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Mayor Daley Reaches Out to Educate Low-Income Workers About Earned Income Tax Credit

By Joan Crigger

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley has developed a major outreach program in Chicago to ensure that low-income working people there know about the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). EITC rewards low-income working people with cash, and Mayor Daley believes it can help pump as much as $30 billion dollars into the national economy if it is used to its full extent.

EITC only benefits those working people who know about it and file properly for it, which is why Daley has launched an aggressive education campaign in Chicago. Daley wants all low-income working people to know that they might qualify for the EITC, that it provides a cash refund of up to $3,816 per year, and that the average refund under the EITC is $1,500. He also wants everyone doing business in Chicago to educate their employees, customers and clients, and to work with the city to ensure that there are enough free or low-cost tax-preparation services to ensure that no one who qualifies for the credit ends up unable to claim the money they deserve.

Mayor Daley has reached out directly to the business community in Chicago, as well as to the media, client service agencies, and the local Chamber of Commerce. By asking the business community to participate in this endeavor, Daley believes that the cash bonuses due to Chicago families could bring in as much as $100 million into Chicago’s consumer economy each year. Daley asked businesses to alert employees by putting notices in paycheck envelopes, employee newsletters and e-mails.

An article in the Chicago Sun-Times indicated that an estimated 150,000 to 250,000 Illinois families failed to claim some $300 million in tax credits last year. “This is money that’s there for the asking,” Daley told about 100 business and civic leaders at a breakfast. “It would be spent in Chicago. It’s not welfare. This is for people who work for low pay instead of going on welfare.”

In Chicago, because of the average salary of the following occupations, men and women (especially those who are the sole source of income for their family) holding jobs like these should be particularly targeted for information about the EITC: bank tellers, telephone operators, secretaries, retail salespeople, telemarketers, waiters and bartenders, data entry keyers, janitors and cleaners, law service managers, and messengers.

Mayor Daley is also reaching out to his fellow mayors through a direct mailing to alert them to this effort. Daley believes that his program can be easily duplicated in other cities and has available a set of materials that might prove helpful if other mayors wish to duplicate the outreach program.

The effort in Chicago is being financed by grants from the MacArthur Foundation, the Steans Family Foundation and the Woods Fund. If you would like more information about Chicago’s program or the EITC, please contact Rebecca Levine in Chicago at 312-744-9991 or Joan Crigger of the Conference staff at (202) 861-6726.


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