Not many people wax poetic about tax preparation, but Melanie Creamer does as she extols the virtues of CA$H (Creating Assets, Savings and Hope) Maine. Started in 2005, CA$H Maine is a statewide partnership of community leaders and industry experts working together to help individuals and families make the most of their money. The program is best known for providing free tax preparation services to qualified tax filers during the tax season.
“This kind of program absolutely improves people’s lives,” said Melanie. “I first heard about CA$H Greater Portland through a friend of mine four years ago. It was a great experience for her and I decided to give it a try.”
Melanie was surprised at how easy it was to have her taxes prepared and filed by CA$H Greater Portland volunteers. “They ask me all the right questions,” she said. “When I don’t know the answer to something, they phrase it in a way that makes more sense to me. I always feel like I’m in good hands.”
CA$H tax preparers are volunteers certified by the Internal Revenue Service, a coalition member. “I’m incredibly grateful for the volunteers that take the time to hold my hand, essentially, and walk me through this,” said Melanie. “They helped me figure out if I qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit.”
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable federal tax credit for low- to moderate-income working individuals and families. In Tax Year 2014, CA$H Greater Portland clients received $380,082 in federal EITC refunds.
In addition to providing free tax preparation services, CA$H sites connect people to financial education resources like money management and home buying workshops; matched savings accounts; and credit counseling.
“This morning I got my state refund check for $543,” said Melanie. “I’m planning to use some of that money to pay off bills and the rest I’m going to put right back into the community and support my local businesses.”
When it comes to CA$H Greater Portland, Melanie walks the talk. “I just love the program so much. When I walk out of the tax site, I feel a sense of confidence in what the tax preparers have done for me and a sense of financial stability in my own life. I have used CA$H as a status update on Facebook at least twice, promoting it to my friends and I’ve gotten several responses back each time from people wanting to know more information.”
CA$H Greater Portland is an initiative of United Way of Greater Portland, Goodwill Industries of Northern New England, and the Greater Portland CA$H Coalition. Learn more at cashmaine.org.