Residents who go to a watchdog group in Newark for free help in figuring out what they owe Uncle Sam this year will be able find out if they qualify for other assistance they may need to survive the nation's economic downturn.
The New Jersey Citizen Action tax preparation office on West Park Street will provide benefits counseling this tax season to help clients determine if they qualify for food stamps, health insurance, heating and utility bill assistance and other services, officials said yesterday.
The office, renamed the Citizen Action Economic Security Center, was described at a news conference yesterday as a necessary force for dealing with the current economy.
"There's going to be a greater need as our nation's economic crisis continues," said Phyllis SaloweKaye, New Jersey Citizen Action's executive director.
The office in Newark started its free tax preparation services for low-income residents in 2007, with the financial support of several banks, foundations and corporations, said Salowe-Kaye. The center also is one of the Internal Revenue Service's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program sites.
With more than $500,000 from the Sovereign Endowment at the Independence Community Foundation and SingleStop USA, a national antipoverty program, Citizen Action was able to add the free, confidential benefits counseling that will link clients with vital services they need, said Salowe-Kaye.
She said the move ties the center to Citizen Action's mission of providing advocacy services, and will require additional fundraising to continue the counseling for at least three years.
To qualify, residents must come from households that earn $42,000, or less, annually. Those who also qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit may receive up to $5,789 in tax refunds.
Other IRS volunteer income tax assistance program sites, announced by Newark officials earlier this month, included the following locations in the city: City Hall; the Financial Empowerment Center, 103 Bloomfield Ave.; and One Stop Career Center, 990 Broad St.
The program is also available at the Essex County Department of Citizen Services, 50 S. Clinton St., East Orange.
For more information, call (888) 829-3711.
Copyright 2009 The Star-Ledger