A diverse group of Georgia Work Credit advocates testified in support of a state earned income tax credit (EITC) at the Gold Dome on Thursday, Feb. 21. Speaking before the Georgia Senate Finance Committee on Senate Bill 41, which would create a 10 percent refundable state EITC, advocates outlined the multitude of ways that working families across Georgia would benefit from a bottom-up tax cut.
Danny Kanso, policy analyst at the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, provided an overview of the EITC, how the credit works, and what benefits a state version would offer to 1.1 million working Georgia families. He noted the legislation followed in the tradition of a federal credit that has received broad bipartisan support over more than 40 years. The federal EITC is widely regarded as one of the most effective policies ever enacted to reduce poverty and increase economic mobility.
Keeva Kase, CEO at Buckhead Christian Ministry, spoke about how the Georgia Work Credit would help his ministry’s clients have a better opportunity to help themselves and their families. A tax cut of even a couple hundred dollars can make a huge difference to families living paycheck to paycheck. In a recent BCM survey about the EITC, clients reported using the money from the existing federal credit to repair a work vehicle, pay off student loans, save for their children’s education, and even start a small business.
Danielle Breidung, Director of Financial Security at Step Up Savannah, spoke about the experiences of families “on the margins” in Savannah who are on the cusp of “surviving, thriving or something in between.” She highlighted the high number of Georgia families who cannot afford even a modest financial emergency and can be thrown into a downward spiral when something goes wrong.
Lauren Waits, Director of Government Affairs for the Atlanta Community Food Bank, drew attention to the link between financial security and hunger. The Georgia Work Credit would help working families keep food on the table. Lauren shared the story of a family from Cherokee county who fell on hard times after a job loss, visited a local food pantry, and received the federal EITC. The family spent the credit to keep the utilities on and make ends meet while searching for a new job.
Andrea Johnson, Senior Counsel for State Policy at the National Women’s Law Center, communicated the benefits a Georgia Work Credit would provide to women in Georgia. Women make up a disproportionate share of the low-wage work force, and NWLC has heard from women nationwide about using the EITC to afford diapers, car repairs, and other important needs.
Laura Colbert, Executive Director of Georgians for a Healthy Future, explained that a Georgia Work Credit would offer significant health benefits to hardworking families across the state. She noted that studies have linked the EITC to healthier babies, healthier mothers and improvements in mental health. Researchers have even called the earned income tax credit one of the most cost-effective health interventions available to policymakers.
Ann Mintz, Director of Public Policy for the United Way of Greater Atlanta, closed out the testimony by saying “the EITC has been pivotal to our work at United Way.” She also described the key role that volunteer income tax assistance plays in helping families maximize their tax credits.