This year over 20 volunteers were trained on basic tax prep to help Cope Family Center clients complete their tax return for free. The season kicked off on January 28th, National Earned Income Credit (EITC) Day. Both the Napa Board of Supervisors and the City Council recognized EITC Day. Since then volunteers have already completed over 300 returns, which has generated about $500,000 in refunds. That’s money pumped right back into our economy or to help build assets to stabilize families. Michelle Laymon, Family Economic Success Program Manager, says, “I’m so happy to see volunteers making great connections with clients and each other and having such a good time putting their new skills to work!”
Cope Family Center’s mission is to prevent child abuse, so why do we think it’s important to run a program that helps families file their taxes for free and be sure to claim the EITC if they’re qualified? Poverty level is closely associated with the rate of child abuse, and we think it’s important to do whatever we can to help families build assets and become financially stable. There are a few components to our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program that help us further this goal:
1) By getting their taxes done free, low income families don’t waste any of their hard-earned money and can save it or use it to help make ends meet.
2) Many families aren’t aware they can claim the Earned Income Tax Credit, especially if they don’t make enough money for them to be required to file taxes. With the EITC, some families get an infusion of $1000+ at end of tax season.
3) Instead of just spending that $1000+ right away, through consultations and financial management workshops, families are encouraged to save their money and help them build assets. Eligible families can also participate in our Individual Development Account (IDA) program, a 2:1 matched savings program to save for buying a home, starting a business, or pursuing higher education.
4) Many of the families we work with first came to us through the VITA program. After getting their taxes done free, families often take the opportunity to learn about other services we provide!