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Everyone deserves the opportunity to succeed

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The numbers are dizzying: a single Super Bowl commercial spot had a three million dollar price tag. Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg is expected to have a net worth of between 21 billion and 28 billion dollars when the company goes public. Fifteen million dollars were spent by a single candidate, in a single state during the Republican Party primary season. It seems that we are on track to out-spend the record breaking 5.3 billion dollars spent on the 2008 Presidential campaign.

And yet people in this country are getting poorer. Recent U.S. Census Bureau data tells us that 46 million Americans are living in poverty today, more than ever before. The Boston Foundation's Measures of Poverty Report notes that throughout 2005-2009, an estimated 90,000 Bostonians -- not including college students -- were living in poverty. In addition, last week the Corporation for Economic Development (CFED) released its 2012 Assets and Opportunity Scorecard. The 2012 Assets and Opportunity Scorecard indicated that there is diminishing financial security in the United States, with over a quarter of households -- 27 percent -- qualifying as asset poor. This means that these households lack the savings or assets to cover their living expenses if they lose income due to a layoff or other emergency. This is a 21 percent increase over those in asset poverty captured in the 2009-2010 Scorecard.

The challenges we face responding to the needs of those living in poverty are many, and it is clear that a public/private partnership is essential in our efforts.

One of the most effective public antipoverty strategies is the federal Earned Income Tax Credit or earned income credit. EITC or EIC is a refundable tax credit for individuals and families who have low to moderate earned income. Families who earned less than $46,000 in 2011 are eligible for the EIC tax credit. When the tax credit exceeds the amount of taxes owed, it results in a tax refund to those who claim and qualify for the credit. According to the IRS, this tax credit is provided, in part, to offset the burden of Social Security taxes and to provide an incentive to work. And yet, the IRS estimates that more than $15 million in Boston alone goes unclaimed every year.

There are a number of ways to learn more about the EITC, including calling the IRS at 1-800-829-1040, or online at www.eitcoutreach.org. Many cities and towns and also sponsor free tax preparation services, and libraries across the state have information available regarding the EITC tax credit.

Not-for-profit agencies like Catholic Charities are also sources of EITC information for their communities. Others including the Catholic Charities Yawkey Center, host free tax preparation assistance, in partnership with AARP. No appointment is necessary, and volunteers will be available Thursdays from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Feb. 9 through April 12 and on Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Feb. 25, March 3, March 24, March 31 and April 14. Individuals need to bring along a picture ID and all their tax-related documentation to complete their tax filings.

At Catholic Charities, we are able to continue to meet the needs in the community because we are so generously supported by their neighbors. Catholics across the archdiocese demonstrated their support by giving to the Catholic Charities special collection which helps make our work possible. I know that you join us in our belief that everyone deserves the opportunity to succeed. Thank you for your generosity.

Your support allows us to continue our work to stabilize those in crisis by providing food, shelter, and referrals to community resources. We continue to focus our efforts on moving families out of poverty and on a pathway to self sufficiency through education and training programs. We work together with our partners to identify gaps in the social safety net, and we advocate on behalf of those who have no voice to keep the fight against poverty front and center.

Throughout their lifetime, 1 in 3 Americans will experience poverty at least once. The war on poverty cannot be fought alone -- it is only together that we accomplish our goals.

Debbie Rambo is president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston.

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