Opinion: Extending the child tax credit will help families cope with life’s emergencies
Guest columnist Julia Callahan says young parents like her are able to cope with unexpected expenses thanks to the federal Child Tax Credit. Courtesy Julia Callahan
I was planning to buy a toddler bed for my 18-month-old with my first child tax credit check. Then my car got a flat tire and that plan went out the window.
Had I not received that check, I wouldn’t have had the money for that emergency. I was able to get the tire fixed and I didn’t have to go into debt to do it. And when the second check arrived in August, I was able to buy my son his bed.
As a new parent, I am astonished by how many unexpected things happen when raising kids. My son had a low-grade fever every couple of months when he was teething, and I had to take unplanned days off of work. Recently he had RSV for six weeks — it’s a respiratory virus a lot of babies get, and it’s very dangerous. My partner and I both had to miss work, and it hurt us financially. With the pandemic, unplanned and unpaid sick leave is even more common for families.
President Joe Biden’s expanded Child Tax Credit recognizes that most families in today’s economy don’t have a nest egg to cover sudden expenses. The CTC benefits 90% of American families. It’s not here to make us millionaires. Its purpose is to ease the constant stress that our kids can see on our faces when we worry about another school expense, unexpected medical bill, or illness.
Before becoming a mother, I was a college student and ran a fast food restaurant as a salaried general manager. I left that job about four months before my son was due. A few months after he was born, I wanted to return to work, but I no longer could work a manager’s hours — and no longer was able to get a manager’s pay. The only job they could offer paid $9 an hour. I brought home around $300 a month but half of that was going to child care. I ended up leaving fast food work, and now I watch kids in the neighborhood to earn a little money on the side.
Other than occasional income providing child care, I’m a stay-at-home mom. My fiancé is in furniture sales. Needless to say, the money isn’t exactly rolling in, but we don’t worry about keeping the lights on. We do worry, however, about the “extras” that go into raising children.
When I found out earlier this year that we would receive expanded monthly child tax credit payments, I was ecstatic: It meant that my family was going to have some guaranteed income throughout the year and into the holidays.
It also meant that I no longer would have to dread whatever unplanned expenses await us each month. My fiancé and I are getting ready to welcome a second child, and we both feel more confident that we can plan longer term and provide for our kids; We don’t have to wait until tax time to get that tax credit. My fiancé and I can use these checks now to better the lives of our kids.
In addition to the toddler bed, I’ve already spent some of the money on winter clothes for my son—toddlers grow so fast, it feels like we need to buy new outfits every other week. We also used the check to open a savings account for our son so he can be better off than we were.
President Biden wants to extend this relief permanently. He says the country can pay for it just by making billionaires — who pay way less in taxes than families like mine — pay their fair share. Biden also wants to bring down costs for child care, which would really help families like mine.
If we have permanent monthly child tax credit checks, families will have more flexible spending, which will help our local businesses and communities. Thanks to this financial lifeline, families like mine no longer have to worry about being one toddler bed or one flat tire over the family budget.
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