COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The expanded Child Tax Credit expired for Americans at the end of the year, which means millions of families could soon fall back into financial strain, including here in Ohio.

With President Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan failing to pass in Congress, one mother of five tells me without the CTC, she and her husband will be forced to choose between paying their bills or putting food on the table for their children.

“How is our family going to be able to take care of the bare minimum?” is the question that, in recent weeks, had led to many sleepless nights for Rainey Richardson.

“I’ve had them,” Rainey admits. “I want to be up front; I’ve had them. And as a mother that’s a natural instinct, you’re going to be concerned.”

For the last six months, 36 million families nationwide received a monthly payment from the IRS through the CTC.

Now, many parents like Richardson face insurmountable financial strain.

“We shouldn’t have to choose whether the bill is more important than buying food, in order to keep electricity going, in order to keep a roof over our head,” Richardson describes.

Richardson and her husband bring home about a combined $5,000 per month after taxes; she says, sometimes that isn’t even enough to cover fixed costs.

“We don’t have much left over after paying all the bills, sometimes we don’t even meet the requirement,” admits Richardson.

Now, local leaders are sounding the alarm on behalf of struggling families.

“These funds were used on rent, utility payments, mortgage, food,” Franklin County Commissioner Erica Crawley describes.

According to Crawley, more than 400,000 Ohioans took advantage of the expanded CTC program since its inception.

She says the expiring CTC is just a snapshot of wider problematic picture.

“Like, we have to pay a living wage,” Crawley says of the current wage rates. “So, people don’t have to worry and depend on a child tax credit, to supplement their income.”

With some parents now forced to wonder where their child’s next meal may come from, Crawley says it’s the youth who face the most severe implications.

“It really does lift children out of poverty, and should we not have that be extended, we’ll see more children be back in poverty,” Crawley warns.

Now, both women are calling on local leaders to take action.

“Reach out to your government leaders, your elected leaders and let them know that this is something we know, that data shows, makes a difference,” encourages Crawley.

“This is a system that has worked. We need you to reinstate that system for American families,” Richardson pleas.

Without legislative changes, the Child Tax Credit in 2022 will revert to its prior form — a $2,000 annual credit, versus the program’s expanded credit of up to $3,600 per child, half of which is made in monthly payments.