Launched this week, the “Enroll LA” campaign aims to inform communities most in need about temporary benefits, whether new and/or expanded or public and tax benefits, such as the CalFresh food program and tax credits that are available for families.
Representatives from various Los Angeles County organizations met virtually this week to announce the launch of this initiative that will be available in person and online.
One of the goals of the Enroll LA campaign is to raise awareness about services in their communities and participating organizations that can help families see if they qualify for benefits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the Tax Credit California Federal Tax Credit (Cal EITC) or the Child Tax Credit (CTC).
Some of these credits are even available to immigrants who have an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), explained Rosemary Veniegas, senior program officer for the California Community Foundation (CCF), which is overseeing the initiative.
For many years, CCF has worked in Los Angeles County to strengthen underrepresented communities by sharing opportunities with residents who need financial, food, housing, and/or immigration support, among others.
Veniegas added that these benefits help reduce the economic burden of the household.
“We all have this burden of the cost of paying taxes, but we certainly also want to get some relief for families with children who are struggling during this period of the pandemic,” he added.
Help those without technology
For organizations like Central City Neighborhood Partners (CCNP), this collaboration is vital as they will be able to continue to support people who do not have access to the internet or do not know how to use a computer.
Margarita Álvarez, executive director of CCNP, said that the covid-19 pandemic caused many entities to begin providing hybrid services. However, this was not the case for CCNP as they primarily focused on families that are not digitally up to date.
“A lot of the help that was coming in was that you had to apply online or you had to apply on your cell phone through an app. So we knew that our families were not going to be able to do any of that,” she explained.
He said that last year while many VITA sites closed their in-person services, CCNP increased them.
He explained that various people felt more comfortable seeing face to face those who were helping them either with taxes or with any other available resource.
“We had a team that helped them apply for the stimulus [económico]they created emails for them and offered help to ensure that our community could access those services,” Álvarez said.
“Many others were not even able to access any benefits due to lack of knowledge with the internet or access to those services.”
Sandra Bonneville, manager of CCNP’s financial empowerment program, said she has been able to see the change that financial aid and other resources can make for families.
“One of our families this year is going to receive $23,000 because of the variety of taxes and credits they qualify for, including the Child Tax Credits, as well as the EITC, the Cal EITC and the Young Child Tax Credit, which It is incredible, because money is being returned to them that they will then spend in our communities,” he said.
He also recounted the experience he had with an older couple who primarily receive their income from Social Security benefits. She said that her husband was only able to work a couple of months during the year. In total, her income was approximately $15,000.
CCNP helped them do their taxes free of charge, through the VITA program, and saved the $100 or $150 they would have been charged elsewhere.
“They have completed their tax returns and will now receive a refund of over $2,000 that is due to them right now,” Bonneville said.
The most beneficial thing for this couple is that right there they found out that they can receive assistance with their new application or their annual renewal for CalFresh benefits and could be part of the food security program so that they go every week for a groceries, being able to save sometimes $40 or $50 in groceries.
Additionally, the husband said that he wants to become a US citizen and it is something that the organization will also help them with.
Enroll LA is funded by CCF and involves 18 organizations to provide tax preparation, enrollment and outreach services.
Where to find them?
To learn more about these services you can call 1(888) 624-4752 or visit: enrollla.org