Brandi Chennaux of Park Rapids is a mother of six.
She spoke with Ryan Hamilton to share how her family was positively impacted by the expanded federal child tax credit and how a similar proposal on the state level could benefit their single income family.
Ryan Hamilton: I'm here with Brandi Chennaux. Brandi is a mother of six beautiful children. Brandi, how old are your kids? What are their ages?
Brandi Chennaux: 11, 10, nine, seven, five, and two.
Ryan Hamilton: Over those past 11 years, does it seem like the cost of living or the cost of just everything has a decreased increase or stayed about the same?
Brandi Chennaux: Prices are rising with everything.
There is definitely an impact on families, and everything is more costly. I feel like as far as even just basic needs, like your toilet paper, diapers, wipes, your gallon of milk that you get at the grocery, all of those prices have increased. I mean, it's a struggle.
We do have food stamps, and they definitely don't stretch as far as they used to. There's definitely more coming out of pocket every month just to meet your basic needs.
Ryan Hamilton: Sure. And so, did you all receive the monthly advanced payments of the 2021 federal child tax credit?
Brandi Chennaux: Yes, we did.
Ryan Hamilton: So, in general, how did those monthly credits affect your family budget?
Brandi Chennaux: So, with a single income, we have lived paycheck to paycheck, and when we were receiving the monthly payments to help with our cares and needs. Like we actually got to go out and enjoy things as a family. And we got to go and do more because it was kind of like, you have that little bit of extra that you're not normally used to having.
So, you actually get to like have that family time. And even if it's just like the picnic at the park or anything like that, normally it's something we don't get to enjoy as much. And so, we did get to have a little bit more fun camping and stuff this last summer. And, even throughout the winter, it made a difference even at Christmas time.
And it was, it was definitely a blessing.
Ryan Hamilton: Now that that federal program has expired, how has the absence of those payments or those credits affected your family budget?
Brandi Chennaux: Now we're back to just trying to trickle and put some money away here and there when we can and try to plan our trips more. Like if it's to go to the park or have those family days or plan a trip to the lake.
It's all about planning and being able to put the money away. And if you can, you can. And if you can't, you can't, and it's just paycheck to paycheck.
Ryan Hamilton: So, how would you feel if the state of Minnesota picked up where the federal government left off and provided a similar child tax credit?
Brandi Chennaux: I think it would be very beneficial to a lot of families. I think for families to have the option of receiving the monthly payments or getting the whole lump sum tax credit type thing at the end of the year. I think that different families face different situations. Not everybody is a single income-based family. Some people do get two incomes or multiple incomes from other sources.
I know that there are a lot of people that have been loving and really appreciating the fact of getting that extra help every month. I am one of those moms who it has made a huge impact on my family. My kids have been loving the fact that we get to go out and do more and we do get to have more family time.
Ryan Hamilton: So, what would you do if you were provided something along the lines of an extra $50 a month per child, which would be about $600 per year, or even, $100 a month per a child. How about, what would you do with that?
Brandi Chennaux: There are bills that need to be paid like the, you know, your month-to-month expenses, especially with everything going up in price and cost.
My husband and I have been struggling because we need to get a new family vehicle, and by new I just mean new to us. Trying to budget and consider how we would be able to afford a car payment every month or even just the full coverage insurance on our vehicle every month.
You know, my kids, they're just like any other kids where they want to go into sports, and they want to be in those extracurricular activities. And that's the kind of expense, you know, those are expenses where it's like, hey, like it sucks. But when you have nothing that you can cut out, because you're living paycheck to paycheck, just trying to make ends meet for your daily necessities in your household needs.
That's the kind of income where you're like, you can put it towards those extra things. So, your kids can be in the sports or they can, you know, you have the gas to drive to your friend's house, or it helps pay the car insurance every month or a car payment or whatever, whatever expenses are happening that you know, that you struggle to meet. Obviously, anything helps.
Ryan Hamilton: So, what could the legislature do to help more families allow one parent to stay home?
Brandi Chennaux: Making it more affordable for us, whether it's you helping us with like that monthly credit, you know, or that monthly check to help pay for the miscellaneous things in between whether parents choose to put that towards childcare. Groceries, like, are there programs that can help more with the groceries? Can we do more help with the EBT Snap programs that are offered?
I’d rather have one of us at home raising our kids. And if there is a program that's going to help us so that we don't have to worry about the childcare and we can just afford…Come on drop the price, the groceries, drop the price of gas so that we can make it more affordable for one parent to be home and be the one raising the kids.
Because us as parents, like that's our job. It's up to us to raise our kids and have them in the settings of what we feel is best for them.
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