Governor Ned Lamont today announced his support for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program and its statewide expansion. The program provides free help for Connecticut’s low-income and ALICE families to file tax returns, allowing them to receive tax credits and Coronavirus economic impact checks and to file for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits.
All residents making up to $56,000 in income are eligible for the services. Administered by the Connecticut Association for Human Services (CAHS), the virtual VITA program is the first IRS-approved end-to-end digital portal to carry out these services, allowing it to rapidly scale operations statewide.
Residents can access the full Virtual VITA services online at www.cahs.org/covid_relief. Residents can also dial 2-1-1 to find the nearest in-person VITA service site or the nearest virtual VITA portal, which offers computers for residents to log on and submit their claims. VITA works with municipalities and local community groups to provide service and accommodate residents across the state.
Economic impact payments available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of up to $1,200 for individuals or $2,400 for married couples, and up to $500 for each qualifying child are only available to those who have filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return, so virtual VITA opens the door for residents who don’t normally file a tax return to receive sorely needed financial support.
Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, beneficiaries of VITA’s tax filing service have received an average of approximately $3,000 from stimulus checks and tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit from filing their tax returns. Those whom VITA has also helped file for unemployment benefits will receive average additional benefits of approximately $20,000 during the year. In total, VITA has delivered approximately $30 million this past year in funds received for its beneficiaries in Connecticut.
“Many Connecticut families deeply affected by the COVID-19 crisis are unfortunately not receiving the financial support they are entitled to by the CARES stimulus, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or other government programs,” Governor Lamont said. “I applaud the work that VITA is doing to get our citizens the financial help they need and deserve, and our state is are committed to supporting the efforts of this important organization to connect with and assist eligible Connecticut residents.”
CAHS has been supported in its expansion by the philanthropic organization 4-CT, which was created with the express purpose of providing emergency assistance to the state’s residents during the current pandemic.
“VITA and CAHS have proven to be an incredibly dynamic partner in pandemic support efforts,” Ted Yang, CEO of 4-CT, said. “Few solutions empower individuals more in accelerating the pace of the government’s response to layoffs and loss of income that we’ve been seeing across the country. 4-CT will continue to work helping the state get through the COVID-19 crisis as securely as possible.”
“We appreciate the support that Governor Lamont’s administration and 4-CT have provided and are proud to offer this critical service to families in our community at a time when they need our support the most,” John Merz, CEO of CAHS, said. “We look forward to continuing to serve the population of Connecticut and getting financial resources to those that need it the most as quickly as possible.”
Connecticut residents who have not filed a 2019 tax return or who have become unemployed but have not yet filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance should visit the CAHS website to learn if they are eligible and register for VITA’s free assistance. VITA also recently announced a Referral Incentive Program, whereby philanthropic organizations within Connecticut can receive cash bonuses for referring eligible VITA beneficiaries who successfully complete the program.
VITA estimates that as many as 140,000 people across the State of Connecticut may be eligible for some type of cash benefit from the government. The deadline for filing tax returns has been extended to July 15, 2020, and the deadline for applying for CARES stimulus funds is October 15, 2020.