Linking Financial and Physical Health: StreetCred Program at BMC Offers Free Tax Help

The program is aimed at parents of newborns and teaches families about earned income tax credits and child tax credits. The goal is to improve financial education and stop poverty, which would mean better health outcomes

NBC Universal, Inc.

Wealth is health.  That’s the premise of Streetcred—a nonprofit at Boston Medical Center.

The idea is to lift people out of poverty, help them build wealth and ultimately improve health for children and families.

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“People trust their doctors and their doctor's offices,” said Pediatrician Lucy Marcil, executive director and co-founder of Streetcred.  “You know, they come here, they tell us really vulnerable things. And so they're willing and actually eager to talk to us about other stressors in their life, like their finances.,”

StreetCred is a financial wellness service embedded in the BMC pediatric clinic.

When parents bring kids for visits, they can set up a tax prep meeting.   And get their returns done for free!

Marcil says they have served about 6,000 families and returned about $14 million to them since it all started in 2016. The idea came from a patient who was looking for tax help and wondering if she could find support while waiting at the clinic.  

Dylan Escobar is a tax preparer and the program coordinator:

Just the fact that we're able to help them for free and maximize their refunds is what sets us apart.”

At the hospital, many parents first learn they are eligible for the earned income tax credit or the child tax credit. Returns average around $3,000 but can be as high as $6,600.  So why is this a medical issue?

“The earned income tax credit has been associated with improved birth weights, decreased preterm birth, decreased rates of maternal postpartum depression, decreased rates of suicidality in adults, decreased rates of smoking and  improved child development.

"We see cash almost as medicine. You know, this is something that I can get you access to that will ensure that you are the healthiest you can be just as much as prescribing a medicine would," Marcil explained.

StreetCred offers parents of newborns an economic bundle. They are the target audience for this program because when their newborns are in the first year of life, they come seven times.  StreetCred has rolled out a weekly finance class.

Shanique Green, a mother of three, says the goal is “to stop poverty or to educate ourselves financially. We learned about money and debt and how important it is to have a budget.

And when it comes to StreetCred, Marcil is thinking big.

 “We're really trying to change the landscape of how pediatric care is practiced in the United States.

"Financial well-being should be integrated as a part of routine pediatric health care. People know what they need. And it, i think, is more effective and efficient to get people access to cash than to," she added.

These are lessons that Green hopes to share with her children.

“I  hope to learn as much as I can, because as parents, we are their first teachers so I can educate them that they don't have to make the mistakes that I made,  like debt and student loans and just making better financial decisions.

Resources

More information on StreetCred is available at their website: https://www.mystreetcred.org/

Find out if you're eligible for the earned income tax credit at the IRS website: https://www.irs.gov/credits-deductions/individuals/earned-income-tax-credit-eitc

Learn more about how the tax credit is linked to health at the links below:

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