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Additional Information about C.A.S.H.

History of C.A.S.H.

C.A.S.H. [Creating Assets, Savings and Hope] was started by the United Way of Greater Rochester in 2002. Today, C.A.S.H. is regarded as pioneer and national leader in the effort to provide financial services to low-income families. We are a community coalition of 40-plus organizations, working together to improve life for low-income working families in Monroe County. 

C.A.S.H. helps working families GET, KEEP, and GROW their money in three ways: (1) boosting their incomes through greater use of the Earned Income Tax Credit [EITC]; (2) keeping their hard-earned money away from expensive tax preparers and predatory money handlers; and (3) helping them achieve financial stability with classes, counseling, credit repair, savings plans, and home ownership. 

Since June 2007, C.A.S.H. has been headquartered at Empire Justice Center.  Empire Justice is a statewide non‑profit law firm. It protects the legal rights of those who are poor, disabled or disenfranchised. 

Why C.A.S.H.

Getting their money. EITC is recognized as America’s best program to help lift families above the poverty level, but many low-income workers are unaware of it. In addition, there are other tax credits which often go untapped by those for whom they are intended. To receive these valuable tax credits, a tax return must be filed… even if a worker’s income seems “too low” to bother with it. In Monroe County, the IRS estimates that $20 million in EITC went unclaimed last year. That’s an enormous loss for those low-income households, and for the community at large.

Keeping their money. Do you have a bank account? You probably do, but many low-income households don’t have access to affordable banking. About 20% of C.A.S.H. clients have no checking or savings account. Instead, they rely on services on the fringes of the financial system, from operators who charge outrageous fees. Low-income families often pay huge sums every year for check cashing, money orders, payday loans, rent-to-own purchases, and yes, for tax preparation. 

Growing their money. Recently, we’ve all seen families suffer from economic conditions and from their own financial mistakes. Low-income families are especially hard-pressed when it comes to basic skills such as following a budget, balancing a checkbook, managing credit, saving for the future, and more. Asset-building is the key to financial stability, but most low-income workers do not come from a family tradition of saving and building for the future.

How C.A.S.H. Works

During tax season (January through April) C.A.S.H. operates IRS-certified sites, providing FREE income tax preparation to those who qualify.    Complete and accurate tax returns help C.A.S.H. clients GET 100% of the tax refunds and credits for which they qualify.  Providing tax preparation for free allows clients to KEEP all their money.  Fees for tax preparation services can be very expensive.  In addition, paid preparers often try to sell expensive and predatory extras.

C.A.S.H. is about more than taxes.  C.A.S.H. uses the “tax return moment” as an opportunity to connect clients with resources to improve their financial well-being: money management classes, credit counseling, home buying programs, affordable health care, health insurance, food stamps, banking services, and savings plans. C.A.S.H. helps families KEEP and GROW their money.   Many times, these offerings provide families with a bigger long-term benefit than the actual tax refund. 

Asset building refers to ideas and programs which enable people to accumulate wealth. It often starts as a small trickle of savings, but can lead to big assets such as a house, a college education, or a retirement fund.  Assets help break the cycle of poverty. Contrary to common misperceptions, low-income workers can save money-- if they have access to financial services that are affordable and easy to use.  

Tax time is a unique opportunity to GROW money by building assets. A typical C.A.S.H. client receives a tax refund of about $2,000… and many clients receive refunds of $5,000 or more! For most, this is the most money they’ll have during the year.  This is the ideal time to encourage clients to invest for the future.

C.A.S.H. volunteers help clients GROW their money by encouraging clients to:

  • use direct deposit for tax refunds
  • put part of the refund into a savings account
  • buy US Savings Bonds with some of their refund dollars

The federal tax return makes it easy to take advantage of all of these options.

C.A.S.H. Partners and Funders

C.A.S.H. is a community coalition.  Organizations from many sectors of the community – human service agencies, foundations, banks, credit unions, colleges and universities, and more – participate in and support C.A.S.H.

Brief Overview of C.A.S.H. Site Operation

C.A.S.H. sites open to the public beginning the last week of January, and close on tax day in April.  Sites are staffed by volunteers who work 3- 4 hour shifts, one or more shifts each week. Volunteers are encouraged to schedule themselves online for the shifts and sites they prefer.  Sites are open weekdays and Saturdays. There are morning, afternoon, and evening shifts.  Sites are located in Rochester and surrounding suburbs.

C.A.S.H. has two types of sites:

1.   Super Sites operate with a paid site manager, a paid assistant site manager, and 10-15 volunteers per shift. Super Sites are open 6 days per week, 6-8 hours per day.

2.   Partner Sites operate with a partner site coordinator and volunteers.  Each site sets its own hours of operation.  As part of the C.A.S.H. coalition, partners receive assistance including marketing, volunteer training, equipment, software, supplies, and operating procedures.

All sites follow C.A.S.H. procedures, are certified by the IRS, and monitored by C.A.S.H. and IRS for quality of service.

The Client’s Experience

1. The Front Desk Manager will welcome each client, ask the client to sign-in, and give the client a clipboard with the intake sheets to be completed. 

At super sites, clients with an appointment who arrive within 15 minutes of their scheduled time, will be served as close to their scheduled time as possible.  Walk-in clients are served on a first-come, first-served basis.

2. After returning the completed intake sheets to the Front Desk Manager, the client will meet with the C.A.S.H. Advisor who will confirm the client’s eligibility for C.A.S.H. services, explain privacy procedures, review the intake sheets to make sure they are complete, and engage the client in conversation covering all items where the client has indicated a need or interest in community resources. 

The C.A.S.H. Advisor will encourage the use of direct deposit and explain the various banking and savings products available at the site. 

At the super sites, an assistant site manager may be available to help clients who would like to open a bank account or a prepaid card account, or who may have questions about Savings Bonds.  If an assistant site manager is not available, ask your site manager for help.

3. Following the C.A.S.H. Advisor conversation, the client will meet with the Tax Preparer for preparation of accurate and complete federal and New York State tax returns. 

The Tax Preparer will encourage each client to use direct deposit and to save part of their refund.   The Tax Preparer will remind clients about the opportunity to purchase US Savings Bonds.

4. Before the client leaves, their tax return will also be reviewed by the Site Manager or a Quality Reviewer. 

The Quality Reviewer will check that the client knows about direct deposit, and the opportunity to purchase US Savings Bonds.