The following is an open letter from Mayor Jim Kenney & Superintendent William R. Hite, Jr., Ed.D.

The Child Tax Credit: An historic opportunity for families and Philadelphia

Fellow Philadelphians,

Parenting can be hard, very hard, even under the best circumstances. And over the last 16 months parents’ and caregivers’ resilience, confidence, and patience were tested as they cared for children and helped them learn during a global pandemic. We acknowledge and applaud all the caregivers who adapted and persisted in the face of these challenges. It was not easy.

While vaccination rates rise and case counts drop, the effects of the pandemic – and the systemic failures it exposed – still impact Philadelphia families every day. Across America, the global pandemic exposed the flaws in our social safety net. Restoring what we once had is not enough.

In times of great turmoil previous generations of Americans have struck new social bargains, making firm declarations that they will not go back to how life was. Consider the creation of Social Security after the Great Depression, the passage of the Civil Rights Act during the Civil Rights Movement, and the adoption of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, providing coverage for all following the Great Recession.

These policies aren’t perfect and didn’t fix all our deep economic inequities, but they did mark historic turning points and add new rungs to the ladder for children and families to get closer to the American dream.

In the wake of the global pandemic and facing a widening wealth gap that keeps many American families— even those with full-time jobs — in poverty, what is our transformative solution?

The new Child Tax Credit available through the American Rescue Plan signed by President Biden could be our generational policy that transforms lives and dramatically cuts poverty.

Starting next month, over ninety percent of Philadelphia families with children are eligible for new monthly payments from the federal government of $250 or $300 per child from the Child Tax Credit.

The City of Philadelphia estimates that if we work together to make sure everyone who is eligible claims their funds, 75,000 people in Philadelphia will move out of poverty this year. That includes more than 46,000 children.

These benefits could reduce child poverty in Philadelphia by a third and deep child poverty by half and reduce racial disparities in poverty and child poverty. If made permanent, this could be the single biggest policy solution in our lifetime to impact child poverty.

To fulfill its promise, we must ensure that every eligible family is signed up. We urge all families to take advantage of this opportunity and to encourage your neighbors, friends, and families to do the same.

There are two ways to sign up:

  • If you have filed tax returns in 2019 or 2020, or signed up to receive the federal stimulus payments, you will receive this payment automatically; you do not need to take any action.
  • If you have not filed tax returns in the last two years or signed up to receive the federal stimulus payments, you can sign up by completing the IRS non-filer form. You can also apply for the Recovery Rebate Credit, known as stimulus payments.

If your child has a Social Security Number, they are eligible. Even families who have no income are eligible.

We know that filing taxes and filling out government forms can be daunting, so help is here. The Campaign for Working Families ( or 215-454-6483) and a network of nonprofit partners can help you get the money you are owed.

Join us in making sure every child in Philadelphia is part of a family that receives what they are owed through the Child Tax Credit.

We can be the next generation who refuses to go back to how it was. We can be the generation who made the Child Tax Credit not a one-time policy experiment but a permanent feature of the ascent to the American dream.

Mayor Jim Kenney & Superintendent William R. Hite, Jr., Ed.D.

Learn more about the Child Tax Credit, including eligibility and how to sign up, from the Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity