VITA Program vital to SWLA

From the office of United Way SWLA:

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA) is a Federal Program in partnership with the Internal Revenue Service that provides a free tax preparation program to qualifying families.   For at least the past three years, the State of Louisiana has chosen to fund this program using TANF funds.  In 2008 United Way of SWLA received funding from the State of Louisiana to host two local sites, which were located at the Foreman Reynaud Community Center and at the United Way office.

United Way of SWLA received the funding in 2009 to expand to seven sites including two in Calcasieu, one in Allen, one in Beauregard, one in Jeff Davis and one in Cameron parish.    In addition to the seven United Way hosted sites there were four independent sites in southwest Louisiana, which included McNeese, ACORN, Care Help of Sulphur and the Beauregard Christian Academy. All of the sites are partners in the Southwest Louisiana Asset Building Coalition, formerly known as the Lake Charles Asset Building Coalition.  At the eleven sites the IRS certified volunteers prepared over 1,000 returns that resulted in an impact of over 1.5 million dollars in income tax refunds in southwest Louisiana.

On June 16, 2009 the Louisiana Department of Social Services released a "Request For Proposal" for the 2009 tax season recommending that one agency representing each of their nine regions submit a proposal to manage all of the sites for that region. It was determined by the Coalition that United Way SWLA submit the application as the lead agency for the region.

United Way of SWLA submitted a proposal on August 1, 2009 to the State to host 10 sites within the five parish-wide area.  The RFP required that a listing of the potential sites be included and as determined by the Coalition the four independent sites from the previous year were included.   On August 21st an acknowledgement was received by United Way of SWLA from the State indicating that the proposal had been accepted.

On September 16, 2009 the US Senate voted to block federal Housing and Urban Development grants to ACORN, and the following day, Governor Jindal issued an order to halt state funding to ACORN.

Today on September 22, 2009 Kim Lacour, the EITC Program Manager for the Louisiana Department of Social Services Office of Family Support requested that United Way SWLA resubmit the application with the instruction to find an alternate location for the proposed ACORN site.

United Way of SWLA will comply with the request made by the Department of Social Services to ensure that individuals in SWLA qualifying for this vital assistance have local access to it.

When the ten local sites are approved, United Way SWLA will publish the locations to give individuals wishing to take advantage of the free service the opportunity to do so.  We hope to exceed last year's economic impact of 1.5 million dollars in Southwest Louisiana.

For more information call United Way SWLA at 337.433.1088.