The United Way-led Earn It! Keep It! $ave It! (EKS) coalition of more than 20 partner organizations, including Catholic Charities, helped 5,200 individuals and families file their taxes for free and brought back $6.8 million dollars in refunds to the local economy. Free tax preparation again is taking place for households earning $54,000 or less. Tax sites are available throughout Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake and Humboldt counties. Tax clients can dial 2-1-1 to confirm their eligibility and make an appointment or visit unitedwaywinecountry.org to schedule an appointment online.
At tax sites, families and individuals receive free tax help from IRS certified tax preparers who are familiar with tax credits available to low-to-moderate income households. Some of these tax credits include the federal and state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit, potentially adding up to refunds as high as $9,000 or more. The average EKS client federal refund last year was $1,824.
“This extra money makes a real difference to families, particularly when they’re struggling to make ends meet,” said Mike Kallhoff, President and CEO of United Way of the Wine Country. “Both credits help many families take a step up the economic ladder with often the biggest one-time financial infusion they will see all year – an opportunity to save, pay down debt, open a college savings account or start an emergency fund.”
Because of a new partnership with Catholic Charities of Santa Rosa, tax clients will also be offered the chance to leverage that refund and access additional benefits and services through the new United Way and Catholic Charities Savings and Credit Ready Initiative. The purpose of this new initiative is to bring greater financial stability to the residents in this region. These additional services include benefit enrollment, financial education, credit repair, and matched savings.
While the EITC is proven to be one of the most effective tools to help individuals and families climb out of poverty, it is not enough to ensure individuals and families have long-term financial stability. According to a United Ways of California report, “Struggling to Make Ends Meet,” one in four families in Sonoma County and one in three families in Humboldt, Lake, and Mendocino County struggle every month to meet their basic needs. Households led by people of color, particularly Latinos and single mothers, are disproportionately impacted.
For more information about EKS and available tax credits or to see if you qualify for free tax preparation, dial 2-1-1 or go to unitedwaywinecountry.org.