Monday, November 15th, 2021 marks the “non-filer deadline,” the date by which families who do not typically file takes must submit their information to the IRS via GetCTC.org. With just days left until the deadline passes, there is a critical and urgent opportunity for state and local health and human services agencies to get the word out to families on the Child Tax Credit (CTC). Preliminary data indicate the CTC has served as an important tool for bolstering purchasing power in local economies by enabling families to pay for basic needs, such as food and housing; purchase essential items for children, like clothing and school supplies; and build savings and emergency funds that are more important than ever within the persistent environment of uncertainty that the pandemic has produced.1
While most eligible families automatically received advance CTC payments, those who have not filed taxes need to take additional action to ensure they can access this important support this year. State and local agencies rapidly stood up innovative and effective strategies to reach families at risk of missing out on this historic benefit. APHSA has collected and shared exemplary efforts out of Colorado, Virginia, and Los Angeles County through our three-part webinar series, Tools and Tips to Quickly Connect Families to the Expanded Child Tax Credit.
One effective and quickly implementable way to spread the word is through broad text-based outreach. This post spotlights text campaigns that were effectively deployed to connect families to the expanded CTC in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the State of Michigan, and Los Angeles County to demonstrate what is possible for other health and human services agencies at the state and local levels.
Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance
The Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) partnered with Greater Boston Legal Services, Shah Family Foundation, Massachusetts Association for Community Action, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, and Children’s Health Watch to send a text message to households receiving federal and state benefits including SNAP, TANF cash assistance, and Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC). The text message informed families of their likely eligibility for the CTC in six languages and directed households to FindYourFunds.org, a website created by these community partners that enables easy access to stimulus payments and tax credits, including the CTC.
A week after the text message went out, there were 100,000 unique visitors to the website and 64,000 views of the webpage on how to apply. In addition, the Boston Tax Help Coalition, a project of Mayor’s Office of the City of Boston providing economic support services like tax filing assistance, received between 100-150 calls – up from 20-30 per week. Other Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites reported an increase in call volume as well. Here is the text message DTA sent:
You might be eligible for more federal dollars, like missed stimulus payments or a Child Tax Credit up to $300/month per child. You can apply today, even if you haven't filed taxes before. File taxes or apply before October 15. This money does not count for DTA benefits. Learn more: findyourfunds.org/funds2.”
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) partnered with the University of Michigan’s Poverty Solutions initiative to send text messages to all families in the City of Detroit who opted into text communication about the benefit programs in which they currently participate, including SNAP, Medicaid, TANF, WIC and Child Care
The campaign includes three rounds of text outreach. The first two rounds led to a 30x increase in visits to the campaign website and 8x increase in tax appointments made.2 On November 8th, a final text will be sent to Detroiters to remind those who have not yet received their advance CTC payments to sign up before the 15th. Given the success of the Detroit effort, MDHHS has since expanded this to the entire state.
Here is the message:
Don’t miss out on up to $300 per month, per child, through the new Child Tax Credit. Go to GetTheTaxFacts.org to learn more and get free tax help.
Los Angeles County Department of Public and Social Services
The Los Angeles County Department of Public and Social Services (DPSS) ran a text message campaign to spread CTC awareness to families participating in CalWorks (TANF) and Medi-Cal (Medicaid) programs. On two separate occasions, the County sent a text message to 79,583 CalWorks and 347,000 Medi-Cal families.
Here is their message:
Dear Medi-Cal/CalWORKS families, the 2021 Advanced Child Tax Credits are here. The government is giving families with kids 17 and under payments worth up to $3,600 per child. You don’t have to file taxes, even if you have low or no-income, regardless of your immigration status. Go to IRS.com to learn more or call (800) 829-1040. This message was brought to you by L.A. County DPSS.
Text Message Samples for State Agencies and State Partners
With the non-filer deadline quickly approaching, now is the prime time to deploy broad-reaching text message campaigns to connect families to CTC. Agencies with existing text messaging or push notification capacity can draw inspiration from the messages state and local peers have used. Here are some additional sample texts that can be customized:
- Don’t miss out on up to $300 per month, per child, through the new Child Tax Credit. You are likely eligible, even if you don’t usually file taxes or earn little or no money. Sign up by Monday, November 15 at GetCTC.org.
- This is the [YOUR STATE] SNAP team. You might be eligible for federal dollars, like the Child Tax Credit of up to $300/month per child. Sign up in minutes at GetCTC.org by Nov. 15.
- Hi from [YOUR ORGANIZATION]! You could now get up to $300 a month for each child in your family. This is your money to help with the costs of raising your kids. Sign up online in minutes at GetCTC.org.
- You might be eligible for more federal dollars, like missed stimulus payments or the Child Tax Credit of up to $300/month per child – even if you haven’t filed taxes! Sign up by 11/15/21 in a matter of minutes at GetCTC.org.