Whitman student volunteers recently teamed up with the Walla Walla Asset Building Coalition to combat poverty within the community.
Large amounts of money under the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) go unclaimed every year, and are available to millions of low- and medium-income individuals and couples across the nation, particularly to those supporting children. Workers who qualify for the EITC first file their federal income tax returns and then can claim the credit.
For low-income Walla Wallans, the EITC could mean gaining extra money to spend on necessary items like rent or medical emergencies. According to the IRS website, the 2013 preview maximum earned income credit was between $487 with no qualifying children and $6,044 for three or more qualifying children.
The Walla Walla EITC campaign is spearheaded by Steve Dickerson, coordinator of the Walla Walla Asset Building Coalition. The coalition is comprised of local banks, schools and local government officials that all aim to fight poverty within the community.
“The Walla Walla Asset Building Coalition as part of both state-wide emphasis on asset building as well as national level is interested to see asset building as reducing the poverty rate in the community,” said Assistant Dean of Student Engagement Noah Leavitt.
At Whitman, Community Service Coordinator Abby Juhasz organized the campaign for Whitman volunteers, who will help distribute educational materials about the EITC to community members. This is the first year that students have been involved with this initiative.
The EITC campaign is set into three stages. The first stage was to advertise the campaign to the public, and the students did this by hanging posters all over Walla Walla. With the second phase, the campaign has hung posters and handed out handbills to targeted employers in town to share with their employees and clients, reaching to more targeted people of the campaign. The final stage has been to partner with the volunteers from Blue Mountain Action Council’s AmeriCorps to set up information tables at Wal-Mart and the Community College.
Volunteers tabled this Tues. March 5 and Wed. March 6. Students handed out pie and educational pamphlets to community members to help individuals better understand the EITC and take advantage of it. Those who came to the table were also encouraged to spread word about the EITC to reach even more people.
Volunteering with the coalition gave many students an opportunity to be an active motivator for change in Walla Walla.
“We are surrounded by people who are at an economic disadvantage in comparison to us and living here, being middle- to upper-class … It’s an opportunity for us to give back to the community,” said first-year Katy Wills.