Child tax credit isn’t a frivolous freebie for parents like me

Imagine what it’s like to raise three children alone, struggling to make ends meet. To put yourself through school, knowing that despite your best efforts, the jobs you need to provide for your kids require a college degree.

Now imagine that you suddenly get a badly needed helping hand to pay the bills, to put gas in the car, to make sure your children have what they need. And that just as quickly, that hand gets yanked away.

For me and so many others like me across the country, that’s the life we’re living every single day. Right now, I’m parenting an 11-year-old, a 4-year-old and my brand new baby boy alone, all while putting myself through college.

Karla Garcia | Opinion contributor

Not enough of a priority in the Senate

I’ve faced more than my fair share of challenges, but I’m determined to ensure that my children have a smoother path in life. That’s why it was such a remarkable moment when families like mine began receiving the expanded child tax credit last year. With so much on my plate, I wasn’t paying too much attention to how it got passed or who voted for it. All I knew was that it really helped me and my children. It gave me that little boost we needed to help make ends meet.

And then, next thing I knew, it was gone. This time, I was paying attention. I saw that members of the Senate traded away the expanded child tax credit, declaring that it wasn’t enough of a priority for them. That I, or my children, wasn’t enough of a priority for them.

I do my best to put healthy food on my children’s plates, but that means spending more money and often leaving me eating whatever’s left or asking my son’s aftercare if they have any leftovers available.

When I talk about needing the relief the child tax credit provides, that’s what I’m talking about – it’s not frivolous, it’s our life.

Tax credits for families vs. rich companies

It was incredible how much of an impact the child tax credit had. You hear how it helped drop child poverty to record lows, with millions of children benefiting.

And the program’s popularity can’t be denied, with a new poll from Morning Consult and early childhood development nonprofit ZERO TO THREE showing that 85% of parents of babies and toddlers want to see Congress act to restore the enhanced credit.

And if it’s between supporting families and offering even more tax breaks for rich companies, there’s no question: Almost three-fourths of respondents said Congress shouldn’t pass any more tax breaks for wealthy corporations until it acts to reinstate the expanded, fully refundable child tax credit.

Maybe most important, 64% of parents said they oppose denying the expanded child tax credit to families without a working parent or who are in a lower tax bracket.

I made the difficult decision to focus on my studies full time to put my children in a better position to succeed, because the only jobs available to me wouldn’t have put us where we need to be. Should I and so many others like me be punished by some sort of arbitrary work requirement?

I’m doing everything I can for my children, every single day of my life. I try so hard to help my kids get the educational services they need. I want them to go to college, to have a career. I want them to live in a world where they never have to apply for food stamps or feel the stress that I do. I want them to enjoy life, to be civically engaged, to know that they make a difference. I want them to make the world a better place.

Sometimes I feel like the people who get criticized the most are single parents like me who are working so hard to provide for our kids. But you can’t live off minimum wage, and when you’re living paycheck to paycheck, there’s no wiggle room.

The enhanced child tax credit is how we get back on our feet. I look forward to the day that I have a job where I can contribute to meet the needs of someone else struggling to get by. I’m pushing hard every day to make that the end goal, and the tax relief can help me and so many others just like me get there.

I just hope that now, our elected representatives understand and care.

Karla Garcia is a student and mother of three in Tempe, Arizona.

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