From Homelessness to Financial Stability

By: Will White

 

Betty is someone who knows first-hand the challenges of being a single mom. She is currently raising her eight-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter and paying the rent and putting food on the table is incredibly difficult on a single income, especially when you’re trying to make ends meet in a community with a high cost of living like the Bay Area.

Fortunately, a key government program, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), provided a critical cash supplement that helped Betty make a better life for her family. Betty learned about the EITC through United Way Bay Area’s free tax preparation service Earn It! Keep It! Save It!, and the savings helped her develop a path to financial stability.

However, things weren’t always like this for Betty and her children. After raising her two other kids at an early age, she found herself as a new mother of two at a later stage in life. While her career in health care services allowed her to provide for her new family, a debilitating orthopedic condition eventually prevented her from working. Without a steady income, Betty became homeless and was forced to move her family in and out of extended stay motels and the shelter system.

For the next three years, Betty and her family endured this reality, moving from motel to motel and shelter to shelter, somehow finding a way to keep her family off the street. Everything changed in 2013 when Betty applied for an affordable housing unit at the Alameda Point Collaborative, a supportive housing community that provides access to a variety of wrap-around services, which help ease the burden of raising her family alone.

There, Betty received access to medical coverage to treat her condition, obtained job training to re-enter the workforce, and had her taxes prepared for free by UWBA’s Earn It! Keep It! Save It! program. While she hadn’t filed a tax return in several years, Betty was shocked to find that she qualified for almost $4,000 in State and Federal EITC, as well as the Child Tax Credit.

When I spoke with Betty about how the EITC impacted her life she told me receiving the EITC restored her sense of self-worth. It gave her a renewed energy and confidence to get back on her feet and re-enter the workforce. She was also able to buy her young son that new pair of shoes he’s been wanting.

Sadly, Betty’s story isn’t unique as many families in the Bay Area are struggling to make ends meet and the EITC provides a critical lifeline when times are tough. At United Way Bay Area, we continue to advocate on both the state and federal level to make improvements to this valuable program.

This June, our public policy team is headed to Washington D.C. to advocate for an expansion of the EITC so that even more working families can receive access to this successful anti-poverty program.  Learn more about the EITC and join our advocacy effort here. Together we can ensure more families like Betty’s continue to thrive with assistance from the EITC.

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