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Even as Congress debates whether to extend a government program offering monthly payments for children — a key piece of the Biden administration’s anti-poverty agenda — funds have yet to reach some needy families, particularly in immigrant communities.

Pablo Blank counsels Laura at the CASA office in Hyattsville, Md., on Oct. 14 on her options for applying to receive the child tax credit. © Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post Pablo Blank counsels Laura at the CASA office in Hyattsville, Md., on Oct. 14 on her options for applying to receive the child tax credit.

Laura, a 27-year-old Hyattsville, Md., mother of two young children, should have been receiving $550 a month since July, when payments began on the expanded child tax credit program. Laura — who declined to give her last name because she is undocumented — first had to apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to file her income taxes to access the benefit for her U.S.-born children. The ITIN is a nine-digit number issued by the IRS for people who do not have a Social Security number but need to file a tax return.

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But, Laura said recently, her ITIN has yet to come through, meaning her family still hasn’t received the money.

“The pandemic has had a big impact on us,” said Laura, who originally is from El Salvador. “My husband lost his construction job, and he’s been able to work a few jobs here and there. We just have the money to pay the rent and food.”

Pablo Blank, senior manager of immigrant integration at CASA, a grass-roots immigrant advocacy organization, said that a backlog of ITIN applications means many Spanish-speaking communities in the Washington region are missing out on the child tax credit (CTC) payments when they are most needed.

“There’s a sense of frustration and unfairnesses,” he said. “The IRS has a backlog so they have not received the advanced CTC payments.”

In a statement, the IRS said it is processing such applications “as quickly as possible despite social distancing requirements.” It is working through applications received in the first week of June. “We are taking every action to minimize delays, and we are processing requests in the order they were received,” the statement said.

A large number of ITIN returns flow into the government each year; in 2019, over 2 million returns came in from ITIN taxpayers, representing $2.8 billion in taxes.

“Every year there are many undocumented immigrants who apply for these IDs,” Blank said. “Many people feel more confident doing that with this new administration.”


Video: Why some eligible families aren’t getting Child Tax Credit (Yahoo! Finance)

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