The Lewiston-Auburn CA$H Coalition marked its 10th year helping local residents save money by providing free tax preparation and asset-building assistance at an anniversary celebration on April 10.
There was much to celebrate. From January 24 through April 1, Coalition volunteers prepared 1,783 returns, resulting in $2,816,000 in claimed Federal refunds and $534,000 in claimed State refunds. Those numbers brought the Coalition’s 10-year tally for claimed Federal and State tax refunds on behalf of Lewiston-Auburn area residents to $18,984,674!
One of 11 volunteer tax preparation coalitions statewide, the Lewiston-Auburn CA$H Coalition accounted this year for a whopping 41% of the total 4,361 returns prepared by these groups. That work was accomplished by the Coalition’s cadre of dedicated IRS-certified tax preparers, asset-building coaches, greeters, quality reviewers, and appointment schedulers, who collectively donated over 2,000 hours of volunteer work during the 2013 season.
One of the goals of the Coalition is to promote the Earned Income Tax Credit, a Federal tax credit for workers that has become known as the nation’s largest anti-poverty initiative. This year, the Federal refunds claimed by the program for this credit totaled $918,000.
Coalition members also provided asset-building information to interested individuals on topics such as savings accounts, budgeting, home ownership, debt management, business start-up, and individual and family development accounts. Asset coaches at the free tax sites this season fielded information requests from 365 individuals.
“In today’s challenging economy, it is indeed good to know that free tax preparation and asset-building opportunities are available for L-A area families,” noted Lewiston Mayor Robert E. Macdonald. “For 10 years, the City of Lewiston has taken a leadership role with the L-A Coalition. I’m proud to be Mayor of a municipality that encourages residents to be proactive in utilizing available resources to build a sound financial future.”
Lewiston’s Community Relations Coordinator and Coalition Co-Chair Dottie Perham-Whittier presented a Powerpoint presentation on the Coalition’s 2013 tax season, stressing that the Coalition advocates self-sufficiency and financial stability for local residents. She also noted that three students from the University of Maine were talented additions to the team’s efforts this year.
Site Coordinator KC Geiger and Head Start Training Coordinator and Coalition Co-Chair Chris Adler presented certificates to program volunteers Abdisalan Ali, Paul Blanchard, Lisa Bolen, Ronald Bunker, Kate Cooper, Eugene Field, Cheryl Gallant, Yolande Gay, Gerald Langelier, Frances Lodge, Andy Michaud, Joshua Minnich, Carole Ressler, Marge Schwietering, Nancy Tapley, Antoine Tolton, Robert Wailus, Chris Adler, Nancy Bisson, Bob Cavanagh, Roland Danico, Joe Defilipp, Melody Fish, Louise Gervais, Judy Gervais, Monica Lee, Marilou MacDonald, Paul Maheux, Claudette Martel, Gerry Martel, Dick Moore, Wayne Penley, Janet Sullivan, Sue Tymoczko, Laurie McDonnell, Jennifer Allen, Jill Lorom, and Libby Bernier-Michaud. The top volunteer tax preparer for the 2013 season, filing 219 returns, was Marilou MacDonald.
AARP District Director Frances Lodge and Perham-Whittier also noted the positive relationship between the CA$H Coalition and AARP, who work collaboratively during the tax season to prepare free tax returns. Lodge also praised the efforts of AARP’s new local coordinator, Paul Blanchard. The 545 tax returns completed by AARP volunteers brought the total of returns prepared at either the Lewiston Memorial Armory or Auburn City Building in 2013 to 2,238.
The efforts of long-time Site Coordinator KC Geiger were lauded, and appreciation was extended to Lewiston’s Recreation Department and its Management Information Services Department for their assistance in transitioning from the Coalition’s former Lewiston tax prep site, the Multi-Purpose Center, to its new site at Memorial Armory on Central Avenue.
The CA$H Coalition is currently funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Key Bank, and a statewide VITA grant. Coalition partners are the City of Lewiston, City of Auburn, Internal Revenue Service, Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Androscoggin County, Androscoggin Head Start & Child Care, Women, Work, & Community, Key Bank, Pine Tree Legal, Coastal Enterprises, Inc., Lewiston Adult Education, Lewiston Housing Authority – Hillview, Auburn Housing Authority, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Maine Migrant Workers, AARP Tax Aide Program, United Somali Women of Maine, Volunteers of America, HUD, Community Concepts, Goodwill, and retired seniors.