CLARKDALE, Ariz. — The final child tax credit payment went out last month, and that means an end to money millions of Americans counted on to help care for their children. As the pandemic continues to cause financial stress for families, many are hoping lawmakers will continue the temporary payments a bit longer.
For a single mom of three, Nikki Wall, the pandemic has made working in a tourist town tough. The Child Tax Credit was a welcome help for months. She and her three children live in Clarkdale, a small community in northern Arizona.
“I moved up here 17 years ago, and I've raised my family here. It's a small community, small town. I love it, there's just not a lot of opportunity.”
It was a place she knew her kids would be safe, but the majority of jobs are service-based positions. The wages for these jobs forced Wall to work multiple jobs to support herself and her children.
“I have three kids, a 16-year-old, a 14-year-old, and a 7-year-old. You have to work two jobs being a single parent. With inflation and everything going up, it's just hard to survive.”
This past year, her rent went up by $200, but her jobs kept paying her the same wage.
“I don't have that extra income coming in. There's times that I pay this bill instead of that bill, and then I'm late on this bill,” said Wall.
Her teenage daughter stepped in to help.
“The pandemic has caused my daughter to fall so behind, my 16-year-old that she decided she's going to go ahead and navigate the GED, and she's working now. She helps me, which I'm grateful for, but I shouldn't have to rely on her working.”
Wall and her family did get something reliable last year they didn’t expect— the temporary Child Tax Credit. Wall received $500 per month, but the final payment went out on Dec. 15.
She used it for rent and food for her kids.
“I had a sense of relief and I'm like, 'Well now I don't have to worry about those extra bills. I can sleep at night,' but now that it's going away. I'm not quite sure what I'm going to do. I'm stressed, honestly, I'm stressed, I'm worried.”
Millions of families with children received these payments across the nation. They’ve helped with such things as a 7.5% increase in the average rent. Wages in many states have not increased at the same pace. Now, Wall is not sure how her family will make it.
“It's a state of fear that I'm always in. You know, we pay our taxes in. We should be able to make have that option, getting that child tax credit should be an option throughout the year.”
Wall has heard plenty of criticism about the payments, but she hopes people will see how impactful this help was for so many people.
“I just wish people would, just kind of think about it before judging, you know, I'm trying my best. It’s not just me that's struggling, it's this whole community,” said Wall.
Wall said if Congress approves additional payments, it could mean a different future for her family.
“I could put money aside and start saving and hopefully get that down payment for a house and, you know, be proactive, you know, and just have a sense of security. That's what I want: security.”
With that security could come a life with more choices for her kids.
“They're my reason to keep going and just, they're my life,” said Wall with tears in her eyes. “I want a good life for them. I don't want them to struggle like I did.”
With help or not, she said she will keep pushing for the life she knows they deserve.
“I'll keep working two jobs, and I'll make sure they have what they need. But, it's just hard, and it shouldn't be this way, especially in America. It shouldn't be like this.”
As of the beginning of the year, lawmakers have not indicated the payments will continue into 2022.