By Toni G. Atkins
Last month, the Assembly passed HR 33, a resolution that I co-authored with Assemblymember Mark Stone proclaiming Jan. 22 to be California Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day.
That day, I held an event at the Jacobs Center in Valencia Park aimed at promoting the state’s new Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). I want everyone who’s eligible for this benefit to claim it on their tax return. It’s extra money for the lowest-income workers and their families.
I can tell you from my own experience growing up poor in Virginia how much every little bit helps when it comes to putting better meals on the dinner table and new shoes on the kids’ feet.
I’d like to acknowledge a few of the people who participated in the kick-off on Jan. 22; Dr. Shirley Weber (who moved the EITC through the budget process last year), and entrepreneur and investor Joe Sanberg, who has generously funded the outreach campaign CalEITC4me.
Also speaking were Mark Cafferty, president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation; Doug Moore, executive director of the UDW Homecare Providers Union; and Laura Tancredi-Baese, CEO of Home Start, one of several San Diego agencies where local residents can obtain free tax assistance through the VITA program.
We also want to thank everyone who attended the kick-off.
The federal Earned Income Tax Credit is widely recognized as one of the most effective ways to fight poverty. But too many people who are eligible for the benefit — which can add up to thousands of dollars every year — don’t file for it, not only depriving themselves and their families of money they are entitled to, but also depriving local communities of an economic boost.
Now, many low-income Californians have a second benefit that they can claim, and so we have yet another reason to spread the word and make sure people know how easy it is to get these helpful credits.
The state credit will help roughly 1.5 million low-income working Californians and pump $380 million into local economies throughout the state. Families can get up to roughly $2,600, depending on their number of children and level of income, lifting tens of thousands of people out of poverty.
But for that to happen, people have to know about it. That’s where Joe Sanberg is helping.
CalEITC4me is a public-private partnership that is funding a statewide outreach campaign and hosting a website, CalEITCforme.org, that provides all the information people need to find out if they qualify for the state and/or federal EITC, and how to claim them.
The state’s economy is rebounding from the recession, but the recovery hasn’t reached all Californians. Wages are still lagging. But the state’s budget is strong, so in addition to paying down debt, saving more money for a rainy day, and bolstering education, the Legislature is continuing to strengthen the social safety net for those who are struggling.
The state EITC is the cornerstone of those efforts, and an effective way to invest in people. Please help me spread the word.
Around the district: Taxpayers also should be aware that the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program is available throughout San Diego. Generally, those with incomes less than $54,000 qualify. To make an appointment, please call 2-1-1 for the site nearest to you … Human trafficking is modern-day slavery — and unfortunately, the FBI has identified San Diego as one of the cities with the highest intensity of incidents. That’s why I’m proud to have introduced two bills to give law enforcement more tools in the fight to rescue these victims, some of whom are trafficked for sex. The first bill would establish a pilot housing program for young victims so they can be safe from their captors and have access to the appropriate services to recover. The second would establish a statewide task force made up of law enforcement officials, courts and social service providers to determine best practices to detect and prevent this crime.
—Toni G. Atkins is the Speaker of the California State Assembly. For more information, visit her website, asmdc.org/speaker or follow her on Twitter, @toniatkins.