FOCUS FOR WEEK OF OCTOBER 16, 2017: FINANCIAL PROSPERITY CENTER
One of United Way of Greater Stark County’s most exciting new initiatives is the Financial Prosperity Center at OhioMeansJobs. Established in March 2017, this collaboration helps Stark County residents implement long-term solutions for the unique financial challenges they face.
The UWGSC Financial Prosperity Center at OhioMeansJobs offers many financial education and asset-building services:
• Ohio Benefit Bank Assistance with Benefit Applications: SNAP, TANF, FAFSA, Medicare & Medicaid, Voter Registration, My Transition Planning
• VITA Free Tax Preparation
• MyBudgetCoach® Budget Coaching
• Financial Education Classes and Workshops
• Workforce & Employment Services: New Employee Coaching, Career Readiness Classes, Job Search Assistance, Clothing Vouchers, Employment Training
MyBudgetCoach® is a FREE 12-month program that pairs clients with specially-trained professional coaches who guide them through the process of establishing good budgeting skills and sound financial habits. The program is offered online and is mobile-accessible.
Coaches and clients can meet virtually or in person. The time commitment is only 2 hours/month, but the skills learned are invaluable.
FOCUS FOR WEEK OF OCTOBER 9, 2017: EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE COLLABORATIVE
Everyone experiences emergencies from time to time. However, some Stark County residents struggle every day to attain financial stability and independence. When an emergency hits, they need somewhere to turn for help. Basic needs assistance helps move the household closer to self-sufficiency.
Since 2011, United Way of Greater Stark County has implemented the Emergency Assistance Collaborative in partnership with the Salvation Armies of Canton, Alliance, and Massillon, Catholic Charities Serving Portage and Stark Counties, and CommQuest Services, Inc. The collaborative provides streamlined and client-centered emergency assistance services to Greater Stark County residents who are at risk of a crisis and seeking temporary assistance for rent or utility payments (natural gas, electric, heating oil and water).
To receive help from the EA Collaborative applicants must be at or below 300% of the current Federal Poverty Guideline, and provide proof of gross household income for the past 30 days. A client may receive assistance for up to 2 emergencies within a 24-month period.
Those who receive assistance from the EA Collaborative must demonstrate financial stability afterwards through increased income, referrals, advocacy, or the resolution of a temporary financial crisis. United Way of Greater Stark County’s Financial Stability Center at OhioMeansJobs offers numerous workshops and services that provide financial counseling and employment coaching, free of charge.
“Our ultimate goal is to create a cycle of financial success within every household in Greater Stark County,” explains UWGSC Income Impact Director Robin Seemann. “We offer short-term assistance and implement long-term strategies to help make this happen.”
FOCUS FOR WEEK OF OCTOBER 2, 2017: VITA
United Way of Greater Stark County’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is a flagship direct service that helps us FIGHT for financial stability in our community. It has grown tremendously and shows no signs of slowing down. Clinics are available throughout Greater Stark County during tax season.
VITA offers FREE income tax preparation to single residents earning less than $65,000 annually, as well as married couples whose joint yearly income is less than $95,000. Volunteers are trained rigorously, tested extensively, and certified by the IRS before they can work with clients to ensure all protocol is followed while processing taxes. VITA clients’ refunds arrive securely in their bank account via direct deposit, typically 7-14 days after filing.
Volunteering with VITA is a great way to experience first hand the impact this program makes in the lives of low-to-moderate income taxpayers. No previous experience is needed! The IRS provides free tax law training and materials that allow volunteers to prepare basic tax returns. Many VITA volunteers use their new, marketable skills to obtain paid positions elsewhere after tax season.
Various volunteer opportunities include: Intake/Greeter/Scheduler, Tax Preparer, Quality Reviewer, Savings Coach and IT Specialist. Volunteers fluent in languages outside of English are encouraged to apply and assist non-English speaking clients. Hours are flexible and volunteers generally work around 4-5 hours a week.
Highlights From the 2016 Tax Season:
• 93 volunteers prepared 4,166 tax returns
• Just over $3 million in taxpayer refunds and credits helped stimulate the local economies in Stark & Carroll Counties
• Of those refunds, $1.2 million were from refundable tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax and Additional Child Tax Credits
• These tax credits accounted for 40.5% of the total refunds
• Participating taxpayers saved $368,725 in preparation fees