Tax credits mean better health for families – The Durango Herald

The connection between public health and tax filings may not be obvious at first glance.

Jill Hunsaker Ryan


In 2021, with the passage of the US bailout, the Biden administration expanded the child tax credit. Combined with the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Care and Dependent Care Tax Credit, these programs add up to thousands of dollars that can lead to a range of improvements in the health of families and workers.

The positive impact of this expansion has been remarkable. In just six months, new funds made available by last year’s expanded child tax credit have cut child poverty by nearly half. Those who work in public health know that economic mobility improves health and education outcomes. Tax credits can mean catching up on bills, paying for childcare to make work possible, or buying more nutritious food — and that’s exactly how many families have spent their Child Tax Credit payments l last year, according to the Census Bureau.

Working with the Polis-Primavera administration, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is committed to helping Colorado families take full advantage of these available tax credits. The state will use more than $1 million in American Recovery Plan Act funding this year to help people access these tax credits.

No one likes filing taxes, and for those who aren’t used to doing so because they don’t earn enough to owe taxes, the process can seem daunting. However, filing a tax return is the only way for individuals to benefit from these valuable tax credits. That’s why we’ve increased the capacity of IRS-certified volunteer income tax assistance sites across Colorado, which provide free tax preparation services to low-income households and non-English speakers. In addition to this in-person help, Coloradans can file a tax return for free online, or even take photos of tax documents to file remotely.

In February, we launched a statewide campaign, Get Ahead Colorado, to encourage Coloradans to file their taxes by April 18 and receive these cash benefits. New websites, in English and in Spanish, provide information and support to Colorado families to help them navigate the tax filing process.

Prior to its expansion, nearly half of all black and Hispanic children nationwide could not fully benefit from the Child Tax Credit because their families did not earn enough income to qualify. Now nearly all Colorado families with children — more than 92 percent — are eligible for the child tax credit. In Colorado, the expansion means an additional 350,000 children can now receive benefits. Those who file their taxes this year can get up to $3,600 per child through the Child Tax Credit. And for families paying for child care or dependent care, the Child and Dependent Tax Credit can provide up to an additional $8,000 depending on filing status, income and the number of dependents.

About one in four Colorado residents does not qualify for the earned income tax credit, which could amount to as much as $7,400 for low-wage workers. This expansion of credit particularly benefits people living in rural communities. An estimated 42,000 childless workers living in rural Colorado are eligible for the credit this year, having previously been unable to claim it.

When families and low-wage workers get all the support they need, it benefits all Coloradans. Through April 18, we will run radio, digital, search, text, and social media ads across the state to raise awareness of our assistance programs. Through our partners and communication channels, we hope to reach the Coloradans who need this help the most.

Jill Hunsaker Ryan is the executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

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