It is expensive to be poor. The savings many of us enjoy from buying in bulk may be out of reach for someone living paycheck to paycheck and who can only afford a single item at a time. Costs many of us take for granted, such as transportation to work or child care, can become insurmountable barriers to meeting basic needs at the end of the month. For some families, a life of struggle seems to be their lot for generations.
Catholic teaching urges the government to accept its role in reducing such barriers where it can. While we, along with people of many other faiths, encourage individuals and families to attain self-sufficiency, there are times when a person or family simply cannot reach the next rung on the ladder out of poverty. That may be the result of a series of unfortunate events, such as unexpected illnesses coupled with job loss and a car that gives up in the midst of all the other economic troubles. It may be due to some bad decisions that, no matter how hard the person tries to remedy, continue to create barriers to success.
Whatever the reason someone is mired in poverty, when the state has the power to intervene, it is in the best interest of all citizens for government to do what it can, especially when doing so also helps improve family stability.
They are many ways to assist families in such circumstances, including one being debated now at the Utah Legislature, an earned income tax credit.
Since the inception of the federal EITC, its positive impacts on poverty are well-documented. The success of the federal EITC has led 29 states to adopt EITCs as well. Utah is poised to do the same, thanks to the work of Rep. John Westwood, R-Cedar City, sponsor of HB57 Utah Intergenerational Poverty Work and Self-Sufficiency Tax Credit.
HB57 provides a refundable tax credit of 10 percent of the federal EITC for families that qualify as experiencing intergenerational poverty, a term defined by the state. This means that roughly 25,000 families in Utah who have grown up experiencing poverty and whose children are growing up in similar circumstances will receive up to a $600 tax credit each year.2 comments on this story
Few families would say that an extra $600 is not a significant contribution to their budgets. For families in poverty, it may mean the difference between being able to afford transportation to work, attending training to gain a better-paying job or maybe even just buying something that the family decides it wants after ages of being told what they can and cannot afford. In other words, it recognizes the dignity of families. Not only does the EITC help improve self-sufficiency, it does so in a manner that does not dictate to the family what its needs are but leaves those decisions to those in the best position to make the choice — the family.
HB57 has received bipartisan support throughout the legislative process but does have a $6 million price tag. That is a small price to pay, however, for the benefits that will accrue statewide if even a fraction of the 25,000 eligible families move out of poverty. If you agree, please contact your state senator and urge them to support HB57.