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Parents listen for candidates proposing meaningful help for families with kids

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Inflation remains a top issue for voters this election year, especially for parents who have the added financial stress of raising children. NPR's Ashley Lopez reports.

(SOUNDBITE OF BASKETBALL BOUNCING)

ASHLEY LOPEZ, BYLINE: Joseph Yusuf and his 11-year-old daughter, Jakayla, are playing basketball on a day off from school.

(SOUNDBITE OF BASKETBALL HITTING RIM)

JAKAYLA: How did you miss that?

LOPEZ: Jakayla lives with her mom most of the time, but Yusuf picks her up from her Washington, D.C.-area school every day. They do homework together. Sometimes they play video games. Like most kids, her interests are constantly changing.

JOSEPH YUSUF: She's obviously developing her own personality, and I'm loving that. But she's - she also takes a lot of me - personality, the careness (ph), the thoughtfulness, but also the funny and craziness.

LOPEZ: Yusuf says he has this big support system that has helped him co-parent. Besides Jakayla's mother, his own mother and grandmother pitch in when he needs it. But he says there is one aspect of being a parent that he finds really challenging.

YUSUF: Definitely making enough money to have a sustainable lifestyle - I feel like it all stems from there 'cause, like, I want to do more for my child. I want to be able to take her out and surprise her with these gifts and, you know, trips and whatnot.

LOPEZ: Yusuf, who works at Howard University as an events and facilities coordinator, says he also wants to start saving for college for her, but it's just not feasible as the price of rent, insurance and food remains so high. Raegen Selden knows what it's like to have a hard time staying on top of costs. The Philadelphia mother has six children ranging from ages 11 to 25. She says in the 25 years she's been raising children, inflation has made this one of the tougher financial times for her and her husband even though they're bringing in more money.

RAEGEN SELDEN: And I feel like - personally, I feel like it's harder now because even though I am financially where I wasn't 25 years ago, I feel like things have gotten more expensive. And so if I had to, I guess, go back to that time, I would have said that I was doing better.

LOPEZ: During the pandemic, many families were getting some significant help from the government. From July to December 2021, a majority of American households with children had the option of getting an advance on the child tax credit paid out in monthly installments. But Congress let that extra help expire, and it ended at a time that inflation kept climbing. Starsky Wilson, with the Children's Defense Fund, says families are still catching up.

STARSKY WILSON: The economic situation for children and families is getting better as inflation eases. But you have to consider the fact that this significant support was taken away at a time when prices were still high.

LOPEZ: That support going away has driven frustration among parents struggling with high prices. Alisha Gordon is with The Current Project, which is a nonprofit focused on Black single mothers. She says when there's political will, she's seen that lawmakers have solutions.

ALISHA GORDON: Why is it that in the pandemic, we actually were able to utilize our imaginations about how to reimagine processes like child tax credit and turning it from a one-time payment at the end of the tax year into a multiple-month payment, where we saw millions of children being lifted out of poverty? And then when that ended, all of these children go back into poverty.

LOPEZ: There is a new effort to temporarily expand the child tax credit again, though not as generously as during the pandemic. And it's stalled in the Senate. Parents like Raegen Selden say they're paying attention to what lawmakers and candidates on the campaign trail are saying about this.

SELDEN: Ultimately, this is our future. And if we don't make the right decisions now, we're basically just wiping out an entire generation. Because where will they be if we can't give them just the bare minimum? So I think that it absolutely does shape the way that I look at this upcoming election.

LOPEZ: Advocates say this is likely to be another campaign cycle where the concerns of families get a lot of lip service. But Selden says she and other parents are listening for whether any meaningful help for parents is actually proposed.

Ashley Lopez, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ashley Lopez
Ashley Lopez is a political correspondent for NPR based in Austin, Texas. She joined NPR in May 2022. Prior to NPR, Lopez spent more than six years as a health care and politics reporter for KUT, Austin's public radio station. Before that, she was a political reporter for NPR Member stations in Florida and Kentucky. Lopez is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and grew up in Miami, Florida.