The Child Tax Credit Changed My Life. Lawmakers Have a Chance to Bring It Back. –

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From childhood on, I’ve spent my life haunted by the ghost of poverty.

A myth exists in America that financial well-being follows if we just work hard and make good choices. But it’s not that simple. At some point, most of us face unforeseen obstacles — from physical or mental health challenges to lost jobs, economic downturns, and natural disasters.

Along with low wages and other structural causes of poverty, that puts financial well-being out of reach for about 140 million people in this country, the Poor People’s Campaign estimates.

The reality of poverty isn’t even close to the stereotype propagated by politicians who want only to fund the military and subsidize the rich while cutting everything else. This isn’t a lifestyle one chooses by being lazy and getting fat off some mythical government largesse.

For many of us, poverty means working multiple low-wage jobs and still being short on rent, child care, food, or the energy bill. Poverty means you don’t have stable transportation and live in fear of anyone in your family needing health care.

It means your children go without good winter boots or new clothes because you need the lights to stay on. It means there’s no time or money for anything beyond the scrape of daily life — no waterparks, no road trips, no relief.

People don’t choose this lifestyle. It’s created by policymakers who prioritize corporate profit and bloated military spending over investing in families in this country. Yet they expect poor people to be the ones who feel ashamed.

At one point I was living the American Dream. I’d been a successful chef, even bought a house at 23. But the 2008 collapse flipped my mortgage upside down, and the single investment I’d been able to make for my future crumbled.

A few years later, after the birth of my child, I was cast back into the same poverty I’d grown up with. Programs like Medicaid, SNAP, and WIC — the program to support women, infants, and children — kept our heads above water while I returned to university to complete an unfinished Bachelor’s degree. But our heads dipped under a few times. It was exhausting.

By the time I’d completed a graduate program and we’d eked out some stability, the pandemic hit. But this time, the help was different.

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