Census, Taxes, Economic Impact Payments…. and New Volunteer Recruitment

Nov. 16, 2020

2020 was a very interesting season for our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program. The season started off normally then changed drastically when the COVID-19 pandemic halted our ability to provide tax preparation services at our in-person sites in Roseburg, Coos Bay, and Reedsport. Without our volunteers, who were able to quickly adapt to the changes we made to accommodate the need for social distancing, we would not have been able to continue our work and help individuals and families with their taxes.

During this season, we also helped families in our communities complete the 2020 Census. Through our contract with the Census Equity Fund, we not only helped families access and complete the Census, but also helped many folks access their Economic Impact Payment (EIP), or stimulus check. Working families sometimes choose not to file taxes because of their low income; however, not filing taxes this year meant that families not only missed out on receiving their stimulus check, but also missed out on receiving an EITC.

Last year, we enabled our tax customers to receive:
$97,844 Earned Income Tax
$86,304 Child Tax Credits
= $184,188 for the year

 One of the primary goals of our tax program is to educate and encourage families to make use of the EITC if they are eligible. We were able to work with several community partners, including Oregon Coast Community Action, the Devereaux Center, UCAN’s mobile pantry program, to increase Census, EIP, and EITC outreach in Coos and Douglas counties. And through online access, our services extended beyond our geographic boundaries. Our program even saw phone calls from Alaska seeking help in accessing their EIP.

Hard to believe, but it is already planning time for the next tax season, and we are looking for volunteers to join our VITA team. Training is beginning now with our site coordinators while we work to recruit tax volunteers. This year, we will have a site in the Pony Village Mall in North Bend, and we will also offer a satellite location in Reedsport. There will be two sites in Roseburg: our traditional site, and a site to serve our Limited English Proficient (LEP) Spanish-speaking LatinX population in Douglas County and the surrounding area.

The final site will be a virtual site through a partnership with CodeForAmerica called GetYourRefund. This site will allow us to serve anyone in the State of Oregon virtually. Through this site, we can help those who are not able to meet in person, regardless of the reason.

Each volunteer will go through self-guided and group training.  The training activities will occur prior to starting the tax season in the first week of February 2021. We ask volunteers to commit to at least 40 hours during the tax season to help with either greeting or tax preparation; however, what we find is that most volunteers work the entire season with us.

tax help

One of our volunteer tax consultants assisting a customer.