Pro Bono Matters in the District
American Bar Association Tax Times, Vol. 35, No. 3
5 Pages Posted: 12 Sep 2018
Date Written: June 1, 2016
Washington D.C. suffers from a severe affordable housing crisis, rising family homelessness, high unemployment rates, and falling income among the poorest residents. The District’s overall poverty rate is above the national average at more than 18%, but for D.C.’s children the poverty rate soars to 28%. One in ten residents live in extreme poverty, or below half of the poverty line. Poverty is concentrated and segregated in D.C., with nearly three-fourths of poor households headed by people of color, and almost half headed by someone who was born in D.C. (only 31% and 17% in the general population, respectively). These statistics can be mind-numbing, but they have profound daily, as well as long-term, implications for our nation’s Capital. From February to May of 2013, one local youth service provider turned away at least 150 unaccompanied minor children due to lack of emergency shelter space. The District also has the nation’s second highest rate of food insecurity among children. One in three children in Washington, D.C. lives in a home where there is not enough food for them to eat. In the past decade, Catholic Charities have more than doubled their emergency food services. Food insecurity is harmful to any individual’s physical and mental well-being, but it is particularly devastating for children due to critical brain, bone and organ development. The adverse long-term physical and mental health and related financial consequences are devastating for our economy and country. Fortunately, some remedies are being unleashed to try to turn back this debilitating trend. Together with several other states, the District is raising its minimum wage and enhancing its EITC. Recent minimum wage increases together with an expanded D.C. EITC should make work pay more effectively for lower-income working families. The District has raised the minimum wage from $8.25 per hour in 2013 to $11.50 for 2016 and expanded the already significant D.C. EITC for childless workers. About one-half of District families who will benefit from the higher minimum wage have incomes below or near the poverty line – a group that should also benefit from the D.C. EITC. The expanded childless worker D.C. EITC should mitigate the harsh reality that America taxes into poverty certain low-wage workers.
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Keywords: EITC, Antipoverty, Washington DC, District, ABA, Pro Bono, Low Income Taxpayer Clinics, Refundable Tax Credits, Poverty Statistics, Antipoverty Relief, Income Inequality, Wealth Inequality
JEL Classification: K34, K36
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation