Many families in Northern Colorado struggle to make ends meet. Hardworking parents take pride in their independence, their children, their work ethic and their community. Unfortunately, many are one check away from finding themselves homeless. They often make too much to qualify for some assistance programs, they manage tight budgets, and too often their child and they themselves go without what many of us take for granted.
Two programs United Way of Weld County helps promote in Northern Colorado can make all the difference in the world to families and often the difference between stability and crisis. One of these programs is the earned-income tax credit, a federal tax credit for working families.
For more than 10 years, United Way of Weld County has partnered with The Piton Foundation to help get the word out about this opportunity. The Piton Foundation has led an awareness campaign for Colorado, and for the first time in 2015, families claimed the Colorado state EITC, which is worth 10 percent of the federal credit. In 2013, 19,183 families received $44,907,824 in EITC refunds. Those refunds help families pay for higher winter utility bills, rent, mortgages, dental visits, shoes and clothes.
United Way of Weld County is proud to partner with The Piton Foundation in bringing awareness to Northern Colorado residents. But our work is not done. The 2013 Colorado EITC participation rate for eligible households was 73.9 percent, which was still around 6 percentage points less than the national average. Those families that qualified for EITC did not claim the credit, often because they were unaware it existed or didn’t know how to claim it. There are approximately 88,000 eligible Coloradans not claiming the EITC, with an average benefit amount of $2,200. That translates into about $190 million of foregone benefits. Getting Colorado up to the national average of 80 percent would mean 21,000 new filers and more than $47 million in new benefits.
Another key program that helps families remain stable is FamilyWize, a prescription drug discount program. Costing your United Way nothing except the time to share this program with the public, holders of the FamilyWize card can save an average of 43 percent on their prescriptions. Since the start of the program in 2006, almost 11,000 Weld County residents have saved nearly $1.1 million on their prescriptions. Unlike EITC, the FamilyWize cards are available to anyone, and there are no income guidelines.
I encourage employers, colleagues, friends and neighbors to reach out to families who may benefit from these opportunities. Please call your United Way of Weld County office at 970-353-4300 for information, fliers and FamilyWize cards. Join us as we continue to fight for the health, education and financial stability of every person in Northern Colorado.
Jeannine Truswell is the president and CEO of United Way of Weld County.