LODI, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – The federal child tax credit program is being expanded, and will give families a boost.

The payments are scheduled to start going out in a few weeks, so how do you sign up?

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As CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge reports, Diana Cecchini has two kids, 5 and 3, and one on the way. She says this year, because of COVID, her family’s expenses went way up.

“‘Cause of the pandemic, we feel like we’ve bought more things to try to keep them stimulated, learning,” Cecchini said.

Soon, parents like Cecchini will get some more assistance. The child tax credit program is increasing, and will now provide $3,600 for kids 5 and under, and $3,000 for children 6-17 years old. Instead of waiting until the end of the year, the credits would be paid out in monthly installments of $300, starting July 15. The remaining amount parents would receive when filing their 2021 tax return.

For Cecchini, that’s an extra $600 a month.

“I would put it towards education purposes. Just, any bit helps. We’re hard-working citizens, and living in this area is very expensive,” she said.

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Rep. Josh Gottheimer held a press conference at the Boys and Girls Club in Lodi to get the word out.

“It will help pay for child care, help pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses and help put gas in the car, so moms and dads can get back to work,” he said. 

Couples who make up to $150,000 or single parents who make up to $75,000 qualify.

“We got the letter in the mail that we’re eligible for a couple hundred dollars a month, and we’re like ‘Oh, that’s almost about half of what we’d have to pay for our child’s preschool,'” said Joseph Licata, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Lower Bergen County.

You’ll automatically qualify to receive the tax credit if you’re a parent who signed up to receive COVID stimulus payments this year, or filed your taxes. If you didn’t, here’s what you do:

These benefits will start going out in the next three weeks.

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This is a pandemic boost, so it just applies to this year’s child tax credit, and returns to normal next year.

Natalie Duddridge