Yesterday, the U.S. Census Bureau released data collected from the 2009 census, and the findings are grim. Nearly 44 million Americans are living below the poverty line, which is the highest recorded number of Americans living in poverty since the census began tracking this data 51 years ago. This represents an increase in the nation’s official poverty rate to 14.3 percent, up from 13.2 percent in 2008.
As the November elections near, these findings throw into stark relief a country in the midst of labor market turmoil, economic instability, and uncertainty and hardship for many working families.
From yesterday’s Washington Post:
Since 2007, the year before the recession kicked into gear, the country has almost 4 million fewer wage-earners. There are more children growing up poor. And for the first time since the government began tracking health insurance in 1987, the number of people who have health coverage declined, as people lost jobs with health benefits or employers stopped offering it.
While the new data reflect increased poverty due to joblessness and unemployment, they also reflect a growing demographic of the “working poor.” The “working poor” are those Americans who, despite working hard and often holding multiple jobs, struggle simply to survive. The increase in the poverty rate added 3.8 million people to the class of the “working poor,”who live so close to poverty’s edge that any minor disruption– a family illness, job layoff, or car breakdown–can start a domino effect leading towards more dire poverty and, even eventual destitution.
Scholars and practitioners have suggested various policies to help the working poor, including adjusting wage structures, increasing investment in education and workforce readiness training, and improving the social safety net and the health care system.
Corporate Voices believes, however, that businesses, especially those with large hourly workforces, have an important role to play in helping the working poor by educating their employees about the existing resources that are available to them, such as the many family-friendly tax credits expanded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (2009). These tax credits put hard-earned money back into the pockets of people who need the extra financial help to feed, clothe, house, and educate their families.
These tax credits include:
- The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC);
- The Child Care Tax Credit;
- The Making Work Pay Tax Credit, and
- The American Opportunity Tax Credit.
The Administration is in favor of maintaining and extending these tax credits for middle and low-income families. There are also resources and toolkits, like Corporate Voices’ 2009 Employer Guide, which provide businesses with practical step-by-step pointers and fliers to help them communicate the tax credits and other social benefits that are available to their employees. The Employer Guide includes (in English and Spanish):
- A short guide to tax credits and other benefits available to middle and low-income families;
- Paycheck Stuffers;
- Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Poster;
- EITC Important Dates Calendar; and
- Stored Value Cards.
Corporate Voices invites businesses to download this Employer Guide, free of charge, to use in helping improve the economic stability of their workforce. Doing so would be one step in the right direction in improving the lives of their working families, and the working poor across the country.