It is the beginning of a new year, and families across the country are anticipating the upcoming tax season. Many families are expecting refunds to help bridge financial gaps. They are also hoping for a revival of President Biden’s expanded child tax credit. Unfortunately, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), along with Republicans, blocked the extension of the tax credit. Ironically, the federal government still spent millions on subsidies for corporations and businesses. How is it that corporations continue to receive hand-outs while working families must struggle to make ends meet? That’s just outright racist and classist.
To add insult to injury, inflation is increasing the cost of living. Our current economy is experiencing an increase in the cost of housing, education; and – everyday groceries like – bread and eggs. This rising cost of living is especially devastating for Black mothers and caregivers who were already struggling to make ends meet. In fact, Black mothers are more likely to be the head of the household than any other racial group but are still struggling financially due to racial disparities.
While people with higher incomes may weather this period more successfully, working families – especially early childhood educators – are teetering on the brink of disaster. In one of the richest nations in the world, there is more than enough for everyone. Sadly, our government continues to value corporate welfare over human welfare. Ironically, corporations wouldn’t be able to succeed without human labor and consumption. Therefore, this nation must value all people enough to provide what working families need.
Disproportionate impact on Black families and children
Our nation has a system that is grossly unfair and disproportionately problematic for Black children and families of low income. Many families are expected to work like they don’t have children and raise children like they don’t work. The labor of women and people of color has historically been undervalued. To say that I am disappointed by this pervasive trend is a gross understatement. Community organizers and activists have been calling for justice on these issues for decades. All the while, the majority of policymakers stand by and ignore our demands for economic justice.
Black women have had to bear the burden of “doing it all” with little to no support for far too long. Policymakers need not question what they should do to help families; we know the answer, and it is to address systemic underfunding of early childhood education. Childcare is a crucial service that allows our economy to thrive. When early childhood education is inconsistently or poorly funded, families are unable to access care, providers are unable to sustain their own basic needs, and centers are forced to shut down.
Too many people fail to see the humanity of early childhood education providers. Childcare educators have children themselves whom they must educate and raise. They have hopes for the future and dreams for themselves, their children, and their loved ones. Unfortunately, they are expected to bear the burden of caring for others without even considering what they need to provide for themselves and their families. It shouldn’t take the annual tax season for families and childcare educators to receive financial relief. Families shouldn’t have to survive a whole year before there is a national debate about the importance of investing in early childhood education and the livelihood of early education providers.
Change is not impossible. The expanded child tax credit was part of President Biden’s ‘Help is Here’ American Rescue Plan. For all working families, it sent direct deposits between $3,000 to $3,600 per child. It lifted families out of poverty. Many of our members at Mothering Justice noted that the benefit helped ease the burden of high childcare costs. Relatedly, in 2021, the U.S. Census Bureau noted a decline in child poverty and the decline coincided with the child tax credit distribution. It helped 61 million children in 36 million households across the country.
If the federal government revives the Child Tax Credit, families would see that policymakers truly believe that all families – including early childhood educators – deserve access to a better quality of life. It can bring us one step closer to investing in a broken childcare system and eliminating child poverty.
The child tax credit is a proven policy that places families on a path of thriving, not just surviving. Legislators must prioritize children and families, and they must do so now. Our children and the mothers and caregivers who look after them deserve it. This is a point no one should argue.
Danielle Atkinson is the founder and national executive director of Mothering Justice