Thanks to Jerry Roberts for his recent column “Poverty the Shame of Santa Barbara” showcasing the shocking reality that Santa Barbara County has the third highest rate of poverty in California, according to a study conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC). While the statistics are alarming coming from a place many think of as paradise — one in four children live in poverty — the PPIC also found that government programs helped keep millions more out of poverty.
Specifically, the study sites the Earned Income Tax Credit — a cash-back program that allows eligible workers to claim up to $6,000 per year. For decades it has been one of the most proven ways to help low-income workers afford life’s basic needs — housing, transportation, health care, and food. Yet millions of Californians fail to claim the money they’ve earned, leaving billions on the table. In 2017, just over 3,000 Santa Barbara County families claimed it; this year, encouragingly, that number has jumped to nearly 12,000 households totaling $2.8 million back in the pockets of our hardworking neighbors — especially those with children.
Santa Barbara can be a community where everyone who works can afford their basic needs. The tools do exist to end poverty. As a start, every government and social service agency should be promoting the California Earned Income Tax Credit so that every eligible family claims the money they’ve earned. For more information, including an eligibility calculator, please check out CalEITC4Me.org.