EITC Awareness Day: A lifeline to opportunity

Heather Rude-Turner credits the earned-income tax credit (EITC) for helping her family stay out of poverty. Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World.

By Robin Stephenson

When Heather Rude-Turner was at the end of her rope, the earned-income tax credit (EITC) gave her a lifeline.

In 2008, the single mother of two young children worked as a preschool teacher but struggled to put food on the table.  “Having that extra income – the EITC – gave me that extra cushion to take care of our basic needs and then save some away,” said Rude-Turner in a 2012 interview. The refundable tax credit of $3,000 she received stopped a crisis from becoming a tragedy.

Today is EITC Awareness Day!

One in five workers eligible for EITC does not claim the credit. The awareness day was created to reach more low-income working families and encourage them to file for EITC at tax time. Bread members should also use the day to celebrate their 2015 victory in making the extension of EITC benefits permanent, the families it helped, and knowledge that advocacy works.

Rude-Turner is proof that the EITC works. She used a portion of the money she received for rent and some of the money to pay to go back to school. Not only did the EITC help her in a tough time, but the refund also gave her the means to improve her earning power.

Working family tax credits are one of our nation’s most effective tools to fight poverty. In 2013, the EITC lifted about 6.2 million people out of poverty, including about 3.2 million children.

Rude-Turner and her family were featured in our 2010 and 2012 Offerings of Letters, which urged Congress to make improvements to working family tax credits permanent.

Last year, Congress responded to your advocacy and made the improvements permanent. This legislative achievement will prevent 16 million people (including 8 million children) from falling into or deeper into poverty.

But don’t rest too long; we still have work to do.

Childless low-income workers are often taxed into poverty. Strengthening the tax credit to this group of workers would change that. Both President Obama and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) have proposed expanding the credits for childless workers, showing strong bipartisan support for action.

More than 49 million Americans live in households that struggle to put food on the table. Many of them have jobs, but their paychecks just don’t cut it. The EITC can help. Spread the word!

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior regional organizer at Bread for the World.

Photo: Heather Rude-Turner credits the earned-income tax credit (EITC) for helping her family stay out of poverty. Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World. 

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