United Way’s “bundled” services aren’t about keeping warm for the winter. They’re about providing integrated programs to help struggling Bay Area residents get financial help by addressing their complete financial picture.
Our Earn It! Keep It! Save It! free tax preparation service is often a gateway to those bundled services. Low-income residents come in to one of our 200 tax sites thinking they will just get free tax preparation, and they leave with connections to other programs that can help them improve their finances.
For example, Charselle Hooper visited the Earn It! Keep It! Save It! tax site at SparkPoint Marin because she couldn’t afford a commercial preparer. She had lost her job and was unsure how to account for her unemployment benefits on her tax return. After completing her return, the volunteer tax preparer suggested that Charselle look into SparkPoint’s other services.
At SparkPoint, people can get one-on-one financial coaching, credit counseling, and career assistance, in addition to getting connected with public assistance, matched savings accounts, and first-time home buyer programs.
For Charselle, her situation was complicated because she couldn’t work while awaiting back surgery. However, she had lots of creativity, and had written a children’s book. At SparkPoint, she learned how to create a business plan, and she hopes to publish later this year or next year.
“I first came to SparkPoint to get my taxes done. Now, they are helping me plan for my future and stay focused and upbeat, which isn’t easy in this tough economy. With their encouragement, I know I’m going to get through this tough patch,” said Charselle.
Charselle is one of about 60,000 people who will use United Way’s Earn It! Keep It! Save It! free services this year, and many will be referred to SparkPoint and other services so they can gain more solid financial footing.
Learn more about Earn It! Keep It! Save It! and find the tax site near you at www.earnitkeepitsaveit.org. You can also call 211 to find a tax site and learn what documents to bring.