Friday, June 30, 2017

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program Cuts

In a preliminary budget proposal for the 2018 fiscal year budget, the House Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee revealed that it would be cutting the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program by 50%. In 2017 fiscal year, the VITA program received $15 million but has been reduced to only $7.5 million in 2018.

The VITA program offers crucial tax preparation services to low and moderate working individual and families in some of the lowest income areas across the state. All of these services are completely volunteer based and require funding in the budget in order to continue assisting families in become financially stable.

The good news is that there is still time for this decision to be reversed. Since this is only a preliminary budget proposal, nothing is definite yet and there is still a chance for you to call your legislators and let them know that you believe funding should be given to the VITA program. There is a period of time between the action currently being taken and the bill actually becoming law, and in that time it is crucial to reach out to Representatives to let them know about the importance of this program. Click here to find a directory of Representatives so you know how to properly reach out and urge your Representative to ensure that the VITA program is funded at the full $15 million for the 2018 fiscal year.

Below is a brief script provided by Prosperity Now so you can have something to go off of when communicating with your legislator. This script does not need to be followed exactly, but it provides a guideline of the most important information for you to relay to your Representative.
Hello, my name is [your name] from [your organization or coalition] in [Representative's district, name, city and ZIP code], and I’m calling to request that Representative [Representative’s last name] protect the Community Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) matching grants program. This program was cut in the FY18 House Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill from its FY17 funding level of $15 million to $7.5 million. The VITA program leverages volunteer support to provide free tax preparation services to millions of low- and moderate-income working individuals and families in some of the most underserved and hardest-to-reach communities across the country. I am deeply concerned about how this will affect our community. [Include brief VITA data from your community or state.] I’m requesting that Representative [Representative’s last name] take every action to ensure that the VITA program receives $15 million in funding in the FY18 final House Appropriations bill.  Also, I hope the Representative will cosponsor the bipartisan VITA Permanence Act,
which would ensure VITA's long-term stability by being permanently authorized in federal statute and an increase in its federal funding up to $30 million.
After speaking with your Representative, it would be greatly appreciated if you could take a moment to fill out this brief survey to give feedback about the response you got. This helps us at PathWays and our friends at Prosperity Now to follow up with specific offices and hold them accountable for funding of the VITA program.
Millions of Americans rely on free and reliable tax prep services to remain economically stable so we are aware how important it is that the VITA program is fully funded. Thank you for taking the time to make your voice heard and for your help in our continued efforts to keep the VITA program funded and operational. 

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