It is finally time for the U.S. Senate to pass the Build Back Better legislation, and it can’t come soon enough. Many families have not financially recovered from the pandemic, and with the cost of gas, food, and other necessities rising worldwide, people are really struggling. This legislation will improve the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of Montanans.
Here are a few of the most critical ways the bill will reduce poverty in Montana:
Child Tax Credit. This year, for the first time, families most in need were eligible to receive the full amount of the Child Tax Credit. This credit supports 209,000 Montana kids and helps their families afford food, rent, utilities, and other necessities. Keeping the enhanced credit will be a historic step in reducing childhood poverty,
Affordable Housing. Rising housing prices and low wages mean two out of three households living in poverty in Montana must spend more than half their income on rent. About 6,000 children are in families behind on rent payments, and many face eviction. The plan will invest $24 billion in housing vouchers to cut homelessness, housing instability, evictions, and overcrowding.
Child Care. After phasing in, parents of nearly 85 percent of Montana children under 6 can access childcare support and see their costs go down. That’s about 63,000 children in the state. It also helps our economy because Montana businesses face workforce shortages due to a lack of reliable childcare for their staff. When parents have a dependable and affordable place for their kids during the day, they’re able to go to work – it’s that simple.
Child Nutrition. The federal package takes vital steps in easing childhood hunger by funding school and summer meals. In Montana, it will provide grocery benefits to 65,000 students during the summer and allow 11,000 students to receive free school meals during the school year.
Indian Country. Congress makes significant, meaningful investments in tribal and urban Indian communities. From funding for tribal colleges and workforce development to health services and reservation roads, Build Back Better would help fund programs and services that the federal government has underfunded for too long.
The list doesn’t stop there. The legislation will make health care accessible, reduce the cost of prescription drugs, fund community-based care, and fight climate change.
Most importantly, America’s long history of systemic racism has limited education, employment, and housing opportunities for people of color. Because of this, too many Montanans of color have been held back from reaching their full potential. The BBB makes significant strides in ensuring race does not determine someone’s success.
Corporate profits are the highest they’ve been since 1950, and yet costs keep rising. Companies are taking advantage of the pandemic to increase prices and gouge customers. These often are the same companies avoiding their taxes and opposing the BBB to continue to get out of paying what they owe in taxes and supporting their communities.
Build Back Better is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to recover from a long two years and get to a better place for everyone. We all deserve a tax system that helps those who need it, not just the billionaires and major corporations. Passing this bill means families will be able to put food on their table, pay their rent on time, have reliable, affordable childcare, and break through generational cycles of poverty.
Montana Women Vote urges Montana’s Senators to support the Build Back Better Plan. It’s what our state needs.
SJ Howell is the Executive Director of Montana Women Vote is a statewide organization of low-income women and families. MWV fights for health care access, reproductive rights, and economic and racial justice as informed voters, policy advocates, and community leaders.