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Another Tax Rebate For Taxing Times

By Phil Guie

April 03, 2008

New legislation could help the significant percentage of New Yorkers who are working longer hours, yet struggling to attain the American Dream.

The proposed Overtime Restoration Act of 2008, announced last week by Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, would provide an extra one-percent credit for every week an employee exceeds 40 hours on the job.

According to the congresswoman, who represents Brooklyn, Queens, and Lower Manhattan, the legislation is needed by a growing number of workers not receiving overtime pay or benefits.

Her office estimated roughly 64,000 lower-income New Yorkers worked over 40 hours per week in 2005. Many of these residents were holding down more than one part-time job at a time, further reducing their chances of earning overtime benefits.

"It's clear that our neighbors are forced to take on second and third jobs, working nights and weekends, just to make ends meet," said Velazquez at the Center for Family Life in Sunset Park last Thursday. "The Overtime Restoration Act would provide the hardest-working with the additional credit they need to get through these tough economic times."

On the same day the legislation was announced, the congresswoman commended both the Center for Family Life and the not-for-profit Food Bank for New York City for hosting and donating free bilingual tax preparation services at 43rd Street in Brooklyn.

Carol Schneider, Media Relations manager for The Food Bank, said the organization is trying to raise awareness about tax benefits available to lower-income residents, especially this year's one-time economic stimulus rebate.

She said a number of eligible taxpayers could miss out on bonuses if they do not file a return. Besides workers who do not read or speak English as their first language, seniors and disabled veterans also tend not to file because they consider their incomes too low.

"These typically are people who don't file, so we're trying to get information out there that in order to get these benefits they must file a tax return," said Scheider, who said the stimulus rebate alone is worth hundreds of dollars.

Velazquez called the EITC an important tool in the fight against poverty, and predicted the economic stimulus rebate would provide much-needed support to over 8 million New Yorkers. However, she also said more needs to be done on a legislative level.

"I commend the Center for Family Life and Food Bank for New York City for all they are doing to provide free, bilingual tax preparation services to the community," Velazquez said. "Now we must look forward, and work to create a tax benefit that will lend a hand of assistance to the hardest workers who continue to struggle to make ends meet."