The child tax credit had kids in this Macomb neighborhood running into the streets with wonder and excitement. Here’s why.
MACOMB, Mich.—In early July, there was a different kind of fireworks show in a Macomb neighborhood. Kids who missed out of the Fourth of July light shows because of pandemic-based caution about crowds rushed into the comparatively empty streets.
Those kids had been through a lot the preceding year and a half. From fear and uncertainty about what living in a pandemic would be like to a severe social isolation created by the dangers of spreading a disease, it was a uniquely stressful time to be a child. So here, in a suburban neighborhood, children got to experience a kind of joyous reprieve from how harsh the world had become.
They had this chance because six families got together and pooled the money they received from the child tax credit that began paying out to parents in July. It was a joy to the entire community that wouldn’t have been possible without the support from the child tax credit, and cooperation between a few families, but the effort was worth it to kids in their neighborhood.
“I am not exaggerating when I say thousands of dollars worth of fireworks,” Geralds, a mom of three and student herself, told The ‘Gander. “I have seen bigger municipal light shows in smaller towns, but just barely.”
It was so impactful, one of Geralds’ three kids ran down her street to thank the families that brought joy to the lives of neighborhood children.
The fireworks show was far outside how Geralds expected people to spend the money from the tax credit, but she couldn’t deny how great it was for the kids of the neighborhood. It wasn’t food, it wasn’t medicine, but it was something for the soul and identity of childhood.
“The kids loved it, they loved it! They were everywhere on the street in this neighborhood,” Geralds recalled. “These kids have been under immense stress and parents don’t want to take their kids to light shows right now.”
Geralds herself spent some of the money on things that helped lift her kids’ spirits. While she wasn’t struggling to cover most basic needs for her family, just getting by wasn’t enough to help get three kids through a remarkably stressful point in history. So she was finally able to get them some treats like pop and snacks here and there.
“You know, pop is expensive. I used to never think about it because I don’t drink it, but the kids like it,” she said. “Obviously that’s not life-changing, but it makes the kids happy, especially when a lot of things they would normally do they still can’t do.”
Easing the lives of her children is, in her opinion, the right way to use the money. She compared it to child support: It’s a source of funding meant to be spent entirely on kids.
“It’s not ‘go out and buy things, go out and buy new clothes for yourself, go out and get a new TV,’ that’s not what this money is for,” she said. “This money is for the kids and their wellbeing.”
She acknowledged that things like a fireworks show or junk food aren’t critical for children, but one of her children desperately wanted a toy of Grogu, colloquially known as Baby Yoda from the Star Wars Disney+ series The Mandalorian. She couldn’t have gotten that toy without the tax credit money. And giving that toy matters. Joy is, itself, an important piece of child development, according to studies like this 2009 one published in Springer.
Of course, she had practical uses for the money as well.
She told The ‘Gander that while her financial situation isn’t something she’d characterize as desperate, sending one of her kids off to pre-kindergarten education as she had done the morning of her interview is something she just couldn’t have done without the support of the child tax credit.
“The school programs offered over the summer for my third-grader were free through the district,” Geralds said, “But for my pre-K who lost all of last year, the classes were $200 a session.The child tax credit kicked in just as I had to drop over $600 for trying to get one whose distinctly a year behind ready for kindergarten, which we wouldn’t have been able to afford if we didn’t get it.”
That is something that Geralds is fortunate to do. While affordable child care has been a crisis for years, like many chronic issues in America the pandemic poured gasoline on the fire. Childcare centers closing forced millions of women to leave the workforce to care for their kids. That’s contributed to a growing mental health crisis among moms.
That’s something Geralds can avoid thanks to the child tax credit, allowing her the ability to continue pursuing her Ph.D and keeping her child on pace to be ready for elementary school. Though her schedule was a concern that couldn’t have been further from her mind. The money, she said, is for her children.
There are a lot of ways the tax credit is supporting families outside her neighborhood, and Geralds is aware of that as well. She called it a good policy, both as a mother and as someone who is engaged in her community.
At first, she didn’t think it had much of an impact at all, she said, but then she started thinking about all those things, from Baby Yoda to pre-K to fireworks, and she saw how influential that bit of extra money has been in her kids’ lives. Which surprised her, given that studying policy is part of her Ph.D program.
“I didn’t think about it, and this is the kind of thing I do,” she said. “I think probably a lot of parents are doing that, that if you go up to them and ask them ‘okay how has that money helped you?’ I think you’re going to end up with a lot of people like me that go ‘Actually, that money helped a lot.’”