As a single mom working multiple jobs, I know very well that the national budget affects my personal budget as well. And from what I’ve seen of the president’s proposed budget so far, I’m afraid it leaves families like mine behind.
Like many Americans, I have to make hard decisions every day about how to support my family. For me, the hardest sacrifice has been postponing my college degree so I could afford to pay for my daughter’s daily needs — such as diapers, clothes, food and, above all, child care. So when I read about what Trump is choosing to cut, I couldn’t help but wonder why the administration wants to make life harder for families like mine, when so many of us are barely getting by as it stands.
I currently work three jobs: One full-time as a cocktail waitress and two part-time as a bartender and a front desk associate at a gym. I would have four jobs right now, but I was forced to quit a nonprofit — a job I loved — because the cost of putting my daughter in day care was too expensive. And even though I work multiple jobs, some months, making ends meet still seems impossible. Recently I ran into one of those “budget busters” that are so common for parents: My job scheduled me for a few mornings I didn’t have care for my daughter lined up. I didn’t want to lose my job or be perceived as difficult, so I went to work and found a day care for my daughter. In a single day, it cost me $100 just to register for day care, and then $90 for the hours themselves. By the end of the day, I’d made $40 at work — before taxes — and spent $190 on child care. Budget deficit: $150. Ouch.
Over the following six weeks, I spent more than $1,300 on child care. To make it work, I used most of the money I had saved to take college courses this summer. These are the decisions families like mine have to make all the time when we budget. It would be harder if the decision wasn’t so easy: Our kids’ needs always win.
Yet instead of helping working families, the president and his administration are trying to make hard times even worse. In his budget, the president has proposed cuts that undermine most families’ ability to get by, like eliminating child-care assistance for low-income college students — like me — who already struggle to balance education with parenthood. Most devastatingly, Trump will cut federal funding for after-school programs that serve 1.6 million kids.
Growing up in after-school programs myself, I know how important these programs are — not only for parents, but for kids’ safety and development. I’ve dreamed of the day my daughter would start school, getting a good education while I could work more hours to build a better life for her. Parents like me need those after-school programs so we can accommodate our employers — and by the time she’s in school, they may no longer exist.
The Trump administration’s budget provides no new support to make child care more affordable, and the latest child-care plan we’ve heard from the White House offers too little too late, based primarily around certain reimbursements. I live paycheck to paycheck; I can’t afford to pay for child care up front and get reimbursed later — in my budget, if I can’t afford it, I can’t buy it. And the tax cut Trump has proposed for parents would cover, at most, a month or two of child-care costs about a year after the bill is due. Meanwhile, Trump’s proposal for paid leave doesn’t include even one cent for staying home to take care of a sick loved one.
The budget will cut funding that people like me rely on while cutting taxes for a small group of the very wealthy (the kind of people who can afford to pay for child care and health care while they wait to get more money back later). I dream about paid time to care for my daughter when she’s sick and child care that she’ll love that won’t bankrupt me, but this administration’s new budget puts those dreams a lot further away, while threatening things like the health care that my family and others like us rely on right now.
Most of all, this budget is totally out of touch with the realities families like mine face every day. My budget comes down to pennies, to saving, to struggling, and to giving my best to keep my daughter safe and happy. The budget the president proposed leaves working families behind. It doesn’t balance. It guarantees more tax cuts for the rich and places the burden on middle- and working-class Americans. If our budgets reflect our values, the president is showing me that he doesn’t share mine.
My budget sometimes keeps me up at night, and now the president’s will, too. I know budgets require difficult decisions, but from the looks of it, the Trump administration’s choices will make all of ours a lot harder.