iStock / Don Bayley

A federal government program exists that can help millions of Americans pay their bills, yet many people across the country aren’t taking advantage of it.

The program is called the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). United Way of Monroe County has partnered with the Financial Stability Alliance for South Central Indiana to raise public awareness about this program and to help people through the little-loved process of filing income tax returns.

Free tax preparation services will be offered at numerous locations throughout Monroe and Owen counties, including IU’s Maurer School of Law, Ivy Tech Community College, and the Monroe County Public Library. Some will be open through mid-April, while others will close in March. All will help walk people through the process of applying for the EITC.

“As we take a look at the needs of the community, we recognize how difficult it is for so many people to be financially stable,” says Barry Lessow, executive director of the local United Way. “One of the most valuable, and under-utilized, programs provided by the federal government is the Earned Income Tax Credit.

“Food, shelter, medical care—those basics are where many people are having trouble paying the bills. The credits can be up to $5,751 for a family—and that could pay a good portion of the rent.”

“Last year, Hoosiers claimed $1.6 billion in the EITC,” says United Way staffer Ashley Hall. “Nationwide, it has brought 6.6 million people out of poverty—half of those, kids. This is one program that can really provide income support.”

The EITC is geared toward low- to moderate- income individuals and married couples with children. A married couple with one child and an income that does not exceed $41,132 may be eligible for up to a $3,094 tax credit.

Those with more children can receive more money—up to the full $5,751 for a family with three or more kids under age 19. The minimum income for eligibility increases with the number of children. Single individuals, with or without children, are eligible as well.

For a wealth of information on the details of the EITC and on United Way’s tax assistance services in general, visit