Incomes across the nation rose in 2015, according to the Census Bureau, with Montana making the biggest leap forward.
In 2014, the average Montana household had an income of $46,000. Last year, the median income was $49,500 – an increase of 6.8%, the largest in the country. The United States on average saw a rise in incomes of 3.8%.
This increase in earnings, coupled with a nationwide decline in poverty, is evidence that on the whole the economic forecast is growing sunnier.
At the same time, we still have a long way to go. One in five children in Montana under the age of 18 were living in poverty last year. For children under age 5, one in four live below the poverty line. There are still too many families working hard for low pay and struggling to afford the basics, like housing, child care, and transportation.
How can Montana keep moving in the right direction?
One of the best ways we can strengthen working families is through the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The federal EITC, a credit which provides additional income support for low-income working families, is one of the most effective anti-poverty measures ever implemented. The federal EITC, coupled with the Child Tax Credit (CTC) has been able to lift 24,000 Montanans (including thousands of children) out of poverty each year from 2011 to 2013.
Enacting a state EITC would give a much-need boost to working families and our local economies. With a state benefit set at 10% of the federal EITC, families could receive a maximum of $627, which would then be spent in local businesses supporting our economy and helping families purchase necessary goods like children’s school supplies.
Now that we are beginning to benefit from a strengthening economy, we should make sure that all Montanans are able to see an improvement in their lives. Enacting a state EITC is an efficient and effective way to keep moving in the right direction.
MBPC is a nonprofit organization focused on providing credible and timely research and analysis on budget, tax, and economic issues that impact low- and moderate-income Montana families.