For these WV moms, the expanded Child Tax Credit paid for “bear” necessities 


February 11, 2022

Some of the 500 teddy bears used to represent the thousands of kids who are back in poverty now that the expanded CTC has been discontinued.

500 teddy bears — each representing 100 West Virginia children who will fall into poverty without the CTC expansion — made their way to the U.S. Capitol last week. Photo by Nicolai Haddal.

Even in a pandemic, the grounds of the U.S. Capitol tend to attract a lot of human visitors. But bears? Not so much. 

That changed earlier this month when a group of West Virginia moms, flanked by 500 teddy bears, gathered for a rally to highlight support for continuing the expanded Child Tax Credit that was passed in March 2021 as part of the American Rescue Plan but was allowed to expire in December. 

It was all a part of the “Unbearable Campaign,” with the message being that allowing millions of American families to slip into poverty without the expanded CTC benefit is, well, unbearable. 

The Washington Post set the scene: 

“Wednesday morning they were arrayed on the National Mall, on folding tables, in laundry baskets and on the grass with the U.S. Capitol building in the background. There were pink bears and bears with top hats, bears wearing bow ties and bears with kilts, white bears and brown bears and bears in overalls. 

“Each of these bears represents 100 children,” Amy Jo Hutchison, a Wheeling mother and organizer of the event, said during a brief rally with a half-dozen other “Mama Bears” who had made the trip to Washington. “Together these 500 bears represent the 50,000 West Virginia kiddos who have been pushed back into poverty since the halt of the child tax credit payments.” 

Hutchison was one of about half a dozen women who spoke at the rally. The women talked about how the CTC payments made their families’ lives “bearable,” allowing them to pay for things like high heating costs, medical emergencies, and even the Internet, when their kids’ schools went virtual. 

“Using our children as scapegoats, pushing them back into poverty after offering them a hand up, is not only unacceptable, it’s unbearable and un-American, Hutchison said, according to the Huffington Post. 

Megan Hullinger, a mother of four from Marlinton, works as an outreach specialist for a nonprofit, helping people with mental health and substance use disorders find available services. She said the expanded CTC helped her family cover basic expenses – expenses that have continued growing after the CTC payments stopped. 

“Gas prices have gone way up, which of course means my heating cost has gone up,” she said. “Utilities have gone up. We had to pay for enough bandwidth to cover all my kids through their Zoom and everything else during school.” 

Stormy Johnson, a mother of three from Preston, works as a student support specialist for her local public school system. She told HuffPost that the expanded CTC payments stopped at a bad time, with cold weather increasing her utility bills and pushing her into debt. 

“I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to take care of my kids and provide for my kids, while making sure that they’re not stressed because they’re worried about me, because they know that I’ll go without,” she said. 

The Mama Bears were making an important point: costs are up for necessities like food, gas, and heating bills, and continued monthly payments of $250 – $300 per child would make a huge difference in families’ ability to cover those costs. Losing those payments just as rising prices are hitting hard is unnecessarily unbearable. That’s what these West Virginians want Senator Manchin (D-WV) and the rest of their delegation to know. 

After the rally, the moms dispersed, entering the U.S. Capitol to seek out meetings with West Virginia’s congressional delegation. But first? Something had to be done with the teddy bears. 

Nicolai Haddal, CHN’s Field and Events Manager who attended the event, jumped in to help pack them up. “There were a lot of teddy bears,” Nicolai reports. “It turns out 500 teddy bears weigh a ton.”

A stack of teddy bears used by the WV Momma Bears

These teddy bears don’t bite — but the West Virginia “Mama Bears” do! Photo by Nicolai Haddal.