WESTMINSTER — Tax season is here, and families with children that qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) are eligible for an additional benefit they might not even be aware of – help with food expenses through 3SquaresVT, the state's nutrition assistance program. Designed to help households without sufficient resources meet their need for healthy, nutritious food, the program helps eligible households put three square meals a day on the table while freeing up money for other basic living expenses. Whether they are experiencing a short-term financial crisis or longer-term challenges, 3SquaresVT helps families with lower incomes make ends meet. And families with children who qualify for 3SquaresVT also qualify for free school lunches, helping to stretch their food budget even further.
The EITC is a refundable tax credit for lower income working families and individuals. Allowing households with children that claim the credit to automatically be eligible for 3SquaresVT essentially extends the program to many more households than would otherwise receive benefits. Generally, households must have incomes at or below 185% of the Federal Poverty Level, or about $44,863 for a family of four, to be eligible for 3SquaresVT. But the household income limits for claiming the EITC are higher—up to $53,267 in 2015. Many families who qualify for the tax credit don't receive other benefits, but still struggle to pay their bills due to the high cost of living; this exception is meant to ensure these families are still able to afford healthy food for their children.
Many Vermont residents are eligible for 3SquaresVT and don't know it, so any family having trouble meeting their food expenses is advised to contact SEVCA, and their Family Services staff will assist them with an application. In addition to special rules for EITC recipients, there are also rules that make it easier for households that include a senior or a person with disability to receive benefits. Monthly benefits come on a debit card accepted at many grocery stores and farmers' markets, making it easy for households to use them. 3SquaresVT also helps Vermont by bringing federal dollars to the state and encouraging local spending, helping to support businesses and farmers in our communities.
Those interested in applying for 3SquaresVT can call SEVCA at (800) 464-9951 for an appointment to get help with their application. SEVCA also offers free tax assistance to qualified lower income households and helps them understand and claim all tax credits available to them, including the Earned Income Tax Credit. To make an appointment at our Westminster location, call 800-464-9951, and for appointments at our Windsor or White River Junction locations, call 866-444-4211.
Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA) was established in 1965 as part of the national War on Poverty and has worked to address the needs of low-income residents of Windham & Windsor County for over 50 years. In addition to providing the "safety net" for households in financial crisis, its services help them stabilize their lives, make their homes safe and energy-efficient, take strides toward becoming self-reliant, and enable their children to escape the generational poverty cycle. These goals are achieved through such programs as Family Services, Crisis Fuel, Housing Services, 3SquaresVT (Food Stamp) Outreach, Weatherization, Home Repair, Small Business Assistance, Financial Fitness Education, Matched Savings Accounts, Job Readiness, Tax Preparation Assistance, Thrift Stores, VT Health Connect Navigator, and Head Start.