|The Ohio Benefit Bank Newsletter
Raising the Bar in Northeast Ohio
through Local Collaboration
Last year, Ohio Benefit Bank sites in Portage County
brought $65,895 in federal and state tax refunds to their communities in the
month of February.
In February of this year, Portage County OBB sites
nearly doubled that amount, bringing $130,030 in tax refunds to Northeast
Ohio. Much of Portage County's success can be attributed to the Community Action
Council (CAC) of Portage County.
When Community Trainer Joree Jacobs met with David Shea
and Judy Conway of the CAC, they expressed their desire to step up to the plate
in 2010 to make Ohio Benefit Bank services more accessible to local community
members. One of the ways in which they hoped to increase access was by hosting
several free tax clinics on Saturdays during tax season.
As soon as the CAC began marketing its tax clinics, calls
began flooding their phone lines. With this, CAC realized that more volunteer OBB
counselors would be needed to supplement its trained staff members. Luckily,
Joree had a connection with an AmeriCorps *VISTA member named Nichelle Shuck,
who serves with Ohio Campus Compact at Kent State University.
"Nichelle was able to connect me with several student
volunteers who were looking to satisfy a service learning requirement for one
of their courses at Kent State," reported Joree. "Those five student CAC of Portage volunteers
added the extra OBB support that the CAC of Portage County was seeking. The
result was a collaboration that proved worthwhile for the Kent State students,
the CAC, and the Portage County community as a whole."
During its first two successful tax clinics, the CAC of
Portage County saw 66 clients for a total of $94,885 in tax refunds. And with
two additional tax clinics scheduled in March, the CAC of Portage County will
continue to raise the bar through local collaboration in Northeast Ohio.
|Site Spotlight: United
Way of Muskingum, Perry, and Morgan Counties
United Way of Muskingum, Perry, and Morgan Counties (UWMPM) first got involved
with The Benefit Bank in the late fall of 2007, just before tax season. Amy Davis, Financial Stability Partnership
Coordinator, was one of the first counselors trained for her site, and really
saw the potential of TBB to serve the residents of Muskingum County. Now in its third tax season, UWMPM has
organized a self-sufficient network of community volunteers who operate
numerous tax clinics every year. Growing
from a single Super Saturday tax clinic in 2008 to adding many smaller clinics
in 2009 and 2010, UWMPM's involvement in taxes has grown considerably. In 2008 and 2009 UWMPM held the record
for the largest tax clinic, their Super Saturday tax clinic, where over 50
clients were served in three hours!
Davis has pulled together a great group of volunteers - several in their third
year of volunteering - and the United Way of Muskingum, Perry, and Morgan has
made a tremendous impact on their community.
As of the end of February, United Way's OBB counselors assisted over 140
clients and filed returns with refunds worth over $270,000! Keep up the great work, and we look forward
to your continued success!
|Medina County JFS Generates over $270,000 In Refunds
Medina County Job
and Family Service (MCJFS) hosted 3 tax clinics bringing in over
$270,000 in tax refunds. Fourteen trained MCJFS staff
provided services on three Saturdays in February and March to help
with the clinics.
Merit Bank of Medina
was also available on site to help those customer's without a bank account
by offering to open a Reality Checking or Savings for only $1.00
deposit. MCJFS clinics were a big success and customer's
were thankful for the opportunity to submit their taxes through E-File at no
Numbers from The Ohio Benefit Bank Call Center
The OBB statewide hotline takes calls from Ohioans
all over the state who are in crisis and looking for assistance with health
care costs, food needs, utility bills, child care, free tax filing and more.
OBB hotline specialists refer callers to OBB sites around the state for
assistance in completing and submitting benefit applications and to other
In 2008 the hotline took 16,884 calls.
Last year the 1-800 hotline took over 52,000 calls.
In January 2010 alone, the hotline took 36,687 calls!
A snapshot of OBB Hotline Callers, January & February
Of 426 callers who reported they were not working: 92% said they did not receive unemployment. 86% reported that they or a household member exhausted
their unemployment benefits without finding another job. And 61% reported their home is currently in foreclosure.
We also asked callers to tell us how they are coping. About one-third of callers reported they are using check cashing or Payday Loan Services.
|Client Spotlight: Cook's Helper
Charles Stough, OBB
counselor, City Heart, Dayton
was a newly hired cook in a restaurant where the staff has used Benefit Bank
tax prep services in the past, so on her colleagues' advice, she came to City Heart
in Dayton. She hadn't worked for about five months but had a small income from
a previous restaurant job, and certainly had a refund coming. She also has a teenage
son, which qualified her for the EITC. She had guessed that she would get about
$2,000 back, but The Benefit Bank said she was to get state and federal refunds
of about $4,200.
The OBB counselor noted that she probably also qualified for emergency food aid
and asked if she would like to explore that. She shrugged, mildly interested,
and said, "Well, my ride won't be here for a while, so why not?"
Did she ever qualify. OBB's calculation was that she was potentially eligible for $235 a month in
food assistance. Her eyes bugged as the application zipped over to the job
center electronically. Getting that
benefit will double her disposable income.
It was a good outcome but not unusual in cases of people who work in the
hospitality industry. This is a group of working poor, very self-reliant
people, who don't think about seeking public benefits. When an OBB counselor
connects them with something like Food Assistance or HEAP, it is a most satisfying
experience for the counselor too.
The counselor asked Geraldine if she wanted the tax refund sent
straight to her bank account. She said, "I don't have any money. Why would
I have a bank account?"
She'll wait for her refund checks to arrive in the mail, but
she'll have a bank account next year.
|Evan and Wyatt and the Magical, Dessert-Enlarging Pennywhistle
a comic strip by Charles Stough
Have you ever wished you could magically double the size
of a great dessert? In Charley Stough's comic strip, a couple of kids use
magical pennywhistles to do just that. Stough was a VISTA with OASHF in 2007-08
and now serves as an OBB Counselor for City Heart in Dayton.
Contact The Ohio Benefit Bank