umbrella catching falling pennies

The President #TalksPoverty Just in Time for EITC Awareness Day

The word “poor” is the newest four-letter word. Our ears burn with politicians’ talk of the “middle class” and the “rising middle class.” But rarely, if ever, do we hear them speak about the poor.

But President Obama broke this silence on Monday, directly naming the words “poverty” and “poor” three times in his inaugural address. We commend him for beginning this conversation, for naming some of the problems and also naming some programs that work—that catch Americans who fall on hard times and help them lift themselves back out of poverty.

One program that has proven success at doing this is not even a “program” at all. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is what’s known as a refundable tax credit. Without any private or public help, like the EITC provides, in a D.C. suburb (a suburb in which one out of three kids receives free or reduced school meals) a single mother with a preschooler must earn $30/hour just to meet their basic needs. Based on a family’s size and income, the tax credit provides a refund to help make the tax code more progressive and help low-income earners make ends meet.

sharron holquinSharron Holquin lives in this D.C. suburb. She used her EITC refund to buy a car, which she was then able to use to apply to jobs as well as drive herself to college so she could earn a degree in person rather than over the internet, as she had been doing up until then. She currently works at Sam’s Club, where she recently earned employee of the month. She is so thankful for finding out about the EITC that she feels a need to give back. Since she can’t do so financially, she instead volunteers most of her time to working in the outreach department for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), making her community aware of this tax credit. As a volunteer, Sharron constantly hears from clients who ask her each year if the credit will be available again since it was so helpful the past year. The good news is that it is available, at least for the next five years as passed in the latest deficit deal in Congress.

Sharron’s outreach work is vitally needed—one in five people who qualify for the EITC fail to claim it because they don’t know it’s available. This number was higher not too long ago, but we’d like to see it reduced even further. For that reason, today is EITC Awareness Day.

You may not qualify for the EITC, and maybe none of your closest friends do either, but if you teach one person about the EITC today, and they do the same, maybe—and very likely—at least one person who works full time but still can’t support their family will hear about and be able to lift themselves out of poverty.Your Money. You Earned It. Now Claim It.

I challenge you to share just one of these quick facts and resources with just one person today.

  • Children whose families received EITC refunds while they were between 0 and 5 years old earn an average of 17% more when they enter the workforce.
  • Spreading the word about the EITC is easy. Here are some ways to do it, including just putting a flyer about the tax credit in a food basket a family receives.

Tax filing begins on January 30. As you (or your accountant) begin to—eek!—prepare your taxes, take a few minutes to help someone else receive the refund they too deserve but just don’t know about and don’t have anyone to tell them it’s available…except you.


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Raechel Banks

About Raechel Banks

Raechel Banks is an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant. She grew up in Dallas, TX, as a member of Temple Emanu-El. She recently graduated from Brandeis University.

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