In this July 15, 2021, file photo, President Joe Biden arrives to speak at an event to mark the start of monthly child tax credit relief payments, in the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex in Washington. Credit: Evan Vucci / AP

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Samantha Donley of Wilton is a mother to a 1-year-old son and a student at the University of Southern Maine.

While the pandemic was raging throughout the country last year, I was pregnant with my first child, Remy, who was born in October 2020. When my husband and I got pregnant, we knew it would be a challenge, but we never expected to bring our baby into the world during a public health and economic crisis. While I entered this new chapter of my life, all of these financial responsibilities that came with being a new mother hit me all at once, from purchasing formula and diapers to finding and paying for day care.

But there was one thing that really helped us with all of these added costs and allowed me to afford to stay in school and finish out my degree in social work: The temporary monthly child tax credit checks we got thanks to the American Rescue Plan. It might not seem like a lot of money to some people, but it made a world of difference for me and my family and more than 200,000 children under the age of 18 in Maine alone.

But if Congress doesn’t pass the Build Back Better package by the end of the year, this financial cushion will disappear for millions of families like mine.

My family and millions of others like us can’t afford to lose this lifeline. With the tax credit payments, my husband and I were able to afford to put Remy in a day care center a few days a week, so I could continue going to school while my husband continued to work as a plumber full time. We pay $550 each month for just those three days a week — and that’s for one of the least expensive day cares we could find. I wouldn’t have been able to manage my long commute, complete my field work in community organizing, and afford day care without the child tax credit support.

Beyond paying for the child care center, we also use our child tax credit to help pay for the formula Remy needs, gas, rent and car payments. These basic necessities all add up. Formula alone costs us $120 each month. And the monthly payments go a long way to helping us cover these day-to-day expenses. Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, rather than waiting until we file our taxes to get this money, we now get more money and in regular monthly payments, so we can use it when we need it.

In addition to my personal experience, I know from my training as a social worker how reducing poverty benefits individuals, local communities and the broader economy. It’s a win for everyone. The expanded child tax credit  puts money directly in the hands of families like mine who spend it on basic necessities at shops and businesses in our communities.

These payments have given my family some breathing room as we cover the added costs of our new family member. Now, we’re counting on our members of Congress to do the right thing and enact the Build Back Better legislation that extends the child tax credit through 2022. This improvement should then be made permanent down the road. My family and millions of families across the country can’t afford to lose this critical support.