In the closing days of our state session, Montana lawmakers passed a bill that will strengthen the economic security of thousands of Montana families who work hard for low wages. Bill 391 will create a state-earned income tax credit (EITC) starting in 2019, helping low-income families keep more of the money they earn.
Montana taxes working families living in poverty at a higher rate than almost any other state. Many families who hold one or more jobs do not earn enough to live on and are struggling to cope with the rising cost of living and the lingering effects of the economic recession. A state EITC will offset some of these costs and help working families make ends meet.
The Montana EITC will build on the federal EITC to provide more incentives to work, support families and stimulate the local economy. The federal EITC is our country’s most effective anti-poverty program, lifting more than 6 million people, including 3 million children, out of poverty every year. Our state credit is low, just 3 percent federal with a maximum benefit of $ 188, but it’s money families can spend on vehicle repairs, school supplies, or home heating bills. winter.
In a recent study on hunger in Montana, the Montana Food Bank Network surveyed more than 250 households receiving help from a pantry. Almost 45 percent of households were employed but continue to fight hunger.
One family included a mother named Kim and her two boys from Lake County. Despite three part-time jobs, Kim regularly skips meals when there aren’t enough for everyone and has had to make the difficult choice between paying for heat and paying for food. With an income just above the poverty line, Kim will be one of many families to benefit from an EITC from Montana, putting some extra money in her pocket.
Programs like the EITC are essential steps in our work to end hunger in Montana. Thanks to Representative Tom Jacobson of Great Falls for sponsoring the bill, Governor Steve Bullock for his leadership, and the many lawmakers who helped move the effort forward.
Minkie Medora is president of the Montana Food Safety Council; Aaron Brock is executive director of the Missoula Food Bank; and Fran Vieeck is a member of the AARP Montana Executive Council.
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