While the Fourth of July is a time to celebrate our country with family and friends, the season also is a time to pay tribute to the heroes who have defended our freedom by serving in our military. One way we can honor veterans, service members and their families this year is by asking Congress to save key provisions of pro-work tax credits that help veteran and military families make ends meet.
The Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit make an important difference in the lives of millions of working families across the country, including 12,000 Maine veterans and military families who benefit from the EITC, the refundable CTC or both.
Together, the EITC and CTC increase financial security for military families by encouraging work and helping families make ends meet. They also help veterans who often encounter barriers applying their valuable skills to work when they return home.
Pro-work tax credits assist eligible Maine veterans to pay for transportation, housing, child care, gas, heating fuel and other basic necessities. Research indicates that the extra income from these credits also helps children in families that receive them grow up healthier, do better and go further in school, and work and earn more as adults. Kids who grow up with these supports are much more likely to become successful, prosperous adults and much less likely to use programs such as food stamps and welfare later in life.
We all can agree that no one who has served America in the military should live in poverty when they come home. The EITC and CTC are a critical piece of this commitment, lifting roughly 100,000 veteran and military families nationally out of poverty in 2013.
However, unless Congress acts, key provisions of these pro-work tax credits will expire at the end of 2017. In Maine, 6,000 veteran and military families would lose some or all of these two tax credits.
For example, a single veteran with two children who works full time at the minimum wage — earning $14,500 annually — would lose his or her entire CTC of $1,725.
Instead of waiting until the last minute and leaving our veterans and their families in limbo, Congress should seize the chance this year to make permanent the expiring pieces of the EITC and CTC. Right now, Congress is considering billions of dollars in tax breaks for large corporations. During this debate, Congress must protect the interests of our veterans and all working families by saving key provisions of the EITC and CTC that help them work and support their families.
Congress also can provide much-needed financial assistance to workers who do not claim children as dependents on their taxes and who currently receive little or no EITC. Closing this gap would help 500,000 service members and veterans nationwide — and it’s no surprise this proposal has strong bipartisan support, ranging from President Barack Obama to Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.
Our service members and veterans have made extraordinary sacrifices to help keep us safe and protect our democracy. It’s our duty to make sure they can provide for their families and put their kids on a better track for the future. Pro-work tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit do just that.
Let’s stand up for those who protect our liberties and our way of life — our service members, veterans and their families — by making sure they continue to receive the vital pro-work tax credits they have earned.
Gary Lawyerson, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, is chair of the Maine Veteran’s Coordinating Committee.