In Chicago, with two kids to raise, single mom Serena Sumrell says it was financially tough during the pandemic. "The bills were just tumbling on us," she says.
It meant making cellphone payments...rent...keeping the lights and gas on.
"I shed tears. I, you know, made phone calls. I tried to do whatever I could, but people had shut down. A lot of employment opportunities had shut down," says Sumrell.
This week Americans will be getting an advance on the Child Tax Credit. Eligible families-–single parents who make less than $75,000 a year or joint filers who make less than $150,000--will receive monthly payments of $300 for each child under age 6 and up to $250 for each child 6 to 17 years old.
"I did check my account and...I did receive my portion of the child tax credit. So I am very happy," says Sumrell.
Because of the pandemic, Sumrell made less than $20,000 last year as a court mediator and a CPR trainer. She says getting the child tax credit NOW helps. She can tuck some money away for her kids' savings.
"I want to throw a little something in their account and of course, pay some bills." says Sumrell.
Like majority of Americans Serena Sumrell is able to get an advance child tax credit, but some families may be slipping through the cracks.
"We're talking about undocumented individuals who do qualify. We're talking about grandma and grandpa...maybe taking care of the kids. They also do qualify," says Carolina Guzman.
Financial navigators like Guzman of Heartland Alliance help Chicago families with financial advice. She tells Newsy undocumented parents with children born in the U.S., grandparents who are sole guardians, and individuals who didn’t file taxes last year can qualify.
"So there are instances where people might not necessarily think they qualify, but they actually do. So this American family rescue plan is to alleviate child poverty. So it's really focused on the child. So if there's a child that has a Social Security number, they're able to receive the tax benefit," says Guzman.
Alisa Rodriguez has seen first-hand how the pandemic has impacted families. And as a someone who worked for Chicago’s Family and Support Services for more than 30 years, she's urging families to utilize this opportunity.
"Every day I see more and more applications come in for people needing rental assistance because they're falling behind. And as the eviction moratoriums start to get lifted across the country, that's a huge need. This funding can help keep people house, can help keep people in their homes. Right? And what parent doesn't want that," says Rodriguez.
"I do believe that the other families like myself would be very happy to see that money come in their accounts for the next six months. They'll be smiling like me," says Sumrell.