Gwen & Glen: EITC Belongs to the Kids

DSC_6331Gwen and Glen live in Candler, NC and have two children: a 19 year-old daughter and 14 year-old son. They have received the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for the past 18 years, “since my daughter was born,” says Gwen.  They have spent their careers in the medical field, Gwen as a Certified Nursing Assistant for the past 20 years, while Glen has recently moved onto customer service, due to health issues. As of next year, North Carolina will no longer have a state  EITC (the federal EITC will continue). The federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) keeps many families above the poverty line. In 2011, the EITC helped 293,000 North Carolinians – half of whom were children. This federal income tax credit for low-income working families and individuals has been an effective anti-poverty tool – helping working families afford groceries, clothing, transportation, and basic needs. That is why many states, like North Carolina, created a state level EITC to build on the success of the federal credit.

Glen and Gwen were shocked when they learned that Governor McCrory and the NC Legislature decided to end the North Carolina EITC after 2013. Each year, they use the money from their EITC to purchase school supplies, school clothes and pay for school trips for their children. “We get the tax break because of the kids, so in my mind, the money belongs to them.”  With a reduced EITC, they say they will have to rely on family, their church and non-profits to help them pay for school supplies and clothing for their son. “He grows out of a pair of shoes every 6 months, and now that he’s older, the clothes are more expensive,” says Gwen.

Local non-profits are already feeling the effects of higher demand coupled with funding cuts to public assistance programs. Nonprofits often rely on the faith communities to help fill in gaps. Lisa Barlow, Success Coordinator at Emma for local non-profit Children First/Communities In Schools (CIS) says: “I see our faith communities like a rubber band,and each month, we are asking them to give more, give more. And many times, they answer the call. But they are stretched thin, and we don’t want them to break.” With this new cut in family budgets, it is expected that churches and local non-profitswill have even more demands for dwindling funds.

Glen & Gwen estimated that their combined state and federal EITC totaled about $4,000. In 2011, the average state portion of the tax credit received by working families was $116, with a family like the Glen & Gwen’s receiving an estimated $272. For low-income, working families every dollar helps meet the needs of their children.  “This is frustrating, because it’s the kids that get hurt,” says Glen. “No parent wants to say, “Sorry, we can’t get that for you. But sometimes you have to.”

When Governor McCrory and the state legislature ended the NC EITC last year, they passed additional tax breaks for wealthy North Carolinians and corporations. It is time to reinstate North Carolina’s Earned Income Tax Credit for working families and build a fairer tax system that invests in the success of children and families in our community.

This story is part of a series collected by The Success Equation. Under the umbrella of Children First/CIS, the Success Equation is an initiative that unites community to reduce and prevent poverty so all children can thrive. Partners include the Cathedral of All Souls, Girl Scouts Peak to Piedmont, Junior League of Asheville, Just Economics, Innovative Partners International, Innovograph, Searchlight Consulting, Women’s Wellbeing and Development Foundation, and YWCA. To find out more go to find out more, go to www.childrenfirstcisbc.org.

State legislators make important decisions about tax policy that can assist low-income workers. This past year, they chose to end the NC Earned Income Tax Credit.  Find out important voter education and registration information at www.votebuncombe.org