Contra Costa County: Get Your Taxes Done for Free

It’s tax season again and there is a way to help qualifying filers file their taxes for free!

Every tax season the United Way Bay Area teams up with local nonprofits to lead the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) coalition to provide free tax-filing services to clients with a household income under $55,000.

Eligible clients with income under $55,000 are able to take advantage of tax credits that are linked to breaking the cycle of poverty; such as the Federal and State Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). To receive these services, clients can find a tax site near them at www.earnitkeepitsaveit.org and filter through over 200 free tax sites in the Bay Area.

  • For additional help in navigating the system, call 211 and an operator can assist you.
  • CLICK HERE for a printable and downloadable document with more information about the program and what to bring to a VITA site (in English and Spanish).
  • To learn more about Earn It! Keep It! Save It! (EKS), click here to visit www.earnitkeepitsaveit.org

Help Solve Child Care Facility Shortage

Contra Costa County has a shortage of child care slots and facilities, and a new assessment underway will both illuminate the severity of the problem and offer solutions. The Contra Costa County Local Planning and Advisory Council is leading the assessment and we’re proud to be a sponsor.

The data gathering process includes a community stakeholder survey to help identify potential partners and untapped facilities that could potentially house licensed child care programs. The community survey is for business leaders, developers, faith-based organizations, city planning departments, large nonprofit organizations and realtors.

If you know people through your personal or professional networks representing these groups, please share the survey link with them. The more input we receive, the more solutions we can devise to solve this critical issue for kids and our community.

Click here to view the Contra Costa County Early Care and Education Facilities Stakeholder Survey.

Meet our New Deputy Director!

We are pleased to introduce First 5 Contra Costa’s new Deputy Director – Ruth Fernández!

Many of you already know and have worked with Ruth in her role managing the Local Child Care Planning Council at the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE). Ruth and the CCCOE have been longtime partners with First 5 on our early learning quality improvement work, and we are thrilled that she has joined our team.

Ruth brings over 20 years of experience working with diverse communities in project management, strategic planning and system services coordination in the education and social services sectors. For the last 12 years, Ruth has helped identify and coordinate educational services for educators working in early childhood education throughout the county. Earlier in her career, Ruth managed state contracts for KQED in San Francisco as the Early Learning Project Supervisor in KQED’s Education Network.

She is committed to community service and volunteers her time and expertise supporting educational projects in the Latino community and the community at large. Ruth earned a B.A. in Political Economies of Industrialized Societies from the University of California at Berkeley, and a Master’s Degree in Leadership from St. Mary’s College of California. She takes pride in being a lifelong learner and is currently pursuing her Doctorate Degree from Mills College of Oakland in Educational Leadership, with a concentration in Early Childhood Education.

What was your favorite book as a child?  The Little Prince

What food did you refuse to eat when you were a kid? As a young child I didn’t like spinach, but I happen to love it now.

What do you do in your free time?  I love to paint, read for leisure, love spending time in the outdoors, walking and hiking.

Did you have a favorite place to visit as a child?  As a child there were two places that I loved to visit: the beach and my grandmother’s house.  I was very close to my maternal grandma and loved visiting her to cook, help in the garden or make paper flowers with her.

What is your motto? Perspective matters. This Wayne Dyer quote is one of my favorites:If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

What would make Contra Costa an even better place for children and families? Access to health care, high quality care and education, clean and outdoor spaces, and free access to the arts. These services would support physical and socio-emotional development for children and benefit all families.

 

Three Charts About Child Poverty in Contra Costa

Could your family make ends meet with an annual income of $23,850? That’s the 2014 Federal Poverty Level, and more than 131,000 Contra Costans (12.5% of the population) live in households earning even less. 38,000 are children.

Many families who live in poverty are at greater risk for experiencing social stressors and isolation that negatively impact children’s health, learning and development. At our recent Strategic Planning retreat, First 5 Commissioners reviewed the latest data on children in poverty in Contra Costa County. Here’s what we learned:

The county’s ethnic diversity has increased since 2000. Latino children make up the largest percentage of children under age 6.

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Ensuring Opportunity, Not Poverty

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As the economy recovers from the Great Recession, the gap between rich and poor is widening, leaving poor families and individuals further behind. This is true in Contra Costa County, where nearly 200,000 Contra Costa residents live in poverty and even more struggle to make ends meet.

In a county with a median annual income of $78,000, you might be surprised to learn that:

  • More than 65,000 families and individuals receive CalFresh (food stamps); half are children, many are seniors and most are working. 48,000 more are eligible, but not enrolled.
  • The Food Bank serves 149,000 people every month.
  • On any given night, 4,000 individuals and families seek shelter, yet there are only 382 beds available in homeless shelters. One-third of the homeless are children.

Poverty is hard for everyone but particularly toxic to children, who account for 20% of Contra Costa’s low-income population. When babies and toddlers are raised in poverty, they are much more likely to experience excessive, traumatic stress that interrupts healthy brain development. This disadvantage starts early and sticks. Continue reading