Megan Curtis: Congress should renew monthly Child Tax Credit payments

Working families and those with new businesses depend on payments to make ends meet.

(Matt Rourke | AP photo) This May 8, 2008, photo shows blank checks on an idle press at the Philadelphia Regional Financial Center, which disburses payments on behalf of federal agencies, in Philadelphia.

I am a 38-year-old married mother of four.

I worked as a nurse for 14 years. For the past eight years I have worked nights so I could be with my children during the day and reduce the price of childcare. Recently, due to the associated risk of a medical condition I developed, I have had to switch to working day shifts in a lower-paying administrative role. I have been our family’s primary source of income while my husband studied to complete his Ph.D. in clinical psychology.

As parents of four, groceries, gas, mortgage, schooling and other expenses come first, before we even think about ourselves. Our budget has been tightening amid pandemic-driven inflation. So, for a long time, my main focuses have been on meeting my family’s financial and emotional needs.

When the Child Tax Credit monthly payments started arriving, it felt like a rebirth of the American Dream for our family. When my husband graduated, we took the leap of faith to start our own private practice, serving those with mental health and associated sleep disorders.

Knowing we could afford essentials even if times got tough, and even if our business stalled or failed, thanks to the monthly budgetary support of the CTC, we now had a safety net that gave us the confidence to move forward on our new venture to serve the community and give our family the flexibility we now needed for my health and to raise our young family.

The Child Tax Credit was reformed in 2021 as part of the American Rescue Plan to go to all families regardless of tax liability, and to ship out in monthly installments of $250 or $300 per child depending on their age. This change — bringing American family benefits in line with most other developed nations — expired on January 1. Ongoing inflation and the difficulties of running a mental health practice during a pandemic of physical illness, however, did not expire.

Our family is feeling the immediate effects of losing the monthly Child Tax Credit. Our newly formed private mental health practice hangs in the balance as we battle inflation and a pandemic that won’t abate. We’re forced to ask: Will our country leave business-owning parents behind in their hour of need?

We were not the only parents starting their own business ventures thanks to the CTC; a study based on Census Pulse data from the Social Policy Institute shows that some 300,000 low-income parents are newly self-employed since these payments started in July.

Some have speculated that we must end the payments to curb inflation. Leaving aside the point that CTC recipients like us are on the front lines of rising prices, the Federal Reserve mentions in an analysis of the American Rescue Plan’s effect on inflation that it was minimal in comparison to that of the pandemic.

Similarly, the benefit of the CTC program vastly outweighs any negative impact it might have on the economy. Take our business for instance. We’ve had to nix our entire advertising budget to ensure we’re putting enough toward our kids. As any business owner knows, advertising is essential; new clients keep the doors open.

Last year, Sen. Mitt Romney proposed an alternate version of the CTC, demonstrating that this kind of common-sense, pro-family, pro-work policy doesn’t have to be a partisan issue. This is the kind of leadership that our members of Congress need to show. Negotiations may end up shrinking the benefit, requiring us to show proof of income, or kick the wealthiest recipients out of the program. Fine by us, a reformed program is clearly better than nothing at all.

Families like ours took a huge risk in starting new businesses last year. We did it for our children, but it won’t be them alone who benefit, when we’re offering our goods and services for years to come. Few would suggest mental health services are not needed after the last two years. But it’s all at risk as our budget takes a huge hit.

It’s an understatement to say that families like ours are desperate for the relief that the monthly CTC provides. I ask Romney, Sen. Mike Lee and Utah’s House delegation, on behalf of parents like myself, to support a renewal of the monthly CTC. Our children, our business, and our share of the American Dream depend on it.

Megan Curtis

Megan Curtis, R.N., lives in Woods Cross.