By Elizabeth Cropper
As a single mother, I’ve sometimes struggled to provide for my family. Things became even more difficult six years ago, when I sustained a hip injury while working at my job in a warehouse. This accident left me permanently disabled with debilitating chronic pain and unable to work.
My son and I live with my mother, and money is tight. When you live on a fixed income that is just barely enough to support a child, you have to choose which bills you will pay and which bills you will be late on.
It’s not just lower-income households like mine that are struggling. About 30 percent of American households across all income levels report difficulty paying their bills on time. For many of us, the expanded child tax credit couldn’t have come at a better time.
In July, I used the first installment of the monthly CTC to pay the WiFi and cell phone bills I had fallen behind on. Like many teenage boys, my son outgrows all of his clothes within what seems like an instant. He grew six inches in one year, and by the start of school he could only fit into a pair of sandals. I used the August CTC payment to buy him new clothes and shoes, especially to keep him warm as winter approaches.
In September, I used the CTC to pay for gas to drive my son to several different specialist medical appointments. We live in a rural town with few medical resources, so each visit included driving upwards of 90 minutes each way. I had planned to use the monthly tax credit to start giving him an allowance and teach him how to handle money. But as many parents know, there are always unexpected expenses that come with raising a child.
This is one of the reasons why I prefer to receive the CTC in monthly payments as opposed to a lump sum once a year. My family needs access to this money year round for the bills that I can never seem to catch up on and for unexpected expenses. The monthly installments also help me to better manage my family’s finances. When you spend the year forgoing many basic needs, and then you have a lump sum of money at once, that money runs out quickly.
The monthly CTC payments are helping families across America make ends meet. Nine out of 10 parents reported that the CTC was helpful to their family’s economic security. And eight in 10 used the monthly advance payments immediately for basic needs such as food, rent, and child care.
President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better agenda includes extending the monthly advance CTC until 2025. This would be vital to my family because it helps me to provide for my son without taking on debt or being late on my bills. I’ve always done the best I could, but as time goes on, child rearing gets more expensive.
There was one more important expenditure I made with my CTC check: The start of the new school year fell around the same time as my son’s 14th birthday. With the high cost of supplies for in-person learning, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to buy him a birthday present, but it turns out I could afford school supplies and even a small gift for my son.
The CTC is by no means the solution to all of our problems, but it’s making our lives better. It’s helping make small things possible — like being able to give your kid a new backpack and Halloween costume — and that makes parenting just a little bit easier.
Elizabeth Cropper lives in Forestville with her mother and teenage son.
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