By Jen Singeisen
Too many in our community struggle to step up into the middle class, even as they strive to do all the right things to work their way up the economic ladder. More than a quarter of Savannah’s residents live in poverty. Many neighborhoods have seen jobs vanish and incomes fall over the past three decades. When hardworking people can’t get ahead, it weighs down the economy as a whole and undermines our community’s ability to thrive. At Step Up Savannah, we engage all sectors of the community to improve the economic mobility and financial stability of families. Helping people step up benefits us all; studies show a strong link between broad-based opportunity and economic growth. Low economic mobility and financial stability are community-wide issues that diminish our overall economic potential.
While there is no silver bullet for the complex challenges facing families today, but state leaders do have some proven tools at their disposal. This legislative session, our state lawmakers can enact a time-tested policy with strong bipartisan support to give an economic boost to working families.
Today is EITC Awareness Day, a chance to recognize the enormous impact the national Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) has on our community. Created in 1975, the EITC is a federal policy that cuts taxes for low-wage workers like cashiers and nurses, providing a wage boost for families moving toward the middle class. In 2017, about 32,000 Chatham County families will claim the national EITC, bringing in nearly $100 million to our economy.
Georgia can build on this success by enacting a Georgia Work Credit, a state version of the EITC. To be eligible for the credit, recipients must work; making this a great incentive to keep folks in the workforce. Many are seeing this as a viable alternative to raising the minimum wage. A Georgia Work Credit would provide a tax break up to help working families make ends meet. Evidence from the EITC and other states shows that a Georgia Work Credit would help families in Chatham County work their way to the middle class by making key investments, saving for a rainy day and making sure bills get paid. A Georgia Work Credit would also help children as research has shown that the EITC is linked to healthier babies, better school performance and higher earnings later in life. More than helping individual families, the Georgia Work Credit would also pump over $8.7 million into our local businesses.
The General Assembly should take a page from our Chatham County Legislative Delegation and take a serious look at the potential of a Georgia Work Credit as a vehicle to provide a bottom-up tax cut to working families. A Georgia Work Credit would help build the middle class, impart lifelong benefits for children and provide a pivotal step up the economic ladder for thousands of families in our community.