We have been watching people in Washington argue about what used to be called the Build Back Better Bill on the television with increasing anguish. Passing this legislation - particularly the extension of the Child Tax Credit, the expansion of Medicaid and establishing free universal preschool - would dramatically change my family’s life for the better. And yet it seems like politicians are frittering away this opportunity. I wonder if they understand how regular people live.
My husband and I - both recent retirees living on Social Security after lengthy careers - have emergency custody of our five great nieces and nephews. They range in age from two to twelve. While we are grateful we are in the position to provide a safe and happy home for beloved family, the added necessary expenses of daycare, school, aftercare and healthcare are daunting and are plunging us into poverty.
I worked as a social worker for nearly forty years and my husband worked just as long in another career. The added expenses of nearly $2200 per month in necessary support completely eat up my Social Security retirement benefit check.
We have no government or tribal assistance. Home ownership and IRAs from years of work put us over the asset limit for Medicaid, so we have no health insurance for the children. We are tribally enrolled, so Indian Health services are theoretically available. But since there are no facilities or clinics in Georgia, we would need to drive five hours to North Carolina just to get a check-up, which is not feasible.
The Child Tax Credit was an enormous help, a few hundred dollars per child per month helped us cover critical services needed by the children. Expanding Medicaid would allow us to afford their healthcare expenses. Free universal preschool would give our younger children needed enrichment.
According to the IRS, about 35 million eligible families received the Child Tax Credit, and nearly a third used it to pay for child care. Based on our experience, it’s no surprise that the benefit lifted nearly 3.7 million children out of poverty (according to a study by the Columbia University Center on Poverty and Social Policy.)
I know we are not the only Americans struggling to stay afloat when called on to do the right thing. Any one of us could fall on hard times. The programs in this bill provide needed assistance to prevent a spiraling into poverty. Often the help of one social program in the short-term can reduce the need for further assistance in the long-term.
The Child Tax Credit, Medicaid expansion and free universal preschool are just a few of the many ways that we can help our fellow Americans in need annually, and my family personally.
But the Senate is stalling on this opportunity - even though our Georgia Senators Warnock and Ossoff support it. So we need every single one of our elected officials in the U.S. House of Representative to vote for the measure. We need Rep. Barry Loudermilk to be a leader to help people like me and my family get a helping hand.