As a Marine, I knew that service would take me away from my family. And when I came back home, I was so excited to put roots down. Now, my wife and I have four beautiful children and we work hard to give them a good life. But over the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything.
When the pandemic first hit, I was working in the oil fields in Louisiana. I had only just switched companies and so when work shut down, I ran out of unemployment benefits in a matter of weeks. Then my wife got furloughed from her hotel job, leaving us frantic to figure out our options.
With four kids at home, the bills piled up fast. Everything from the cost of diapers, to child care, to rent started to become harder and harder to pay off. I almost lost my truck due to late payments. Meanwhile, work opportunities dried up all around us. We were scrambling, depending on what little financial assistance we could get week-to-week.
I pride myself on being resilient. But in 2020, I was feeling the lowest I had ever felt in my life, worried about how to provide for my family while it felt like politicians in Washington didn’t care about us.
Recently, I found a new job as a truck driver. I’m thankful, but cautious. This doesn’t feel stable, and living paycheck to paycheck means we can’t afford to save anything for the future.
I know I’m not alone. Millions of families like mine have been squeezed by layoffs, furloughs and the rising cost of raising a family. The one respite for us has been receiving the expanded child care tax credit every month and getting help from our extended family here in Texas.
I voted for Donald Trump last year, but what I need now is for Congress to take action that will create more jobs here in Texas so I can be closer to my children as they grow up, and so we can afford the cost of child care and everyday necessities.
Even at my lowest, I knew others were struggling worse. But after seeing how the pandemic knocked us off our feet, I know that another disaster could be catastrophic.
If Congress passes the budget and infrastructure bill, families like mine might be able to get out of the hole and build our savings back up.
Enrique Quintanilla, Weslaco