Opinion: For my family, the child tax credit means a break from food insecurity

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'Thanks to these monthly payments, every member of my family is able to get enough to eat.'

As a single mom, I've gone plenty of times without eating to make sure my kids have enough food on their plates. It's just what you do as a parent.

It breaks my heart to take my kids to the grocery store and say, "No, we can't afford to eat that." So when I heard about the new monthly child tax credit, which under President Joe Biden's American Rescue Plan increased the annual amount from $2,000 to $3,000 for kids over the age of 6 — and to $3,600 for children under the age of 6 — I was so relieved.

For my family, it means a break from food insecurity. Thanks to these monthly payments, every member of my family is able to get enough to eat.

I'm a proud registered Republican. I disagree with Joe Biden on many things. But I support his administration's plan to make this expanded child tax credit permanent. Some issues are not about party or politics, they're about people. This is one of those issues.

It's not easy raising three kids on your own. With my job going into overdrive during the pandemic, it's been even more difficult.

I'm a student support specialist for Preston County schools in West Virginia, where I've seen how many other families are barely staying afloat. One day, I might be helping a family at risk of homelessness find financial assistance. Another day, I might be driving a girl to get vaccinated because her mom can't afford to take off from work.

I've driven all over the county to make sure other families get the support they need, all while teaching my kids from home. I love helping students in my small hometown excel, but it's a demanding job.

With only my income to live on, my kids and I barely get by. Before the child tax credit checks, we only had $50 left each month after paying rent, health insurance, and other necessary bills. There was simply not enough left over to pay for groceries, toiletries and gas, so we were forced to go from shut-off notice to shut-off notice on our utilities.

Biden's expanded child tax credit recognizes that most families in today's economy can't cover sudden expenses and live paycheck to paycheck.

Nearly 90% of American families with children automatically qualified for the expanded credit, the first installment of which has cut child poverty by at least 25%, according to an analysis by Columbia University. The tax credit is not a handout or here to make us rich. It simply helps families like mine make ends meet so that they aren't always living on the edge.

The monthly payments have given us just enough extra money to stay current on our bills. And we finally have been able to swap out our beat-up car for one we can rely on. Without the expanded tax credit, I wouldn't be able to afford regular car payments — and in a town with hardly any public transportation, you absolutely need a car to get around.

My family is not alone in our struggle. A lot of families in this area live in poverty. While working in the community, I have spoken to families who have had to choose between paying for food and being able to afford their medications. No one should ever be faced with that choice.

I have heard some people say that this aid for families will discourage people from working, or that it will be exploited by people who want to be dependent on the government.

But that is simply not the case for my family or the families I serve in my community. We believe in the value of hard work. I've seen how many families in my community have been able to put more food on their tables thanks to this tax credit.

If the child tax credit is not made permanent, my family and many others in West Virginia will struggle. I will almost certainly not be able to afford our car payment. And without the ability to travel to work, it's unlikely that I'll be able to keep my job. I worry about what our future will look like if we lose our only income.

A permanent monthly child tax credit is one of the best ways to invest in the future of this country. It would allow my children to focus on their education rather than stressing about whether our utilities will be turned off. It will lift up many of the students I work with and give them a better future.

Making this tax credit permanent would help hard-working families across the country, lift millions of kids out of poverty, and set the next generation up for success.

Stormy Johnson lives in Kingwood, West Virginia, and is a former Republican candidate for the state House of Delegates.