On Tax Day, Making Sure No American is Taxed into Poverty

Manilan Houle, 2015 REAL Change Fellow
April 18, 2016

Sitting in my senator's office at last year's International Conference, I never realized the policies we discussed might wind up affecting me.

I was on Capitol Hill urging Congress to protect key provisions of tax credits that lift millions of Americans out of poverty each year. At the end of 2015, our senators and representatives came together to do just that. I saw for myself how powerful advocacy can be.

What I didn't realize then was that I theoretically could have qualified for one of these credits, called the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), were it not for age restrictions. That's why I'll be returning to the International Conference this summer, and why this time I'll be pushing my senators and representatives to expand the EITC for workers without children, including young workers. Right now, this is the only group of Americans who are actually being taxed into poverty.

I knew poverty firsthand as a child, spending part of it in the foster care system. I've gotten where I am today because there were adults in my life who believed in me, so I want to pay that forward. I now work 60 hours per week at two jobs helping homeless youth and victims of domestic violence in my home state of Minnesota. I'm passionate about what I do, but while my income is officially above the poverty line, it's not by much. 

The EITC has an incredible effect on poverty for those who are eligible. Yet today only workers age 25 and over can receive it, and for those without children, it amounts to very little. I'm still 22. Access to it for me would mean I could spend more time focused on the kids who depend on me, and less time focused on keeping the heat on in the Minnesota winter.

I know that these policies are not just decisions made in Washington. They have real, lasting effects on people's lives — on Tax Day and every day.

I hope you'll join me on Capitol Hill this summer. I know that with enough determination and hard work, we can — and we will — make astonishing things happen.