January 28, 2011
Financial Empowerment Zone Opens!
Financial Empowerment Zone Opens in Paterson offering Free Tax Prep, Benefits Screening, Financial Literacy and Referrals
Paterson, NJ— The United Way of Passaic County (UWPC), in partnership with AARP, Passaic County Community College, the IRS, Wells Fargo Bank and NJ211 announced the opening of United Way’s Financial Empowerment Zone (FEZ) at a celebration today. FEZ will be providing free tax services to Passaic County residents from February 14 until April 15 at the Paterson Community Technology Center located at 218 Memorial Drive, adjacent to the Community College.
Over 60 faith based, non-profit, government and community leaders were on hand to celebrated the occasion.
Elected officials were on hand to learn about and promote the Zone’s opening. Mayor Jeff Jones gave the opening remarks. This is the first time a program like this will be available to area residents. “Today is a great day for Paterson and Passaic County. This Financial Empowerment Zone is the product of public, private, and nonprofit entities coming together for a common good. The Financial Empowerment Zone offers residents a no-cost, proactive, and stress-free way to make their family and our community more solvent.” said Assemblywoman Nellie Pou (D–35).
Yvonne Zuidema, president of United Way of Passaic County ran the day’s program. “Many people will qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit for the first time this year because their incomes declined, their marital status changed or they added children to their families. Bigger families with three or more children get an extra boost with a larger credit this year. Workers without children also may qualify” she said.
Kenneth Hoffman, NJ Tax-Aide State Coordinator is excited to expand the AARP free tax preparation services to the site. “Now in our 43rd year, AARP is the largest free tax preparation service in the nation with over 36,000 volunteers who prepared 2M federal tax returns in addition to state returns last year. We provide extensive training of our approximately 900 certified volunteers providing tax assistance at nearly 200 NJ sites – they all pass an advanced IRS Test and demonstrate proficiency in NJ tax law.” said Ken. “Five volunteers are dedicated to the new Paterson site, including two Spanish speaking tax counselors. In addition, key resources have been brought in from the New Jersey State Management Team to help bring the Paterson volunteers up to speed.”
Nationally, the federal returns filed last season claimed over $250M of federal Earned Income Credit. Joe Kelly, Tax-Aide District Coordinator for Passaic County has been deeply involved in this Team effort and has the staff and resources available to have a successful season. "All we need now is to get the word out to bring in lots of clients," said Joe.
“Residents can make an appointment through NJ211 or by calling the UWPC local office. There are still plenty of empty time slots for people to schedule appointments” said Laura Marx, executive director of NJ 2-1-1 Partnership. NJ211 is providing the benefits screening expertise for clients interested in determining if they are eligible for additional services or benefits.
EITC can put up to $5,666 into the pockets of families and individuals. The average credit last year was $2,200. Anyone with earnings under $48,362 from wages, self-employment or farming in 2010, should see if they qualify for EITC.
Passaic County Community College is providing the space the for the Financial Empowerment Zone, which will be open on Monday and Wednesdays for 1 pm to 5 pm and on Fridays from 10 am to 2 pm. “"Passaic County Community College is excited and proud to again be partnering with the United Way of Passaic County on a project that can positively impact our community. The Financial Empowerment Zone (FEZ) has the potential to provide much needed services and information to community residents. Education is a life-long process and programs like this are essential to ensure that individuals have access to tools necessary to improve their lives" said Dr Steven Rose, President of PCCC.
Tomas Porturas, Vice President of Wachovia, A Wells Fargo Company represented the financial community that showed enthusiastic encouragement for this initiative. “We support programs that promote economic self-sufficiency, education and supportive services” He said. Wells Fargo will be among the banks providing financial literacy programs during the year.
Taxpayers can make an appointment for tax filing or for benefits screening by calling United Way’s toll-free information by dialing 2-1-1 or by calling 973- 279-8900 x205. Walk-ins are available with preference given to appointments.
United Way wants to get the word out about the free services they offer; people should not pay hundreds of dollars to have their tax returns prepared and should get back all that they are eligible for. EITC is the largest federal cash assistance program for low-income, working taxpayers and helps to lift more families out of poverty than any other government program.
January 10, 2011
United Way of Passaic County Seeks Tax Preparation Volunteers!
Paterson, NJ— The United Way of Passaic County- in partnership with AARP, and St. Paul’s Community Development Corporation will be providing free tax services to Paterson residents under the federal VITA/TCE program. Both organizations are seeking volunteers who want to make a substantial difference in the community. Volunteer opportunities include offering tax preparation to qualifying people, serving as a greeter/intake person by gathering initial information to begin the tax preparation process or helping to enroll eligible families for public benefits.
Authorized and trained by the IRS and AARP, tax preparer volunteers provide free tax preparation and electronic filing services to low and moderate income families with income up to $50,000 and seniors without income eligibility requirements. There are several levels to the tax prep program starting with a basic course and including intermediate and advanced levels.
You can help people receive the maximum legal refund possible from both the state and federal governments. This includes the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) as well as other tax credits. Help tax filers assess their qualifications for other financial assistance and put them in contact with the appropriate services. Volunteers commit to a four-hour shift per week from February to April 15 — the tax filing deadline.
This year, United Way will provide benefits screening and financial literacy along with tax prep at the Financial Empowerment Zone located at the Paterson Community Technology Center at 218 Memorial Drive. St. Paul’s will be providing tax preparation to income eligible families at various locations around the city.
United Way and St. Paul’s wants to get the word out about the free services they offer; people should not pay hundreds of dollars to have their tax returns prepared and should get back all that they are eligible for. EITC is the largest federal cash assistance program for low-income, working taxpayers and helps to lift more families out of poverty than any other government program.
Contact either Leslie at United Way of Passaic 973-279-8900 email@example.com or Paula at St Paul’s at 973-278-7900 firstname.lastname@example.org
To find a site in any area of New Jersey, dial 2-1-1, United Way’s toll-free information and referral telephone hot-line, and an operator will direct the caller to the nearest VITA site.
January 10, 2011
Wells Fargo Sponsors the United Way of Passaic County Financial Empowerment Zone in Paterson
l-r: Norma Marquez, Wachovia, Store Manager and Assistant to the Vice President: Yvonne Zuidema, United Way, President & CEO; Gregory Nascimento, Wachovia, District Manager and Vice President: Leslie Schlesinger, United Way, Program Manager
Paterson, NJ — The United Way of Passaic County (UWPC) recently received a $15,000 grant from Wachovia, A Wells Fargo Company to establish The Financial Empowerment Zone in the city of Paterson. Beginning on February 14, 2011 the Financial Empowerment Zone will provide free tax preparation and electronic filing services to seniors and also to families with incomes up to $50,000 who are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit. Along with the free tax preparation service, the Zone will provide financial literacy and wealth building strategies and will also be offering individual benefits screening for clients who use the service.
“The goal is to boost personal savings and create long term stability” said Yvonne Zuidema, president of United Way of Passaic County. “Providing free tax prep for local residents is one of the best ways we can help individuals and families in Paterson keep more of their hard-earned money and stay on track for long-term financial stability.”
There are more than a dozen Wachovia branch locations within a three mile radius of the Financial Empowerment Zone, which will be housed at the Paterson Community Technology Center, located at 218 Memorial Drive adjacent to Passaic County Community College. Appointments are being pre-booked through the NJ 211 helpline.
“Wachovia is committed to building strong and vibrant communities, improving the quality of life of residents, and making a positive difference where we live and work,” said Gregory Nascimento, a district manager and vice president for Wachovia, a Wells Fargo Company.
The Financial Empowerment Zone is sponsored by Wells Fargo along with other community partners including the IRS, AARP, Passaic Community College and NJ211.
Both the United Way of Passaic County and Wells Fargo encourage residents and community members to use the tax preparation, financial literacy and benefits screening services available at no charge so that tax refunds can be deposited into taxpayer bank accounts in a few days, and clients can be made aware of other free services and programs that they may be entitled to.
United Way of Passaic County’s mission is to improve the lives of people in Passaic County by mobilizing the caring power of our community. Our goal is to increase the number of families who are able to meet their basic needs and increase their financial stability.
Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) is a nationwide, diversified, community-based financial services company with $1.2 trillion in assets. Founded in 1852 and headquartered in San Francisco, Wells Fargo provides banking, insurance, investments, mortgage, and consumer and commercial finance through more than 9,000 stores, 12,000 ATMs, the Internet (wellsfargo.com and wachovia.com), and other distribution channels across North America and internationally. With more than 278,000 team members, Wells Fargo serves one in three households in America. Wells Fargo & Company was ranked #19 on Fortune’s 2009 rankings of America’s largest corporations. Wells Fargo’s vision is to satisfy all our customers’ financial needs and help them succeed financially.
January 7, 2011
United Way of Passaic County applauds passage of the Banking Development District Act and Urges Christie to Sign
Paterson, NJ— The United Way of Passaic County (UWPC) supports the Banking Development District Act (S2286/A3071) that was passed today as part of a “Back to Work NJ” package designed to jump-start New Jersey’s faltering economy. The bill now goes to the desk of Governor Christie.
This bill encourages the establishment of bank branches in geographic locations where there is a demonstrated need for banking services. The goal of the bill is to incentivize banks to locate in low-income areas, where they often do not enter because the neighborhoods do not have enough money to make the locations financially attractive. A 2009 study by the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank focused on Passaic County and noted existence of the 24 alternative financial service providers (AFSPs) - check cashing stores, payday lenders, pawnshops and money transmitters. The study confirmed that AFSPs are concentrated in areas with dramatically lower incomes than those areas where banks are concentrated.
“Many patrons of AFSPs lack a checking account and are unbanked or have the account but rarely use the services at their financial institution” said Yvonne Zuidema, president of UWPC. We want to encourage residents to not pay the exorbitant fees for basic banking services by preserving critical banking services in our low income and urban communities. The high fees limit the asset-creating capability of those who frequent these nonblank establishments.”
Senator John Girgenti (D35) supported this legislation. "Too often our Paterson residents must visit outside communities to find financial institutions of their choice; the measure I have sponsored will give banks added incentive to locate here, and in turn, create greater access for our residents" he said.
United Way of Passaic County is opening a Financial Empowerment Zone at the Paterson Community Technology Center at 218 Memorial Drive beginning February 14. The Zone will offer benefits screening and financial literacy along with tax preparation all at no charge. To make an appointment dial 2-1-1, United Way’s toll-free information and referral telephone hot-line. Clients will be encouraged to open and use bank accounts from local branches.
“People should not pay hundreds of dollars to have their tax returns prepared and should get back all that they are eligible for” said Zuidema. “Residents of Passaic County should not be paying high fees for cashing tax refund check and can benefit from programs such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The goal is to increase personal savings and build assets locally and I am glad that the NJ legislature, voted overwhelmingly to support this legislation.”
“We are not sure if Governor Christie will sign this legislation into law but we urge him to do so,” concludes Zuidema.