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Posted under: Opinion

For Many Families Like Mine, The American Rescue Bill Has Been A Lifeline That Came In The Nick Of Time

My family of three was surviving on my state unemployment benefits of $223 per week. Because I didn’t have a job, no one was going to rent to me. I never felt so alone.

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Last year, as the COVID pandemic began sweeping through the world, I unexpectedly became unemployed. As my company downsized, I faced a whirlwind of uncertainty: Like millions of families, I had no rainy day savings or credit cards to offset my loss of income. I lay awake nights pondering what I could sell and how much my family could cut back on expenses while still keeping up with utilities and rent.

To make matters worse, my landlord decided to sell the home my family had been living in for five years. I was beyond devastated but couldn’t let my kids know we were facing homelessness.

Just eight months were remaining on my rental agreement. I had been jobless for months and federal unemployment relief had stopped. My family of three was surviving on my state unemployment benefits of $223 per week. Because I didn’t have a job, no one was going to rent to me. I never felt so alone.

Families like mine, particularly single-parent families, needed a wider-scale, targeted approach to address the disparities and economic oppression we had been experiencing for decades. The CARES ACT, which passed early in the pandemic, was helpful but didn’t go nearly far enough.

Under the Biden administration, I feel like middle-class Americans are finally being heard and that help is here. One of the most significant things the American Rescue Plan (ARP) does is increase the child tax credit to $3,600 per child under age six and $3,000 for children up to age 17 in monthly payments.

As a single parent, the ARP came in the nick of time for me. I am saving my stimulus check for a deposit and first month’s rent for my family's next home. And the child tax credit is a long-overdue benefit to all families as many tackle overdue bills after a chaotic and unpredictable year.

My next goal to tackle is homeownership, which has proven to have its own hidden hurdles that deter families from even trying to be homeowners. I never want to feel as vulnerable as I felt with losing my job and the eviction case. The child tax credit will help me reach that goal. I’ve never been able to save money, but with this extra income, I will be able to put money towards that goal.

I have hope for a future that embraces homeownership for everyone and makes it possible for families to earn a livable wage, build equity and leave behind something to their children other than student loans and credit card balances.

Sadly, the ARP hasn’t fixed everything for my family. The eviction order, although dismissed, is still wreaking havoc on our lives. My lease runs out at the end of April and it still shows up in my rental history, making it impossible to find housing.

This pandemic has uncovered many dark truths about the financial state of the average working American family. The one thing I believe we’ve all learned from this is just how fragile life really is and how easy everything we’ve worked for can be lost.

But at least now, a year into the COVID outbreak, I am a full-time employee again at the job that laid me off and my children are gearing up to go back to school. And I’m thankful that we finally have an administration that is trying to create policies to help families like mine.

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Nakitta Long lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, with her four-year-old son and 17-year-old daughter.

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