By Ann McCrystal
United Way of Hunterdon County VITA Volunteer and Past Board of Trustees President
We all agree that people should work hard, and that should be enough to pay their bills. But the truth is that many low-wage workers don’t earn enough to cover basic necessities – groceries, child care, and electricity. These low-wage workers take care of our children and our parents, teach at the local college or university and assist us at our local retail shops. In fact, more than 25% of Hunterdon Households struggle to make ends meet. We often refer to these neighbors as ALICE – Asset-Limited, Income Constrained and Employed.
United Way of Hunterdon County believes every individual deserves the opportunity to thrive. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) helps about 25 million working Americans keep more of their hard-earned money so that they can cover basic expenses without relying on public assistance. ALICE uses the EITC to buy or repair cars, purchase clothes, things that other Americans can afford to pay for throughout the year.
Plus, Economic boosters like the EITC ensure that average Americans have enough money to keep up and contribute to our economy – For every EITC dollar a recipient earns, they return $1.5 to $2.00 to the local economy. That’s good for everyone in our community.
The EITC is one of the most effective tools we have to help working ALICE families keep their heads above water, yet it excludes millions of workers. Workers not raising children at home receive only a token credit and those who are 18 -24 years old don’t qualify at all. More than 5 million American workers in this group are actually taxed into poverty, largely because they are excluded from the impacts of the EITC. Last year, hard-working families who had their taxes prepared at United Way received more than $500,000 in state and federal EITC. We would love to see that number continue to increase.
That is why, on June 13th our United Way colleagues from across the country are meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill to urge Congress to expand EITC for millions of working Americans. You can support these efforts by sending a letter today.