CAHS has worked for over 15 years to boost the financial stability of low-to-moderate income (LMI) households in Connecticut. In addition to CMS, CAHS’ FES programs include VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance), ABO (AccessBenefits Online), and CAB (Connecticut Asset Builders). Our programs utilize anti-poverty policies, evidence-based programs, networks of community-based partnerships, and integrated service delivery to help LMI families become financially stable, empowered, and secure.
VITA: CAHS has an extensive history coordinating VITA sites in Connecticut, coordinating free tax preparation assistance and access to valuable credits for households with income under $53,000 a year. For 10 years, CAHS has partnered with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and community agencies to convene VITA coalitions throughout most of the state. CAHS operates 50 VITA sites that utilize 400 volunteers to produce 48% of the VITA tax returns for the state. CAHS’ VITA sites also provide LMI families with an entry point for the introduction of other resources that they need, such as public benefits screenings, financial education, and financial coaching. During the 2014 tax season, by utilizing our VITA service, 12,750 households in Connecticut collectively saved $2.5M in tax preparation fees, received $23M in refunds, and $8M in federal Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) at CAHS’ VITA sites.
ABO: AccessBenefits Online facilitates access to public benefits offered by federal, state, and local governments by using qualified outreach workers and social service staff from community organizations in 18 communities statewide to guide individuals and families through the public benefits application process and help them to apply for multiple benefits including: Medicaid, HUSKY, Healthy Start, WIC, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), EITC, Child Tax Credit, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Energy Assistance, and Connecticut Care 4 Kids child care subsidies.
CAB: CAHS has a history of helping unbanked and underbanked families to develop relationships with financial institutions and use mainstream financial products. In 2009, CAHS partnered with several banks and community-based agencies to launch a statewide Bank On project. Bank On programs negotiate with banks and credit unions in local communities to reduce barriers to banking and increase access to the financial mainstream. CAHS’ Bank On initiative was widely supported by nonprofit partners and community banks, but was unable to raise operating funds or achieve strong outcomes. For 2014-15, CAHS realigned our program goals and launched the CT Asset Builders (CAB) program to help low income families gain access to banks, credit unions, and other financial products and services. Currently, the CAB program partners with 17 VITA sites in Fairfield County, recruits and trains volunteers to promote asset building at VITA sites, refers LMI families to financial products and services, introduces families to credit management services including Credit Karma, and aims to change financial behaviors.