On Sunday, the Boston Herald ran a feature by journalist Laura Crimaldi on the evolving city of Lawrence. "Lawrence is a city of labels," she writes. "Immigrant city. Arson capital. Car theft and insurance fraud epicenter. Foreclosure central. The Bay State’s poorest city... But negative labels have a way of outliving the problems that gave rise to them." And while numbers like the unemployment and foreclosure rates still haunt the riverfront city, Lawrence, it seems only has eyes for the future.
On Thursday, a few collegues and I enjoyed dinner at Salvatore's, a beautiful restaurant and function hall in the belly of one of the old mills along the Lawrence riverfront. We listened as Mayor Sullivan and Chamber of Commerce Chair Joe Bevilaqua reminisced about standing in the same spot several years ago looking down core of the empty, lifeless mill buildings. They remarked how much things have changed in the now vibrant facility. The dinner was an appreciation event for volunteers who had worked with United Way to help more Lawrence residents access the earned income tax credit, a refundable federal income tax credit for low to moderate income working individuals and families. Studies show that approximately 60% of the Lawrence population is potentially eligible to claim EITC, yet an estimated $4.7 million in tax credits go unclaimed each year.
Earlier this year, United Way invested $33,000 to expand the number of free tax sites it funds in Lawrence. Since that time, the investment and more than 40 volunteers at sites like Lawrence Community Works, Hispanic Office of Planning and Evaluation, Greater Lawrence Community Action Council and American Training, Inc., have helped to leverage $1.2 million in refunds from 836 returns in Lawrence, almost a half million in EITC alone. While final numbers aren't in yet, these results represent an increase of more than 40% in EITC filing this year over last.
That's a half million dollars that can be spent in the city of Lawrence, in places like Salvatores or other locally owned and operated stores. It's money that can be invested in savings plans, used to pay off debt, or saved for down payments on housing or college tuition. And perhaps, in time, it's money that can be used to help Lawrence shake off the labels of which Laura Crimaldi writes.
Want to get involved as an EITC volunteer next year?... just let us know.