Sweeney, Weinberg & Turner Join With Anti-Poverty Advocates To Promote Tax Cut For Working Poor

Elmer Times — January 21, 2016

Following through on the successful effort to get the governor to finally agree to increase the Earned Income Tax Credit for the working poor, Senate President Steve Sweeney, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Senator Shirley Turner on January 14, 2016 joined with an array of anti-poverty advocates to urge those who qualify for the EITC to take advantage of the tax cut that will put more money in their pockets this year.

Considered one of the most effective anti-poverty programs in the country, the EITC is a refundable tax credit for the working poor. The governor reduced the credit in 2010 from 25 percent to 20 percent of the federal credit amount and repeatedly refused to accept legislative initiatives restoring the cut until 2015 when he signed a bill sponsored by Senator Sweeney. Starting this year, the EITC provides an income tax credit worth 30 percent of the federal EITC.

"Starting this year, some of New Jersey's hardest working families will get some much-needed help," said Senator Sweeney. "This is a tax cut for those who need it most - fhe working poor who struggle each and every day to support themselves and their families. This will put money in their pockets and help them meet their needs."

"We fought for years to restore the cut by the governor and he finally agreed to a restoration and an increase," said Senator Weinberg. "It shouldn't have been cut in the first place and he should have restored sooner but now our focus is to have those who qualify take advantage of it."

"Increasing the EITC benefit is the right policy to help those in need, but will also help to boost the economy since the additional resources provided to families will be used for daily expenses," said Senator Turner. "The tax break could mean money for groceries, electricity, gasoline or other necessary costs. This funding will make a real difference in the lives of those working hard to make ends meet."

The senators and the advocates said that those who qualify and need assistance to take advantage of the EITC by making use of Volunteer Income Tax Assistance centers. The VITA program offers free tax help to people who generally make $54,000 or less, persons with disabilities, the elderly and limited English speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. The help and the locations can be accessed through this link: http://tinyurl.com/ 2016EITC

"The Earned Income Tax Credit means filling a gap, preventing a crisis, and keeping people financially afloat so that they can keep working, and it means an infusion of money into our local economies as well, where it helps us all," said Serena Rice, the executive director of the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey.

"The EITC makes a huge difference for families who are struggling to make ends meet in New Jersey's difficult economy," said Ann Vardeman, program director for New Jersey Citizen Action. "However, the credit won't do any good if people don't access it or their returns are rejected. And the best way to make sure you get the full credit that is owed to them is to make an appointment at one of the many VITA cites and have an IRS-certified tax assistant file their taxes - for free. Make an appointment at a VITA site where we help working families file their forms and claim the tax refund owed them."

The 50 percent increase would raise the EITC amount for the average New Jersey family by about $117 per year.

An estimated 280,000 low-income, working families in New Jersey qualify for the tax break. Eligibility ranges from $14,880 for single childless workers to $53,505 for a family with three or more children. The amount of the state EITC and eligibility for the pro- gram is directly tied to the federal EITC. The state EITC is a fixed percentage of the federal EITC, which the IRS adjusts every year according to annual rates of inflation.

The legislators also talked about other actions that should be taken to help the working. poor, including funds needed to prevent the loss of federal food stamps. Democrats have advocated for the governor to take advantage of federal funds as part of the "Heat and Eat" program to provide a safety net for those struggling in our communities.

The governor has vetoed legislation that would protect the approximately 160,000 New Jersey families from losing an average of $90 a month in federal food aid under the SNAP program. Recently, the governor allowed SNAP benefits to expire in high unemployment areas in New Jersey, including the Atlantic City region, Newark and Paterson. Senate President Sweeney, Majority Leader Weinberg, and Senator Turner with antipoverty advocates on January 14, 2016.

Top Top | NJCA Homepage | NJCA in the News