‘Revolutionary’ Decrease in California Child Poverty Expected from $1.9 Trillion Virus Relief Bill

President Biden prepares to sign the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill. Image from White House

President Biden prepares to sign the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill. Image from White House video

By Jackie Botts | CalMatters

The $1.9 trillion virus relief package signed into law Thursday by President Biden has an important side benefit — the potential to reduce child poverty in the Golden State by half.

That would be a turning point for a state that is an economic powerhouse vexed by the highest poverty rate in the nation when accounting for the cost of living. 

Economists and progressives are hailing as “revolutionary” a provision to send periodic cash to most families with children through a one-year expansion of the existing child tax credit. When combined with the state’s new stimulus aid, the payments could lift millions of Californians out of poverty this year, particularly immigrant households that have borne the brunt of the pandemic’s health and economic effects. 

The expanded child tax credit will go a long way for Alma Jimenez, an undocumented single mother of 8-year-old Abraham, who is a citizen. Abraham has been in virtual school for nearly a year, forcing Jimenez to take occasional house-cleaning jobs and make artisanal soaps from home.

“I haven’t paid the light bill, PG&E” and several months of rent, said Jimenez in Spanish from the one-bedroom they share in Concord. “It would help me pay them. Maybe my car insurance. I’d distribute it.”