Draper resident Ashley Munk and her husband work full-time jobs and are building small businesses on the side to support themselves and their two young children.
The couple pays $1,600 a month for child care and $1,500 a month to rent a two-bedroom apartment that before Utah’s housing crisis went for $900.
“With two kids and toys and businesses and a cat, to say we are crammed in here is an understatement. Ikea organizers can only do so much,” Munk said during a virtual meeting the White House held Wednesday to tout President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better agenda.
Biden’s three-part plan includes the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan passed earlier this year, the $1.8 trillion American Families Plan and the $1 trillion bipartisan jobs and infrastructure bill being debated in the Senate this week.
Josh Dickson, a White House senior adviser for faith engagement, moderated the virtual discussion, which included former Utah Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams, about how the president’s agenda would benefit Utahns. Similar events were held Wednesday in Georgia, New Hampshire, Oregon and Pennsylvania.
“It is the next step in tackling poverty and taking meaningful action to support everyday Americans in your community and communities like yours across the country,” he said.
The ambitious plan would redirect policy priorities to create educational and economic opportunities for low- and middle-income people, while requiring corporations and wealthy people to pay more in taxes, he said. It includes universal day care, expanded child care tax credits and paid family medical leave.
“Prior to child credit changes, we couldn’t afford the cost of a larger space, so our building efforts were put on hold until our kids are no longer in day care,” Munk said.
The Munks received the first $600 payment in July, and she said for the first time in a long time she wasn’t cringing when she paid rent in August.
Munk said getting monthly child care tax credit payments under the most recent COVID-19 relief bill rather than yearly with a tax return allows her family to save money for a larger space now, including an office for her boutique business and a garage where her mechanic husband can keep his tools.
“That’s life changing for us. It gives us a green light to build what we had not been able to build,” she said. “It means rooms to breathe both physically and financially.”
McAdams said the monthly payments allow families more flexibility and control of their budgets to pay for housing, health care and other needs. He said the money will do a lot for families who are still grappling with the effects of the pandemic.
Biden’s plan proposes to make the monthly child tax credits permanent.
“I’ll tell you, I’ve been happy to see our own Sen. Mitt Romney supporting monthly child tax credit payments to give tax breaks to hard-working parents,” he said.
While Romney’s plan differs from Biden’s, McAdams said both work to address child poverty, providing equal support to working and stay-at-home parents without adding to the national debt.
McAdams said the president’s agenda would strengthen Utah families and make it easier for parents to work and raise their children.
“This is the place for raising families, and the American Families Plan is something that will benefit parents without raising taxes,” he said.
Paul Gibbs, a stay-at-home dad in West Valley City who has undergone a kidney transplant, said as a person of faith, he is rooted in the idea of “love thy neighbor as thyself.”
“For me, the American Families Plan, the American Jobs Plan, these are about caring for our fellow human beings and helping them be healthy enough to care for themselves. That’s what it all means to me,” he said.
Utah Democratic Party leader Darlene McDonald said she’s looking forward to seeking what comes from Biden’s jobs plan.
“Everybody should agree that we need infrastructure in this country,” she said, referencing the Miami condo collapse. “No one should disagree that this is something that is very needed, and with infrastructure comes jobs as well.”
Utah Valley University acting major Zac Ballard said he and his wife go to school and each work two full-time jobs, “and we’re still below the poverty line and we are still trying to make ends meet.”
He said they put their coronavirus relief checks into an emergency fund and it has now run dry because of car problems and medical issues. He said they wouldn’t have been able to pay some bills without the money.
Ballard said he and his wife would like to have children but they’re not financially ready or stable enough right now.
“By living day to day, we do not have the means to get generational wealth because everything is so expensive. Hopefully, this act can help us to actually grow our generational wealth in order to be able to have kids and in order to be able to give them the life that we want to give them,” he said.
Ballard said the programs Biden is proposing will help him and the family he hopes to have.