nothing about the September payment.
"I'm budgeting penny to penny," said Belfiore, who tried to call the agency but hung up after waiting on hold for an hour. "The $500 gives me gas money to get to interviews and keep the lights on."
Here are more details about the expanded child tax credit:
Created by the Democrats' $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package in March, the full enhanced credit is available for heads of households earning up to $112,500 a year and joint filers making up to $150,000, after which it begins to phase out.
For many families, the credit then plateaus at $2,000 per child and starts to phase out for single parents earning more than $200,000 or for married couples with incomes above $400,000.
More low-income parents are eligible for the child tax credit because the relief package made it fully refundable. It had been only partially refundable — leaving more than 26 million children unable to get the full credit because their families' incomes were too low, according to Treasury Department estimates.
About half of Black and Latino children, as well as kids living in rural communities, received only a partial credit or no credit at all because their families' incomes were too low prior to the enhancement, said the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
The provision means that a single mother with a toddler and a second-grader who earns $12,000 a year would see her credit increase to $6,600 for 2021, up from about $1,425, according to the center.
The Democrats' $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill seeks to make the credit fully refundable permanently.
Parents who aren't citizens can receive the payments for their citizen children as long as they have individual taxpayer identification numbers (ITIN) and their children have Social Security numbers.
Families can check their eligibility through this IRS website.
How much will I get?
That depends on your household income and family size.
Eligible families can receive a total of up to $3,600 for each child under 6 and up to $3,000 for each one age 6 to 17 for 2021. That's an increase from the regular child tax credit of up to $2,000 for each child up to age 17.
When will I see the money?
Parents will receive half their credit on a monthly basis through the rest of the year. The payments will be made on the 15th of each month, unless that falls on a weekend or holiday.
They can claim the other half when they file their 2021 taxes next year.
Parents can check if they are enrolled to receive the advance payments at an IRS portal. They can also use it to provide or update their bank account information.
Those who don't receive their monthly payments until later in the year will still get half the credit in 2021.
Families who want to receive the payments as a lump sum can opt out of the monthly installments at the IRS portal.
Some parents may not want to get the monthly payments, particularly if their incomes increase this year. The payments are credits toward families' tax liability for 2021, but are based on 2020 or 2019 income and household size. Some who get the advance credits could wind up receiving much smaller refunds — or even owing taxes — next spring when they complete their 2021 returns.
The IRS advises parents whose incomes or circumstances change during the year to update their information through the agency's portal when it adds the functionality. The IRS can then adjust the monthly payments accordingly.
Lawmakers, however, protected lower-income parents from potential overpayments. Heads of households making $50,000 or less and joint filers with incomes of $60,000 or less will not need to repay any excess payments.
Do I have to do anything to get it?
The vast majority of families get the credit automatically because they filed 2019 or 2020 returns claiming the credit.
The IRS also sends the payments to Americans who previously used its non-filer portal to register for the stimulus checks.
But families who haven't filed tax returns recently or used the non-filer tool must take action. They can use another IRS portal to register to receive the enhanced child tax credit. The sign-up tool allows users to provide the necessary information about their households and, if they choose, their bank accounts so the agency can directly deposit the funds.
Parents can also go to GetCTC.org to file simplified returns and claim the enhanced credit. The site, which launched earlier this month, was developed by the non-profit Code for America, in collaboration with the White House and the Treasury Department. It is available in English and Spanish.
The IRS portal has been criticized because the tool is only in English and does not work well on cell phones.