For the last six months, 36 million families received a monthly check from the IRS through the expanded Child Tax Credit — a cash infusion that helped pay for groceries, buy school uniforms and ease the costs of raising kids. But now, families are facing the first month since July without a check from the government program, even as inflation hits a 40-year high and COVID-19 cases surge. If President Joe Biden's Build Back Better Act had been passed, families would have received a CTC payment on January 14 (because the 15th is a Saturday, the IRS would have issued the checks on the preceding workday.) But that bill remains in limbo, which means parents will not get a check on Friday. "The CTC went away, but grocery prices haven't gone down," said Stormy Johnson, 44, a single mother of three in Kingwood, West Virginia, who works as a student support specialist. "Now that I don't have that payment, the reality of life is that there will be times I won't eat to make sure my kids can." Johnson, 44, said the loss of the payments means more stress for the entire family given that her children are aware she will skip meals to ensure they have enough food. She brings home about $2,200 a month after taxes, with $1,600 earmarked for rent, her car payments and car insurance. After paying for other bills such as utilities, she's left with $50 a month. The $500 in CTC funds she received for her two youngest children "was a huge help," said Johnson, who also has 21-year-old child who was too old to qualify for the program. "That payment they are taking away just put a lot hurting on a lot of folks." 10 million kids at risk of poverty There are plenty of working families like Johnson's, who live close to the financial edge despite being employed. Parents interviewed by CBS MoneyWatch said they are planning to cut back on essentials like food as well as expenses such as cable TV to try to cope with the double-whammy of inflation on top of the expired benefit. Many worried about the impact on their children. Anti-poverty experts say the impact on children could be extreme. Without the continuation of the monthly payments, about 10 million children are at risk of slipping into poverty, according to a recent estimate from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). The expanded CTC expired on December 31 when the Build Back Better Act stalled amid opposition from Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia whose support is crucial for the bill's passage in a divided U.S. Senate. Although House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday she believes a deal can still be reached with Manchin, it would not come in time for families to receive payments this week. It's also unclear whether the CTC will move forward in its expanded form even if Build Back Better is revived. Wall Street analysts, for one, are skeptical that lawmakers will renew the expanded program, with Goldman Sachs calling a full extension "very unlikely." "A return to the pre-2021 policy looks most likely, though a much more modest expansion is still possible," analysts with the investment bank said Monday in a report. Spending on children Nine of 10 families earning an annual salary of less than $36,000 spent the monthly Child Tax Credit payments on essentials, according to CBPP research. The top three spending categories were food, utilities, and rent or mortgage payments, the left-leaning think tank noted. Among them is Melissa Boyles, 63, who is caring for her 16-year-old granddaughter, both of whose parents have passed away. With the extra $250 a month, Boyles was able to buy extras like a $36 roast and a type of pasta that her granddaughter liked, as well as new clothing for the teen. To help ease the pain of losing her family, Boyles got her granddaughter a puppy, but is now worried she might not be able to pay for the dog's upkeep. "I am concerned about giving the puppy up — he needs shots and dog tags, which cost $6, but that's a lot of money when you need milk and bread," said Boyles, who explained that she and her husband are both on disability and receive a combined total of about $2,000 a month in benefits. She is also anxious about Manchin's reported insistence that if the expanded CTC were to be renewed, it should come with a work requirement — neither she nor her husband work given that they are disabled. In Boyles' view, there are many grandparents like her who are taking care of their grandchildren and are either retired . . . read the full article here.