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The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) has a long, successful, bipartisan track record of making sure more Americans meet their needs. As the nature of work is changing, this EITC Awareness Day offers the chance to prepare for a future where we prioritize work that improves the wellbeing of Americans. U.S. PIRG urges lawmakers to expand the EITC to unpaid caregivers so we can start valuing contributions that are essential for improving American lives but fall outside of traditional jobs.
The EITC was designed to encourage people to work, to find a job and thereby contribute to society. However, a lot of jobs today can be disrupted by technology. In all kinds of industries, we can make more than ever with fewer people than ever. That ought to be an opportunity to recognize other contributions to society, but it won’t be unless we return the values behind creating the EITC in the first place.
President Ronald Reagan once called the EITC “the best anti-poverty, the best pro-family…measure to come out of Congress.” At the heart of every family is the work of caregiving. Someone has to change diapers. Someone has to cook meals. In a country with a growing aging population, more and more families face the challenge of how to help loved ones do everyday activities that they can no longer do for themselves. Caregiving has always been important work but it will be more urgently needed in the years to come.
In its current form, the EITC fails to recognize the contributions of 40 million unpaid caregivers in the U.S. When we define productivity by value captured by Gross Domestic Product, we overlook the important roles unpaid individuals play in their communities and families every day.
Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) introduced federal legislation that would extend EITC qualifications to caregivers and students. “The overlooked and often thankless work of caregiving is essential to our society,” Watson Coleman said in a statement.
Expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit to include unpaid caregivers acknowledges the new challenges and opportunities we face as the nature of work changes. Recognizing caregiving as work brings us closer to an economy that prioritizes improving wellbeing.
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