Right around the time I heard lawmakers were considering a year-end package of tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations, my 12-year-old son’s bike broke. It felt like just another thing I couldn’t fix for him.
Yet here are our lawmakers “fixing” things for those with the fewest problems. That’s unacceptable when there are so many ordinary families who need help.
I know what it’s like to pull myself up by my bootstraps — I’ve had to do it again and again. But I also know how far even a little help can go.
I grew up in Brazil, where my mother instilled in my siblings and me the value of hard work and education. I worked my way into law school, where I met a man from the United States. We fell in love, married, and had a child. I moved with him to Virginia to go to college and raise our family.
It felt like I was doing everything right… but things went wrong. When my husband developed a substance abuse problem and became aggressive, I had to flee with my child to a local YWCA for refuge.
I dropped out of school to get more jobs and scraped together enough to pay for rent, apply for Pell grants, and get back into school. But when I got back together with my husband during a period of sobriety for him, we ended up worse off than before. He lost our money and the car, leaving me with car payments and no transportation.
Yet I kept going with classes and work, biking my son to his school. I house-sat, couch-hopped, got a cheap car, and worked for DoorDash. I finally graduated and started work as a research fellow in neuroscience.
But the bills kept coming, not least for my $58,000 in student loans. I still didn’t have enough to feed my child properly or buy those little extra things he wanted or needed. I lived in constant fear of any small financial emergency. The food pantry became a saving grace for us.
Then, in 2021, Congress passed an expansion of the Child Tax Credit.
Suddenly I had a reliable, monthly infusion of cash that meant we could eat consistently. It meant we didn’t face repeated eviction notices. It meant I could put gas in the car, buy my son dress pants for choir, and apply to graduate schools. It meant something I could finally count on.
It meant everything. I got into Stanford’s Ph.D. program in neuroscience, where I got childcare subsidies on campus, a full-tuition scholarship, and campus jobs.