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Between the pandemic and our country’s recent social justice reckoning, the financial insecurity faced by millions of Americans is finally being seen as a systemic issue in need of reform. An emerging movement for economic justice calls for intervention from the government, employers and nonprofit organizations.
Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Niagara (CCCS) and the Niagara County Financial Literacy & Empowerment Coalition are leading the efforts in Niagara County.
And while the work is complex and will take much time, CCCS and the Coalition are beginning part of this ongoing project by announcing that they will once again hold their Free Tax Prep/Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program in Niagara County with sites in Lockport and Niagara Falls.
Volunteers will help low income individuals and families file their taxes – and access eligible tax credits – saving them hundreds of dollars in unnecessary tax preparation fees (Average cost of tax prep=$300 and tax credits, like the Earned Income Tax Credit, ranges from $506-$6,269) and avoiding refund anticipation loans and inflated filing fees (typically about $200 per filer—this makes the cost of filing taxes $500 or more!).
CCCS and the Coalition announced today that they are seeking volunteers for a few hours per week February through April 15, 2021 to help with its Free Tax Prep Program.
Those interested in becoming volunteers are urged to register with CCCS by contacting Robby Dunn at firstname.lastname@example.org by Nov. 30. There is no prior experience required.
Volunteers will receive free training and be part of a program that helps thousands of households every year. We encourage all those who want to help the individuals and families who are hurting the most to join our team.
The pandemic has greatly increased the number of individuals and families struggling with financial problems and underscored the fact that there is a segment of the population whose lives are ruled by financial uncertainty.
As the summer of 2020 unfolded, a growing awareness that race, class and entrenched systems locked so many hard working fellow Americans into an underbelly of economic turmoil spurred deep discussions about equity and justice.
As American rapper, songwriter, actor, and activist Killer Mike recently stated: “you can’t have social justice without social equality… I believe part of social justice is making sure economic justice happens.”
This spurred Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Niagara (CCCS) and the Niagara County Financial Literacy & Empowerment Coalition to recommit to the principles on which they were founded: to lift Niagara County residents out of poverty and provide a brighter financial future. The Coalition was created in 2013 to bolster the financial stability of low-income families–increasing access to tax credits, refunds, and needed income supports; improving financial literacy, and providing opportunities for homeownership, education, or other asset building programs.
We help to financially empower low income Niagara County residents as no other group exists to help the low income population increase their financial capability.
Since we launched the project, we have provided one-on-one Financial Coaching and free tax preparation to over 2,700 Niagara County residents, have held hundreds of educational events and have participated in approximately 200 outreach events, reaching over 5,000 people.
In the Free Tax Prep Program, volunteers will have flexible volunteer hours February through April 15. Training Dates: To be determined
Specifically, volunteers will help fellow community members improve their economic health.
Key Benefits of the FREE TAX Prep Program
- Protects people from the predatory tax prep companies which cluster in low income communities. 70% of those accessing the Earned Income Tax Credit use a paid preparer, spending 22% of their refund just to get it.
- Improves poverty rates, short term and long term–through the Earned Income Tax Credit, hundreds of families are brought above the poverty line. Research of the effects on children indicates that this has extremely important effects on the intergenerational transmission of poverty.
- Links people with free one-on-one financial counseling, budgeting, debt repair and other follow up services.
To become a volunteer, contact Robby Dunn at email@example.com. Tax preparation training is free and will be starting in December 2020.
About the CCCS VITA Program
The VITA program is part of an initiative CCCS launched in 2013 to provide free opportunities for financial education and awareness. It is particularly designed to help low income Niagara County residents, with access to free one-on-one counseling and volunteer income tax assistance a central focus. The community is encouraged to participate in other free services provided by CCCS and the NCFLC, including one-on-one Financial Coaching. While we are headquartered in West Seneca, we have an office in Niagara Falls and an office in Lockport where we provide services, including the free tax prep. Call 716-712-2060 for more information.
Our VITA program is a true community asset—we help families receive hard-earned monies and put that money back into Niagara County. We have an immediate tangible impact on Niagara County residents. We help people file their taxes for free and access the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Research indicates that children in families receiving the EITC do better in school, are likelier to attend college, and can be expected to earn more as adults.” (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 2015)
CCCS is a non-profit, full-service credit counseling agency, providing confidential financial guidance, financial education, counseling and credit repayment assistance to consumers since 1965. CCCS provides one-on-one services that focus on budgeting techniques, debt repayment options, student loan assistance, credit report review and community education. Counseling is available at our Main Office in West Seneca, in one of our Satellite Offices, by telephone and via Internet. Visit www.consumercreditbuffalo.org for more information.