With Christmas this week, and the holidays here — let’s try to slow our pace and enjoy family, friends and faith. If we make a conscious effort to reflect and relax when we can, I suspect we can alleviate some stress of the hustle and bustle of the season and find peaceful moments.
As evidenced by the daily phone calls to our office, however, I am acutely aware that not everyone is experiencing peace right now. Many are struggling to feed themselves and families; some have nowhere to live (in this extreme cold); still others are stretched and exhausted at working more than one job to try to make ends meet. These are some of the reasons that at United Way of Danville Area, our focus is on reducing poverty. The only way to reduce poverty and give people hope for their future is through concrete, tangible programs and resources that people can access to lift themselves up.
Tangible sources of relief are available to working individuals and families at tax time — the EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit) and CTC (Child Tax Credit) through VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) sites. The EITC is a federal tax credit for working individuals and families who earn low or moderate incomes (under $26,000 for individuals and $52,000 for families). Enacted by Congress in 1975, it was created to reduce the tax burden on lower-income workers, supplement their wages, and encourage greater participation in the work force. It has become the nation’s largest and most effective anti-poverty program.
Enacted in 1997, the Child Tax Credit is worth up to $1,000 per eligible child and with the Additional Child Tax Credit working families can receive a refund equal to 15 percent of their earnings above $3,000, up to the credit’s full $1,000-per-child value. CTC has an instrumental role in reducing child poverty. Between 2009 and 2011, the EITC and CTC lifted 9.4 million people out of poverty, including 4.9 million children.
Research suggests that the EITC positively impacts children and families far beyond the limited time frame during which families claim the credit. Studies show that the EITC encourages work, reduces poverty, improves child health and academic achievement, increasing the likelihood of college attendance and improving prospects for higher earnings when children become adults (http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?faview&id3793).
In the three years of local VITA sites in Vermilion County coordinated by DACC’s accounting professor Lyle Hicks, more than $1,500,000 has been returned to local residents because of the EITC and CTC with tax returns filed for free. As part of the Vermilion VITA Coalition, we need your help.
Volunteers are needed to be trained to serve as greeters and tax preparers to allow more families to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity. There are six VITA sites this year — DACC in Danville and at its Hoopeston site, MerChe Manor, Laura Lee Fellowship House, Georgetown-Ridge Farm High School and Community Action Program of Western Indiana in Covington. Volunteers are trained by Hicks with IRS curriculum and standards, can volunteer whatever amount of time they are able — generally any portion of Monday through Thursday, 4:30-7:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon from Jan. 23 through April 15.
Please help us make the VITA, EITC and CTC available to even more people this year and help us reduce poverty. Together, we can achieve more than any single group can alone. Call Hicks at 443-8559 or me at 442-3512 to find out more and sign up — you will be glad you did! Give. Advocate. Volunteer. Live United.
Jeanne M. Mulvaney is president of United Way of Danville Area, Inc., 28 W. North St., Danville, IL 61832. Phone: 442-3512.