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Just Thoughts is the blog of the Empire Justice Center, New York’s statewide, multi-issue, multi-strategy public interest law firm focused on changing the “systems” within which poor and low income families live. Here staff and guest authors will share stories, announcements and perspectives on timely issues related to our work.    

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C.A.S.H. Volunteers Claim $25 Million for Working Families in Monroe County

Issue Area: Consumer

Last week, I had the privilege of celebrating another successful tax season with C.A.S.H. [1] volunteers.  This was our 11th year of providing free tax prep services to working families in Monroe County. 

From January through April, nearly 500 volunteers helped complete more than 13,000 federal and NYS tax returns, claiming more than $25 million in tax refunds and credits.  In addition to having tax returns prepared, people who came to C.A.S.H. learned about community resources that can improve their families’ economic security and financial future - programs for saving, home buying, credit repair, affordable health care, banking and more!

People who come to C.A.S.H. for help at tax time save on average $250 – the fee that typical paid preparers charge.  That means more than $3 million stayed in the pockets of hard working families – money they can use to put food on the table, pay rent, and take care of their kids. 

About half of the families who come to C.A.S.H. are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).  This is a special tax benefit offered by the Federal government and New York State for working people who earn low or moderate incomes that helps lift them out of poverty.  Hard working families use this money to meet basic needs like rent, medical bills, transportation to get to work, and clothes for their kids.  Only families who work can claim these credits.

Every year, our volunteers tell me how much satisfaction they get from working at C.A.S.H.  Many have said it’s the best thing they’ve ever done, but not every volunteer prepares taxes.  Some work at the front desk, welcoming people as they arrive and helping them with paperwork.  Others share information about the many resources our community has for helping people make the most of their money.  C.A.S.H. provides all the training volunteers need to have a rewarding experience helping others in our community.

To learn more about C.A.S.H., go to

End Notes

 [1] C.A.S.H. (Creating Assets, Savings and Hope) is a community coalition led by Empire Justice Center and United Way of Greater Rochester.  Our mission is creating opportunities for low income workers in Monroe County to “get, keep, and grow” their money.

Tags: EITC | earned income tax credit | free tax prep | C.A.S.H. | United Way of Greater Rocester

Simplifying the Complexities Surrounding Immigrant Access to Health Care

Last week we released a two part report about immigrant access to health care in New York.  The first part describes the evolution of the patchwork of laws passed by Congress that impact immigrant access to health care, including the federal Affordable Care Act, and how this complicates determining immigrant access to existing and emerging health care coverage options in New York State.

At the end of this section we discuss New York’s proposed online Health Insurance Exchange application, and how New York could fine tune it.  Our biggest recommendation is to fully incorporate the Department of Health’s ground breaking process for pre-certifying undocumented immigrants for Emergency Medicaid through the online Exchange application.  Why?  We believe pre-certification will encourage immigrant families to apply for health care coverage through the Exchange, and it will help the hospitals that serve as safety nets for the uninsured maximize their revenues.

The second part of our report is a detailed “Immigrant Eligibility Crosswalk” and a glossary of status related terms.  This crosswalk, which lists New York’s health insurance programs along the top and noncitizen statuses along the left hand side, allows users to easily locate the particular health insurance programs for which a noncitizen in a specific status will be eligible.  This new tool will help policymakers, health care staff and advocates navigate the complex intersections of immigration status and health care coverage eligibility that we described in part one of the report.

Empire Justice will be scheduling a webinar to familiarize people with the report and to get the word out about the crosswalk and the Health Department’s approach to pre-certifying immigrants for Emergency Medicaid.

In the meantime, please take a look at our report and the crosswalk and let us know what you think.

Tags: immigrants | health care | Medicaid | Affordable Care Act | health insurance | access to health care | health insurance exchange