The $1,400 relief checks and expanded Child Tax Credit helped her family afford to keep things normal for her two kids with special needs.
President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan brought $1,400 relief checks and expanded Child Tax Credits to millions of Americans. For Toni Danchik and her family, it also brought "breath of fresh air" and "a sigh of relief."
Danchik, a mom of two kids with special needs in Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, believes that those two provisions made it possible for her son and daughter to have some sense of normalcy during the pandemic.
"My husband is a music teacher, but also a musician, so through the pandemic he lost part of his income. All the music stopped," she recalled in a phone interview. "With the stimulus and this child care credit, it was perfect because it helped make up a lot of the income he had lost."
Danchik's daughter has Down syndrome, apraxia, and hip dysplasia. One thing that has helped the most is music therapy.
"We tried to keep things as normal as possible or the kids," Danchik explained, noting that she relied on the extra money she got thanks to the American Rescue Plan to do so. "The music therapy really helps and isn't covered by any insurance. It's great to know that I didn't have to stop that for her. It's helped with her speech. It's helped with her movement. It's just been terrific. I was so glad we could keep that going for her."
Danchik's 14-year old son has inattentive ADHD and anxiety, but he has blossomed through his experience in Boy Scouts of America.
"He was a very self-conscious, emotional child," she remembered. Now, he's already attained the rank of Life Scout and is working toward his Eagle badge. "It's amazing the night and day difference."
But the increased fees and the costs of camping equipment — especially as scouts began sleeping one-to-a-tent to curb the spread of the coronavirus — would have also been more than they could afford without the relief funds. "Having the money to be able to provide that for him — if he didn't have that, he'd be a different kid."
Congress enacted the American Rescue Plan in March, without a single Republican vote.
Danchik is not alone in benefiting from Biden's plan. A March estimate by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service predicted that 5,876,366 Pennsylvania families would receive $1,400 direct relief checks — totaling $14,883,553 for residents of the state. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities estimated that 2,368,000 Pennsylvania youths would receive a tax cut or rebate thanks to the 2021 Child Tax Credit expansion.
Ordinarily, she augments the family income with part-term work as an online educator, teaching English to kids. But the pandemic school closures limited her ability to do this, she said.
"It got a little bit tricky, with the kids at home, when our schools were closed, I had to take care of them instead of teach."
The Bethel Park schools returned to four days a week in-person instruction earlier this year and will resume five-day-a-week in-person learning in the fall. Some of the funds to allow the school district to do that safely also came from the American Rescue Plan.
The law included $125 billion to help schools return to in-person instruction. According to Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA), nearly $5 billion of that money was for Pennsylvania's K-12 schools — including $2.4 million for the Bethel Park School District.
Danchik hopes to see the Child Tax Credit reauthorized — something Biden and congressional Democrats are pushing to do through his American Families Plan — so families like hers have some protection should coronavirus cases spike again after 2021.
"I think that this is gonna take a while to get back to 'normal.' I think that extra support is gonna be needed easily at least two more years. This is gonna take time," she said. "I'm not confident that we won't be shutting down schools again in the fall, I hope not, but that would start things snowballing all over again. I hope I'm wrong on all of that."
"It's just nice to feel like someone cares. I didn't feel like that before, but I do feel like that now," Danchik concluded. "This current president does care about the middle class, does care that we get back to work, does care that our children are cared for. I feel much more confident with him at the helm about my children's future, for sure."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.