The Annie E. Casey Foundation released its annual Kids Count Data Book and once again California ranks 41st nationally on child well-being. How is it that California, considered one of the top ten economies in the world, can’t make it out of the bottom ten states in the country when it comes to the well-being of our children?
The data do show that improvements have been made in health and educational outcomes for children. But alarmingly, when it comes to poverty, children are doing worse in every category.
Just about one in four children in California now lives in poverty. That means a quarter of our children are likely to be too hungry to grow, too distracted by overcrowded housing to learn, or too stressed to be healthy. This is the legacy of the Great Recession that will affect an entire generation of Californians if we do not address it quickly and emphatically.
First 5 participates every year in the Bay Area’s Earn It! Keep It! Save It! campaign to provide free tax preparation services for low- to moderate-income individuals and families.
Last year alone, 3,600 volunteers contributed their time and helped prepare over 60,000 tax returns throughout the Bay Area. These volunteers helped filers claim a total of $68 million in tax returns. In Contra Costa County last year, volunteers prepared taxes for more than 3,000 local residents, helping filers claim a total of $4.5 million in refunds.
The United Way, the Campaign’s organizers, are hoping to serve even more filers this year. But they need your help. Volunteers are needed to serve as greeters, screeners, interpreters, outreach workers, and tax preparers. Bilingual tax preparers are especially needed.
Tax preparers receive training and are certified by the IRS. Training starts in January so sign up today!
Chris Ibarra, a second-year volunteer tax preparer in San Pablo, says a desire to help others is really all that you need to volunteer for the program. “The most important quality I look for when recruiting volunteers is someone who enjoys helping others. You don’t have to be an accountant to do this,” he said.
Visit the EKS website to learn more or to volunteer.
In the last three years in Contra Costa County, the cost of child care has increased by 25%, unemployment by 74%, and the number of CalFresh (food stamps) recipients by 123%. Meanwhile, wages rose by only 2%.
A family of four in Contra Costa with one school-age and one preschool-age child would have to earn $69,069 annually to cover basic costs including housing, food, transportation, child care, health care, and taxes. This level of self sufficiency is out of reach for most of the families our funded programs serve, especially when you consider that last year 48% of our families earned $15,000 or less. Continue reading