August 15, 2012
by Alfred Lubrano
The Corbett administration has stopped funding a program that helped low-income working people get federal tax credits that kept them out of poverty.
The program, administered by the Department of Public Welfare for just over $500,000, also helped pay for low-income workers to have their taxes prepared free, which saves people at or below the poverty line hundreds of dollars, advocates say.
The cut echoes growing concerns among Republicans in Congress about the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and other similar measures, seen as too much government in a time of financial crisis.
That would be a reversal of decades of bipartisan support for the tax credit, once called "the best antipoverty program in America" by President Ronald Reagan.
DPW spokeswoman Donna Morgan said funding was ended "because of budgetary constraints." She added, "We felt tax services is an extra service of DPW and not a core service" during a time of fiscal difficulties.
Morgan also said that help in obtaining tax credits was available from tax preparers or from free IRS programs statewide aimed at helping the poor.
DPW's move has been met with anger and skepticism.
"It's appalling that something that helps working people would be removed just like that," said Carol Goertzel, chief executive officer of Pathways PA, a nonprofit in Holmes, Delaware County, that aids women and children.
Pathways PA had received $208,000 from DPW, while $300,000 went to the Philadelphia-based Campaign for Working Families, a nonprofit that offers financial advice to low-income families. Each agency, the only two in the program, uses volunteer, IRS-trained tax experts.
"I think the cuts are part of a general perspective of not really looking at what lower-income people really need," Goertzel said. "They're the silent minority who don't seem to matter. And they're not the ones who'll scream to the governor or march in protest anywhere."
Khadijah Jones, director of the Campaign for Working Families, said she learned - in a letter from InspiriTec in Harrisburg, a firm that processes invoices for DPW - that she'd lose her entire budget for tax work.
The letter, obtained by The Inquirer, is dated May 31 and informs Jones that all funding would be cut by June 30. Her office works with 13,000 clients on taxes and the EITC, ranking it among the top five such facilities in the United States, according to Jones.