Saturday, April 06, 2013

Albuquerque Journal: More than One-Fourth of New Mexico Residents Classified as Working Poor

One of the legislative efforts for Bread for the World's in 2012 was to protect and expand tax credits for low-income families.

While our efforts in 2013 are focused on A Place at the Table documentary and strengthening and protecting the safety net for nutrition programs, the issue of tax credits for working families is not forgotten.  "John's Story," one of the videos that accompany this year's Offering of Letters,  follows a single father in the Chicago suburbs who lost his middle class job during the recession and is now piecing together income and food resources to provide for his family. This video (posted below) is an excerpt from The Line.

Every state in the union has a percentage of its population who classify as working poor.  In New Mexico, one of the poorest states in the country, more than one-fourth of our population  falls in that category.  These statistics are based statistics from the International Revenue Service, which indicated that 212,556 eligible taxpayers in the state received an average credit of $2,303 from the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)  for the 2011 tax  year. 

The Albuquerque Journal published a great piece on this very topic on March 10 entitled Disparity among the Working Poor.  "The working poor make up as much as an estimated 28 percent of New Mexico’s households, typically scraping together an existence from part-time jobs, operating their own business on the side and getting whatever government assistance is available to them," said the article written by staff writer Richard Metcalf.

The EITC provides a lifeline to working families who otherwise would not be able to afford many necessities. “Research indicates that families mostly use the EITC to pay for necessities, repair homes, maintain vehicles that are needed to commute to work, and in some cases, obtain additional education and training,” said the article, quoting a report by the Washington, D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The counties in New Mexico with the largest percentage of residents receiving EITC were McKinley (Gallup) , Luna (Deming), Guadalupe (Santa Rosa), and Doña Ana (Las Cruces), said the article. Below are some excerpts.  You can see the full article if you have a subscription and have signed up for online access.  Or you can sign in as a guest on a one-time basis.
  • No place in New Mexico comes close to tapping the Earned Income Tax Credit like hardscrabble McKinley County, where as many as 83 percent of the households received the tax credit for the 2011 tax year.
  • While McKinley County is in a class by itself for taxpayers getting the EITC, sparsely populated Luna and Guadalupe counties had up to 45 percent and 40 percent, respectively, of their households getting the credit for the 2011 tax year.
  •  The county with the fourth-highest rate of tax-credit recipients was Doña Ana County at up to 39 percent of households. Doña Ana, which is home to the Las Cruces metro area, has a median household income of $41,118 a year, which is just 7 percent higher than McKinley’s median of $38,520, according to HUD median income tables for 2012.
In case you're wondering about the Albuquerque area, up to 23 percent of all households qualified for the EITC in the 2011 tax year, equal to the 23 percent average nationwide. Bernalillo’s average credit was $2,160.  The majority of the benefits went to residents of the South Valley and the Southwest Mesa.

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