Sunday, June 14, 2015

Helping Those Who Are Most In Need To Succeed

If someone gave a grant of nearly three quarters of a million dollars to a group of families in East Palo Alto and east Menlo Park who are struggling the most financially, that would be big news!  What if those same families, instead of receiving a grant, were empowered to claim over $700,000 that was rightfully theirs?  I think that is even bigger news!

We are extremely proud to announce the results of the hard work done by JobTrain's Tax-Aid staff and volunteers.  It is wonderful synergy that these results, and an award from the IRS to JobTrain for completing the most tax returns in San Mateo County, have come out just about the same time as Warren Buffett's comments about the earned income tax credit were published in the Wall Street Journal.  

As Mr. Buffett succinctly points out, the gap between rich and poor is growing hopelessly wider as an unintended consequence of our market system, and he is clear that it is "neither the fault of the market system nor the fault of the disadvantaged individuals."  So the challenge is how do we continue to grow and develop our economy and build in a course correction so that we don't unknowingly create such a big gap in the standard of living that it undermines the success we are achieving?

For 50 years now, JobTrain has been a pathway for what Mr. Buffett proposes as an achievable "American Promise: America will deliver a decent life for anyone willing to work."  Many thousands of people over the years have come to JobTrain (formerly OICW) not just for free tax assistance but also for learning a skill, acquiring a GED, learning English, discovering how to more effectively market themselves – in short, making themselves employable. Training and education must be the first effort at breaking the cycle of poverty and JobTrain's free training programs – from construction to culinary, high tech to entry level health and medical careers, and business administration – are able to meet the interests of many people who have found the job market to be more than challenging.  Success truly does happen here as people with significant barriers to employment are clearing those hurdles and moving into the ranks of the gainfully employed.  For many of our graduates, the training they receive here at JobTrain is enough to command more than a minimum wage job.  Others who start at minimum wage often find themselves advancing quickly because their JobTrain education taught them not only their new specific trade or technical skill but also a host of soft skills, from goal setting to problem solving, customer service, and improved communication skills applicable in any work environment.  In the San Francisco Bay Area, we all know it is almost impossible to live on minimum wage, so the earned income tax credit (EITC) is a great help as these newly employed workers move their way up the ladder.

At JobTrain we believe in the dignity and the potential of every human being, and we have seen that applying our unique blend of training and services not only benefits the individual participants, but also has a return on investment back to society.  In the 2013/2014 fiscal year, with a budget of $6 Million dollars, JobTrain's Return on Investment to thecommunity was almost $13 Million dollars.  

As they received evidencethat the EITC has lifted millions of people out of poverty, Congress recently extended improvements to the EITC into 2017.  We wholeheartedly support Mr. Buffett's call to expand the EITC, increase efforts to stop fraud, and ensure that those who qualify get the information and help they need to benefit from this important aspect of our tax code.

Steven Schmidbauer
Chief Operating Officer, JobTrain

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