As a social worker running an organization that helps others, I have been astonished by the lack of foresight among politicians that are not rallying behind the Build Back Better Bill in Congress. And while I am sad on behalf of my clients — I’ve seen first hand the difference things like the Child Tax Credit have made in their lives — I’m mostly sad for the country. A little bit of help at just the right time can make a huge difference in people’s lives. Take me, for example, I was able to get ahead — and build an organization that gives back — because of services that now may be denied to others.
I was born into homelessness and lived in a shelter for the first five years of my life. My mother was always fighting for me and my five brothers and sisters, and was able to find programs to help us get by. We would not have eaten without welfare, food banks and free lunch programs.
I stayed busy in the summer through the Summer Youth Employment Program. If it wasn’t for the Higher Education Opportunity Program, I would never have been able to go to college.
But that program allowed me to get undergraduate and then master’s degrees in social work, which have allowed me to give back.
Later, when I was foster mother to my brother’s three children, I was able to receive child care subsidies and health care through Medicaid.
Now I own my own company — I Raise Boys and Girls International — which employs 30 people, provides 50 interns job opportunities, and another 100 people meaningful volunteer experience.
But I wouldn’t have been able to build any of this without the programs that kept our family afloat and allowed me to get an education.
In our country today, many of us are struggling to get by even when we work multiple jobs. It is nearly impossible to find affordable housing and the cupboards are bare even in the homes of hardworking people. This is even worse at a time of rising inflation and rising prices.
The programs in this bill provide needed assistance to prevent a spiraling into poverty and staying entrenched there. Often the help of one social program in the short-term can reduce the need for further assistance in the long-term.
The Child Tax Credit, Medicaid expansion and free universal preschool are just a few of the many ways that can help people get ahead. Without them, it’s just not possible to make enough money at minimum wage jobs to get out of poverty.
Shanequa Moore is the founder of the I’RAISE Girls & Boys International Corporation, located in the Bronx.