It is no surprise that hundreds of thousands of people stood in long lines in the hot South Florida sun seeking emergency food assistance after Hurricane Irma, because we know that working hard doesn’t necessarily mean you are thriving or even making ends meet.
In Miami-Dade, more than 314,000 households earn more than the Federal Poverty Level, yet are one emergency away from falling into poverty. For many hardworking people, Hurricane Irma was that one emergency.
On Jan. 26, community organizations, elected officials, state and local governments, schools and employers across the nation raised awareness for one of our nation’s most powerful anti-poverty tools, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which can increase a federal tax refund from $1 to $6,318 for qualified taxpayers, yet the IRS estimates nearly 20 percent of eligible taxpayers don’t claim it — leaving an estimated $1.1 billion on the table in Florida every year.
Locally, United Way financial stability experts estimate that 82,000 eligible taxpayers aren’t claiming EITC, leaving about $200 million of unclaimed refunds.
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The first step to receiving tax credits like EITC is to file correctly. Most families earning less than $54,000 may qualify for free, secure tax preparation services at Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites.
The proud members of the Miami-Dade VITA Coalition, comprised of 21 local partners and led by Branches, ensure that volunteers are trained and IRS-certified, and that more than 40 VITA sites across the county offer free tax preparation services.
To find a VITA site, or a local agency that offers year-round financial coaching and other services, dial 2-1-1 or visit: Miamifreetaxes.org.
Maria C. Alonso,
United Way of Miami-Dade,