LAKEWOOD, Ohio - In an effort to help low-income individuals and families file their taxes electronically for free, LakewoodAlive and Empowering and Strengthening Ohio's People (ESOP) are once again joining forces for a "Super Saturday" event scheduled for March 4 at the Turkish Cultural Center located in the Birdtown area of Lakewood.
"Last year was our first time doing it in partnership with ESOP," LakewoodAlive Executive Director Ian Andrews said. "There was so much demand in Lakewood that we wanted to do this for a while. We were really excited to launch it.
"There are transportation limitations for folks who live in Birdtown area, which is a proud yet more impoverished neighborhood than the rest of Lakewood. We said let's try to have an event in the neighborhood where people can walk to the site and take advantage of the incredible service."
Eligibility for free tax prep requires: families with three or more qualifying children who earned less than $47,955 in 2016 (or less than $53,505 for married filing jointly); families with two qualifying children who earned less than $44,648 in 2016 (or less than $50,198 for married filing jointly); families with one qualifying child who earned less than $39,296 in 2016 (or less than $44,846 for married filing jointly); and individuals who do not have a qualifying child, but are between the ages of 25 and 64 with earned income of less than $14,880 in 2016 (or less than $20,430 for married filing jointly).
"With a lot of low-income folks, they're spending nearly all of their money back into the community," Andrews said.
New this year is the involvement of Cox Communications, which is not only providing free public Wi-Fi at the event but also promoting its Connect2Compete program. The latter offers families with at least one student in grades K-12 who receives free or reduced lunch, or resides in public housing, a no-contract high-speed internet service for $9.95 per month.
Last year's inaugural event involved 30 people filing tax returns with more than $35,000 in refunds. Andrews said this year's event, which is sold out, will be assisting 53 individuals and families with tax returns.
"Part of our mission is how do we connect people to resources," Andrews said. "We are really excited we can play that role to be the convener to help these folks get a hold of this money that they're entitled to. This year, we just barely began our promotions and it was already sold out. That speaks to the demand. We'd like to (do more) in the future. The biggest issue is funding."
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