By: Will White
Congress gets back to work this month after its summer recess and legislators will have their hands full with a number of pressing items. High on the list of priorities will be agreeing on a spending bill that funds the government and its programs over the next fiscal year. One of those programs is the IRS’ Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program which helps fund our Earn It! Keep It! Save It! tax coalition that provides free tax assistance to Bay Area working families earning up to $54,000 a year.
In 2018, our tax sites and volunteers helped bring back over $80 million in tax returns to workers throughout the Bay Area. Due in large part to funding from VITA, we have been able to inform and connect thousands of Bay Area families to the tax credits that they deserve and need.
While the VITA program has consistently enjoyed strong support on both sides of the aisle, funding has remained flat at $15 million since its inception. This funding helps UWBA and other tax prep coalitions do this important work, but we know we can help thousands more across the country with even a modest increase in funding.
Thankfully, two senators have championed a bi-partisan amendment to the spending bill that would increase resources for VITA. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Dean Heller (R-Nevada) sponsored an amendment that would increase funding to $20 million. If enacted, this modest increase would be the first in the program’s history and would give a much-needed boost to tax coalitions across the country.
The bill passed with overwhelming support in the Senate on a 98-1 vote and now heads to the House for concurrence. It will likely be put to a vote this month as congress works to finalize its spending priorities for the next fiscal year.
While VITA funding is not grabbing major headlines, it is of critical importance to the thousands of working families that rely on this service every year and thousands more who might benefit if funding for the program is increased. For many Bay Area households, receiving a healthy tax return can mean the difference between getting ahead and falling behind financially.
We need your help to ensure congress makes funding for the VITA program a priority. Join our advocacy effort by calling your member of the House and asking them to support an increase in VITA funding to $20 million in this year’s spending bill. Find your member of congress here.