For moms like Molly, the past four months have meant long-overdue help in making ends meet. Molly works full time and manages the care for her 15-year-old son, Reid, who has a condition called Angelman’s Syndrome. Reid requires specialized caregiving for feeding, diaper changes, and constant monitoring for safety due to seizures and mobility issues.
What has been the difference in the last four months? The Child Tax Credit (CTC), a monthly cash benefit for children for which low and middle-income families can qualify. It has helped families like Molly’s pay for rent, food, child care, health care co-pays, school supplies, and other expenses across the country. For caregiver parents, it’s an especially needed benefit. As Molly says, “I am using this to pay for help, food, and transportation so I can stay afloat when forced to leave work to be a caregiver when no one else can and give Reid’s elderly grandma a break once in a while so she can continue to help with his care going forward.”
But Congress is currently debating if they should continue these crucial payments. Some legislators want to reduce this credit, limit the families who can receive it, and take it away from some of the lowest-income families by instituting a work requirement. This change would disproportionately impact parents who took time away from work to care for their child with a disability or complex medical needs. As Molly says:
“We have always had a hard time getting caregivers to help in the home and rely heavily on Reid’s 73-year-old grandma to fill in the scheduling gaps. A few years ago I gave up working in the clinic as a prosthetist and as an instructor at the University of Washington and took on a work-from-home role with the corporate office of my company. This was necessary in order to have enough schedule flexibility to ensure Reid is cared for in the summer and enabled to attend school the rest of the year. Reid qualifies for Medicaid and has a Basic Plus Waiver for in home caregivers and other assistance. Over the past two years, I have had to take unpaid time off work, accept furlough from my job, and rent out half my house in order to make up for Reid not being in school and the lack of available Medicaid-paid caregivers.” The CTC is making a critical difference for Molly, Reid, and many more families, so penalizing caregiver parents is unacceptable.
As we learned when a work or earnings requirement was proposed in Medicaid a few years ago, these unnecessary rules only create costly, bureaucratic processes that restrict access. They often penalize people who are working, but who need to leave the workforce for a period of time for their own health reasons or to take care of a loved one. As Molly says: “Every time I’ve had to take time away from my paid job to be a caregiver for Reid, I am scared to death that I will lose my job and jeopardize my career prospects. I have worked for years to be a good prosthetist and excellent corporate employee. The small amount of assistance the tax credits give for caregiving is not in any way an incentive to leave my paid job. They are only enablement to continue working at BOTH of the jobs in which I am fulfilled as a productive member of society.”
A work requirement would disproportionality harm parents with disabilities and families with children with disabilities. It is past time for Congress to recognize that caregiving is work and provide essential supports to families through the Child Tax Credit.