Stanislaus’ parents struggle with not paying child tax credit

Reveca Acosta, a Modesto resident and mother of two, says she stocked up on necessities while receiving child tax credit advance payments because she worried she couldn't afford them. buy in the future.

Reveca Acosta, a Modesto resident and mother of two, says she stocked up on necessities while receiving child tax credit advance payments because she worried she couldn’t afford them. buy in the future.

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For Reveca Acosta, a Modesto resident, living paycheck to paycheck is the norm. So when she received the child tax credit advance payments from the US federal bailout, her fear of not having enough money for rent and food eased.

But those payments stopped after the last disbursement on Dec. 15, after the Senate failed to pass the Build Back Better Act. As the date for what would have been the third monthly check installment in 2022 approaches, families are increasingly experiencing food insecurity and struggling to meet their basic needs, a survey by ParentsTogether Action shows, a parent-led organization focused on issues affecting families.

When the first child tax credit (CTC) payment reached her account in mid-July, Acosta, 39, said she was behind on her bills and had used the money to repay her debt, having just enough to buy her two teenagers. shoes for the school year. When the payments started coming in more regularly, she would go shopping for her family’s personal necessities even though she already had these things at home because she was afraid she would not be able to afford them in the future.

“I didn’t want to be without it all,” she said.

Although she works full-time in public housing, Acosta said that before the payments, the family’s finances were so tight that she worked on the side, preparing meals to sell and providing personal training. But as inflation rises and no CTC payment is in sight, she said she will have to start working on the side again.

Of the nearly 500 parents surveyed by ParentsTogether from February 4-9, just after the second missed CTC payment, most (75%) said the money made a huge difference to their family and (77%) made them less anxious about their finances. , with even more (87%) reporting using all of their payments.

Emergency savings tapped

Since payments stopped, more than half of parents (57%) say it has been difficult to provide for their family’s basic needs and some (41%) say they will have to dip into their emergency savings , if they haven’t already.

“Money, it just got tighter,” Acosta said. “Everything goes up. … I have to spend almost double on groceries.

She said she recently moved into a two-bedroom apartment so her boys could have a room. But now she is even more overburdened with rents, spending more than 30% of her income on housing.

Most Californians live this way, with one in four renters spending more than 50% of their income on rent, according to data from CalBudget and the Policy Center. Among families surveyed in early February about CTC payments, 19% said they could no longer pay their rent or mortgage.

Acosta said that even though she had just received a small raise at her job, she was thinking about moving to Texas. However, she said she was not in the financial position to make the move, so in the meantime she hopes to find a job that pays better.

As his eldest son turns 16 soon, Acosta said he told her he wanted to help him by finding a job. This will, however, require money for a car, which she said she just doesn’t have.

She hasn’t been able to save for her children’s future, Acosta said, and fears they won’t have the chance to go to college.

She is far from alone. Around 29% of parents surveyed by ParentsTogether said they could no longer save for their children’s future.

“I wish I could save more,” she said. “I feel responsible because I don’t have that kind of savings for them.”

Families buy less

The situation is different for Modesto resident Christina Olidem, 39, who considers her family of eight members lower middle class. She works in palliative care and her husband in construction.

She said she and her husband were lucky to be able to work even at the height of the pandemic, so financially they were doing well. “Honestly, for us, it’s like a bonus, I guess, for, you know, working hard,” she said.

Unlike Acosta, Olidem said she was able to save the CTC money and planned to invest it or take a trip. Olidem says that due to inflation, she is trying to be even more frugal and no longer runs errands or goes out to eat with her family like before.

Parents want better

Although the CTC payments have helped her family and she knows less fortunate relatives who have benefited, Olidem said she doesn’t think another payment is the answer. “Some people deserve to be helped…but at the same time, we really have to do our best.”

She added that she knows of families in which a parent has had to stop working due to the disruptions of the pandemic and the inability to pay for childcare. The government should invest in providing accessible childcare and free food for those pursuing higher education, so that these people can focus on work, improve themselves and in turn contribute to society, she said.

As part of his address to voters during his State of the Union address on Tuesday evening, President Joe Biden placed new emphasis on how proposals such as the expansion of the child tax credit and lower childcare costs could provide relief to families as prices rise.

Acosta said she was hesitant to say another CTC payment was needed. She has seen at work how people have benefited from government assistance, she said, but she is troubled to learn that others are spending the money on fast food and medicine. She said she wishes there was a better program that would target working parents like her who don’t get any help and are strapped for money.

“I feel like I need it,” she said, adding that monthly payments for about four more months would greatly help her financial situation.

Andrea Briseño is an equity reporter for The Bee’s community-funded Economic Mobility Lab, which includes a team of journalists covering economic development, education and equity.

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Andrea is an equity and underserved communities reporter for The Modesto Bee’s Economic Mobility Lab. She is originally from Fresno and graduated from San Jose State University.