It’s no secret: This is a tough economy for most workers. Largely stagnant wages and the rising costs of health care, housing, food and transportation affect all of us.
However, there is one rapidly growing segment of the population that is shouldering a heavier burden for this rising cost of living — our seniors.
To meet the high cost of aging in this economy, more seniors are working later into their lives. Figures from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics show that people over age 65 were the fastest-growing portion of the labor force, and the bureau’s projections suggest that trend will continue into the next decade.
At the same time, the number of people age 65 and older who are filing for bankruptcy is surging as well, according to a study using data from the New York-based Consumer Bankruptcy Project.
Here in Marin County, people age 65 and older account for 28 percent of our population. That figure is expected to reach 37 percent in 2030, according to projections from the state.
As a councilman for Novato, I hear directly from older adults about the challenges they face and the obstacles that are forcing them to delay a well-deserved retirement.
At Golden State Opportunity, we worked with the Legislature to make California the first state to extend its Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to cover people over age 65.
This year, for the first time, older adults are eligible for this cash back credit.
A major hurdle to ensuring our seniors benefit from the credit is a lack of awareness. Many people who are eligible for this credit may not be planning to file a tax return at all, because their income doesn’t require that they do.
However, you must file a return to receive the credit. That’s why Golden State Opportunity runs the CalEITC4Me outreach campaign to promote its use across the state, and educate people on how to receive it.
This tax season, I joined Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, at North Marin Community Services in Novato with our partners United Way Bay Area to provide free tax preparation services for low-income residents and to make sure they know about the Cal EITC.
Already we can see these outreach efforts, and the expanded eligibility — which in addition to workers over age 65, now also includes young people ages 18 to 24 — paying dividends for working Californians. More than 827,000 people have claimed $180 million through Cal EITC in the first two months of 2019.
Here in Marin County, 1,312 Cal EITC recipients got $244,700 back in their pockets — a 25% increase over last year.
Now Gov. Gavin Newsom is proposing to nearly double the Cal EITC to give more hard-working Californians a much-needed cost-of-living refund.
The governor’s proposal would allow people making up to $15 an hour to claim the credit, and give families with children under age 6 an additional $500 through the Cal EITC. We support this proposal and will be doing what we can to advocate for its passage in Sacramento.
Equally important will be making sure everyone who is already eligible for the Cal EITC gets cash back through this credit, especially our seniors. Please help us spread the word by sharing information about this credit with your family, friends and neighbors. You can send them to our website, CalEITC4Me.org or tell them to text “EITC” to 555-888.
In a changing economy, we need to be doing everything we can to make sure older adults in Marin County have the resources they need to be stable and secure.
Josh Fryday is a Novato city councilman and president of Golden State Opportunity, a private nonprofit organization that has partnered with the state to encourage taxpayers to take advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit.