United Way Celebrates Free Tax Prep Volunteers & $2.9 Million in Returns
April 27, 2019 – Utica NY - As April comes to a close, so does tax season and volunteer appreciation month, making this weekend a perfect time to celebrate the efforts of more than 70 volunteers who participated in United Way of the Valley and Greater Utica Area’s Free Tax Prep program. Joined by Congressman Anthony Brindisi, United Way of the Valley & Greater Utica Area (United Way VGU), in partnership with the Mohawk Valley Asset Building Coalition (MVABC) honored those volunteers that gave 1,931 hours of their time, prepping 2,183 to bring $2,905,655 back into the pockets of families and individuals in the Mohawk Valley.
“There were some real challenges this year because of some of the changes in the tax laws and government shutdown,” stated Congressman Brindisi, “but we got through it. Despite these unique challenges, the program received a lot of first time volunteers who are going to come back next year and help again. This was a great collaborative effort that brought great results for people in our area, saving a lot of time, money and effort filing their taxes. Thank you to everyone involved.”
United Way’s Free Tax Prep program offers free tax help to people living in Oneida and Herkimer Counties. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing for taxpayers from eligible households.
"I'm a librarian, and my profession is all about helping people,” stated volunteer Jim Teliha. “I see being a [Free Tax Prep] volunteer as a logical extension of that, helping individuals navigate an increasingly complex bureaucracy. In addition, it helps our community by ensuring people get all the tax credits to which they are entitled, infusing the local economy with that money. It makes me feel that I'm making a positive impact where I live."
United Way of the Valley & Greater Utica Area, in partnership with the Mohawk Valley Asset Building Coalition, is dedicated to helping low-income individuals and families in Oneida and Herkimer Counties become financially self-sufficient by offering the Free Tax Prep program. While having funded this program for several years, this season marked the first year of operating under United Way VGU’s leadership and administration.
“Our volunteers are creating a tremendous impact on the lives of so many people right here in our community, as well as the local economy,” stated UWVGUA CEO, Erin Gutierrez Matt. “Through this program, United Way, our partners, volunteers and donors help individuals save money which assists in moving people towards financial independence and a better quality of life.”
Other successes of this year’s Unite Way Free Tax Program included a new and improved online appointment self-scheduling system, scheduling by calling 2-1-1, also a United Way of the Valley & Greater Utica Area program and increasing appointment locations to seven sites throughout Oneida and Herkimer Counties.
If you are looking to volunteer for the 2019/2020 tax season with United Way of the Valley & Greater Utica Area’s Free Tax Prep program, please contact UWVGUA’s Financial Services Administrator, Kristen Synakowski, at 315-733-4691, or by email at KristenS@unitedwayvgu.org.