Some Garden state lawmakers are trying to raise awareness about New Jersey’s Earned Income Tax Credit — a tax refund program for the working poor that’s been raised by 50 percent this year.

During a news conference at the Statehouse, state Senate President Steve Sweeney joined Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Senator Shirley Turner, along with a wide array of anti-poverty advocates, including the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey and New Jersey Citizen Action, to urge those who qualify for the EITC to take advantage of it.

Governor Christie reduced the credit in 2010, but signed legislation last year to increase it from 20 percent to 30 percent. The governor's office said at the time 500,000 New Jersey households will benefit from the tax relief, with the credit for an average working family rising by 50 percent from approximately $420 to $630.

"This will make a difference in people's lives that actually get up and go to work every single day," Sweeney said. "These are dollars that are available to help the people of the state of New Jersey. It's a 50 percent increase from the previous year, and we're urging everyone to take advantage."

“The Earned Income Tax Credit is really an incentive to work,” said New Jersey state Senator Shirley Turner.

“We know New Jersey is one of the highest cost of living states in the nation, housing, food and utility costs are very expensive, and this Earned Income Tax Credit can be a lifeline to so many people in this state if they are made aware of the program,” she said.

Turner added “this money is literally sitting in Washington D.C. and billions of dollars come back to the state of New Jersey if we can get people to apply.”

She said New Jersey only gets back 68 cents for every dollar sent to Washington, “so we need to make sure the people who can get this credit are aware that they qualify and that they’re eligible, and that they can apply and bring this money back to help them take care of themselves and their families.”

She stressed thousands of Garden State residents are struggling to make ends meet, and the EITC can provide them with badly needed help.

Turner also said residents who take advantage of the credit will wind up helping the Jersey economy.

“These are people who are not going to go out and put it in a savings account or buy a CD, when they get that money — they’re going to go out and spend it,” she said.

Serena Rice, the executive director of the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey, said, “The EITC is the most effective anti-poverty program. It really does make a tremendous difference for working families.”

“We have too many families struggling to make ends meet, struggling to keep the car running with bald tires and faulty transmissions so they can get to work," Rice said, "They’re struggling to pay heating bills and buy winter boots for their kids. That’s why it’s so important that we’ve got this 50 percent increase in the state benefit — it’s really going to be paying for things that make a difference in families lives.”

She also said there are many families in New Jersey that make such a small income they don’t have to file taxes at all.

“A lot of folks don’t know if they do that, if they file their taxes, that they can get this benefit — which will really make a difference in their families lives,” she said.

Working families with incomes up to $52,000 per year and single adults with incomes up to $47,000 may be eligible for the credit, depending on the number of dependent children in their household.

More information on the tax credit is available at njeitc.orgAdditionally, the United Way offers information about the EITC and tax-filing assistance at, and 1-855-698-9435.

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