Rep. Sean Scanlon wants CT to keep trying to send rebate dollars to families
State Comptroller Sean Scanlon File Photo

Roughly 70% to 80% of eligible households claimed the state’s $250-per-child tax rebate before the application period closed Sunday, Gov. Ned Lamont’s office reported Monday.

A total of 238,668 low- and middle-income households claimed the benefit on behalf of 369,883 children. That means $92.5 million or 74% of the $125 million that legislators appropriated for the program would be distributed.

“I think it’s a great start and proof that this is an important program that is not only needed but important to hundreds of thousands of families,” said Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford, who spearheaded the program.

Scanlon, who co-chairs the legislature’s Finance Committee, said Monday he already has asked Lamont and legislative leaders not to allow the remaining $32.5 million in the program budget to lapse when the fiscal year closes next June 30.

State officials have estimated 300,000 to 350,000 families could be eligible for the program — which was open to single parents with federally adjusted incomes below $100,000 and to couples making less than $200,000.

Households had two months to apply, between June 1 and July 31. Some advocates have said the state should have mailed checks or electronically transferred funds directly to as many eligible recipients as possible.

Scanlon said Monday that discussions about getting more aid to needy families are not over.

“We’re actively talking about what is the way we can find those other people,” said Scanlon, who originally proposed an ongoing per-child credit within the state income tax system but agreed to the one-time rebate as a compromise.

The Guilford lawmaker specifically had proposed a $300-per-child credit, up to a maximum of $900 per household — with the goal of gradually increasing it to $600 per child and $1,800 per household.

Lamont questioned whether the state could afford such relief over the long haul, especially with economists’ warnings about the possibility of a recession. Nonpartisan analysts estimated a $600 credit would cost the state about $300 million per year.

The governor has said he would reassess the concept of a child tax credit next year, and his administration had no comment Monday on whether to make a second attempt to reach income-eligible households that hadn’t applied for the one-time rebate.

“We are encouraged that so many took advantage of this program and will be receiving those checks later this month,” said Chris Collibee, spokesman for Lamont’s budget office. “This is real money that will make a real difference in the lives of families across the state just in time for the beginning of the new school year.”

The regular 2023 General Assembly session convenes on Jan. 4. Scanlon said this gives Lamont and lawmakers six months to get more relief dollars into families’ hands.

Though Scanlon didn’t discuss specific options, Lamont and lawmakers could authorize a second application period, use updated tax data to directly send rebate checks to households or allow families to claim the rebate when filing their 2022 state income tax returns.

Republicans have accused Lamont and his fellow Democrats in the legislature’s majority of using the rebates as a political stunt to boost their campaigns this fall. Lamont is seeking a second term as governor, and Scanlon is running for state comptroller.

The rebate is part of a $660 million tax relief plan enacted this year — and Democrats note it’s one of the largest in state history.

Republicans counter it is far too little, given the context. The national inflation rate, which now exceeds 9%, is at a 40-year-high. And for the fiscal year that just wrapped on June 30, preliminary numbers show the state finished with an unprecedented surplus of around $4.3 billion.

The GOP favored a $1.2 billion relief plan that also included a state income tax rate cut for the middle class; a holiday on diesel fuel taxes; a temporary reduction of the sales tax from 6.35% to 5.99% in 2022; and suspension of the 1% surcharge on restaurant meals for the rest of the calendar year.

House Minority Leader Vincent J. Candelora, R-North Branford, called it “disappointing” that rebate funds went undistributed.

“Given that this program is due to expire after one year, I would call upon the Democrats to join Republicans to enact meaningful, permanent tax relief in the form of an income tax cut,’’ Candelora added. 

Keith has spent most of his 31 years as a reporter specializing in state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax equity, waste in government and the complex funding systems behind Connecticut’s transportation and social services networks. He has been the state finances reporter at CT Mirror since it launched in 2010. Prior to joining CT Mirror Keith was State Capitol bureau chief for The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, a reporter for the Day of New London, and a former contributing writer to The New York Times. Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at the University of Connecticut.