By Maria Shriver
This great state of ours has many programs in place to help lift working people out of poverty. But too many people don't know about them, or they mistakenly think they don't qualify for them. And it's unfortunate to learn that a recent survey found that 50 percent of families don't know about services they're eligible for.
I am determined to change this by making sure all Californians know what resources are available to them-and that accessing them is simple, easy and rewarding.
The Earned Income Tax Credit, our country's largest resource for working poor families, is a great example. An estimated 600,000 eligible California families don't apply for the credit when they are preparing their taxes. This leaves almost $1 billion sitting in Washington, D.C. I'm sure you will agree: we need these dollars here, in the pockets and savings accounts of California's most vulnerable families.
And the deadline to apply for EITC is quickly approaching on April 15 - Tax Day.
The EITC lifts more children out of poverty than any federal program. It can be claimed by many people whose household incomes are under $39,873. The average credit is $1700. Families with children can earn a tax refund of up to $4700, which they can use to pay bills, fix their cars, and, perhaps most importantly, to build savings. The few thousand dollars a family gets from the EITC provides the best chance to save all year.
Throughout this tax season, we've been bringing this message to people where they live, work, and shop. We've been everywhere from churches and barbershops, to retail centers and community colleges. Our goal is to make it easy for busy working families to access all available resources in a convenient way.
We call this campaign "WE Connect" and you can learn more about it at our Web site: www.weconnect.net.
It's more important than ever to connect Californians to these "work supports." Because we all win when members of our communities take advantage of them. Work supports pump badly needed resources into our communities. Each EITC dollar claimed generates another $1.40 in local economic activity, creating jobs and business opportunities.
We need to act now: the April 15 deadline to apply for EITC is quickly approaching.
For this campaign to succeed, we need your help. We need you to be a Connector. You can start today by ripping out this article and showing it to neighbors, friends, and coworkers who might benefit from work supports. You can also visit our website at www.weconnect.net and email the link to someone you know.
WE Connect is not just dollars we're connecting families to. It's money, opportunities, and dreams, and what could be more Californian?
Maria Shriver is the First Lady of California.
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