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Working Families: Paying for 4 kids' school clothes on $10 an hour

Posted: 9:17 AM, Feb 14, 2019
Updated: 2019-02-15 15:43:55Z
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All this week on theindychannel.com, RTV6 is looking at a series of bills that are up for discussion in the Indiana legislature that affect working families, single parents and low-income workers. To read the rest of the stories, scroll to the bottom of the page.

INDIANAPOLIS — With four school-aged children, it’s hard for Jesse Dickerson and his wife to pay for the school uniforms, clothes and shoes every year.

He estimates that he spent about $650-$700 this school year for everything they needed.

And on just $350 per week, it’s not easy. But it’s important for him.

“Making sure all the classes get paid for, and the little trips they take during the year, and the programs they like to get into,” he said. “My daughter is in band, one is in choir. They’re taking little trips. You have to have money for that. It’s a little difficult, trying to stretch a $350 check every week. But we make it work.”

Dickerson makes just $10 per hour working at a Speedway gas station.

What could help Dickerson is a bill proposed by Rep. Charles Moseley, D-Portage. Moseley’s bill would create a sales tax holiday for school clothes and supplies.

If Moseley’s bill becomes law, parents who spend $250 or less on each child wouldn’t have to pay sales tax between July 15 and Aug. 15 on textbooks, backpacks, clothes, folders, notebooks, and other traditional school supplies.

“It's not a big number and a lot of money,” Moseley said. “But it's an effort to begin to find ways to help parents and guardians, particularly single mothers who might even be working two jobs to try to keep up, be able to save a few dollars when they have to go out and purchase shoes, shirts, pencils, paper, school supplies, things of that nature.”

Seventeen states had a sales tax holiday in 2018, according to TaxFoundation.org, a nonprofit tax policy research organization. Last year, the site published an article which said sales tax holidays are “based on poor tax policy and distract policymakers and taxpayers from real, permanent, and economically beneficial tax reform.”

But Dickerson said he would support a sales tax holiday in Indiana. If he spent $700 on his kids last year, he would’ve saved about $50 if the holiday had been in effect.

When times got rough a couple years ago, he turned to the Fathers and Families Center , which is a not-for-profit organization affiliated with Eskenazi Health. The Fathers and Families Center can help with child care, rent, car payments, a bus pass, schooling or food.

“They’ve always been there to help,” Dickerson said. “They help you with so many things. There’s really nothing they do not help with. As long as you are dedicated and willing to help yourself they’re willing to help you.”

Moseley acknowledges that the tax holiday wouldn’t be the “panacea,” as he says, but would be part of a way to help working families.

“It can be just one tool in our toolkit to find ways to make it more affordable for parents to send their kids to school,” he said. “It's just one component that I believe we should have a discussion about among several components that collectively can make this much for affordable for working families.”

On top of raising the four school-aged children (and a 1-year-old), Dickerson has been trying to get his High School Equivalency. He wants to make more money to set his kids up for a better life in the future.

“I want more for myself because I want more for my kids,” he said. “My life is kind of over. I got kids now. Me having kids, I have to make sure that they have everything. It’s not about me anymore. I have to make sure everything they have, everything they need, that’s what it is.”

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