"It is estimated that as many as 50,000 low-income Arkansans who qualify for the EITC do not claim it, leaving more than $76 million in federal assistance unclaimed annually," observed Dr. Sherece Y. West, president and CEO of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. "Increasing the number of families receiving the EITC is an important poverty reduction strategy."
To build the infrastructure needed to help Arkansans utilize the EITC, WRF gave a $145,000 grant to ASUMH. ASUMH will partner with the Arkansas Community Organizations, Healthy Connections, and the Mississippi County Arkansas Economic Opportunity Commission to expand Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites in Baxter, Jefferson, Mississippi, Polk, and Pulaski counties. VITA sites provide free tax preparation services for low-income families, ensuring that these families receive all of the credits for which they are eligible.
In recent years WRF has invested significantly in VITA sites. Last year, WRF's support resulted in 1,300 tax returns prepared for low-income families, yielding $880,000 in EITC refunds received, as well as savings of $195,000 that otherwise would have gone to tax preparation fees.
"Many of these dollars were spent in local communities," Dr. West noted, "thus strengthening the state's economy."
WRF also made a $7,500 grant to the Arkansas Policy Foundation for the production of a study on the potential for the EITC to improve Arkansas's economic standing. This study will explore how expanding the state's VITA site infrastructure could enable Arkansas to reduce its poverty rate.