Guest commentary: Time running out — hardworking families deserve expansion of Child Tax Credit
After nearly two years of pandemic living, things have returned to something that resembles normal (or a “new normal”) for regional businesses and employers. But many of our working-class families are still struggling to keep their heads above water as they suffer from food insecurity and rising costs of living.
Latino community members have experienced this hardship firsthand, and we want our neighbors to know they are not alone — and there is help available. One important tool this year has been the expanded federal Child Tax Credit (CTC).
I know tax credits may not be the most compelling or top-of-mind topic, but for our working-class families, they might eliminate the choice of paying the electric bill or buying new shoes for their kids. For others, the CTC could be the difference between shopping for healthy, nutritious foods or relying on food bank donations that might include ingredients or dishes that are not cultural staples.
A recent poll of 1,000 Latino adults in Colorado on behalf of the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), Voces Unidas de las Montañas and other partners showed us a sobering reality: 4-in-10 Latinos on the Western Slope reported not having enough food to eat at some point in the pandemic. Additional findings on how the pandemic impacted Latinos on the Western Slope included:
— 64% had difficulty paying their bills or utilities;
— 64% had difficulty paying their rent or mortgage;
— 57% had their work hours or pay cut, or had someone in their household lose their job.
When adults struggle, their kids suffer too. This is why we need an extension of the federal tax credit which includes up to $300 a month for each child younger than 6 and up to $250 per month for an older child.
Under current law, parents who previously had not received child tax credits because of their immigration status, or mixed family status, are likely to be eligible for full benefits. This also includes families who did not earn enough to file with the Internal Revenue Service and get the payments automatically. You can read more about eligibility via the Colorado Department of Revenue. (https://tax.colorado.gov/CTC-FAQ).
Sen. Michael Bennet deserves enormous credit for helping to deliver this temporary fix, which came not a moment too soon for many families.
But time is running out — the CTC is slated to end this month. A one-year expansion of the CTC has been included in the federal Build Back Better Act, which now waits for Senate approval.
The pandemic-inspired changes to the CTC can provide a lifeline for many Western Slope families. But the work is not done. If you or someone you know has benefited from the expanded CTC, be sure to urge senators in Washington to extend it and make it permanent. Doing so will help parents have additional resources needed to feed, house, and clothe their children as the cost of everything from gas to milk continues to increase.
Mountain communities in Colorado are often viewed as playgrounds for the rich. But we all know there are too many people in our midst who are struggling to make ends meet. For them, an extra couple of hundred dollars per month in 2022 from the CTC can make a world of difference — from helping to buy groceries or school supplies to having enough money to pay for car repairs or rent.
We must extend this support for our working-class families as we fight back against food insecurity and rising costs of living. That should be our “new normal.”
Alex Sánchez is the founder and CEO of Voces Unidas Action Fund, a Latino-created, Latino-led advocacy organization working in Lake, Summit, Eagle, Pitkin, and Garfield counties.
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