Like many Arizona parents, the first question out of our mouths when confronted with a household emergency is: “Can we afford that?” Even earning what’s categorized as a “middle-class income” we live on a limited monthly budget where unexpected needs, including things like filling an eyeglasses prescription for my 10-year-old son or major dental work for my 7-year-old daughter, could throw us into a bit of a financial tailspin.
Covid intensified the strain. When the pandemic hit, we immediately put off these essentials, knowing we had to push necessary care to make sure we were good on other basic needs like the rising cost of groceries. Because of the expanded Child Tax Credit under the American Rescue Plan Act, some of the financial pressure we’ve been feeling is beginning to lift. I’m no longer forced to decide between groceries, school supplies or other important expenses.
Families like mine don’t just need this tax credit as a temporary pandemic safety net. Our economy overall has taken a hit. Arizona families will continue to need help balancing the high costs of raising children, in which we’ve already seen an increase in food and gas prices, back-to-school supplies, daycare and after-school programs. We need consistent, long-term support to help manage these costs.
With the help of the Child Tax Credit payments sent out, my husband and I were able to get the glasses my son needs before his eyesight got worse and in-person learning suffered. We can also cover our daughter’s dental care without flirting with debt. This credit isn’t just crucial to our well-being but for other families digging out of or in a much deeper financial hole. Previously, 692,000 children in Arizona received only a partial Child Tax Credit or no credit at all because their families’ incomes were too low.
For my family, receiving the credit has been invaluable. Unfortunately, the expansion isn’t permanent — yet. The support provided by the expanded Child Tax Credit is at risk of being taken away unless Congress extends the boost to the credit in its upcoming recovery bill. Arizona’s leaders have the opportunity to permanently expand the credit and they should.
Looking to the future, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight for the pandemic and I worry about how I will be able to cover my family’s expenses if the credit ends. My husband and I will have to make more tough choices about the life we can provide for our children.
No one should have to choose between health care, household bills, gas, clothing, school supplies, or nutritious food for their kids. Yet, far too many Arizonans are being forced to do so. Permanent expansion of the Child Tax Credit could cut child poverty by almost half. But unless Congress takes action, many Arizona families will continue to find themselves strapped under extreme economic strain and pressure. Our congressional leaders and senators have the power to alleviate pandemic hardship and put more Arizona families on the path to financial freedom by making the Child Tax Credit permanent.
Natacha Chavez is a part-time community worker living in Phoenix with her husband and two young children.