I felt like all I said was “No”. I made sure to say “I love you” too often, but still felt like “No” was all they had ever heard.
When you live in poverty, the answer almost all the time should be no. The full answer is actually something like, “I don’t have money and I don’t have time because all of my time is spent trying to make money.
But I try to protect my children from the reality of poverty, and instead I just say “No”.
But this response also comes at a cost: my mental and physical health and the mental and physical health of my children.
With the passage of the expanded child tax credit as part of the US bailout in March, parents like me were finally able to breathe much easier. It increased the child tax credit to $ 3,600 for children under 6 and to $ 2,000 for children 6 to 17. That’s at least $ 1,000 more per child each year than it used to be.
For some families, $ 1,000 is not a lot. For poor families, this is huge. In fact, this is enough to reduce the number of children living in poverty by more than 40%. In 2019, over 10 million children in the United States lived in poverty – 10 million! We are one of the richest countries in the world and more than 10 million children live in poverty.
Poverty is exhausting. Living from paycheck to paycheck is incredibly stressful. I’m not talking about having little money between paychecks. I’m talking about having zero money between paychecks. When you come back to zero just three days after getting paid, you ask yourself, “What’s the point?” ”
Instead of moving forward, it feels like you’re constantly on the move and going nowhere. Or worse, back down.
Half the tax credit showing up in my bank account every month has been a game-changer. It allows me to plan and take control of my bills. This means that I am not going down to zero. This means that my phone service is not cut because I cannot pay my bill. This means that for the first time in my life I can save money.
The tax credit has another huge impact that a lot of people don’t realize. My family is eligible for federally subsidized housing, but only if we stay within a certain income level. The stress on families from repeated moves cannot be underestimated. But the tax credit cannot be counted as a financial resource for at least 12 months, so we cannot be forced to move because our resources have exceeded the limit, another huge relief.
Some will say that the child tax credit will just make me not want to work. Nothing could be further from the truth. It made me more motivated to work. I can feel what it’s like not to live in poverty, and I want to make it a reality all the time for myself and my children. I am excited about the possibilities. I don’t want to live in a place where I can’t manage anymore. I want to flourish.
For decades, almost every rich country in the world has provided some form of family allowance to families. But in the United States, support for “family values” by our politicians seems to exist only for families who are not poor. In Germany, for example, parents receive a monthly payment for each of their children from birth (and even up to 25 years if the child is still a student!). Their government recognizes the effort and expense it takes to raise children and recognizes that when they invest in children, everyone benefits.
The expanded child tax credit is due to expire on December 31. Right now, Congress is working on the $ 3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill. It contains instructions that include the extension of the child tax credit. It should be made permanent. According to the US Department of Agriculture, in 2020 the cost to raise a child up to age 18 is $ 233,610. It doesn’t take a lot of math to recognize that while the cost of raising a child has skyrocketed, wages haven’t gone up. It’s time for the United States to catch up with the rest of the world in supporting families and making the Child Tax Credit permanent.