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   from the issue of November 16, 2006

UNL project to assist low-income families


A new service project at UNL will provide tax preparation assistance in January and February for low-income working families as part of a large-scale service project designed to impact local poverty.

In partnership with the Center for People in Need, the Human Services Federation, and the Internal Revenue Service, UNL faculty, staff and students will create "super-centers" in the Nebraska and East Unions for 12 nights in early 2007 where low-income working families can go to receive tax preparation and information on a host of other social services.

Student Involvement's Service-Learning/Volunteer Services unit began recruiting volunteers from across campus to become certified tax assistants through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. The volunteers will help families identify whether they qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit. A series of informational sessions were held Nov. 13-15. Additional volunteers are welcome.

For more information, including how to volunteer, go online to

According to the IRS, Lincoln families received nearly $3.5 million in tax refunds from the Earned Income Tax Credit program in 2005, raising many of them above the poverty line. According to the Center for People in Need, an average family of four needs at least $40,000 annually in order to be self-sufficient. UNL and its partners hope that by creating the super centers with volunteer tax assistance, more families can receive EITC benefits.

"Through programs like VITA, UNL can make a direct contribution to improving the lives of Nebraska citizens, while also educating students about the realities of local poverty and the programs that are needed to address it," said Linda Moody, assistant director of Student Involvement overseeing the Service-Learning/Volunteer Services unit.

For the past year, poverty has been a subject of study and service for segments of the UNL campus. UNL's College of Education and Human Sciences, for example, has focused their Learning Community and several of their courses on the issue, and will use the project as a service-learning experience. Students will gain hands-on experiences in filling out tax forms and information while discovering how it is almost impossible to live on poverty wages.

"We're excited to see UNL playing a major role in this initiative," said Beatty Brasch, founder of the Center for the People in Need. "Their involvement can help us reach many more families here in Lincoln who deserve EITC refunds and other services but don't know that they qualify."

The program will also benefit the volunteers.

"The VITA program is a perfect way for the UNL community to understand the issues of poverty on a local level," said Moody. "It's a great learning tool for students in every major."



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