IRS Announces 2010 VITA Grant Recipients - Disability
VITA Focus Acknowledged in 2010 Awards|
The Internal Revenue Service today announced for
the second year in a row it has awarded nearly $8 million in matching grants to
support the Community Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Grant program. Funds provided through the Community
VITA Grant Program are intended to support VITA sites and community partners by:
VITA partners are organizations that provide
free federal tax return preparation and electronic filing to low and moderate
income individuals. For tax year 2009, individuals and families with an
adjusted gross income of $49,000 or lower are eligible for assistance. During the 2009 filing season, more
than 3 million tax returns were prepared at nearly 12,000 locations by
volunteers working under either the VITA program or the Tax Counseling for the
Elderly, another volunteer program sponsored by IRS.
VITA programs to extend services to underserved populations and hardest to
reach areas, both urban and non-urban
the capacity to file returns electronically
quality control and improve the accuracy of returns prepared by the VITA sites
training of volunteers
There was a strong response to the 2010 Community
VITA Grant program, with 360 organizations submitting applications requesting
more than $30 million in matching funds, similar to the prior year. Under the VITA Grant Program, the IRS
awarded matching grants to 147 organizations that will offer free tax
preparation services during the 2010 filing season at locations in all 50
states and the District of Columbia.
Applicants have to include a specific focus on one of six targeted
underserved populations (including disability, elderly, English as a Second
Language, low-income, Native Americans, and rural) as a primary focus, and also
identify a secondary targeted underserved population. In 2009, NDI has worked with other stakeholders in the
federal public policy arena to promote support for: (1) increasing annual
funding of the Community VITA Grant program; and (2) ensure that more grants
funded have a primary focus on disability.
Six grant applicants who included disability
as the primary population of focus in their grant applications received funding
in the 2010 cycle. The six grants
together collectively account for $250,000 of the $8 million awarded for
2010. Of this amount, NDI received
$12,500 for continued support of specific cities involved in the Real Economic Impact (REI) Tour. The other five
grantees whose grant applications focused primarily on disability include
entities in the states of Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, New York and Wisconsin. 27 grant applicants that included
disability as the secondary population of focus in their grant applications
were also awarded funding for 2010 totaling $1,130,075.
One area of concern with respect to the
grant program is that the awards are based on the projected number of returns anticipated
in the grant application, which is difficult to predict for grantees focusing
on disability given the significant accessibility barriers and impediments that
still exist. For underserved
markets, this is difficult, particularly with a focus on individuals with
disabilities when accessibility continues to be a major issue.
IRS state-by-state analysis recently confirmed that persons with a disability
receive access to free tax services at a lower rate than general low income
populations. Specifically, the percentage of persons with disability receiving
free tax services was 1.6% compared to 3.5% for low income populations overall.
Similar research conducted by the National Disability Institute's Real Economic
Impact Tour on the DeafTax initiative funded by IRS, confirmed similar trends (www.deaftax.com). This analysis reflects that more resources need to be applied
to identify and address access and accommodations issues to ensure equal access
to this government funded program.
More information about the 2010 Community
VITA Grant Recipients can be found at the following web link: 2010 VITA Grant Recipients.
NDI Provides Feedback on New National Strategy for
Financial Literacy & Education
NDI responded to a solicitation for
comments in November by the U.S. Department of Treasury's Office of Financial
Education related to the Financial Literacy and Education Commission's
development of a new national strategy for financial literacy and
education. The goal of the National Strategy will be to establish the
direction for financial literacy and education, research, practice and
coordination with the collective purpose of improving financial security for
the diverse populations of the United States. To achieve this objective, stakeholders with knowledge and
expertise in the field of financial literacy and education we contacted and
requested to provide recommendations on the development of the plan, and NDI
responded to a list of questions that were identified by the Commission to
guide the National Strategy's formulation.
took this opportunity to push for a new national strategy that leverages
resources across federal agencies and the private sector and recognizes the
unique needs of socially disadvantaged populations such as individuals with disabilities
and their families. Furthermore,
NDI advocated that financial education be a part of lifelong learning (K-12
students) as well as working-age adults and seniors.
NDI identified the following issues as the most important
aspects of financial education that should be prioritized:
NDI also suggested a number of strategies for the federal government to help coordinate and promote
financial literacy and capability, including:
- Understanding credit use
Importance of saving and asset development
Perils of payday and predatory Lending
Planning for a better economic future
Informed decision-making (fee structure, terms and
conditions of financial services)
Relevance to low-income workers
Finally, NDI suggested the following key performance measures for evaluating the
Commission's implementation of successful strategies:
Utilizing all USDOL One-Stop Career Centers as
mandated sites to offer FDIC's Money Smart;
Utilizing all SSI field offices to distribute
effective financial education materials to beneficiaries (seniors and persons
with disabilities) and link to web-based programs;
Testing the consideration of financial literacy needs
and planning to advance self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities
under multiple systems, including but not limited to Individual Plan
requirements with Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), Ticket to Work Social
Security (SSA), Youth in Transition with disabilities (Dept. of Education -
IDEA) and Community Support (CMS under Medicaid Waivers);
Allowing a tax deduction for employers who document
expenditures on financial education for their employees;
Requiring all federally-funded loan recipients
(housing, education) to enroll in an education program that advances their
financial literacy skills;
Increasing research to document impact of the above
suggestions on specific target populations;
Announcing annually a coordinated plan across federal
agencies with common measures to evaluate outcomes, and reporting annually to
Congress the results; and
Offering all EITC recipients an immediate tie-in to
financial education options both on-site and online.
The stakeholder responses will be
carefully reviewed and combined to help guide the focus areas and next steps in
developing the National Strategy.
The respondents will participate in a series of web meetings during the
week of December 7, 2009, that will focus on common themes and issues and how
they could be incorporated into the new National Strategy.
Documentation of cross-agency collaboration in
service delivery, jointly funded projects, and outreach partnerships
Specific leveraged partnerships with the private sector
with documented outcomes
Utilization of government infrastructure to reach
target audiences (field offices, websites, One-Stop Centers, Training programs,
Common Measures adopted across federal agencies on
outreach, training, collaboration, and outcomes
Target disadvantaged groups most at risk (seniors,
persons with disabilities, other minorities)
End-of-Year Jobs Stimulus Package being Punted by
House of Representatives Democratic Leadership
With unemployment now above 10 percent, Senate Democrats
are planning to craft a new jobs bill early in 2010. Some view the sudden interest in a jobs-focused as an attempt by House and Senate
Democratic leaders to prepare for what could be a major political bruising in
the upcoming 2010 mid-term elections, largely resulting from the continued weak
economy and soaring unemployment rates. A jobs bill could provide a tremendous
opportunity to look at a number of important initiatives targeting employment
strategies for individuals with disabilities, and NDI is in the process of
developing key recommendations for consideration once Congressional policy
makers make a firm commitment to the employment legislative endeavor.
Renewed Focus on WIA Reauthorization
Senate HELP Committee
staff, along with officials at the U.S. Department of Labor, have confirmed
reports that a new focus on WIA reauthorization has arisen, with the
development of draft legislation expected in January and Senate consideration
expected by March 2010. This
announcement comes on the heels of recent public hearings co-hosted by the U.S.
Department of Labor's Employment & Training Administration (ETA) and Office of Disability and Employment Policy.
Using the existing federal statute as a framework for the new reauthorization
bill, a bipartisan committee of Senate HELP Committee staff are meeting weekly
to prepare the draft legislation by early next year. NDI has participated in two recent discussions with the
bipartisan workgroup, focusing comments on three key recommendations: requiring stronger multi-agency
collaboration through practices like the use of blending and braiding of
federal resources; reinstating a solid, expanded commitment to the use of
Disability Program Navigators (DPNs) in workforce investment areas (WIAs); and
clarifying the importance of asset development as a primary objective of the
Department of Labor.
NDI is expected to
continue participating in further conversations with the Senate HELP Committee
as well as House staff who will also begin to take up WIA reauthorization in
the near future.
Revitalized Efforts underway for Moving ABLE
Act in Early 2010
Amid growing concern by
the stymied movement of any legislation outside of health care reform in recent
months, NDI has recently joined efforts by a core group of national disability
organizations to reinvigorate an aggressive advocacy campaign in the next
several weeks on Capitol Hill in an attempt to push the Achieving a Better Life
Experience (ABLE) Act forward in the political process. NDI will be participating in a number of educational meetings
on Capitol Hill the week of December 7th with targeted Congressional
Democrats on the House Ways & Means Committee. The objectives of the meeting will be two-fold: (1) secure additional cosponsors and
support for the legislation; and (2) advocate for a Committee hearing and
consideration of the ABLE Act during the first quarter of 2010. Additionally, steps are being taken to
identify other Democratic champions in the Senate, and conversations have
already occurred with key staff on the Senate Finance Committee.
Draft Tsongas Legislation offers Hope and
Promise for Working Individuals with Disabilities
NDI recently had the
opportunity to review and provide feedback on legislation drafted by
Representative Niki Tsongas (D-MA), that would increase current asset and
income limits tied to eligibility requirements under Social Security. The draft provides a strong framework
for seeking exemptions of several financial savings vehicles from current asset
limits. NDI has provided the
following five recommendations for improving and clarifying the intent of the
Increase the asset limits to 5 times the existing limit, or to $10,000
(the current legislation expands it to $7500).
Ensure that the exclusions outlined in the legislation that loosen
existing SS asset & income limitations are applied comprehensively to
financial eligibility tests under all federally-supported programs, including
Strengthen current bill language to ensure that alternative financial
savings tools and different kinds of accounts created in the future.
Reference the inclusion of Individual Development Accounts (IDAs)
operating under the auspices of the Personal Responsibility Act so as to ensure
that the legislation covers all TANF IDA accounts, some of which are operated
Clarify that anything that is excluded as an asset under the legislation
will also be excluded when converted to income by allowing any withdrawn funds
to be income-exempt up to the level that they were resource-exempt prior to
NDI will continue to
support efforts of the larger generic asset development community, which is
largely being led by the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), to
promote awareness about the legislation once it is introduced by Representative
Tsongas. Read more about CFED's
asset development advocacy efforts at http://www.cfed.org.
SPECIAL IN-FOCUS: Reauthorization
of the Medicaid Infrastructure Grants Initiative
Infrastructure Grants (MIG) program, authorized under Sectiion 203 of the 1999
Ticket to Work Act, provides grants to
States to develop state infrastructures to support working individuals with
disabilities. As of 2008, over 40
States and the District of Columbia are participating in this program. The MIG
Program is up for reauthorization in 2010, and NDI is seeking your input on
specific recommendations to share with Congressional policy makers and the
Obama Administration about its reauthorization.
your comments and feedback to Serena Lowe, Federal Government Relations
consultant, at EwolAneres@gmail.com. Comments are requested no later than
December 20th, 2009.
information on the MIG program, please refer to the following links:
As reported by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of
Labor Statistics for October 2009
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