Congress Is Ignoring the Needs of Families Like Mine

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

By Taylor Moyer

December 13, 2023

When Congress passed its latest funding measure to avoid a government shutdown, members left crucial unfinished business on the table. As a mom, I was frustrated that our elected leaders failed to tackle two devastating funding shortfalls that directly impact my family and millions of others.

First, I’ve read that because COVID relief funds recently expired, as many as 70,000 child care programs may close in the coming months. But Congress has not passed the child care stabilization funds that President Biden requested.

This is personal for my family. I have three incredible boys – a six-year-old, a two-year-old and an eight-month-old. Money is very tight for us right now, in part because of the child care crisis the country is facing. I’m unable to work because there aren’t many jobs in my community that would cover the extremely high cost of child care. Besides, there aren’t many options for child care near my home. The few programs that do exist have long waitlists. Now that COVID relief funds for child care have expired, I worry the problem will get even worse. I want to be able to work to support my family and send my children someplace where they will learn and grow.

Second, Congress failed to provide emergency funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, known to most of us as WIC. WIC supports more than 7 million pregnant and postpartum women, infants, and young children – including my own family – with breastfeeding support, nutrition assistance and more.

But with food and child care costs so high, WIC is overwhelmed by the soaring need among young families. If Congress does not act by January 19th, the program could be forced to institute waitlists or benefits as soon as early next year.

As the cost of food has soared, it’s been harder and harder for my family to make ends meet. WIC is an essential source of support for us that helps me provide a balanced, healthy lifestyle for my children. With three growing boys, the nutritious options like cheese sticks and milk that WIC provides are a blessing. I am thankful that I can choose from a variety of fruits and vegetables that I’d normally say no to, due to our budget being so tight.

WIC has also provided so much helpful information about breastfeeding, along with a free breast pump. But we have already felt the impact of WIC’s funding crisis. For example, WIC helped me access quality nutrition to support my first two pregnancies. But with my eight month old, I wasn’t able to access WIC’s pregnancy benefits because of the long wait times for appointments, as the program struggles to keep up with all the families needing support.

I’m terrified of what will happen if Congress doesn’t act in January and WIC runs out of funding. If my family’s WIC benefits were cut, I don’t know what we’d do.

Put simply, both WIC and the child care sector are facing funding emergencies and Congress should treat them with the urgency they deserve. After all, everybody deserves healthy food. All moms should have access to the support and tools they need to breastfeed. All children should get a strong start to their education. And all parents should be able to find and afford the high-quality child care they need to hold jobs and support their families.

We are far from that reality. I know so many working class families can relate to my experiences, but I wonder how many of our elected leaders have ever had to worry about how they will put food on the table and provide for their families. I wonder if they’ve ever had to choose between food and other essentials when standing in the grocery store aisle. That’s a struggle I know well, and wouldn’t wish on anyone.

Our children are our nation’s future leaders, thinkers and innovators. Meeting the needs of babies and young children should be a top priority for every lawmaker. In the latest funding package, they neglected that responsibility. Now, it’s up to all of us to put pressure on our elected leaders to pass the WIC and child care funding that young families need to thrive.

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