United Way Free Tax Help Shifts

United Way California Capital Region is shifting its free tax help program from virtual one-on-one assistance to virtual group assistance and a do-it-yourself option, due to a rise in demand and the new filing deadline of May 17. Eligible households can now visit YourFreeTaxPrep.org to file their taxes online for free by themselves or to sign up for a free April 10 Zoom webinar where United Way’s IRS-certified volunteers will assist the group in filing their taxes online. Space is limited in the Zoom session, so eligible residents should sign up as soon as possible. United Way’s virtual one-on-one appointments are booked through the rest of tax season.

Households throughout the Sacramento region are eligible for free virtual help preparing taxes and claiming credits this year, saving an average of $200 in preparer fees and earning up to $8,000 in credits. More households are eligible to participate in United Way California Capital Region’s Free Tax Prep program this year, including those earning $65,000 or less in 2020. Qualified households can prepare tax returns online for free and claim the maximum tax credits for which they are eligible, including the federal and state Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC and CalEITC).

“After a year where many people lost employment and income, it’s more important than ever for households in our region to take advantage of this program that helps people save money on tax preparation fees and ensures they apply for the maximum refund and credits for which they are eligible,” said Stephanie Bray, president and CEO, United Way California Capital Region. “This program is an important way for our community to jumpstart the local economy in 2021, and it’s a key element of our Square One Project that provides resources for local families so their children can graduate from high school prepared to succeed in college or career.”

This year, more people are eligible to receive the CalEITC and Young Child Tax Credit, including qualifying ITIN holders, after Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1876. Households may be eligible for CalEITC if the taxpayer is at least 18 years old and the household earned less than $30,000 in 2020. Many CalEITC-eligible households are not legally required to file taxes due to low income; however, if they file, they can claim state and federal credits.

Despite the deadline extension, experts recommend everyone files early, noting that many people do not realize that unemployment income may be taxable. Recent legislation exempts $10,200 of unemployment income received in 2020 for individuals with less than $150,000 of income. For those who have already filed, guidance will soon be provided by the IRS. Amended returns should not be filed at this time for these adjustments.

Filers also may qualify for the new Golden State Stimulus if they have filed their 2020 tax return and qualify for CalEITC or hold an ITIN and make less than $75,000. Filers must be California residents when the payment is issued and cannot be claimed as dependants.

United Way’s Free Tax Prep program was shifted online last year when the pandemic and stay-at-home order hit. Even with the pivot to virtual services, United Way’s Free Tax Prep volunteers filed 7,060 returns for the 2019 tax year and put $10.5 million back in the pockets of local families through federal refunds.

For nearly 100 years, United Way California Capital Region has brought local people together to make community change happen. Today, the nonprofit is bringing people together across Amador, El Dorado, Sacramento, Placer and Yolo counties for its Square One Project, a 20-year promise to significantly increase the number of students in our region who graduate from high school ready for success in college and beyond. United Way believes ending poverty starts in school and is working to ensure kids meet important milestones and their families receive support and resources. To learn more and make a donation, visit YourLocalUnitedWay.org.

Local United Way President and CEO to Step Down

Stephanie McLemore Bray, president and CEO of United Way California Capital Region, will leave her position in mid-April as she transitions to her new role as chief engagement officer for Seattle Foundation in May. Amber Lovett, chief resource development and marketing officer at United Way California Capital Region, will transition to interim president and CEO on April 1 while the organization undergoes a nationwide search.

“It has been a privilege to lead United Way California Capital Region for the past seven years,” Bray said. “I am proud of our work to end poverty, starting at school, by removing barriers to student success for low-income children. Through our partnerships with nonprofits, government, school districts, donors and community members, we have helped many families move from crisis to thriving. Our local United Way is well-positioned for its next leader to continue that great work.” 

Bray launched United Way’s Square One Project in 2015, which continues to show improved education outcomes for low-income children in the region. She also completed a successful merger with Woodland United Way and brought in more than $16 million since March 2020, including a $10 million gift from renowned philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.

As chief engagement officer for Seattle Foundation, the Seattle region’s community foundation, Bray will oversee engagements and relationships with the organization’s hundreds of philanthropists, investors and donors. With more than $1 billion in charitable assets and committed bequests, Seattle Foundation awards more than $100 million annually to nonprofit organizations working to make Greater Seattle a stronger, more vibrant community for all.

“Stephanie has been a tireless advocate for people who are marginalized in the greater Sacramento area, and Seattle is fortunate to have her join the community,” said Steve Lins of SMUD and chair of United Way’s board of directors. “We are grateful for all she has done for United Way, and we know she is leaving us in an outstanding position to continue accomplishing important change in our community under a new leader.”

For nearly 100 years, United Way California Capital Region has brought local people together to make community change happen. Today, the nonprofit is bringing people together across Amador, El Dorado, Sacramento, Placer and Yolo counties for its Square One Project, a 20-year promise to significantly increase the number of students in our region who graduate from high school ready for success in college and beyond. United Way believes ending poverty starts in school and is working to ensure kids meet important milestones and their families receive support and resources. To learn more and make a donation, visit YourLocalUnitedWay.org.

Sac Life Center Receives $15K in Grants

The Sacramento Life Center has received grants of $10,000 from American River Bank and $5,000 from Kelly Foundation to provide free health care, resources and needed items for Sacramento-area low-income pregnant women and new moms as the COVID-19 pandemic continues into 2021.

“Because of the pandemic and resulting unemployment, we are seeing double the number of patients needing items from our baby needs closet, as well as increased demand for our free maternal health care during and after pregnancy and Medi-Cal sign-up assistance,” said Marie Leatherby, executive director, Sacramento Life Center. “We are grateful to Kelly Foundation and American River Bank for recognizing the needs of pregnant women and new moms in our community during this trying time and giving so generously.”

The Sacramento Life Center provides free health care services, including pregnancy tests, STI tests, ultrasounds, well woman exams and more. Every woman who comes into the center meets with a patient advocate to determine resources and supports needed, from housing to food and clothing. For pregnant women who do not have health insurance, patient advocates help them enroll in Medi-Cal’s Presumptive Eligibility for Pregnant Women so they can have coverage when they go to a clinic for prenatal care. The center provides low-income pregnant women and new moms with supplies needed during pregnancy and for up to two years after birth, including prenatal vitamins, formula, diapers, wipes, baby clothing and more.

The Sacramento Life Center’s mission is to offer compassion, support, resources and free medical care to women and couples facing an unplanned or unsupported pregnancy. The Sacramento Life Center’s licensed Sac Valley Pregnancy Clinic includes a primary clinic and mobile clinic that provide all services for free, including pregnancy tests, STD tests, ultrasounds, patient advocacy for men and women, education and resource referrals. In 2018, the Sacramento Life Center achieved accreditation by the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care, which ensures the group has met nationally recognized standards for the provision of high-quality health care. The nonprofit also offers a 24-hour hotline and program for women who have experienced pregnancy loss. For more information about the Sacramento Life Center’s Sac Valley Pregnancy Clinic, visit www.svpclinic.com. For more information about the Sacramento Life Center or to make a donation, visit www.saclife.org.

Make It Happen Receives Save Mart Grant to Help Yolo Foster Youth

Make It Happen for Yolo County, a nonprofit serving at-risk youth ages 18-24, has received a grant of $2,500 from the Save Mart Companies C.A.R.E.S. Foundation to fully furnish five homes for local transition age youth in need, mostly foster youth, moving out on their own for the first time in 2021.

“When foster youth turn 18, California provides a stipend to them until they turn 21 to help pay rent when they move out on their own. However there is no support, financial or otherwise, that assists them with obtaining household goods or furnishing their homes,” said Jan Judson, board president, Make It Happen for Yolo County. “We are grateful to our community and generous partners like Save Mart for ensuring transition age youth in need have the resources to be successful first-time renters.”

Make It Happen for Yolo County works with county social workers to help clients complete a wish list of desired household items, and directly coordinates with clients to select items at the group’s storage units. Thanks to donated furniture from the community, it costs an average of $500 to fully provide for one home, including furnishings and appliances for a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living area, as well as cleaning supplies.

Make It Happen for Yolo County is a volunteer-run nonprofit providing transition age youth (ages 18-24), predominantly foster youth, in Yolo County with the furnishings, household goods and resources needed to move into their first apartments. The group receives furniture donations from the community and purchases new appliances and household items to help youth involved with the Yolo County child welfare, mental health and probation divisions, as well as the UC Davis Guardian Scholars program for students who have experienced foster care. Since its founding in 2014, Make It Happen for Yolo County has helped more than 100 Yolo County transition age youth. To make a financial or furniture donation, visit MIHYolo.org.

Save Mart Companies C.A.R.E.S. Foundation supports community, arts, recreation, education and sports. The foundation was created by Save Mart Supermarkets and operates with a separate board of directors maintaining a separate focus on supporting the company’s principle of giving back to the communities it serves. For more information: www.savemart.com/save-mart-companies-cares-foundation.

United Way Offers Free Tax Help

Households throughout the Sacramento region are eligible for free virtual help preparing taxes and claiming credits this year, saving an average of $200 in preparer fees and earning up to $8,000 in credits. More households are eligible to participate in United Way California Capital Region’s Free Tax Prep program this year, including those earning $65,000 or less in 2020. Qualified households can upload documents online and a United Way IRS-certified volunteer will call them to help claim the maximum tax credits for which they are eligible before submission, including the federal and state Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC and CalEITC). The IRS will not begin accepting electronically filed returns until Feb. 12, but United Way recommends filing as soon as tax documents are in hand and it will submit the returns on Feb. 12. To learn more, visit YourFreeTaxPrep.org.

“After a year where many people lost employment and income, it’s more important than ever for households in our region to take advantage of this program that helps people save money on tax preparation fees and ensures they apply for the maximum refund and credits for which they are eligible,” said Stephanie Bray, president and CEO, United Way California Capital Region. “This program is an important way for our community to jumpstart the local economy in 2021, and it’s a key element of our Square One Project that provides resources for local families so their children can graduate from high school prepared to succeed in college or career.”

This year, more people are eligible to receive the CalEITC and Young Child Tax Credit, including qualifying ITIN holders, after Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1876. Households may be eligible for CalEITC if the taxpayer is at least 18 years old and the household earned less than $30,000 in 2020. Many CalEITC-eligible households are not legally required to file taxes due to low income; however if they file, they can claim state and federal credits. Experts recommend everyone files early, noting that many people do not realize that unemployment income is taxable.

United Way’s Free Tax Prep program was shifted online last year when the pandemic and stay-at-home order hit. Even with the pivot to virtual services, United Way’s Free Tax Prep volunteers filed 7,060 returns for the 2019 tax year and put $10.5 million back in the pockets of local families through federal refunds.

For nearly 100 years, United Way California Capital Region has brought local people together to make community change happen. Today, the nonprofit is bringing people together across Amador, El Dorado, Sacramento, Placer and Yolo counties for its Square One Project, a 20-year promise to significantly increase the number of students in our region who graduate from high school ready for success in college and beyond. United Way believes ending poverty starts in school and is working to ensure kids meet important milestones and their families receive support and resources. To learn more and make a donation, visit YourLocalUnitedWay.org.

Society for the Blind Partners with Blind Institute of Tech to Help People Find Jobs

Society for the Blind in Sacramento and Blind Institute of Technology ™ (BIT) in Colorado are joining forces to create a new pathway for employment of people living with blindness or visual impairment. Both organizations are driven by the ultimate goal of full independence for people who are blind and visually impaired (BVI), which makes this a natural pairing.

BIT’s sole focus is employing BVI professionals in corporate America, placing them in positions on par with their education and skill level, through networking, education and workforce development. Society for the Blind is taking on the challenge of employment with its primary focus placed on providing people who are blind or visually impaired with the tools they need to attain employment and independence. The two forward-thinking organizations will pull their resources together to achieve the goal of significantly decreasing not only unemployment, but the underemployment epidemic that plagues professionals who are blind or visually impaired.

“For far too long, blindness organizations across the country have approached the unemployment epidemic amongst the blind and visually impaired in a siloed fashion, which has done nothing as evidenced by the same unemployment rate as 30 years ago when the ADA was passed. It is time to end the epidemic and put BVI professionals where they belong, in mainstream corporate America. I am super excited to be collaborating with a progressive leader like Society for the Blind and look forward to the impact we will make together,” said Mike Hess, BIT executive director.

“It is so important for blindness organizations like Society for the Blind to be creative and really make a difference in the employment opportunities for people living with low vision and blindness. I believe that collaborations allow us all to do more and be more effective, and that is why I am thrilled to be partnering with BIT. Working together, I believe we can truly move the needle on the rate of employment in a positive direction,” said Shari Roeseler, executive director, Society for the Blind.

By leveraging relationships built with its corporate partners, emphasizing workforce development and accessible technology, BIT strives to put its talented, corporate-ready professionals in the best possible position for success. BIT works with disability inclusive Fortune 500 industry giants across the country, placing professionals in all aspects of business, including IT, finance and operations, earning a median salary of $70,000 a year. For those candidates who have the technical aptitude but lack relevant certifications, the BIT Academy offers opportunities to achieve the training and certifications that help them to be competitive, such as its Salesforce Administration Certification Prep course. BIT is an authorized Salesforce training provider for people with disabilities.

Society for the Blind is the Sacramento region’s only comprehensive training and rehabilitation center serving people who are blind or have visual impairments. Serving 27 counties in northern California, Society for the Blind serves nearly 6,000 people impacted by vision loss or blindness each year through its Core Blindness Skills programs, a Low Vision Clinic and other supportive services and programs. In 2018, Society for the Blind established the CareersPLUS program in an effort to address the high unemployment rates among people with vision loss. In the past three years, more than 65 people have found employment and/or pursued college and vocational training through the CareersPLUS program. Society for the Blind is an authorized provider of employment services for the State of California Department of Rehabilitation.

To learn more about the two organizations, visit their websites at www.blindinstituteoftechnology.org and www.societyfortheblind.org.

Sac Life Center Baskets4Babies Drive Raises $13K

The Sacramento Life Center’s seventh annual Baskets4Babies drive for new moms raised $13,000 from the community in December, which will buy 260 baskets for Sacramento Life Center patients throughout 2021. The drive is held each December to kickstart the 500 baby baskets needed so that every Sacramento Life Center patient who gives birth in the coming year can receive a basket of needed items, including diapers, clothing, bottles, formula, homemade blankets, bibs, bathing supplies and more.

Donations will be accepted throughout 2021 and can be made online at www.saclife.org by writing Baskets4Babies in the message box on the donation page. Gifts can be made in any increment, but a donation of $50 buys one basket. A pledge of $50 per month guarantees a mother can return each month to the center’s baby needs closet for additional necessities until her child is 2 years old.

“2020 was such a difficult year for so many families, especially those with few resources who are expecting a new baby,” said Marie Leatherby, executive director, Sacramento Life Center. “Thank you to everyone who donated to this drive so we can give pregnant mothers practical and necessary items and show them that they have a family here at the Sacramento Life Center and a community surrounding them in this new year.”

The Sacramento Life Center’s mission is to offer compassion, support, resources and free medical care to women and couples facing an unplanned or unsupported pregnancy. The Sacramento Life Center’s licensed Sac Valley Pregnancy Clinic includes a primary clinic and mobile clinic that provide all services for free, including pregnancy tests, STD tests, ultrasounds, patient advocacy for men and women, education and resource referrals. In 2018, the Sacramento Life Center achieved accreditation by the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care, which ensures the group has met nationally recognized standards for the provision of high-quality health care. The nonprofit also offers a 24-hour hotline and program for women who have experienced pregnancy loss. For more information about the Sacramento Life Center’s Sac Valley Pregnancy Clinic, visit www.svpclinic.com. For more information about the Sacramento Life Center or to make a donation, visit www.saclife.org.

Formerly Homeless Women and Kids Receive Gifts and Craft Supplies

More than 130 women and children who have experienced homelessness came in shifts to Women’s Empowerment on Dec. 12 to pick up holiday gifts and a Craft Party in a Box donated by the community. Local residents contributed to the group’s Holiday Gifts and Crafts Drive that included specific fillers for children, teens and women, including warm hats, gloves, socks, gift cards, holiday candy, water bottles, notebooks and more. Donations of craft supplies allowed Women’s Empowerment to provide a Craft Party in a Box for each family since this year the group could not hold its annual craft party for women and children to make holiday gifts for their loved ones.

“The holiday spirit was alive and well as we saw recent graduates and those we had not seen in years come by to pick up these special gifts from the community, even though we could not hold our annual craft party,” said Lisa Culp, executive director, Women’s Empowerment. “We are grateful to the community for their generous donations that allowed us to provide each family with a Craft Party in a Box so they could still experience the dignity of gift-making during this season of giving.”

Women’s Empowerment’s programs combine employment readiness, self-esteem courses, health classes and services, support services and paid job training to help women overcome homelessness across diverse ages, races and cultures. Women’s Empowerment was featured on NBC’s The TODAY Show in 2015 for offering the most comprehensive job-readiness program in the Sacramento area designed specifically for women who are homeless and their children. The award-winning organization has graduated 1,697 women and their 3,792 children. Last year, 70 percent of graduates found homes in the midst of the housing crisis, and 79 percent secured jobs or enrolled in school or training. Women’s Empowerment is funded through private donations from the community and grants. To donate: Womens-Empowerment.org.

Women’s Empowerment Receives $15K From Union Pacific

Women’s Empowerment has received $15,000 from Union Pacific’s Community Ties giving program to provide its job-readiness program, paid on-the-job training and other services for women who are homeless or recently have experienced homelessness.

“We are thankful to Union Pacific for providing much needed funds as we see a sharp spike in need from the pandemic,” said Lisa Culp, executive director, Women’s Empowerment. “In addition to women who are currently experiencing homelessness, we are helping more than 150 graduates of our program who have lost their jobs during the pandemic and need additional training and services to compete for jobs during this time of high unemployment so they can stay in their homes.”

Women’s Empowerment’s programs combine employment readiness, self-esteem courses, health services and education, counseling, housing assistance, job placement and paid job training to help women overcome homelessness across diverse ages, races and cultures. Women’s Empowerment was featured on NBC’s The TODAY Show in 2015 for offering the most comprehensive job-readiness program in the Sacramento area designed specifically for women who have experienced homelessness and their children. The award-winning organization has graduated 1,697 women and their 3,792 children. Last year, 70 percent of graduates found homes in the midst of the housing crisis, and 79 percent secured jobs or enrolled in school or training. Women’s Empowerment is funded through private donations from the community and grants. To donate: Womens-Empowerment.org.

Union Pacific’s Community Ties giving program works to build safe, prosperous and vibrant communities by investing in nonprofits and programs in the cities and towns in which Union Pacific operates and its employees live and work. For more than 150 years, Union Pacific has been committed to serving as an economic engine and improving the standard of life for millions across the country. For more information: www.up.com/aboutup/community/foundation/index.htm.

Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott Donates $10M to Our Local United Way

MacKenzie Scott announced today that she has made a donation to United Way California Capital Region. The philanthropist chose the local United Way chapter to receive a $10 million gift because of the group’s work to fill basic needs while also addressing long-term systemic inequities that have deepened during the pandemic.

“This is a game-changer for our local United Way and our community as a whole,” said Stephanie Bray, president and CEO, United Way California Capital Region. “With a gift like this, we can expand our work to end poverty through our Square One Project so kids can succeed in school. This gift also will help us and our nonprofit partners provide more relief and forge a path toward recovery and resilience for our community. There truly are no words to express our gratitude to Ms. Scott. We are humbled and honored that she chose to invest in our work in the greater Sacramento area.”

Scott’s gift to United Way California Capital Region is part of the Giving Pledge she signed in 2019 to donate the majority of her wealth. Her donations to organizations across the country have focused in part on promoting economic parity, racial equity, public health and education. Scott is the former wife of Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.

“Last year I pledged to give the majority of my wealth back to the society that helped generate it, to do it thoughtfully, to get started soon, and to keep at it until the safe is empty,” Scott said in a Medium article she published in July. “There’s no question in my mind that anyone’s personal wealth is the product of a collective effort, and of social structures which present opportunities to some people, and obstacles to countless others.”

United Way California Capital Region has invested more heavily in addressing inequities this year with the onset of the pandemic. The group raised $572,000 in three months through the United Way COVID-19 Local Relief Fund to provide 1,145 families in need across the region with a one-time $500 distribution to help offset costs of rent, bills and other basic needs. Through a partnership with the City of Sacramento, United Way is working to bridge the digital divide that has widened during the pandemic, with a focus on low-income children and senior citizens. Through this Digital Equity Program, the partnership is providing free broadband access for up to 10,000 low-income Sacramento households, and free computers and digital literacy training for up to 1,000 Sacramento households. United Way also joined a partnership with the County of Sacramento to provide financial assistance to individuals and families in Sacramento County who are quarantined due to a positive COVID-19 test or are in isolation from being exposed to someone who has tested positive. 

“Our team has been working tirelessly to stretch our resources as far as possible to help families in our community through this difficult year,” Bray said. “We cannot thank our staff, donors and volunteers enough for their investment in our work that is now being recognized on a national stage. This gift has brought us to the next level, and we are grateful to have our community of supporters by our side as we expand our Square One Project to create stronger, healthier and more compassionate communities across the greater Sacramento region.”

United Way’s current work includes removing barriers to success in school for low-income students, helping families achieve financial stability and self-sufficiency, and providing support to youth who are transitioning out of foster care.  

For nearly 100 years, United Way California Capital Region has brought local people together to make community change happen. Today, the nonprofit is bringing people together across Amador, El Dorado, Sacramento, Placer and Yolo counties for its Square One Project, a 20-year promise to significantly increase the number of students in our region who graduate from high school ready for success in college and beyond. United Way believes ending poverty starts in school and is working to ensure kids meet important milestones and their families receive support and resources. To learn more and make a donation, visit YourLocalUnitedWay.org.