I grew up in extreme poverty. Our family basically had nothing. We bathed in a local lake. I dreamed of living in a home with running water and electricity.
As a young girl, I promised myself that if I were to ever have a family, my kids would never have to be poor like I was. But then the Covid pandemic came along in 2020 and tore my dream apart. Until the pandemic, life was wonderful. I was teaching, and though I wasn’t making much money, I was paying the bills, I had some savings, I took care of my girls, ages 8 and 18, without needing outside assistance.
After 30 years of hard work, the system suddenly let me down. Schools cut back on staffing and I lost my job. And having to be home with an 8-year-old for remote learning sharply limited my job prospects. I got tangled up in a bureaucratic mess that prevented me from getting unemployment benefits.
Today, I’m three months behind on my rent and two months behind on my electric bills. I literally must decide whether to pay my utility bill or put food on the table for my children. One of my most emotional moments was when my friends from church gave me a birthday present by paying off two months of my electric bill. Can you imagine receiving such a present? There were many tears.
Something in the system has clearly broken. Yet instead of helping, government is looking the other way. Resources aren’t getting to people in the middle and on the bottom. We’re not seeing our fair share of support and benefits.
Right now, Congress is considering a budget plan that I support. The plan would help control utility prices. It would also extend the Child Tax Credit, which helps me cover costs associated with my younger daughter. The proposal also provides more rental and down-payment assistance. My older girl has asthma. The budget plan would help lower costs for her care. And the infrastructure and budget bills would create more employment opportunities for people like me who have lost work due to the pandemic.
This isn’t partisan. I voted for Donald Trump, but the pandemic calls for officials of all parties to set aside disagreements and unite behind practical solutions. I’m so disappointed that the Republicans I voted for aren’t supporting policies that would lower costs and create jobs.
I’ve come a long way since taking a bath in the local lake and dreaming of living in a home with electricity. I made it this far by believing in the system, and by paying into it. Don’t let me and my family down now.
Tylene Good lives in Tucson and is a member of WorkMoney, a nonprofit advocacy group.