January 24, 2020
Every year, about 50,000 low-income D.C. residents claim the federal and D.C. Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) that collectively disburse over $115 million to families and individuals in the District. That’s something to celebrate.
But roughly 20,000 low-wage workers in the District are missing out on this benefit, which could add thousands of dollars to their family’s budget every year, according to Capital Area Asset Builders. This is an even higher share than the estimated 20 percent of eligible taxpayers nationally who don’t claim the EITC.
The state and federal EITC and federal nutrition programs, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), are among the most effective programs in fighting poverty because they provide additional food and financial resources to low-income households. A family of three in D.C. with one full-time minimum-wage worker, for instance, struggles to get by on $21,840 a year (before taxes). That family can receive critical support with an average of $4,702 in federal and D.C. EITC benefits, plus an average of $3,192 in annual SNAP benefits, totaling nearly $8,000
The tax filing deadline for 2020 is Monday, April 15. So there’s plenty of time for families to learn about and apply for EITC. To help expand eligibility, DCHS will continue its partnership with D.C. Community Tax Aid to help eligible residents claim the EITC credit and enroll in SNAP.
DCHS staff is busy preparing for the 2020 D.C. EITC Campaign, which is slated to begin at the end of January. This campaign is a citywide, cross-sector initiative that educates the public about EITC and other tax benefits to ensure that eligible residents know how to claim them. It’s also an opportunity to connect low-income taxpayers with other programs and services, like SNAP, to improve their financial stability and nutritional health.
As part of the campaign, DCHS staff will be conducting SNAP outreach and application assistance at five sites in the District. Last year, DCHS deployed 36 volunteers who pre-screened 810 people and helped 410 people apply for SNAP benefits.
While 98 percent of eligible people in D.C. receive SNAP benefits, studies show that these benefits often aren’t enough for many families, some of whom report still not having enough food. EITC refunds can help increase food security. In fact, 20 to 25 percent of tax preparation clients indicate that purchasing food is a primary use of their EITC money. And research shows that when families have enough food and a larger budget, there are long-term positive impacts on education, career, health, and quality of life.