Jeanette Lawson* of Holladay lives with her mother and stepfather. To Jeanette, the situation is far from desirable but considering her circumstances, it is necessary. Jeanette is suffering from fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue as well as other debilitating disorders that make everyday living difficult and often miserable. Often transitioning between occupations, Jeanette has found it difficult to stay financially stable.
Having suffered for years and having to pay out of pocket for her regular doctors visits and medications, Jeanette has had to struggle on her own as she has not been able to hold down insurance or collect on disability benefits. Jeanette continues to work through the pain, often without breaks, knowing that if she stops she might not be able to start again and she will lose everything.
Jeanette has held several jobs, from phone solicitation, to working in department stores. However, she has never been able to hold down employment for long because of her disabilities. Jeanette has suffered discrimination due to her disabilities from both her employers and coworkers, which has resulted in job loss on several occasions. Frustrated, she has had to go back to receiving unemployment benefits. Equally as frustrating, during her periods of unemployment, Jeanette has had to rely almost entirely on her credit cards to survive, racking up incredible debt with high interest rates. Jeanette feels lucky as she has again found temporary clerical work as her unemployment was about to run out. However, she wishes for more. She would like to find full-time employment, something that she could comfortably do with her conditions that would improve her quality of living.
Jeanette first heard about the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program through the use of United Way’s 211 Information and Referral. This being the second year she has used the program, she has enjoyed working with the knowledgeable volunteers and always finds them to be quick and friendly. Having used a paid preparer in the past, she finds the fees to be unreasonable and the work to sometimes be inaccurate.
Filing single without any dependents, Jeanette received the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) in the amount of several hundred dollars. She was pleasantly surprised that such help exists for low-income individuals. Receiving the EITC has allowed her to pay down her credit card debt and put some additional funds in to her savings. Paying off two cards entirely, the EITC has lifted Jeanette’s financial strains and has taken the high interest rates off her back.
*Names have been changed.
Half in Ten and the Coalition on Human Needs thank the Community Action Partnership of Utah and the National Community Tax Coalition for sharing this story.
- U.S. Census Bureau, “American FactFinder,” 2007 American Community Survey (accessed May 2011). Data came from the following tables: Statewide poverty percentages, GCT1701, Ratio of income to poverty level, C17002
- U.S. Census Bureau, “American FactFinder,” 2009 American Community Survey (accessed May 2011). Data came from the following tables: Statewide poverty percentages, GCT1701, Ratio of income to poverty level, C17002
- Half in Ten analysis of Table 1, 2007 State Expenditure Report, National Association of State Budget Officers.
- Half in Ten analysis of Table 1, 2009 State Expenditure Report, National Association of State Budget Officers.
- IRS EITC09. EITC09PY Table as of 12/31/10. IRS Master File, posted to IRS website, EIC Participation For Tax Year 2009, by State.