The EITC Policy Development Fund (EITC PDF) was established in 2015 to provide multi-year support to state-based policy groups laying the groundwork to develop or improve state EITCs. Proposals are requested by invitation and awards are made in the early Fall at $75,000 a year for two years. Awardees may be eligible to apply for additional support at the end of their two-year contracts if funds are available.
The PDF is intended to support the development and execution of EITC state policy work. While generous, these funds are not intended to comprise the entirety of a campaign or effort. It is anticipated that these funds will be part of a larger effort. Awardees have technical assistance available to them from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Hatcher Group and are required to work with these firms to discuss campaign strategy, coalition building, and communications.
Initial Geographic Focus on the South
To help maximize learning and shared experiences, the PDF decided to begin with a focus on supporting state EITC policy development in the South. The South was chosen because of the tremendous need to raise awareness of the value of state EITCs in this deep-poverty region, to encourage peer learning through shared experiences, and to work collaboratively with the vibrant community of local and regional southern funders. Policy development funds have been awarded to five state policy and advocacy groups in the South (AR, GA, MS, VA, WV). In 2019, The Fund decided to expand its geographic focus beyond South and consider opportunities (in the South and beyond) for bolstering community engagement in state EITC policy development.
Bolstering Community Engagement
One key learning from the evaluation of our first cohort of policy development awardees was that some investment in community mobilization via a grassroots partner could bolster EITC efforts. Grassroots organizing is often under-utilized in policy work, in part because grassroots organizations and policy shops do not share the same skill sets, incentives, or often even worldviews. PDF awardees described community mobilization as being critical to their efforts, especially in deeply conservative states. As a result, in 2019, The Fund decided to bolster the community engagement aspects of its work and provide support for policy and community engagement groups to plan state EITC policy development work collaboratively. Three planning grants have been awarded to policy, advocacy and grassroots organizations in Florida, Idaho and Pennsylvania to explore the opportunity for deeper alignment and develop a joint proposal to build capacity to undertake EITC policy development work in their state. Awardees have six months to develop and submit a Framework for Action and be considered for EITC Policy Development Fund contracts of $125,000 per year for an initial two-year period. Awardees may be eligible to apply for a third year of support at the end of their two-year contracts if funds are available.
To date, $1,540,000 has been awarded to seven state networks in policy development funds and $75,000 to three state networks in policy development planning funds.
Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families (AACF) is working to raise awareness of the potential impact of a refundable state EITC. AACF will use this award to engage, educate and recruit a broad group of stakeholders, secure champions, change the public narrative around EITC, and elevate the need for a state EITC among policymakers. Specific strategies include improving the understanding of a state EITC among conservative policymakers and influencers, creating a statewide communications campaign and training constituents in targeted parts of the state to advocate for an EITC.
Current efforts will focus on gaining support among conservative lawmakers and influencers in the business and health care sectors to build support for legislation in 2021.
The Florida Policy Institute received a planning grant in 2019 to work with the Common Ground Project and State Voices’ Florida C3 Civic Engagement Table to explore the opportunity for deeper alignment and develop a joint proposal for building capacity to establish a state EITC in Florida. A two-year policy development grant was awarded in August 2020 to the Florida Policy Institute, Common Ground Project and Catalyst Miami to develop impactful policy research, improve public and legislator awareness of a state EITC’s potential positive impact, and building the foundation for a plausible path to establish an inclusive state EITC. Priorities include championing opt-out program options rather than opt-in, the inclusion of as many workers as possible, reducing the regressiveness of the state’s tax code and supporting economic equity.
The Georgia Budget & Policy Institute (GBPI) launched a communications and engagement campaign to raise awareness of the value of developing a refundable state EITC. This award helped GBPI develop outreach and communications materials, build new partnerships, organize meetings to coordinate partner organizations, publish EITC research, develop a campaign website to engage the broader public, and identify allies to write letters, tell stories, and energize the public. Education with key lawmakers has gone well and they are hopeful that newcomers to the 2019 Georgia General Assembly will be receptive to supporting the credit.
The Georgia Budget and Policy Institute applied for and was awarded a Campaign Fund allocation in 2018 after their PDF award ended. Because their organization built enough internal and external capacity over the three years of PDF support, they were ready to apply for Campaign Fund support.
Hope Policy Institute (formerly know as The Mississippi Economic Policy Center) worked to grow their strategic communications around establishing a state EITC. The Hope Policy Institute used this award to develop a website devoted to information on a state EITC, produce factsheets for legislators about the benefit of a state EITC to their district, partner with nonprofits and advocacy organizations to develop a message that reaches multiple stakeholder groups, and launch a social media campaign highlighting EITC benefits. Unfortunately, the state’s terrible fiscal crisis has meant that significant policymaker attention has gone to finding ways to reduce the budget and not increase it (as would an EITC).
Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center and We The People PA received a planning grant in 2019 to explore the opportunity for deeper alignment and develop a joint proposal for building capacity to establish a state EITC in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center and We The People PA received a two-year policy development award in August 2020 to work together to establish a state EITC in Pennsylvania as part of the broader We The People campaign. We The People campaign will embrace the EITC as one of its central policy goals for 2020-2021, along with raising the minimum wage, the fair share tax, the and education funding. Efforts will include the development of policy papers, outreach and earned media, and public and legislator education.
The Commonwealth Institute is working to make Virginia’s state Earned Income Tax Credit refundable. They will use this award to undertake a set of intensive policy and engagement work to make sure that a refundable EITC is included in the important debate Virginia is going to be having about the future of state tax policy. Specific strategies include boosting the take-up rate of the existing EITC; being actively engaged in the tax reform debate; effectively engaging existing and new strategic partners; and securing earned media on these issues.
Current efforts will focus on making the most of the inequitable tax package as an organizing mechanism, bringing people who would be directly impacted by a refundable EITC into the policy debates around the issue, and capitalizing on the momentum from last session to build stronger champions and advocacy partners for this campaign.
The West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy (CBP), West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition, and West Virginia Alliance for Sustainable Families are coming together to raise awareness of a state EITC. This award helped CBP convene a state-wide tax coalition to articulate a vision for tax reform ahead of the legislative season and hold policy workshops, a policy symposium, and in-district community meetings. CBP also led a public information campaign with the assistance of potential EITC beneficiaries, religious organizations, the banking and finance industry, local businesses, and West Virginia Head Start. Despite promising developments, activity around the teacher strikes in the state stalled some momentum in 2018. They hope to capitalize on potential opportunities after the election, and opportunities to increase the tobacco tax or re-appropriate spending proposed by the governor, to create an EITC.
The West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy applied for and was awarded a Campaign Fund allocation in 2018 after their PDF award ended. Because their organization built enough internal and external capacity over the three years of PDF support, they were ready to apply for Campaign Fund support.