United for Farmworkers, United for ITIN Filers: United Way of Central Eastern California - United Ways of California

United for Farmworkers, United for ITIN Filers: United Way of Central Eastern California

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Read time: 3 minutes

Local United Way Spotlight: United Way of Central Eastern California

United Ways of California is proud to support the work of California’s 28 local United Ways throughout the state. These local United Ways are the heartbeat of our work. This spotlight is the first in a series where we uplift the important work happening across the state through our local partners. Together, we are United for good. 

United Way of Central Eastern California (CEC), formerly United Way of Kern County, recently expanded their geographic reach and now serves Kern, Mono, Inyo, and northern San Bernardino Counties, and Indian Wells Valley. The organization is active across United Way’s foundational pillars of education, health, and economic resilience. One key area of activity is outreach to and services for farmworkers and current or potential ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) tax filers to connect community members with support and programs that put cash back in their pockets.

In addition to United Way CEC’s critical recent partnership in distributing Farm and Food Worker Relief funds, for many years, the organization has been going to the fields to meet farmworkers where they are and provide valuable resources like free tax help.

The organization has seen how tax credits, particularly those available to ITIN filers such as the California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC), can reduce taxes owed or even put money back into the taxpayers’ pockets.

To date, community members who use mobile Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites run by United Way CEC—most of whom are ITIN filers—have qualified for a total of about $65,000 through the CalEITC! These refunds are usually spent on basic needs, which about 40% of households in Kern County struggle to cover, according to the United Ways of California Real Cost Measure study data.

One community member who had less income in 2023 than the previous year due to lack of employment opportunities in the fields qualified for CalEITC, and her total tax refund was over $1,000. She was extremely grateful and happy to share that she would be able to use the money to pay her rent and buy food for the following month.

This tax season alone, United Way CEC has served more than 100 ITIN filers.

When they help ITIN clients file their taxes, United Way CEC helps them understand their tax return and encourages them to keep filing, helping them understand the importance of doing so. They often help clients who need to file as many as five years back, as this is important to have if they are adjusting their immigration status.

Last year, United Way CEC also assisted community members with completing ITIN applications and renewals. “This line of work creates a significant impact,” said United Way CEC Economic Resilience Manager Sofia Calero Mejia, “as an ITIN not only allows them to file taxes, but it also enables eligible community members to claim credits for dependents, build their credit, access high interest bank accounts and mortgage loans, and more.”

Additionally, United Way CEC is supporting other United Ways in the California network who are beginning to work more with getting people ITINs. United Way CEC developed training materials for other local United Ways to help set them up for success in this work—creating impact that will go beyond their community to help others throughout the state.

The free tax help United Way CEC is doing not only helps individuals and families in the community move from surviving to thriving, but it also puts money back into local economies.

Learn more about free tax resources available across the state through the California United Way network.   

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