Help Families Get the Tax Credits They Deserve

CalEITC_1Did you know California has a new state Earned Income Tax Credit? Combined with the federal EITC, hard-working families may be eligible for up to $6,200 in tax credits. Please help get the word out about these tax refund opportunities which all too often go unclaimed.

The United Way’s Earn It! Keep It! Save It! campaign helps eligible families receive the tax refunds they’ve earned, and First 5 Contra Costa is pleased to participate again in this year’s campaign through our efforts with the Family Economic Security Partnership. Thank you in advance for informing the families you work with about these important opportunities to boost their incomes: Continue reading

Volunteers Needed for Tax Campaign

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.


Helping Families Achieve Financial Stability

Bay Point First 5 Center’s Andrea Foti provides financial coaching and education to East County families.

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

TANF Turns 15

Joe Valentine is the Director of Contra Costa County’s Employment and Human Services Department and is Chair of the First 5 Contra Costa Commission.

This month marks the 15th anniversary of the TANF program (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) being signed into law by President Clinton. TANF, known as CalWORKS in California, was built on the premise that welfare should only be temporary, that it was preferable for parents of children to work, and that jobs were available if people would only look for them. In the boom years of the 90s, this policy choice proved to be moderately successful. TANF caseloads began to drop everywhere as parents were able to find jobs.

Then came the Great Recession. Poverty rates climbed dramatically, especially child poverty rates. Child poverty in California alone grew from 18.1% in 2006 to 21% in 2009, and the increase in child poverty nationally followed a similar pattern. Rising unemployment pushed hundreds of thousands of families into poverty overnight. Continue reading