The U.S. House has passed the historic Build Back Better Act with hopes of bringing it to final passage before the new year. But some Congress members are looking to hold up the timeline. if Congress drags its feet, there’s a real-life deadline they will miss.
December 15. This is the day that the last advanced monthly payment of the expanded child tax credit will hit parents’ and caretakers’ bank accounts. Far-reaching and innovative improvements to this program as part of the American Rescue Plan passed earlier this year have drastically cut child poverty since its implementation in the summer. Families have looked forward to the payments that help them pay down debt, buy diapers or school supplies, and save for their kid’s future.
Getting this life-altering money to families wasn’t easy. At Community Change Action, we spent the last eight months trying to make sure the families who need the money the most got it. While many advocacy organizations produced slick public advertising campaigns to make beneficiaries aware of the expanded CTC, we set up grassroots organizing experiments across the country to sign up eligible non-filers and learned that we needed to build trust with folks who’d been long excluded from these public investments.
“So many of the moms we speak to want a thriving future for their family, they want to be able to pay the bills. And we want more than that,” said Eva Guerrero-Bell, a community organizer at Hoosier Action who helped get folks signed up for the CTC. “I am also a low-income mom. What is often overlooked as not a big deal, like dance classes for my daughter, things like that, that support our children in the long run, are really big deals for families in poverty. I can pay my bills and not have to choose one or the other. It’s the same for all the moms I’ve been talking to.”
But now, the money that’s been crucial to helping end their cycle of poverty is at risk of being taken away — just in time for the holidays.
If Congress doesn’t pass the Build Back Better Act, which includes an extension of the improvements to the CTC program, 26 million families will stop getting these benefits. That’s not just bad for their own budgets. It’s bad for local businesses recovering from COVID-19 shutdowns and layouts who’ve finally seen increased spending since the payments have gone out and are looking forward to a holiday bump in sales. And it’s going to be bad for Democrats in 2022.
When we set up our labs in March, we tapped into a volunteer base of folks who helped us win the 2020 election. These are folks who are part of the communities they organized. Moms talking to other moms at labs set up in daycares. People in line for the vaccine talking to each other about their struggles. Family, friends, and neighbors. These are the trusted messengers it took to do deep relational organizing that got people signed up to vote. And they are the same messengers it has taken to do deep organizing work to sign people up for the CTC.
“This was brand new for so many people. Some people thought it was a scam. So we had to help get people to trust us to learn a little bit more and to understand that they could receive this credit, that they deserved to receive this credit for their children.” said Jake Pena, relational voter program organizer at Community Change Action who helped turn out the thousands of volunteers we trained during the 2020 election to help us get the new CTC to families in their communities.
When it comes time to re-engage these folks to help get out the vote in the midterm elections, we hope to be able to show them that the trust they put in us was not a scam. That they will continue to get the funds they need for their families because Democrats passed the Build Back Better Act.
Democrats have a choice to keep their promise to families or submit to the whims of billionaires. Either way, voters will take notice.
This op ed was originally published in Inside Sources.