By Christina J. Rodriguez
A free tax preparation day was held at East Los Angeles College on Saturday in collaboration with the Financial Wellness Program, Mexican American Opportunity Foundation, ELAC Corporation and the Eastside Tax Coalition.
This was the first event held at ELAC. The free program was held in the E3 building from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Four years ago, MAOF and the ELAC Corporation began collaborating with the Eastside Tax Coalition with the goal being to help and advise community members with their finances.
MAOF and the ELAC Corporation held a press conference with five major media outlets to make the local communities aware of upcoming services. NBC, Telemundo as well as Estrella and Azteca TV were among the participating news outlets. Coordinator of MAOF Isaias Hernandez, director of community wealth Elba Schildcrout and ELACs own Alouette Cervantes Salazar, M.P.A. (Master of Public Administration), helped correlate the event. Together, they guided over 18 volunteers, walk-in families and students with tax appointments.
Born in East L.A., but raised in the San Fernando Valley, Hernandez began with MAOF as a volunteer. He now has dedicated five years to the non-profit organization. “I always knew and always felt we can help our low income families,” Hernandez said.
Providing non-profit services, Hernandez added, has done more for him as an individual than what he could ever offer his community. MAOF volunteer Raul De La O was among the pamphlet contacts who helped many seeking tax services and advice.
California State University, Long Beach and ELAC students were certified under Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) for the event. De La O has been a volunteer with MAOF for four months because he wanted to help his community not be taken advantage of and teach other about the free services.
Immigration Coordinator for MAOF Suzy Contreras was also among the volunteers presenting immigration and low-income services to the community, and explained the services under the Deferred Action for Childhood Immigrants (DACA).
DACA allows certain undocumented immigrants who entered the country as minors to receive a renewable, two-year period of deferred action from deportation, and makes them eligible for work permits.
Contreras emphasized the importance of DACA and the fear of its removal by President Donald Trump. Families also applied for the CalFresh program, also known as the Federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Citizenship applications, zero interest loans, lending circles, saving accounts and financial coaching were also offered.