VITA coalition to expand services with new funding

MUSKEGON — A new grant award will help to expand free tax preparation services for low- to moderate-income individuals and families in Muskegon and surrounding counties. Goodwill Industries of West Michigan, as the lead agency for a coalition of 15 local nonprofit organizations, submitted a successful grant application to the Internal Revenue Service.

The IRS grant will support the local Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program that provides free tax preparation services in Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana and Lake Counties.  Last tax season, the VITA program operated 13 tax sites where over 30 volunteers assisted more than 1,400 taxpayers in claiming $1.4 million in federal and state tax refunds.

With the IRS grant award, the coalition, known as VITA Services for West Michigan, hopes to expand to at least 15 and possibly 16 tax sites.

“We are excited that our plans to increase access to free tax preparation services by adding sites will become a reality,” said Goodwill Prosperity Center Manager Jane Drake. “We want to help more people claim and keep all of the tax credits they have earned. Last year was a great year for us in terms of growth. The IRS grant will help keep us on that trend.” 

Drake noted the IRS grant program is highly competitive with less than half of each year’s applicants receiving an award. This year, $12 million in grants were awarded to 206 VITA programs nationally, and eight in Michigan. Goodwill also qualified for a three-year grant award this year. Only programs that have been successful in meeting all requirements of a single-year grant qualify for a multi-year grant.

Key partners in VITA Services for West Michigan that will be involved in planning and implementing the program requirements for the grant are Goodwill Industries of West Michigan, Community enCompass, TrueNorth Community Services, Love INC – Muskegon, and CALL 2-1-1. Other partners who will support the program by hosting tax sites are Love INC – Newaygo, Muskegon-Oceana Community Action Partners, Baker College, Muskegon Community College, Hesperia Community Library, Hart Area Public Library, Family Health Care (Baldwin, White Cloud, Grant,) and Muskegon Area District Library (Holton Community Library.) 

Contact: Liz Witzler, Marketing Director, Goodwill Industries of West Michigan, Inc. (231) 722-7871 x223 

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