Goodwill’s mission is to provide training, employment, and supportive services to individuals with disabilities or disadvantages who seek greater independence. For many, a job is that independence, providing purpose in addition to a paycheck.
Goodwill is able to help individuals in all of these areas through financial empowerment, volunteer income tax assistance, financial wellness and benefits counseling services. Last month, I focused on the financial empowerment services that Goodwill is able to provide. Today, we’ll dig deeper and focus on volunteer income tax assistance, financial wellness and benefits counseling.
For several years, we have been a host VITA site (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) at our James O. Wright Center for Work and Training. Free VITA tax services are offered at sites across the state, but the Goodwill VITA site is one of the few that offers individual tax appointments. In 2015, by partnering with AmeriCorps, we provided free tax assistance to over 800 low income individuals, translating into over $1 million of total tax refunds and an estimated savings of over $100,000 in tax filing fees and avoidance of 3rd party tax refund advancement loans. Over the last 3 years of running the VITA site, we have seen many return visitors to our site to get their taxes completed, and many Goodwill employees utilize this free service as well.
On April 24, 59 Goodwill employees, participants, and members of the general public attended our first Financial Wellness Fair at our James O. Wright Center for Work and Training. Over 20 community partners were present to offer resources for banking, credit building, Social Security benefits, health insurance, and home ownership. Individuals were able to access their FICO credit scores on-site and learn how to take steps to improve their credit. Consumer credit agencies also were on-site to offer free debt counseling. Tweleve individuals signed up with the AmeriCorps Financial Empowerment team to meet one-on-one with a Financial Coach to get further help with setting and achieving their financial goals. One employee was able to find a resource to refinance their home and save money each month.
Goodwill also offers Benefits Counseling which helps individuals on Social Security make decisions to transition into work while maintaining their level of benefits. Much of our effort is around education; helping people who want to work understand they can maintain their benefits and transition into a higher level of employment. In 2014, 338 individuals utilized Benefits Counseling.
To learn more about any of the services I mentioned above, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.