My mother-in-law passed away two months ago. It was a tragedy for our family, but I wasn’t even able to focus on grieving. The first thought on my mind was: How do we afford both the funeral costs and our water and electric bills that are due?
In this moment of fear and desperation, the only thing that kept my head above water was the expanded child tax credit. Like so many others, it’s helped our family stay afloat over the past year. But Congress just let the program expire by failing to pass the Build Back Better act.
Things have always been tight for me as a mom raising three teenage boys in Tarpon Springs. I grew up here, and my mom raised me and my brother on her own as a new immigrant from Greece who didn’t speak any English. She was a shining example of the American dream who started her own business and gave her children all the opportunities possible. I don’t want my kids to struggle the same way we did.
But right now, with the pandemic still raging and an economy that lets big corporations take advantage of working people by raising prices during a pandemic, just getting by feels impossible.
Before the pandemic, I was holding down two separate service jobs and working on the side as a Shipt shopper. My husband worked at a local restaurant and sometimes clocked over 90 hours a week. We were able to put away enough money to finally save for a downpayment on a home.
But then the pandemic hit, and we lost our jobs and savings. My husband and I were out sick with COVID at the same time this fall, which set us back even further and we struggled with our kids having to fend for themselves.
When Congress passed the expanded child tax credit, it felt like they threw us a lifeline. With hundreds of dollars coming in, we were able to mostly keep up. But not completely. We fell so far behind on our rent that right now we have to pay double the monthly bill to take care of late fees.
I have faith things can get better, and I am hopeful that change will come with the Build Back Better Act. I supported Donald Trump in 2020, just like many here in Florida. While I didn’t vote for President Joe Biden, I am cheering for his plan to pass and create better jobs that pay more and lower costs so our kids can have more opportunities in the future.
The bottom line is what’s going on right now is unsustainable. We need to invest in the middle class so we can restore the American Dream that inspired my mother to start a new life here. As a young mother, there’s no question: to get a foothold and build a bright future for my kids, I need Congress to pass paid leave, create better-paying jobs, restore the expanded child tax credit and make investments that will lower costs for housing, health care and more. All of these policies are in the Build Back Better Act.
Spend your days with Hayes
Subscribe to our free Stephinitely newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
I voted for President Donald Trump because I believed he would help families like mine that have been ignored for too long. I don’t believe in political parties, but one thing is for sure: My Republican Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio are ignoring the pain that families like mine are experiencing by not supporting the Build Back Better Act.
Aren’t they elected to help make the American Dream achievable? I met Sen. Rick Scott years ago and I thought he was a nice man. But right now, he is hurting us. He is hurting our state and our economy. He has an opportunity to make a positive impact. If he wants my support in the next election, he should vote for the Build Back Better Act.
Vasiliki Andriakenas is from Tarpon Springs and is a member of WorkMoney, a nonprofit advocacy organization.