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Bloomy touts tax programs for city’s needy

Maria Pichardo (l.) gets some help with her taxes from tax preparer D'Angela Cespedes. Photo by Christina Santucci
TimesLedger Newspapers

As New Yorkers await the arrival of their W-2s, Mayor Michael Bloomberg visited a Corona church Monday to promote the city’s multiple free tax preparation sites and a multi-city program that can make tax returns for the city’s poorest residents go further.

“We really have ramped up our efforts to help struggling families make ends meet,” Bloomberg said.

The Food Bank for NYC-Transfiguration of Christ Greek Orthodox Church, at 38-05 98th St., is the only site in Queens where eligible residents can sign up for SaveUSA.

Under it, residents with children who make less than $51,000 a year and residents without children who make less than $16,000 a year can invest $200 in a SaveUSA account and get a 50 percent match on their investment up to $500 if they do not touch the money for one year.

“In the process, many New Yorkers established bank accounts for the first time,” Bloomberg said.

Originally begun in the city under the name $aveNYC, the program has now expanded to Newark, N.J.; San Antonio, Texas; and Tulsa, Okla.

Veronica White, executive director of the city Center for Economic Opportunity, said $aveNYC was originally funded by the city but now the money comes from a mix of a Social Innovation Fund grant from President Barack Obama’s administration and private funds. Private funds match the federal grant funds three to one.

“We’re flattered that the federal government wanted to take one of our programs and expand it,” Bloomberg said.

SaveUSA began last year, and 1,600 accounts were opened in the four cities with a collective $1 million saved.

“A few hundred dollars in the bank makes all the difference for poor families,” White said.

While in Corona, the mayor also encouraged eligible city residents to take advantage of the 69 Volunteer Income Tax Assistance sites, of which the church is also one. Residents can get their taxes prepared for free if they have children and earn less than $50,000 or do not have children and earn less than $18,000.

“Many struggling families unfortunately don’t understand the money they’re leaving on the table,” said City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst), whose district encompasses the church and Food Bank site.

Elmhurst resident Raymond Garcia said he has been using the tax preparation services for four years as well as the SaveUSA program.

“My kids are going to love buying new sneakers,” he said.

Residents with children who earn less than $41,000 or residents without children who earn less than $31,000 can also get their taxes prepared at H&R Block for $29 through a coupon that can be found at nyc.gov.

The church is open to take SaveUSA enrollment on Mondays through Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The site will be closed Mondays and Fridays in March.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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