Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter

Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter is no stranger to breaking new ground. As the first African American woman to be elected to the State House from her county in Orangeburg, South Carolina, she continued to make waves by enacting strong economic and community-driven policy.

For over a decade, she has been a champion for legislation related to Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC). And earlier last year, her hard work came to fruition. The legislation was passed which included EITCs, as a way to alleviate poverty and aid working-class families in South Carolina.

As the Vice Chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee (and the first freshman ever appointed to such committee), Cobb-Hunter used her economic expertise gained from this committee to pass EITC-related legislation. The passage made South Carolina the 27th state to offer working-class families a state-based EITC, in addition to the federal one.

So what exactly are EITCs? The federal measure was originally passed under the Reagan administration and generally has bipartisan support, as it rewards only those who work. Essentially, EITCs are benefits for working people with low to moderate income. To qualify, individuals must meet certain requirements (such as work requirements and earning within a certain income bracket) and file a tax return with the IRS. Then, EITC will reduce the amount of tax owed, and potentially grant a refund, putting money back into the pockets of working people.

Experts such as Warren Buffet, in a commentary with the Wall Street Journal, point to EITCs as a significant means to lift people out of poverty. In fact, some say it can be even more effective than lifting the minimum wage. In South Carolina, for a family of three, a federal EITC can average payback of $2,300, a significant amount of money that can be the difference between poverty and comfortability.

The South Carolina credit will phase in, starting at 20.83 percent and increasing by 20.83 percent each year until the full 125 percent credit becomes available in tax year 2023. Especially after a long battle, it is exciting and reassuring to see a woman in government pass legislation that will positively impact so many and hopefully create ripples for more state policymakers to do the same.

Besides her economic work for the state of South Carolina, she has also worked on strengthening the penalties for those who commit hate crimes, the Ban the Box Act to remove questions related to prior crime convictions unless those convictions are directly related to the position of employment, and the Uniform Antidiscrimination Act, which renders discrimination from a place of public accommodation on the basis of sex or sexual orientation illegal.

But her accomplishments don’t stop at the legislation front. She has been Executive Director of CASA Family Systems, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing holistic care for those in her community affected by sexual or domestic violence, teenage pregnancy, and child abuse, since 1985.

Originally from Gifford, Florida, Representative Cobb-Hunter received her MA in American History from Florida State University, as well as a BS in Afro-American History from Florida A&M University. She also holds her LISW (Licensed Independent Social Worker) from the South Carolina Board of Social Work Examiners.

She also serves on various boards, including the South Carolina Low Income Housing Coalition, the NAACP of Brancheville, and is the Vice Chair of the African American History Monument Commission. Recently, she was awarded the Distinguished Alumnus Award by the Florida A & M University National Alumni Association. She has been married to her husband, Terry, for over forty years.

Overall, Representative Cobb-Hunter is doing important work for the state of South Carolina and we are proud to highlight such an economically-minded woman in government