In 2021, Congress enacted a one-year extension of the Child Tax Credit as families and the economy were still reeling from the effects of the pandemic. That extension led to a historic decline in the child poverty rate—46 percent. Now, new census data shows that the rate of children in poverty dramatically increased in 2022—just one year later. The American Academy of Pediatrics and other experts say it’s due to the end of pandemic-era safety nets like the Child Tax Credit to combat record inflation.

The Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), an agency charged with measuring poverty by including cash resources and non-cash benefits from government programs aimed at low-income families. The SPM subtracts taxes and necessary expenses to provide an accurate assessment of poverty in the U.S.

In 2021, the SPM child poverty rate fell to 5.2% due to the Child Tax Credit and other financial assistance that helped families. In 2022, the number reached 12.4%, the largest increase in child poverty since the SPM began in 2009.

Living in poverty is defined as a family with two adults and two children with an annual income below $29,678. The number of children living in poverty based on the SPM increased by more than 5 million, from 3.8 million in 2021 to nearly 9 million in 2022.

The Child Tax Credit was, historically, one of the most successful anti-poverty programs ever enacted—initiated in 2021 under President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, it expanded on the existing child tax credit program to distribute a monthly check to nearly every family with children. Families received up to $300 per child each month, depending on the child’s age and household income, with zero repayment necessary.

Per the Washington Post, the Child Tax Credit reduced measures of food insecurity and financial hardship. Census Bureau data shows parents mostly used the funds for basic household needs and children’s essentials, like groceries, clothing, childcare and rent/mortgage payments. Some vocal critics of the credit feared that making the child allowance available to nearly all families regardless of income would discourage parents from working, but the program appeared to have had little discernible effect on employment or labor supply.

Sen. Cory Booker commented on the new data about the child poverty rate, blaming Republicans for letting the expanded child tax credit expire: “We have now proved something pretty phenomenal and at the same time, pretty obscene. And what we’ve proved is that poverty for children in America is not some accident. It’s a policy choice.”

Vice President Kamala Harris vowed this week to bring the Child Tax Credit back and allowing Congress to vote on its expansion once more.

“Research has shown that the child tax credit, every dollar we spend on it, generates an estimated $8 in benefits to society in the form of better health, more education and increased lifetime earnings for impacted children,” Josie Phillips of the Maine Center for Economic Policy told news station WGME back in May.

A new statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) highlights the dire state of child poverty and the enormous impact the refundable tax credits had on families across the country. Theswe credits kept 6.4 million people of all ages out of poverty in 2022, 3.2 million less than in 2021, according to the AAP and SPM.

“These numbers are a wake-up call to our elected officials,” said AAP President Sandy L. Chung, M.D., FAAP. “We must urgently prioritize children if we are to make any meaningful effort to reverse this alarming increase in child poverty. We know what works: policies like the child tax credit and earned income tax credit, investments in children’s health through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and support for early child care and education. We need immediate, robust investments in these programs in order to lift children out of poverty.”