E-News from the Office of Senator Van de Putte
I hope this e-news finds you doing well. I am writing to send you updates on important issues in our community and helpful information too.
The Earned Income Tax Credit: Do You Qualify?
It's tax season again - time to prepare for filing your yearly income tax returns. As such, I would like to remind you of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC is a tax credit for full-time and part-time workers who earned less than $12,590 (if single) or less than $39,783 (combined, if married with dependents) in the 2007 tax year. A tax credit typically means more money in your pocket and it reduces the amount of tax you owe. The average tax refund is $1,900, but it can be as high as $4,500 for a family with two or more qualifying children.
Hard working families often struggle to make ends meet; and for many families the EITC can be the equivalent of a 40% increase in salary. That's two months worth of living expenses; it could mean the difference in having money to pay for healthcare and school uniforms. It is estimated that 23% of San Antonio families are unaware they qualify for the EITC, resulting in an estimated $86 million in unclaimed federal dollars. Some families who are aware of the credit may use a tax preparation service that offers money back quickly, but at a very costly fee to the tax payer and our community. It means that families have less money to buy necessary items for their children; and therefore less money is invested back into our local economy.
It is my goal to help as many families as possible to better themselves by taking advantage of the EITC and using our communities' free tax-preparation services offered through Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites. By using a VITA site families or individuals get back all the money in which they are entitled in one lump sum, either through direct deposit or in a refund check mailed to their home. This in turn benefits our state, by keeping money in our local economy. I am happy to report, last year the VITA coalition completed 35,000 returns resulting in $53 million returned to our families. We have seen an influx of taxpayers at the VITA sites, but in order to offer this necessary community service we need a steady stream of volunteers. Therefore, I also ask that you consider volunteering to help your neighbors and the community.
Please do not let added dollars that you have earned go wasted! You can find information on FREE Tax Preparation at the location nearest you by calling the United Way help line at 2-1-1. Sites are open until April 15.
TAKS Test Moved
Commissioner of Education Robert Scott announced the adjustment of the Texas testing calendar so that no Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) exams are given on primary election day, March 4.
A myriad of schools are used as polling places; and for the first time, a testing date and election day coincided, as the primary moved up by one week and the school start date was pushed back.
As election day draws near, district officials worried that the influx of voters could distract students taking high-stakes test. The Commissioner expressed that his decision to adjust the testing dates was not made lightly, as he is aware this change causes additional work for testing coordinators. The Texas Education Agency aimed to balance the tradition of using schools as polling places with a student's right to a quiet testing environment.
The new testing schedule will address the following:
- Districts will not be burdened with planning the logistics of serving as testing sites and polling places on the same day and at the same location.
- Moving the exit level social studies retest from Friday, March 7, to Monday, March 3, affects the fewest number of students, approximately 10,000 statewide.
- Three of the four exit level retests (English language arts, mathematics, and science) will be administered one day later but in the same order as originally scheduled.
- The grade 10 English language arts primary and make-up administrations are still separated by one day. The primary administration is now scheduled for March 5, and the make-up is scheduled for March 7.
- The Student Success Initiative (SSI) reading administrations are now scheduled for March 5, leaving March 6, 7, and 8 for make-up opportunities.
For further information, please visit www.tea.state.tx.us.
Scholarships for National Guard Families
The Defense Commissary Agency is accepting applications for its 2008 Scholarships for Military Children Program. The $1,500 scholarship is available for children under the age of 21 (or 23 if enrolled in school) of military active-duty, retired and National Guard and Reserve service members.
The applicant must be planning to attend, or already attending, an accredited college or university full-time in the fall of 2008 or enrolled in a program of studies designed to transfer directly into a four-year program.
Applicants must submit an essay arguing for or against the statement: "Every able-bodied citizen should be required to serve a two-year period of time in the military. Why or Why not?"
Applications can be turned in to any commissary by Feb. 20. For more information, call (804) 734-8061 or visit www.militaryscholar.org.
FYI - Vestido Rojo
I have the pleasure of serving as Honorary Chair of this year's Vestido Rojo Event, which targets women's heart health; and you are invited. We will have health screenings, hearth healthy cooking demonstrations, physical activity demonstrations and much more. The event will be held on Saturday, February 23, 2008, from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm at Our Lady of the Lake University. Admission is free, but space is limited to 300 women; and you will need to register prior to the event by calling (210) 617-2617 (lunch is included). I hope to see you there!
FYI - International Woman's Day March
On Saturday, March 8, the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, Fuerza Unida, Martinez Street Women's Center and P.E.A.C.E. Initiative sponsor the International Woman's Day March and Rally. The event will include guest speakers, live music, food, children's activities, artists and more! The march begins at Travis Park (300 E. Travis) at 10:00 a.m. and ends at Milam Park.
Please feel free to contact my office regarding any of the above information; and please have a safe and happy week!
HOW TO CONTACT SENATOR VAN DE PUTTE
700 N. St. Mary's St. #1725
San Antonio, Texas 78205
(210) 733-6605 - fax