Almost 2000 NYCHA Residents Received $2.8 Million in Refunds Through NYCHA’s Free Tax Prep Program

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NEW YORK – Today, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), the Fund for Public Housing, Food Bank For New York City, and Citi Community Development announced the successful results of this year’s NYCHA Free Tax Preparation Program.

Managed by NYCHA’s Office of Resident Economic Empowerment and Sustainability (REES), this year’s Free Tax Prep Program helped 1,901 NYCHA residents and lower-income New Yorkers file their tax returns at no cost, an increase from the 1,720 participants served in 2017. Hosted at 27 NYCHA sites across this city, this year’s program helped participants get $2.8 million in tax refunds, a 10.8 percent increase from the $2.5 million generated in 2017.

Food Bank For New York City has partnered with the Authority to help NYCHA residents, NYCHA Section 8 voucher holders, and other lower-income New Yorkers earning less than $54,000 a year file state and federal taxes at no cost since 2014, and with support from Citi Community Development since 2015. The program partners with trusted, IRS-certified tax preparers as part of the national IRS Virtual Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.

“The success of this year’s NYCHA Free Tax Prep program demonstrates the positive impact of public-private partnerships in our NYCHA communities,” said NYCHA Executive Vice President for Community Engagement and Partnerships Sideya Sherman. “A key goal of our REES office is to connect residents to mainstream financial products and services. Thanks to the efforts of the Fund for Public Housing, Food Bank For New York City, and Citi Community Development, almost 2,000 NYCHA residents and other low-income New Yorkers received almost $3 million dollars in tax refunds through this free program. These refunds will make a real difference in the lives of our residents and families across the city.”

“Scale is one of the great challenges of serving NYCHA communities. With a population of almost 400,000 New Yorkers, there are excellent programs that many residents don't use because they are not available nearby,” said Rasmia Kirmani-Frye, President of the Fund for Public Housing. “This collaboration to operate Virtual VITA services at NYCHA developments in each borough is the perfect example of how we should be bringing successful programs to more NYCHA residents, reaching them in their home communities.”

“The cost to file taxes has often forced hardworking, yet poor New Yorkers to leave federal dollars on the table when they cannot afford to claim the refunds and credits they have earned. Food Bank is proud to partner with groups like NYCHA, the Fund for Public Housing, and Citi Community Development to collaboratively reach the filers needing the help most. Our work together provides a modern and timely hand up to New Yorkers deserving to experience the dignity found in thriving,” said Margarette Purvis, President and CEO of Food Bank For New York City, one of the largest free tax assistance providers in the nation.

Thanks to the ongoing partnership between the Fund for Public Housing and Citi Community Development, Food Bank For New York City was able to expand the number of available tax preparation sites for the second year in a row. Twenty-seven NYCHA community centers and Jobs-Plus sites across the five boroughs hosted the program, up from 22 sites in 2017 and double the number of sites in 2016.

“Tax time provides New Yorkers living on lower incomes with the opportunity to benefit from programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit, which can be a significant cash infusion to pay down debt, make important household purchases or build up savings. But too many who are eligible are missing out on this important credit, or are paying hundreds of dollars to access it,” said Eileen Auld, New York/Tri-State Market Director for Citi Community Development. “Through this partnership with NYCHA, we can ensure that more residents can access free, high-quality tax prep services and gain the full value of the credits they’ve earned.”

“It’s free. It's also very easy and understandable because the staff is on hand to help you with the paperwork. Another good thing about Virtual VITA is that if you need guidance on ways to use your tax refund, as well as with budgeting, you have immediate access to a financial counselor," said Marcy Houses resident and Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation Jobs-Plus member Janaya Melton.

According to Food Bank For New York City, the average adjusted gross income of filers at the 27 NYCHA sites was $15,668; the average tax return of $1,473 was a significant supplement to their income. The program was administered at sites that serve job seekers, providing a critical financial support to those who are unemployed. More than $1 million – nearly 40 percent of the funds tax filers received – came from the Earned Income Tax Credit.