Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Campaign Helping at Tax Time; Human Services Coalition Helps Qualified Benefit from Earned Income Tax Credit

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Campaign Helping at Tax Time; Human Services Coalition Helps Qualified Benefit from Earned Income Tax Credit

Article excerpt

Byline: MARY KELLI PALKA, The Times-Union

Stacey Clyburn was heading to her Jacksonville church to do a task most adults dread -- filing her tax return.

What the 28-year-old Jacksonville woman didn't know is that she would walk out of Potters House Church on Normandy Boulevard with more than just copies of her tax papers. She would be closer to her dream of owning a house.

Potters House Church was one of several community churches and non-profit organizations that participated this year in the Northeast Florida Prosperity Campaign, an effort to get the word out to low or moderate-income people or families that they might be entitled to an earned income tax credit.

The federal tax benefit has been available since 1975, but in Duval County, officials believe residents failed to claim about $10 million that they earned and were owed by the federal government.

In 2003, some churches and non-profits offered tax preparation assistance to 1,563 people who received $1.5 million in tax refunds, with $485,843 of that in earned income credits.

The Human Services Coalition, with funding from the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, wanted to work with those grassroots efforts and expand them to reach more people. That's where the prosperity campaign came into the picture. The coalition, which is made up of groups that fund human services in Northeast Florida, was joined by non-profit, private and public organizations to spread the word.

As of the end of March, 2,246 people had sought tax help through the prosperity campaign. They received almost $3.4 million in refunds, with about $1.4 million in earned income credits.

"I'm delighted we were able to bring more federal dollars to Jacksonville for our most deserving citizens," said Mayor John Peyton, who supported the campaign.

Clyburn was one of the people who participated and after filing her return electronically, she ended up with about $4,000 in her bank account.

But Potters House Church officials and prosperity campaign workers didn't send Clyburn off without guidance about her options for spending the money.

Instead, Clyburn was told about a course she could take to learn about savings accounts, reviewing her credit report and buying a house. …

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