Students Volunteer to Spread Knowledge About Earned Income Tax Credit

Whitman students have teamed up with the Walla Walla Asset Building Coalition to educate local families of Walla Walla about the possible tax returns that  low-income individuals, particularly working individuals with children, are eligible to receive.

Large amounts of money under the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) go unclaimed every year, and are available to millions of low-income individuals across the nation. Workers who qualify for the EITC first file their federal income tax returns and claim the credit. For low-income Walla Wallans, the EITC could mean gaining extra money to spend on necessary items like rent or medical emergencies.

The Walla Walla EITC campaign is spearheaded by Steve Dickerson, coordinator of the Walla Walla Asset Building Coalition. The coalition is comprised of local banks, schools and local government officials, among others, and aims to fight poverty within the community.

“The Walla Walla Asset Building Coalition as part of both state-wide emphasis on asset building as well as national level is interested to see asset building as reducing the poverty rate in the community,” said Assistant Dean of Student Engagement Noah Leavitt.

At Whitman, Community Service Coordinator Abby Juhasz organized the campaign for Whitman volunteers. Students can sign up to volunteer for the campaign until Wed., March 6 by emailing Juhasz.

“This is the first year Whitman students have volunteered with the Asset Building Coalition to support the EITC.  However, Whitman students have been involved with the Asset Building Coalition and BMAC, in general, in a variety of ways over the years,” said Juhasz.

For many students participating in the campaign, volunteering with the coalition gives them an opportunity to be an active motivator for change in Walla Walla.

“We are surrounded by people who are at an economic disadvantage in comparison to us and living here, being middle to upper class … Its an opportunity for us to give back to the community,” said first-year Katy Wills.

The EITC campaign is set into three stages. The first stage was to advertise the campaign to the public, and the students did this by hanging posters all over Walla Walla. With the second phase, the campaign has hung posters and handed out handbills to targeted employers in town to share with their employees and clients, reaching to more targeted people of the campaign. The final stage has been to partner with the volunteers from Blue Mountain Action Council’s AmeriCorps to set up information tables at Wal-Mart and the Community College.

Volunteers plan to table this Tues. March 5 and Wed. March 6. Students will hand out pie and educational pamphlets to community members to encourage individuals to understand the EITC and to spread the word around Walla Walla.

“Volunteers will engage with passers-bys and entice them to come get a slice of the pie, then bring up the Earned Income Tax Credit and ask if the passer-by will be getting their slice of the EITC pie this tax season. Anyone who comes to the table is welcome to take a slice whether they take literature or not, whether they have already filed their tax return or not, whether they intend to file one or not, but everyone who takes a piece of pie must be engaged about the EITC,” said Juhasz.

By participating with the Walla Walla Asset Building Coalition, Whitman volunteers are working as an active voice to reduce poverty in a cohesive and collective manner.

“At the state level, the Washington coalition can do things that local communities can’t do. It can talk to our U.S. senators about the need for increasing funding for financial education in Washington State. As a state, we can bring these local coalitions together to represent a voice to the government,” said Leavitt.

Students looking to volunteer on the campaign can email Juhasz at juhasza@whitman.edu




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