Celebrating EITC Awareness Day!

The Earned Income Tax Credit is the most effective poverty-fighting tool in the United States Tax Code. But as much as 20 percent of the population who qualifies for this tax credit does not know they are eligible and the credits could put thousands back in their pocket each year.

If you received income from working for someone or from running your own business or farm, you might qualify. You also must be a U.S. citizen for the entire tax year with a social number for yourself, and your spouse or children, if applicable. There are income limits which vary by household type, so read more about that here.

In Pennsylvania, 919,000 people claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit for tax year 2015. The average refund received by a Pennsylvanian was $2,271. That means the working people of our state claimed a total of $2.1 billion to support their families.

What do these dollars mean to working families? Research has shown most EITC refund recipients spend at least a portion of their refund immediately. Research also demonstrates that the funds are spent for a variety of reasons, including purchase and repair for cars that get people back and forth to work, clothes for their kids, housing expenses, and paying down credit card debt. Many families also bank a portion of their refund for emergencies.

United Way helps families with an annual income less than $54,000 to access these credits through Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) programs in many communities. VITA allows to get your taxes prepared for free by a trained volunteer. United Way also provides myfreetaxes.com, powered by H&R Block, and this is an online service available to anyone with an income of $64,000 or less to file their taxes for free. Seniors also can access free basic tax preparation in many communities. More information is available on UWP’s web site and you can find out the main contact point for VITA programs in most counties here.

This tax season, we need your help in two ways:

  • Advocate to Expand the EITC. We know EITC works, yet some working Americans are excluded from the powerful, proven impacts of the EITC.  In fact, about 7.5 million Americans, and 554,000 Pennsylvanians among them, are actually taxed into poverty largely because they are ineligible for the EITC or the EITC is too small. We can change that by raising our voices together – learn more and take action.
  • Spread the Word – Help family and friends connect to the EITC. One in five who are eligible for the EITC are leaving money on the table – money that can make a big difference in paying bills and putting food on the table. Anyone earning $64,000 or less in 2016 can do their taxes for free at com and can connect any credits for which they are eligible.

By connecting local community members like Jesse to existing resources and advocating to expand what works, you can make a difference today.  Please join us and #LiveUnited.

Making the Holidays Brighter Through United Way

T-Minus 3 days until Christmas time!  And right around the corner from that is the New Year! You are probably thinking, “Where did the time go!?”  Between the baking, shopping and wrapping, time can quickly get away from us.

You know what else can sometimes slip through the cracks?  Our appreciation for what the holidays really mean to us.  For most, it is a time of joy and love spent with family and friends, but for others it can be a difficult period.  For some the holidays mean a lack of money to afford presents, or little food to celebrate with.  It also means winter is upon us, which can be hard for those with limited funds to purchase proper clothing or heat their home.  It is in these times of hardship that United Way and donors to United Way can make a huge impact to make the holidays a little brighter.

United Ways across Pennsylvania have been running numerous campaigns to help bring some joy and comfort this holiday season.  United Way of Lebanon County collected winter clothing towards the #LIVEWARM initiative.  The United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey collected presents for families in need through the #AllWrappedUp initiative.  In addition to these campaigns, many United Ways across PA have provided a list of free holiday meals that will be available throughout their communities, as well as an opportunity for volunteering during the holiday season.

From a donation of winter clothing to donating some time to volunteer during the holiday season, United Way is a great way to give back to those that need some joy in their lives.  Check out your local United Way to see what opportunities are available for you.

Earned Income Tax Credits Help Veterans

Did you know that veterans are among the 7.5 million American workers currently taxed into, or deeper into poverty? We can and must change that.

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is the nation’s strongest tool to promote work and help working families keep more of what they earn to pay for things like childcare, groceries, and car repairs so they can get to work. Across the nation, about 2 million veteran and military families receive the EITC and the Child Tax Credit, another critical work support.  But 600,000 veteran and military service members who aren’t raising children at home are largely excluded from the pro-work, anti-poverty benefits of the EITC.

The EITC helps workers keep more of what they earn. Here in Pennsylvania, 919,00 families claim the EITC, pumping more than $2 billion back into our state’s economy at an average rate of almost $2300 per EITC claim.

Many of our United Ways partner in efforts to provide free income tax preparation services to low income families. They have shared their firsthand knowledge of how these EITC dollars are used. They help fix the furnace or pay the car repair bill or reduce credit card debt. A few of those dollars might end up in a savings account for a rainy day. Those who benefit from the EITC dollars need them, and for some it is the only buffer which keeps them out of poverty.

Currently people between the ages of 21 and 24 cannot claim the EITC. Those who aren’t raising children at home also can access little to no EITC even if their income levels would otherwise qualify them. In Pennsylvania, that means 30,000 veterans and military service members cannot currently access this form of tax relief.

We can do better for those who have sacrificed for our country. Congress can change this law. You can help by voicing your support to expand the EITC. Go here to write your elected representatives in Washington and urge them to help veterans and military service members to keep more of what they earn.

Election Day is Here!

Today, Pennsylvanians go to the polls to vote for the candidates which we believe will be the best leaders for our country and our state. There is no question in the minds of most Americans that the 2016 election has been one of the most negative campaigns we have seen in our country’s history. But this is not just a product of bad behavior by the candidates themselves. It reflects deep disagreement among the electorate about what our country’s largest challenges are, and how to address them. So the question that lingers is how do we resolve the problems which have created such steep divides in our communities?

The nonprofit sector should not discount its ability to contribute to solutions which help bridge the divide in the coming months and years. A recent report by Independent Sector, titled “United for Charity: How Americans Trust and Value the Charitable Sector”, shows that more than three quarters of the United States trusts the charitable sector and believes we need a bigger role in solving this country’s challenges.

Throughout our history, Americans have turned to nonprofit organizations to provide a strong, collective voice to inform and influence public policy. United Way’s credo is “Give. Advocate. Volunteer.”   United Way has a vital role to play in strengthening democracy, advancing freedom of expression and adding richness and diversity to community life. We pride ourselves on being able to bring together civic-minded individuals from all parts of the community to give of their time, talents and treasure in support of advancing the common good.

The people who sit around the table at United Way board meetings or allocation committee meetings are working together for a mission. They serve the public, but they do so without labeling themselves as republicans or democrats or independents. They come from diverse backgrounds, but their differences do not define their work. They have a shared objective to advance the common good. They strive to make wise investments and measure results. They wrestle with complex and deeply-rooted community challenges as they try to make long-term improvements.

The healing process that lies ahead needs to be about much more than graceful concession speeches and a peaceful transition of power. As the passions of “my candidate versus their candidate” die away on social media, we need all those with whom a chord has been struck during this election to engage with the nonprofit sector in service to their communities. We need policy makers to commit to nurture partnerships which support the work of charities. And we need organizations like United Way to be a forum where citizens look beyond ideology, tackle the tough issues and reach for common ground to move our nation forward.

United Way of PA-What It’s All About

A lot of people have heard of the United Way.  Some people make contributions to United Way, some people volunteer with United Way or an affiliated partner, some people seek services from United Way, and some people have no clue what United Ways do.

United Way is the largest privately-funded nonprofit in the world.  Yes, your read that correctly- the world!

United Way was started in 1887 by Frances Wisebart Jacobs, the Rev. Myron W. Reed, Msgr. William J.O’Ryan, Dean H. Martyn Hart and Rabbi William S. Friedman.  Together, these 5 individuals created an organization to collect funds for local charities, to coordinate relief services, to counsel and refer clients to cooperating agencies, and to make emergency assistance grants for cases that could not be referred.  This was the nation’s first united campaign that later developed into United Way.

Today, United Way is engaged in nearly 1,800 communities and operates in more than 40 countries! This is an amazing feat for any multinational company, let alone a nonprofit organization.  United Way works with strategic partners to impact our top focus areas of education, income, and health.  Through volunteers, advocacy, and donations, United Way is impacting over 50 million lives each year!

So, what is the United Way of PA (UWP)?  United Way of PA is state organization providing support to local United Ways throughout the Commonwealth in their efforts to advance the common good.

United Way of Pennsylvania envisions a Commonwealth where all individuals and families achieve their human potential through education, income stability and healthy lives. We believe this can be accomplished by building and sustaining a United Way network committed to community impact, collaboration and results.

I hope you will check out our website and keep up-to-date with what United Ways are doing in PA through our E-Letter.