Weelunk – When you look around Wheeling, the signs of a collapsed steel industry and a community trying to rebound are all around. The stress and frustration of working families who struggle to make ends meet throughout the Ohio Valley is palpable. Read
In fact, Wheeling has become the most economically divided places in West Virginia with the top 1% making an average of nearly $740,000 per year while the remaining 99% of wage earners make less than $38,000.
Regular Weelunkers often debate how the original ‘Gateway to the West’ got to this point. While this is a worthy debate, I would like focus today on one way we can help move Wheeling back to a more shared prosperity: creating a state Earned Income Tax Credit.
Making West Virginia the 27th state to enact a state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) will support kids and businesses alike by putting tax dollars back in the pockets of working families. Consider the following story.
A single mom with two kids working for minimum wage could see $800 back at tax time with a state EITC. Studies have shown that families with a little extra income do better in the long run – the kids are healthier and earn more as adults.
How does a tax credit accomplish all this? It allows this single mom, working every day at one of the all too familiar low-wage jobs left in the Valley, to purchase a washing machine and by a city bus pass with her EITC refund. Now, instead of spending 20-30 dollars a week at the laundromat, those dollars can be spent at the local farmers market buying produce for her family. The bus pass gives this single mom the gift of reliable transportation to and from work, which means larger paychecks because she can work more hours and the possibility of promotion becomes more real. What started as modest tax credit is now an opportunity for this single mom and her kids to have a better life.
Now imagine this impact multiplied many times over in your community. This story could well apply to over 2800 households throughout the Wheeling/Ohio county area and generate over $800,000 in economic activity here.
These dollars are often spent on larger, one-time purchases that help families save money on a regular basis and become more financially independent. It also helps families pay for things that allow them to stay on the job full time, like reliable transportation and childcare.
Giving 2800 local families a tax break that puts a little more money in their pockets is also great for local businesses. This money goes right back into the greater Wheeling area economy, supporting businesses that are currently redefining the city.
Re-establishing the middle class in Wheeling is not going to be easy, but there are many creative people doing amazing things in this town. The EITC is another thing you can do to help, so tell your state lawmakers to make this a priority and give low wage workers a path to a better life.
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