Millions of families rely on the child tax credit to make ends meet, but it expires in just weeks.
It's unclear if Congress will act before the last payments go out on December 15.
If it gets renewed, the IRS may be able to act swiftly, as it did earlier this year with stimulus checks.
Over 35 million families are receiving monthly payments from President Joe Biden's child tax credit. The federal aid is being used to put food on the table, buy clothes, cover rent, and cover school-related expenses, per data from the Census Bureau.
However, the measure is expiring in three weeks if Congress doesn't step in to renew it with the last payments poised to go out on December 15. Democrats want to extend it for another year as part of their $2 trillion social spending, health, and climate legislation called the Build Back Better Act. But as the act now faces a vote in the Senate, infighting among centrists and progressives could stall its passage.
The child tax credit currently provides up to $300 a month per child age 5 and under, or $3,600 annually. For children between ages 6 and 17, families can receive $250 each month, or $3,000 yearly. The Democratic stimulus law in March turned it into a one-year cash benefit for families in a bid to cut child poverty by up to half.
Republicans are staunchly opposed to the child benefit, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell calling it "a monthly welfare deposit."
Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, a leading advocate, told Insider last week he believed December 15 was functioning as a deadline for Democrats to pass the sprawling legislation. He pushed back on the suggestion the onus was on his party to renew the child allowance in time.
"Don't put it on the Democrats as they let it expire," Brown told Insider. "Republicans have done nothing."
Congress will juggle competing priorities on its to-do list once it returns after the Thanksgiving break, including an extension of government funding and lifting the debt ceiling so the US can continue repaying its bills. It's unclear whether Democrats will be able to pass the party-line bill by then, though they're aiming to approve it by Christmas.
Even if lawmakers blow past the Dec. 15 deadline, it's possible the Internal Revenue Service can move swiftly to prevent a lapse in payments by mid-January. The third wave of $1,400 direct payments started landing in bank accounts within days of Biden approving the stimulus law earlier this year.