Congress must fight poverty
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) are among the nation’s strongest tools to promote work and help families keep more of what they earn to pay for things like childcare, groceries and car repairs so they can get to work. These important refundable tax credits give working families a hand up, not a hand out!
The latest American Community Survey data shows that about 340,000 families in Ohio are considered to be poor. That figure represents 11.6 percent of approximately 2,923,000 families in the state. Both the number and percentage of poor families here are significantly greater than the decennial census figures for 1999. For Lawrence County, the poverty rate is 18.3 percent with a median family income that falls over $7,000 short of the rest of the state. Nearly one quarter of Lawrence County children live in poverty, a number that is unacceptable.
Despite these sobering figures, the new data do show a bright spot: EITC and CTC are helping to reduce poverty for thousands of hardworking Ohio families. These critical tax credits let families keep more of what they earn so that they can make ends meet.
The United Way of the River Cities partners with the Ironton Workforce Development Resource Center to provide free tax assistance to Lawrence County residents each year, and our volunteers and staff members see first-hand just how important these tax credits are for working families who are struggling to stretch their dollars and pay for the basics like food and gas.
Even so, essential parts of the EITC and CTC will expire in 2017 if Congress doesn’t act. Congress has an important chance when considering tax legislation this year to prevent the clock from running out on these provisions that make the EITC and CTC more effective and help the credits reach more working families.
We cannot afford to go backwards. If Congress fails to save expiring EITC and CTC provisions, nearly 4,000 Lawrence County households will fall deeper into poverty.
Congress can also close a glaring hole in the EITC that leaves behind millions of workers because of their age or because they do not have children. The Census data show that nationally 1.1 million childless workers worked full time year round in 2014 but were officially in poverty. This figure (which covers adults ages 18 to 64 not living with any related children under 18) was up 35 percent since 2000.
Making the EITC more adequate for childless workers and increasing access to the credit among young workers who are just starting out – as both Paul Ryan and President Obama have proposed to do – would encourage and reward work, increase employment, and reduce poverty.
The U.S. House of Representatives is already considering legislation that would make permanent some expiring tax provisions with no mention of doing the same for the EITC and CTC provisions that help hardworking low-income families or childless workers struggling to get by. It is up to Ohio’s lawmakers in the U.S. House and Senate to ensure that the final legislation under consideration includes permanent extensions of the expiring EITC and CTC provisions.
Kaylin R. Adkins is the director of marketing for the United Way River Cities. She can be reached at 304.523.8929 extention 113.