How a tax credit changed my life
Editor’s note: This post was originally published on RESULTS’ blog on September 29. CHN’s recent report, The High Cost of Being Poor in the U.S., also calls for the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit to low-income workers who aren’t raising children and for making it available to such workers at age 21 rather than 25. Expanding the EITC to these workers would benefit up to 16.2 million people.
A few years ago, I was a full-time college student working two jobs to make ends meet. My son was still a toddler. I thought I could juggle it all, but I fell behind on tuition payments and owed the university money I couldn’t pay back. I had no option but to drop out. It was devastating, and given the circumstances, I wasn’t sure if or when I’d be able to re-enroll.
It’s thanks to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) that I was able to pay off my student debt and start taking courses again. In December 2015, I graduated with two bachelor degrees and now I’m pursuing a master’s degree, too. I feel so proud that I can show my son — and not just tell him — how important education is. He’ll grow up knowing that if I did it, he can, too.
I never thought a tax credit could have such a profound impact on my life, but according to recent data by the U.S. Census Bureau, tax credits like the EITC lifted 9.2 million Americans like me out of poverty in 2015. I think about all the people who were able to go back to school, catch up on rent, or finally pay for car repairs because of the EITC. But I also think about the millions of people — like those without kids or under age 25 — who are mostly excluded from receiving the EITC.
Instead of just thinking to myself that this is unfair and has to change, I know that together we can actually change it. That’s what we do at RESULTS. Last year, we banded together to prevent key provisions of the EITC from expiring. I remember sitting in House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office last summer, telling his aides how these tax credits had changed my life. His staff seemed surprised. Maybe they had never thought of the EITC in such personal terms before. A few months later, Congress passed legislation that prevented 16 million people from falling into poverty or even deeper into it.
It was such a huge victory, and I know we can do it again. In the coming months, I’m going to work harder than ever to make sure that the EITC is expanded to workers without kids and young workers. I want everyone to have the same opportunity I did to move out of poverty and make a better life.