Mayor Richard M. Daley today urged all eligible Chicagoans to apply for the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) program and take advantage of other programs the City has in place to help residents who are struggling during the current recession.
“Unfortunately, the recession continues to harm too many of our families, both in Chicago and around the nation. During these tough times, I and many others believe that our working and middle class families need our support more than ever," Daley said at a City Hall news conference.
"That's why it is so important that we use every available tool to jump start our economy, create as many new jobs as we can and support those residents who are having trouble making ends meet," he said.
The Mayor pointed out that to achieve those goals, the City is moving forward with initiatives that create new jobs, new opportunity and new businesses so that people can get back to work.
“In the short-term, it’s very important to remind Chicagoans who are struggling financially that there are many programs in place to help them right now and to make sure they have the information they need to take advantage of every local, state and federal program that has the potential to help them through the hard times,” Daley said.
The Mayor said that one of the most effective of these programs is the federal Earned Income Tax Credit program, which was created in 1975 and helps put money in the pockets of hard-working Americans who need it now more than ever.
The EITC provides tax refunds of up to $5,657 to low-income working families and last year the City’s preparation sites returned more than $35 million to more than 22,000 Chicagoans.
“But an EITC refund doesn’t come automatically. You have to apply for it. And that can be a problem for low-income working families, who can’t afford accountants and tax attorneys. That’s where the City offers help, because we don’t want any eligible resident to miss out on this refund,” Daley said.
For the last eleven years, the City and its non-profit partners -- the Tax Counseling Project and the Tax Assistance Program -- have conducted a major outreach campaign that includes free tax preparation.
This year the City will operate 29 tax preparation sites beginning January 23 except for City Hall, which will open January 19. The hours vary at each site, but many of them are open on weeknights and Saturdays.
The cutoff income for the EITC is $48,279 for families with three or more children. This year, the benefits have been made higher for families with more children, something Daley has long urged the federal government to do.
The cutoff income for individuals is $18,440 and in some cases, taxpayers can receive the EITC even if they do not owe any income tax.
The City also offers free tax preparation assistance for people above those income levels. Families who earned up to $50,000 last year and individuals who made up to $25,000 can have their taxes prepared for free by volunteers from the Tax Counseling Project and the Tax Assistance Program.
This year, the City is offering a new, free program through the Center for Economic Progress to help self-employed people figure out their taxes.
The laws on self-employment income are more complicated than for income received from a full-time employer, so the Center will offer three classes to help the self-employed organize their taxes.
“Unfortunately, quite a few people have become “self-employed” because of the recession, so there is a great need for this kind of help,” Daley said.
The Mayor also reminded Chicagoans that another important program that can put some money in their pockets – the City’s property tax relief program – is up and running and will operate until March 31.
Depending on their income level and the amount of their tax bill, property owners can receive up to $200 in relief and Daley urged all eligible property owners to apply. Instructions and the application form can be found on the City’s website.
And the Mayor commended President Obama for recently signing legislation to again extend unemployment benefits for people who have lost their jobs during the recession.
Just as important, the legislation extends and expands eligibility for the federal program that helps people who have been laid off pay for health insurance coverage.
“Every dollar government can help you save is important, so I encourage all Chicagoans to take advantage of the programs in place to help them,” Daley said.
Free tax preparation assistance is available at the following sites. Check for hours of operation.
Truman College, 1145 W. Wilson Av.
Howard Area Community Center, 1623 W. Howard St.
North Side Credit Union, 1011 W. Lawrence Av.
Hanul Family Alliance, 5008 N. Kedzie Av.
Harold Washington College, 30 E. Lake St.
St. Sabina Employment Center, 7909 S. Racine Av.
Quad Communities Center For Working Families, 4804 S. Cottage Grove Av.
Neighborhood Technology Resource Center, 3517 W. Arthington St.
Bethel New Life Center, 4006 W. Lake St.
Malcolm X College, 1900 W. Van Buren St.
Instituto del Progreso Latino, 2570 S. Blue Island Av.
St. Nicholas of Tolentine School, 3741 W. 62nd St.
Roberto Clemente Community Academy, 1147 N. Western Av.
Humboldt Park Field House, 1440 N. Sacramento Av.
WIC Food Center, 4624 W. Diversey Av.
WIC Food Center, 3110 W. Armitage Av.
Wilbur Wright College, 4300 N. Narragansett Av.
City Hall, 121 N. La Salle St.
Kennedy-King College, 6301 S. Halsted St.
Olive-Harvey College, 10001 S. Woodlawn Av.
WIC Food Center, 5332 S. Western Av.
Gary Comer Youth Center, 7200 S. Ingleside Av.
WIC Food Center, 8959 S. Commercial Av.
Benito Juarez Community Academy, 2150 S. Laflin St.
Little Village Lawndale High School, 3120 S. Kostner Av.
WIC Food Center, 2400 S. Kedzie Av.
Arturo Velasquez Institute, 2800 S. Western Av.
Austin Town Hall, 5610 W. Lake St.
Christ the King Jesuit College Prep, 5088 W. Jackson Blvd.