Glad to hear that Tucson residents voted recently increase the minimum wage for workers in this town for $ 15. They are following in the footsteps of the citizens of Flagstaff, who approved progressive salary increases in 2016, which reached $ 15 earlier this year.
What about those of us who live elsewhere in Arizona? We should only have this chance.
I am a minimum wage worker and earn much less than that. Unfortunately, this is true for most minimum wage workers in Arizona. In my case, my minimum wage jobs pay only $ 13 an hour. I wouldn’t say my family is poor, but we are struggling.
I have always worked hard to support my children. But – from the multiple waitress jobs I have had over the years to the short-term jobs I have had during the tourist season – it seems like whatever I do, my family can’t move on.
Monthly child tax credit payments are a lifeline
In the small town where I live there just aren’t many opportunities, and the jobs I can get are minimum wage or low wage positions. Arizona’s minimum wage has been increases slightly each year, but it does not track cost of living, and has been for some time.
So when I learned earlier this year that I would be receiving an expanded child tax credit in monthly installments, I heaved a huge sigh of relief. Although my rent has always paid in full and on time, my landlord has increased it by $ 200 this year. Nationally, rents have increased 7.5% this year alone, when the wages of most minimum wage workers have not budged.
This year my family’s tight budget got even tighter and I don’t know how I could have met basic needs if we hadn’t received the expanded child tax credit. The payments help me cover the rent increase and pay my other bills on time. In fact, a majority of Arizona families use their CTC payments to pay mostly like rent, food and bills.
Our financial situation has become even more difficult because of the pandemic. My whole family contracted COVID-19 earlier this year and for a while I couldn’t work. Without income, I resorted to increasing my rent on my Facebook page. Fortunately, a round of children’s tax payments arrived in time to get us through the month.
Congress must extend these payments until 2022
The pandemic also deprived my children of a year of school. My 16 year old daughter could not cope with the change to distance learning and fell too far behind. She quit and started working as a minimum wage line cook.
Even though I didn’t ask her, she helps me pay the rent while making some money. But I hope she goes back to school and graduates: kids shouldn’t be helping their parents pay the bills.
These payments are a lifeline for working class families to help us begin to recover from the pandemic. Fortunately, Congress has reached agreement on a framework for President Biden’s Build Back Better plan, including extending monthly payments until 2022. Congress must pass this bill and help lift millions of children out of poverty In the process.
Parenting is tough, but raising kids for minimum wage makes it even more difficult. Often times, I’m too stressed out with bills to do fun things with my kids or give them nice things.
I am not a very political person, but anything that improves the lives of children should not be up for debate. With the money from the child tax credit payments, parents like me struggling to cope with minimum wage can worry less about money and focus more on our children.
Nikki Wall lives in Clarkdale, Arizona with her three children and wrote this in conjunction with the Center for American Progress, which advocates for progressive policies. Reach her at [email protected].