Parents learn to leverage finances with tax credits while advocating for expansion
Not many moderate- or low-income residents in Louisiana can say they are making smart financial decisions. However, Crystal Nelson is proud of how she has leveraged tax refunds to improve her life
Not many moderate- or low-income residents in Louisiana can say they are making smart financial decisions. However, Crystal Nelson of New Roads is proud of how she has leveraged tax refunds to improve her life.
She said the tax credits help to lift her family’s financial lot. “With an autistic child who requires therapy and often misses school, it helps with all of that,” she said.
For several years, she used the tax benefits from child tax credits and earned income credits to move her family into a larger home and to purchase more reliable transportation. Both of Nelson's financial decisions have helped her maintain employment at mental health centers.
Last month, Nelson attended a listen-and-learn session presented by The Middleburg Institute and Share Our Strength with community host Gail Hurst.
The event introduced new financial strategies, mental health resources, and the importance of urging Louisiana legislators to expand the child tax credit.
Because the expanded federal child tax credit expired last year. However, According to Kiplinger, several states, including Minnesota and New Mexico , have expanded child tax credits of their own since then.
More than 580,000 Louisiana households with low to moderate incomes annually benefit from earned income tax credit policies. It is the broadest tax credit the state has to offer. However, more families could have benefited from the expansion of these policies. Nelson hopes legislators will expand the tax benefits during the upcoming fiscal session.
"Poverty is back up since the pandemic although nationwide it was significantly reduced because of the tax credit," said Jackson Voss, a policy analyst with the Alliance for Affordable Energy. "These policies help alleviate poverty and strengthen families," he said. During the listen-and-learn event in Dutchtown, Voss detailed the impact of having families advocating to expand the earned income tax credit because " it will make stronger families."
In 2021, advocates with The Middleburg Institute and other grassroots organizations urged legislators to expand a state-level earned income tax credit. But, the bill, authored by Rep. Matthew Willard (D-New Orleans) passed unanimously out of the Committee on Ways and Means, but failed on the House floor.
Voss said, thankfully, federal child tax credits are still available.
To receive CTC, a family needs taxable income and a qualifying dependent under the age of 17 who has lived with the tax filer for more than half of the year. The taxpayer could receive tax credits worth up to $2,000 per child, and $1,600 of that amount is refundable.
During the event in Dutchtown, a financial educator with EFCU Financial Credit Union, said she plans to include information on child tax credits during consultations and seminars.
Since mid-October, The Middleburg Institute has hosted a public education campaign on the federal child tax credit opportunities for Louisiana residents. The learning sessions will continue through March 2024. Participants will join two dozen thought leaders and policymakers for a Louisiana Child Tax Credit Policy Simulator conducted by Elisabeth Gerber, Ph.D., director of the Program for Practical Policy Engagement at the University of Michigan's Center for Academic Innovation.
"This is a laser-focused campaign that will reduce the fear of the political landscape, encourage civic engagement, and improve financial well-being," said Joyce James, president/founder at The Middleburg Institute.
Alice Halie, of Pointe Coupee Parish, said the sessions are good opportunities for residents—who may be shy like her—to learn about leadership and grassroots advocacy.
For more information, visit www.themiddleburg.org or follow the organization on social media.