Financial Instability in the Earned Income Tax Credit Program: Can Advanced Periodic Payments Ameliorate Systemic Stressors?edit
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) serves more than 26 million U.S. tax filers every year. The EITC is distributed annually at tax time; however, past research suggests that lump-sum disbursements leave households with a lack of funds to deal with financial emergencies throughout the year. Drawing upon the data from a pilot program conducted in 2014–2015 in Chicago, this study analyzes how advanced periodic payments help mitigate financial instability for EITC recipients. Interview participants relate that advanced periodic payments result in a reduction in perceived stress, lower levels of debt, fewer unpaid bills, and the ability to engage youth in extracurricular activities. The findings provide a unique perspective on the ways in which low-income households cope with financial instability and stress and suggest that payment frequency options can play a small but important role in the way in which the EITC operates as a support mechanism.