City, Local Agencies Launch Effort to Pump $26 Million into Local Economy
01/22/2009

As officials in Washington continue their work on an economic stimulus plan, local agencies gathered at Fresno City Hall today to announce a joint effort to help area residents tap into more than $26 million in unclaimed money from the federal government.

The groups came together to encourage eligible low- to moderate-income workers across the city to participate in the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) program. Just by filing a basic tax return, qualified families in Fresno could receive federal refund checks of up to $4,800. More than 15,000 individuals and families missed out on the money last year, simply because they did not file for the credit.

“The Earned Income Tax Credit can help families who are struggling in these very difficult economic times,” said Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin. “The program also helps strengthen Fresno’s economy as families spend those dollars on the goods and services they need, right here in our community.”

The Earned Income Tax Credit is a refundable federal income tax credit for low-income working individuals and families. When the EITC exceeds the amount of taxes owed, it results in a tax refund to those who claim and qualify for the credit. The credit could put as much as $4,824 into the pockets of a family with two children, or send as much as $2,917 to a family with one child, or up to $438 for a worker with no children.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, more than $26 million in EITC refunds went unclaimed by Fresno residents last year. That’s why more than 20 local organizations have joined together to spread the word and to provide free tax preparation assistance.

“We want to make sure people know that they don’t have to make a lot of money to be eligible for the EITC program,” said Chris Schneider, Executive Director of Central California Legal Services (CCLS), one of the participating agencies. This week, CCLS began offering free tax help and assistance in filing for the earned income credit.

Using a free online tax filing tool from the IRS known as “ICAN! E-File”, local agencies are also helping local residents obtain refunds quickly without the high fees associated with “cash now” loans. “We want those with low and moderate incomes to keep all of the money they’re eligible to receive,” Schneider said. “With this free online service, refunds can be processed in as few as 10 days.”

Fresno City Council President Cynthia Sterling applauded the community-wide outreach effort. “With the economic challenges we’re all facing, I see this program, literally, as a lifeline for struggling families,” Sterling said. “We need to do all we can to ensure people are aware of the free services that are available and help them obtain these muchneeded dollars.”

More information on the EITC program and free tax preparation help is available by calling the United Way 2-1-1 Central Valley Call Center or Central California Legal Services (www.centralcallegal.org) at 570-1220.

CONTACT: Randy Reed, Director of Communications (559) 621-7777

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