2021 | Government

County Council expands eligibility for local tax credit program

Eligible residents could earn an average of $907 annually

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The Montgomery County Council on Tuesday expanded eligibility for a program providing tax relief for low-income families.

Council members unanimously approved a bill that makes those who apply for the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) eligible for the Working Families Income Supplement, the equivalent program at the county level.

According to a staff report from the County Council’s Office of Legislative Oversight, the change would allow 16,626 residents with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number — used by the IRS for nonresidents or those unable to get a Social Security Number — to access the program, earning an average of $907 annually. 

A family with three or more children and filing jointly would qualify if they earn $56,844 or less. That amount decreases to $53,330 with families with two kids and $47,646 for those with one child.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Council Member Hans Riemer compared the Working Families Income Supplement to universal basic income, a policy championed by Andrew Yang, a former presidential candidate running for New York City mayor. 

“It is crucially important as tax policy because it is so highly progressive. … The benefit of cash payments is really well established [because of] the benefits to children and parents, prenatal benefits, educational outcomes from just having a little more income is so well known, ” Riemer said. 

In an interview, Riemer said the bill is another policy that will greatly help those facing poverty.

Republican senators and delegates opposed a similar state bill expanding eligibility for the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit earlier this year. They stated the credit should only go to immigrants who came into the country legally.

Asked about that argument, Riemer said it’s local officials’ responsibility to help those in great need, regardless of where they came from. 

Council Vice President Gabe Albornoz, one of the legislation’s lead sponsors, thanked the legislative staff for crafting the expedited bill, which will become law once County Executive Marc Elrich signs it. 

Albornoz also credited some of the county’s state delegation members for helping to pass a state bill this year that widens eligibility for the state’s earned income tax credit, and for supporting the local council bill. The change is meant to help those most in crisis due to the pandemic and other causes, he said.

Overall, the Office of Legislative Oversight estimated the change to the tax credit would return just over $15 million annually to low-income households.

“We know and understand that our county residents need this help,” Albornoz said. “They need it for economic reasons, they need it for social reasons, and we as a council continue to believe it’s our moral responsibility to ensure that every member of our community receives the support that they need to be successful.”

In an interview, Albornoz agreed with Riemer that the policy helps those in the community who are in poverty and facing a crisis. Hopefully, the additional money supports them before they get to that point, he said.

The recipients pay taxes into the community and are productive members of society, Albornoz added.

“These are people contributing to our economy, and they’re contributing in a variety of ways to our economy,” he said. “And it’s imperative to support all of our families across the county.”

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com