Child Tax Credit cuts childcare costs for York County family
For many families, childcare is a growing expense. Lindsey and her husband, Jonathan, pay $18,000 in childcare costs for their two daughters. Even as a dual income household, the family could not cover the amount without compromise.
“A lot of people would see our setup as the perfect kind of middle class family setup. But you still have to take into consideration $18,000 is a large chunk of money going to one thing,” said Lindsey.
Lindsey is a native of Kennebunk. She went to college out of state and lived in Florida for a few years, while she and Jonathan, who was also born in Maine, were dating. But when it came to starting a family, Lindsey said it was a “no brainer” to return to their Maine roots.
As they started their family, Lindsey and Jonathan, giving up their careers wasn’t the right option for them. The couple needed to find childcare. But when they started looking they realized there were limited choices in their community. Lindsey would have liked to make a decision on the program, teachers, or facility, but ultimately, they were forced to make a choice based on openings and affordability.
“There are a lot of decisions that you make for your kids’ care that aren’t really about the kids themselves,” she said.
Today Lindsey’s daughters, eight-year old MacKenzie and three-year-old Adelaide are both enrolled in childcare Monday through Friday. Adelaide is enrolled in a local daycare; and while MacKenzie rides the bus to elementary school in the morning, she needs after school care until Lindsey can pick her up in the evening.
Having consistent childcare in place allows Jonathan, who works for a paper manufacturer, and Lindsey, who does marketing for a cedar log home company, to keep earning incomes that support their family and contribute to the local economy.
“We work for great companies that are luckily very parent flexible, but you still need care for your normal Monday through Friday,” said Lindsey.
In addition to having understanding employers, the couple is grateful for access to the Child Tax Credit (CTC), a credit available to taxpayers with child dependents. In July of 2021 Congress passed a change to the CTC allowing for an increased payment of up to $3,600 per family and monthly distributions instead of one lump sum.
In Maine, over 230,000 families receive the CTC, totaling $747 million. The tax credit is a critical tool in helping people lift themselves out of poverty. Families most often use the credit to cover the costs of food, housing, utility bills, and education. This extra support means families have a greater chance of avoiding poverty and the hardships that come with it, including unstable housing, frequent moves, inadequate nutrition, and higher stress. The result is a better today and a better tomorrow.
Research has shown children of families who receive CTC perform better in school, have better health outcomes, and earn higher incomes in adulthood. These long-term effects are proof that the CTC gives more children in Maine the chance for a strong start in life.
For women like Lindsey, the CTC also makes it easier to stay in the workforce. A recent review of research on childcare costs found that when families can decrease their childcare costs it increases the chances of a mother’s employment.
During the past couple of years, as COVID-19 changed many parts of life, parents also had to balance unexpected school closures and childcare costs that impacted their career choices. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 7.6 million adults made job decisions based on childcare arrangements that were disrupted because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among this group, three in four were women and half were women of color.
COVID-19 impacted Lindsey and Jonathan’s lives as well. The family experienced disruptions to care and school for both children. Those closures left Lindsey and Jonathan with unexpected costs. Monthly CTC payments helped the family navigate the ups and downs.
“The tax credit…helps everyone. No matter what kind of parents you are, no matter what kind of household you have or what kind of job situation you have, kids are unpredictable, and raising kids is unpredictable,” said Lindsey. “Having that extra bit of money for the things that come up has been helpful.”
Lindsey knows without the CTC she or her husband might have to choose between their children and their careers should unexpected costs arise. It’s a difficult decision; do parents work to cover the cost of childcare or stay home to save on expenses? If more families took advantage of the CTC, Lindsey said, they wouldn’t be faced with this choice.
Lindsey believes that by giving, advocating, and volunteering, we can help to make a difference in our local community. Her family gives back through her husband’s United Way workplace campaign, and she uses her voice to advocate for CTC and childcare expansion related efforts. For Lindsey contributing in this way is how she makes life better for her family and her neighbors.
“The problems can seem big, but we can all make a difference just through small things that we do ourselves,“ Lindsey said.
CA$H encourages all CTC recipients to retain their CTC federal summary as they prepare to file this year.