“A true injustice over the last 20 years in Puerto Rico has been that the CTC was available for almost all children in the 50 states but only available to a small fraction of children and their families in Puerto Rico,” said Gene Sperling, a Senior Adviser to President Biden during a recent webinar. “This was wrong, there are no excuses or explanations.”
Throughout that time, families in Puerto Rico were eligible for the Child Tax Credit (CTC), which helps nearly all families living in states, only to the extent that they had three or more children under 17. Puerto Rico has the lowest birth rate in the U.S., so this was a very small proportion of the residents of the Island. What’s more, many people were unaware of the credit. They were required to file a federal income tax return to receive the credit, and most Puerto Ricans are not required to file these returns.
Under the American Rescue Plan Act, Puerto Rico became eligible for the Child Tax Credit under the same terms as the states. This gives a credit of $3,000 for each child ages 6 to 17 and $3,600 for children under age 6.
In 2021, 97% of all children in Puerto Rico were eligible for this credit. In the United States as a whole, the credits reduced child poverty to a record-breaking 6%. Child poverty remained higher in Puerto Rico.
One reason is that some families did not sign up. Those that did received an average credit of $5,000 to $6,000. Governor Pierluisi estimates that there are 75,000 families who are eligible but have not yet filed. Families still have until November 17th to file. There are government programs to help residents file, as well as programs from the Instituto del Desarollo and United Way. There is also online assistance available at reclamatudineropr.com.
“The CTC could lead to the lowest child poverty ever in Puerto Rico if we can get every eligible family to sign up,” said Sperling. Governor Pierluisi affirmed this, reporting that full participation could reduce poverty in Puerto Rico by 7%.
For this reason, the White House American Rescue Plan Team and the Instituto del Desarrollo de la Juventud held an online forum to encourage residents of Puerto Rico to file for the credit. With just under one month left for tax year 2021, both federal and territorial governments want to see all eligible families in Puerto Rico benefit from the tax credit.