Manatee nonprofit seeks to empower lower income families

vmannix@bradenton.comFebruary 7, 2013 

BRADENTON -- Laterika Frazier was one of a couple dozen working class people in Room 308 patiently waiting to have their taxes done for free by Suncoast Community Capital.

The single mother just got out a leg cast, so her tax return will help offset lost wages.

Her Earned Income Tax Credit -- a refundable tax credit available to qualifying lower-income workers and their families -- will be a bonus.

"Whatever I get back I'm happy with, but this is a definite advantage," said Frazier, 30. "It made quite a bit of difference last year."

Almost $1,200, she said.

There's more where that came from those who qualify for the EITC, says Mike Kennedy.

He's president and chief executive officer of Suncoast, a 3-year-old nonprofit whose mission is empowering lower income people to gain financial independence.

"It's a chance to literally put thousands of dollars in your pocket to pay bills, save, buy something nice for you or your kids you couldn't otherwise," Kennedy said. "Twenty percent of folks eligible for the EITC aren't claiming it, so there's money out there."

The EITC made a difference for Jackie Diekmann, when she was a single mother of three.

"I got caught up on bills, did stuff for my house. It was great," said the 65-year-old woman, who works part-time as a child care test proctor.

Who qualifies?

It's based on the family's household income and number of children in the house.

The low- to moderate-income threshold for tax year 2012 is $51,000 and a person's earned income and adjusted gross income must be each less than:

n $45,060 ($50,270 married filing jointly) with three or more qualifying children.

n $41,952 ($47,162 married filing jointly) with two qualifying children.

n $36,920 ($42,130 married filing jointly) with one qualifying child.

n $13,980 ($19,190 married filing jointly) with no qualifying children.

The maximum EITC for 2012:

n $5,891 with three or more qualifying children.

n $5,236 with two qualifying children.

n $3,169 with one qualifying child.

n $475 with no qualifying children.

"It's a nice program, but most people who come here don't know about it," said Patricia Braeger, a volunteer tax preparer. "They're looking for some help."

According to Kennedy, the federal EITC meant almost $61 billion in 2012 for nearly 26.5 million low-and moderate-income working households.

Yet one of every five eligible workers didn't claim it, meaning as much as $5,891 per family was left on Uncle Sam's table.

"That's a huge impact on a family's budget," Kennedy said. "The main reason we do this is to try and get as many people aware of it as possible. There's a tremendous demand for this in the county that's unmet. We're only scratching the surface in terms of EITC-eligible households."

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix

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