Maria Shriver Writes to the People of California

WE Connect Can Help Families Survive
Maria Shriver wants me to share this with you:
Today at 5:56pm
Fresno Bee

California's First Lady, Maria Shriver
California's First Lady, Maria Shriver

March 6, 2009
By Maria Shriver

California families are struggling right now; that’s the bottom line. So many people are without jobs, can’t make ends meet to put food on the table and are losing their homes.

Just last month, the California Employment Development Department announced the highest unemployment numbers in recent history, at 10.1%. Behind these new unemployment figures are real people. Losing one’s job is devastating, not only to one’s finances, but also to one’s hope, heart and future.

Without question, in California and throughout our nation, we are facing incredible challenges, and I want families to know that WE hear you, WE see you and WE want to help.

That is why I’m writing to tell you about WE Connect, a groundbreaking multi-dimensional partnership designed to help families just like you.

Since its launch four years ago, WE Connect has connected more than 10 million Californians to existing programs and services. This year, I’ve traveled throughout Northern California to spread the word about it. Now I’m coming to your town and hope you will join me.

I met so many families on the road who have shared their struggles. Families in cities like Stockton, Oakland, Sacramento and Los Angeles discovered they can greatly benefit from the resources they found out they were eligible for through our Web connector tool at

One of those resources is called the Earned Income Tax Credit. If you are eligible, it can mean a refund of up to $4,800 from the federal government.

This tax credit is our nation’s largest program for the working poor. It lifts more children out of poverty than any other federal program.

WE is a one-stop shop connecting you to services such as low-cost auto insurance, discounted home telephone service, free tax preparation, help with your groceries, access to job fairs throughout the state, help to save on your monthly energy bill and a tax credit of up to $1,000 per child.

Just think what these resources can mean to your family in these tough economic times. For more than 1.8 million unemployed Californians, families facing foreclosure, for families who are struggling financially across our state, the EITC and these other resources can make a real difference.

Up to 25% of eligible California taxpayers are not claiming the EITC. In Fresno alone, more than $26.4 million in federal EITC funds go unclaimed by eligible residents.

Helping to raise awareness about this credit is so important for families who are in need right now. It’s a stimulus package that is available today. Last month I took this message to the National Governors Association meeting in Washington, D.C., and offered governors and their spouses the tools that can help them in their own efforts to connect families to support programs.

I am so proud of this national effort and I’m asking everyone to take this information about and pass it on – everyone can be a connector and be part of the solution by spreading the word in their communities! Tell three people, and they will pass it on to three others.

I hope you will join me when I come to town on March 10 to take advantage of free tax preparation and other services available in your community.