Funded primarily by nonprofits, community organizations and local governments, VITA programs have suffered funding cuts in the recent economic downturn. Meanwhile, the demand for services is rising dramatically. Community VITA programs have received appropriations from the federal government since 2008 in the form of a matching grant program. While the grant program provided $12 million in the 2011 tax season, there were program requests that went unfilled — with a need exceeding $30 million.
With the federal deficit out of control, our economy floundering and people cinching their belts until they can hardly breathe, we need programs such as VITA to relieve financial stress for both citizens and the government. By providing Americans a service that puts money back in their wallets, we can help a single mother buy schoolbooks for her children, help an underemployed construction worker catch up on his mortgage and give a family a chance to buy presents during the holidays.
It is in Congress’ best interest to support cost-effective programs such as the VITA Act of 2011 that will stimulate the economy and save money for the federal government. The tax breaks are already there — let’s give people the opportunity to use them.
Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) is a member of the Appropriations and Budget committees.