The California Earned Income Tax Credit (Cal EITC) — which has been called one of the strongest tools to fight poverty — put $3.3 million in the pockets of Santa Barbara County low-income workers this year. Current legislature has doubled that for 2020, potentially giving up to $8.3 million next year.
“Thanks to Senator [Hannah-Beth] Jackson and Assemblymember [Monique] Limón, the doubled [Cal EITC] will help tens of thousands of working families in Santa Barbara County better afford life’s basic needs, including high housing costs,” said Laura Capps, Santa Barbara school boardmember and boardmember of CalEITC4Me, a partnership spreading the word about the program.
The Cal EITC is a cash-back tax credit that gives money back to California’s low-income working families and individuals. It’s now a $1 billion program, with an estimated three million eligible households. The households represent seven million Californians, more than one million of whom are children. Of the eligible parents, 70 percent are mothers, according to CalEITC4Me’s communications director, Morgan True.
In light of this data, True said CalEITC4Me is extending its outreach beyond the tax season because people can still file a tax return and claim a Cal EITC refund throughout the year. True said they’re currently running a back-to-school campaign intended to remind parents that it’s not too late to file and claim the credit. Next year, working parents with children under 6 can get an additional $1,000 credit.
“The challenge is getting the word out so that the money does in fact end up back in the pockets of those who have earned it,” Capps said. Working parents aren’t the only Californians that EITC4Me is targeting its outreach towards. Young people, often working college students, are also one of the main target groups.
This was the first year young people ages 18-24 were also eligible for the program. An estimated 600,000 young Californians were eligible for the program this year, but True said that the number is likely to increase in 2020 under the new expansion.
CalEITC4Me held an outreach event at Santa Barbara City College in February, and True said the partnership will continue to hold similar events at colleges before next tax season. With the program expansion, workers making up to $30,000, which likely will include more college students, are now eligible to claim the tax credit.
Researchers at UC Berkeley found that a 10 percent increase in the EITC program and minimum wage had a significant impact on lowering the number of non-drug-related suicides among low-wage workers without degrees. Their study estimated the EITC might help prevent more than 1,200 suicides each year.