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Activists dump 3.8 million grains of rice at Marco Rubio's office. What's that about?

Northside Coalition's Ben Frazier demonstrating outside of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio's office over the lapse in the expanded Child Tax Credit
Raymon Troncoso
The Northside Coalition's Ben Frazier demonstrates outside the office of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, along with Erica Wright of Income Movement. They were protesting the lapse in the expanded Child Tax Credit.

Jacksonville activists gathered outside the office of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio on Thursday to protest the lapse in the expanded Child Tax Credit, which ceased sending advance payments last month.

The Northside Coalition of Jacksonville and Income Movement dropped off 132 pounds of rice on the steps of the federal courthouse where Rubio's Jacksonville office is located. The 3.8 million grains of rice represent the number of Floridian children negatively impacted by the loss of the tax credit, they said.

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Biden administration expanded the Child Tax Credit to give families up to $3,600 per child under the age of 6 and $3,000 for children between the ages of 6 and 17. They also created an advanced payment system that doled out the tax credit in the form of monthly checks between $250 and $300 per child, dramatically reducing rates of childhood poverty through financial assistance.

Since the end of the year, those payments have stopped, and the credit has fallen to its pre-COVID cap of $2,000 per child under 17. That's put millions of children at risk of falling back into poverty, especially in Florida where 20% of children are estimated to be living in poverty, the activists say.

Bags of rice left outside Rubio's Jacksonville office meant to represent children impacted by the lapse in the Child Tax Credit.
Raymon Troncoso
Bags of rice left outside Rubio's Jacksonville office, meant to represent children affected by the lapse in the Child Tax Credit.

"There is a sense of urgency that Sen. Marco Rubio and many other politicians don't understand," said Ben Frazier of the Northside Coalition. "I'm telling you right now, what it is like for so many Florida families, whose children right now are wondering what they're going to eat today. This benefit would help families with their immediate necessities, like food, like utilities, they could drastically improve children's health."

Frazier went up to Rubio's office, where he said the senator's regional staff warmly welcomed him and put him in touch with members of Rubio's press team to potentially set up a meeting.

Rubio currently opposes the Biden administration's Build Back Better omnibus package that would extend the child tax credit expansion for 2022 and continue monthly payments. While Rubio has supported expanding the tax credit in the past, he has opposed the advance payments and attempted to add a work requirement along with Utah Sen. Mike Lee last year.

"We need to take common sense steps to support working parents, not recreate the failed welfare state," Rubio said in a news release in August.

Asked for comment, a spokeswoman for Rubio said, "I can let you know when I have an update on that."

An earlier version of this story reported that Rubio's office did not respond.

Reporter Raymon Troncoso joined WJCT News in June of 2021 after concluding his fellowship with Report For America, where he was embedded with Capitol News Illinois covering Illinois state government with a focus on policy and equity. You can reach him at (904) 358-6319 or and follow him on Twitter @RayTroncoso.