- Senate Democrats are pressuring Treasury and the IRS to fix the portal for low-income families to get child tax credit cash.
- Sen. Sherrod Brown called Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Wednesday, he told Insider.
- Other Democrats are demanding the IRS move quickly to ensure non-tax filers can get monthly payments.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Senate Democrats are pressing the Treasury Department and the IRS to ensure that the poorest families can access what they’re already calling “Social Security for kids.”
The first child tax credit payments from President Joe Biden’s stimulus law hit the bank accounts of millions of families last week. But experts and community advocates are pressuring the IRS to quickly fix major problems with a portal aimed at signing up the poorest families who don’t pay taxes and therefore don’t have any records with the agency.
Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, chair of the Senate Banking Committee, said in a Thursday interview he called Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen about it only a day before.
“I spoke an hour with Yellen yesterday, we talked at length about the non-filer portal. It’s just not accessible enough,” he told Insider. “You can’t access it with a mobile unit, there’s a language issue. I will not criticize them, I know they’re trying.”
He continued: “They got work to do and they know it. My staff talks to the IRS about this and Treasury three to four times a week.” Brown didn’t offer a timeline for when the portal would be fixed, saying he didn’t know.
Other top Democrats also want to make sure the IRS overhauls the site, given it’s only available in English and isn’t accessible with a mobile device. It’s a shift from last week, when Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer strongly defended the website as “a very simple way to file.” Issues with the portal have been known for many weeks.
Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, Senate Finance Committee chair, sent a letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig on Thursday, demanding the agency fix the portal as quickly as possible. “I’m certainly concerned about it, its a significant number of people,” Wyden told Insider.
Among other things mentioned in the letter to Rettig, Wyden said he was “especially disappointed” in the portal because it wasn’t optimized for mobile devices, a legal requirement for public-facing government websites.
Other Democrats are also pushing the IRS to make the changes. The portal was built by Intuit, the private tax-filing company that powers TurboTax, Huffpost reported.
“We are working closely with the IRS to ensure it prioritizes improvements that make its tools easily accessible to all families,” Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, an architect of the child tax credit measure along with Brown, said in a statement to Insider.
He added the agency “has done remarkable work to implement the advance Child Tax Credit payments on a tight timeline.”
For six months, families can get a $US300 ($AU406) monthly benefit per child age 5 and under, amounting to $US3,600 ($AU4,877) this year. The measure provides $US250 ($AU339) each month per kid age 6 and 17, totaling $US3,000 ($AU4,065). Half of the benefit will come as a tax refund next year.
The vast majority of families aren’t required to take additional steps to receive the benefits. But at least 2.3 million children could be left out of the advance child tax credit payments, per a Treasury Department estimate.
Other projections are even higher. The People’s Policy Project, a left-leaning think tank, estimated around 7 million children could be at risk of missing out on the cash benefits if the federal government falls short in enrolling low-income families.