Is your check in the mail?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 26, 2003

The Treasury Department began mailing out checks worth up to $400 per child to more than 25 million middle-income households Friday, a summertime windfall from tax cuts enacted in May.

Several Suffolk residents with children say they aren’t sure they qualified for refunds. Nonetheless, they are keeping fingers crossed in hopes of finding a check in Monday’s mail.

&uot;It would be great,&uot; said Kay Foster, a northern Suffolk woman with two children. &uot;We’ll wait and see what we get.&uot;

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Although Jashaunda Bailey, a Cullodan Street resident with three children, could receive a $1,200 refund next week, she hasn’t thought about how she would use it.

&uot;I really haven’t thought about it since I don’t know whether I’ll be receiving it,&uot; Bailey said. &uot;I figured I wait until I had it before making big plans on using it.

&uot;Guess I’ll probably do a little early Christmas shopping if I do get one.&uot;

Like Bailey, Keith and Jane Fryback of Burnett’s Mill haven’t made any plans for how they would use any refund they may receive. But the extra money would be handy when the couple and their five children go on vacation in Indiana next month, he said.

That extra spending is exactly what President Bush was banking on with the tax cuts. At the plant that prints and mails the checks, he visited with families Thursday who said they plan to spend their money on school supplies, tuition and uniforms, thus injecting some energy into a slowly recovering economy.

&uot;First of all, purchasing school supplies means the school supply manufacturer or school supply salesman has got a little extra business,&uot; Bush said. &uot;But also, one of the things that’s important in our work force is for people to continually upgrade their education, so that they can be more productive and find a better job that pays better pay.&uot;

The checks that hit the mail beginning Friday represent an advance refund on the child tax credit increased to $1,000 this year. The first batch of roughly 8.6 million checks will return a total of $4.4 billion to taxpayers. Two more batches will be sent in August.

The checks will be sent to those who qualified for the credit in 2002. Families who had their first child in 2003 will have to wait until next spring to apply for the credit and claim their refund. Taxpayers expecting a check need not contact the Internal Revenue Service in order to get their advance payments.

&uot;As long as we have a good mailing address, taxpayers don’t have to do anything to get their checks,&uot; said IRS commissioner Mark Everson.

The benefit starts to phase out for married couples that make more than $110,000 and single parents who earn more than $75,000.

And more than 6.5 million low-income families do not pay enough income tax to qualify for the bigger credit and will not get checks.

Those are families that earn between $10,500 and roughly $26,000, and the Children’s Defense Fund estimated that military families with 1 million children fall into that category.

Democrats, clamoring for Republicans to expand the credit for those families, said GOP leaders were insensitive to the struggles of the working poor.

&uot;They come home from work after sunset and leave again after sunrise,&uot; said Rep. Bob Menendez, D-N.J. &uot;They live in our midst, never complain, and work, work, work.&uot;

&uot;And Republicans show their gratitude with their wholesale abandonment of these working families.&uot;

A few families anticipating the refund pledged them to movements opposing President Bush’s tax agenda, which they see as tilted to the rich at the expense of the most needy.

The Boston-based group, United for a Fair Economy, used their Web site to collect child credit checks and donate them to groups helping low-income families.

&uot;In our town, because of a severe budget deficit, we are losing basic human services and educational services,&uot; wrote Anne Wright of Somerville, Mass., in pledging her refund on the Web site. &uot;The fact that lower income people get the rawest deal (especially minimum-wage workers) makes it all the more horrifying to hardworking parents like me.&uot;

The White House responded on Friday to criticism that the president is not applying enough pressure to persuade GOP leaders to move on the child tax credit expansion.

&uot;I don’t know how more clear the president can be than he has been,&uot; Bush spokesman Scott McClellan said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.