Client says don’t waste your money. Get free tax preparation from the Prosper Centers

January 4, 2023 | Posted in Tax Services |

For Norma Hernandez, her relationship with Foundation Communities’ Prosper Tax Help started with a television news report and a phone call. She heard the reporter say they were offering tax services for Central Texans free of charge, but it sounded too good to be true. She called the phone number and was so convinced she made an appointment.

“I’m very satisfied because they explained it to me step by step, and I understood everything. So, I didn’t have to ask questions,” said Hernandez.

And, the explanations were made in Spanish, Norma’s native language. She not only received an income tax refund, Norma also took advantage of the Advance Child Tax Credit program – monthly payments the federal government sent qualified parents before they filed their taxes. It brought some much-needed relief.

“The economy is, well, very difficult,” said Hernandez. “So, [the Advance Child Tax Credits] helped me with expenses for my children, for clothes and things they needed for school, to pay my bills, get them up to date because they were a little late. So, for me it was perfect.”

Hernandez says she will continue coming to Prosper Tax Help to file her taxes, especially since Prosper Center South is conveniently close to her home. She regularly tells co-workers to take advantage of the free service as well, and keep the 200 or 300 dollars they’ve been spending on tax preparation in their pockets.

 “I highly recommend that they come, because I am very satisfied with this place,” said Hernandez. “They can ask for the information that they need. And the best thing about this is that they do it in their language.”

Click on the video to hear why Ms. Hernandez talk about why she continues to have her taxes prepared at the Prosper Center.

 The Prosper Tax Help program will be open through April 18, 2023 at five community locations in Austin & Round Rock. Beat the rush and file taxes for FREE! Our Prosper Center North and South locations are now open 7 days a week with daytime, evening and weekend hours available! Visit ProsperTaxHelp.org or call 2-1-1 to schedule an appointment today! 

Foundation Communities Seeks More Tax Help Volunteers at Kickoff Event

December 3, 2022 | Posted in Tax Services, Get Involved, Volunteer |

Many Central Texans are feeling the financial pinch from inflation. A great way to help our lower-income neighbors recover much of their hard-earned money is by volunteering as a tax preparer with Foundation Communities’ Prosper Tax Help program. Our IRS-certified tax preparers provide free, high-quality tax services every year for thousands of Central Texans, often helping them get refunds that amount to a third or more of their annual income.

Our Tax Help program will need over 600 volunteers for the 2023 tax season. No prior experience is required to volunteer. We  provide all the training needed, and we offer flexible schedules. Next year, we’re hoping to return more than $30 million in tax refunds, but we can’t do it without help.

The Learning Center at The Jordan at Mueller Apartments hosted our Tax Help Kickoff on Friday, December 2nd. Staff members from Prosper Tax Help and Foundation Communities Volunteer Engagement shared information about the upcoming tax season, training, scheduling and answered questions about volunteering with Prosper Tax Help. You can watch the entire event below.

If you’ve never volunteered with us before, you can sign up here.

If you have a volunteer account with us already, you can sign up here.


Record Number of Families Request Support from Holiday Assistance Program

December 3, 2022 | Posted in Housing, Affordable Housing, Financial Stability |

Seven-year-old Zoe is a big fan of unicorns, Santa Claus and the magic of Christmas. Her mother Heather wants to keep it that way. Last year didn’t bring as much holiday cheer. Heather and Zoe’s father lost their home, and then they split up, leaving the mother and daughter living off Heather’s small disability check. They were forced to bounce around between the homes of relatives and friends. Heather says Zoe handled it with maturity.

“She says mommy the world doesn’t revolve around money. It revolves around love. No matter what, mommy’s gonna make sure I don’t go without,” said Heather.

Click on the image to watch a message from Heather to the Holiday Assistance program sponsors.

Zoe was right. In July, Heather was accepted in our Children’s HOME Initiative. The program provides rental assistance for their apartment at Homestead Oaks. Also, Heather is excited to be working for the first time in seven years. They’re looking forward to enjoying the holidays alone and receiving gifts through the Holiday Assistance program. Zoe is expecting Santa to bring her a Gabby’s Dollhouse. Heather’s wish is that soon they’ll be in a financial position to donate to other families who need assistance.

Our Holiday Assistance Program invites generous Central Texans to sponsor a family living in one of our affordable communities – purchasing the gifts they’ve requested or gift cards. We’re also accepting donations to help families and individuals who are struggling to pay rent, and to help them buy groceries, holiday meals and household items. The program takes on added importance this year with prices rising. This year, we’ve had a record number of families, about 750, request support. The deadline to sign up to be a sponsor is December 5th, but you can still join the giving at foundcom.org/holiday.

Family Glitch Fix: More Families Eligible for Subsidies on the HealthCare.gov Marketplace

November 15, 2022 | Posted in Healthy Initiatives, Financial Stability, Health |

Since the first Marketplace Open Enrollment period after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, many families have missed out on financial assistance for Marketplace plans due to what many referred to as the “family glitch.” Under this rule, an offer of employer-based coverage was considered “affordable” for an entire family if it met the definition of affordability for the individual offered the coverage. Due to this rule, many families who could not afford to enroll their entire family on their employer-based coverage also missed out on subsidies that would make a Marketplace plan affordable for those family members.

Thankfully, the U.S. Treasury Department issued a new rule in October right before Open Enrollment for 2023 Marketplace plans began. Under this rule change, affordability is now determined based on the cost of adding the entire household to the employer-offered plan. If the cost of employer coverage is more than 9.12% of household income, it is considered unaffordable, and family members can receive subsidies when they sign up for a Marketplace plan.

“Our message to families who have previously been unable to afford a Marketplace plan because one member of the family had an employer offer of coverage is to come see us before December 15. You may be eligible for financial assistance that can significantly reduce the cost of health insurance for your entire family,” says Kori Hattemer, Director of Prosper Programs at Foundation Communities.

Foundation Communities is the largest nonprofit Marketplace enrollment assistance program in Central Texas, with more than 100 certified Navigators for Open Enrollment. Since 2013, our Health Coverage program has helped more than 45,000 Central Texans enroll in affordable health insurance. For the current Open Enrollment period, which runs from November 1, 2022 to January 15, 2023, the Foundation Communities team of Navigators is providing free enrollment assistance by phone and in-person at our two Prosper Centers. To have coverage that starts on January 1, 2023, community members must enroll by December 15, 2022.

Anyone who needs health insurance can visit ProsperHealthCoverage.org or call 512-381-4520 to schedule an appointment. They can also walk into either of Foundation Communities’ two Prosper Centers in Austin during program hours. Since Open Enrollment for 2023 plans started on November 1, Foundation Communities has helped more than 1,000 community members enroll in health insurance, with thousands more appointments available before the December 15 and January 15 deadlines.

St. David’s Foundation Delivers $5.9 Million to Support Residents

October 1, 2022 | Posted in Housing, Affordable Housing |

On a hot Thursday morning, Mo Poura has a smile on his face and a sense of purpose as he parks a large transport van in front of Arbor Terrace apartments. Mo drives appointment vans for Foundation Communities’ Supported Employment program taking residents to medical offices, banks, even recreational outings. This time, he’s taking Arbor residents to a grocery store. Mo feels good knowing the work he does helps residents not have to rely on others for rides, or pay Uber and Lyft.

“I think it’s extremely helpful,” said Poura. “The majority of them don’t have any transportation, and a huge portion of them can’t drive. They have disabilities.”

A resident of Spring Terrace apartments, Mo says no one benefits more from the appointment van program than him. It not only provides him with a source of income doing what he loves to do, it also makes him feel like he’s doing something worthwhile. He admits that he became depressed during the pandemic, just sitting alone in his apartment. You can take a virtual ride on the new appointment van with Mo Poura by watching the video below.

The van Mo is driving on this day is brand new and comes courtesy of St. David’s Foundation (SDF) – part of a grants package that totals nearly $5.9 million to Foundation Communities. About half of the grants package will pay for health-related services for our residents, and the other half will help fund construction of the Parker Lane Apartments in southeast Austin. Here’s what St. David’s Foundation says about why they are giving so generously to Foundation Communities.

“We believe that having a place to call home is essential for individual, family, and community well-being. Foundation Communities not only offers our neighbors a safe place to live, but they also create an uplifting and trusting space for community and social connection,” said Edward Burger, Ph.D., President and CEO, St. David’s Foundation.  “We are proud to support a range of services at Foundation Communities’ properties including on-site services to high-need families and older adults, community-wide tax assistance and insurance navigation through the Prosper Center, and their broader efforts designed to increase health, economic security, and family resilience for all of their residents.”

Mother Explains Why She Has Trusted Free Tax Preparation from Foundation Communities

September 7, 2022 | Posted in Tax Services, Financial Stability |

As a new homeowner, Lori’s life has changed in recent years. This Del Valle mother of five says what hasn’t changed for her is she is still “living paycheck to paycheck.” That’s why every year she can’t wait to receive her income tax refund. To get her taxes done, Lori has relied for several years on free tax services from the IRS-certified tax preparers with Foundation Communities’ Prosper Tax Help program.

“Just knowing that I’m having someone who is qualified to do them correctly takes my worries away,” said Lori. “I also enjoy not having to spend money for someone to get that done. I want all my money back.”

Lori says she also loves that Prosper Tax Help staff and volunteers don’t mind answering all her questions. She had plenty of questions about the 2021 Child Tax Credit. The Child Tax Credit for parents was expanded in 2021 from $2,000 to $3,000 for each child ages six to 16, and to $3,600 for each child under six through The American Rescue Plan. Many parents also received half of their 2021 Child Tax Credit through monthly payments from July to December 2021. Lori was afraid those payments would reduce the amount of her tax refund, but Prosper Tax Help assured her it would not. She says those advance payments were right on time!

“Instead of waiting for that one time of year for that money to come in to help, you’re getting it throughout the year. So it was kind of a big stress reliever,” said Lori.

Lori says she used the advance payments to get her car repaired when it broke down, to get work done on her new home, and to take her kids on trips. She says those are things she would have struggled to do without the money from the expanded Child Tax Credit.

We hear from some taxpayers that they choose to pay for tax preparation thinking that if they’ll get a bigger refund if they pay for the service. Lori has this message for them: “I would probably say you better make sure they’re not doing anything illegal first of all. I feel like coming here, I do get what I’m supposed to get, and I don’t’ see that there’s anything they would miss by getting them processed by Foundation Communities Tax Centers,” said Lori.

Although the tax filing deadline has passed, there is still time for families to claim the full 2021 Child Tax Credit (or the half they are still owed) by filing tax returns. Our Tax Help program will be open at our Prosper Centers in North and South Austin until October 15, 2022. We are accepting appointments and walk-ins. You can find out more information, including the schedules and locations, at ProsperTaxHelp.org

Man Drowning in Debt Makes a Plan to Succeed – A FINANCIAL COACHING SUCCESS STORY

September 7, 2022 | Posted in Financial Stability |

Felix has been meeting with his financial coach since 2015. Here’s what he said when we asked him how Financial Coaching has affected his life.

When I first came to meet with Erika Leos for financial coaching, I was in financial ruin. I owed $26,000 to the Department of Education and $13-14,000 in child support. And then, there were overdrawn bank charges, fees, payday loans, pawn shops and other debtors. Ms. Leos has helped me to eliminate many of these obligations to the point where I owe $0 to the Department of Education and $0 in child support. I haven’t had any overdraft fees lately; I don’t owe the pawn shop and I don’t owe payday lenders.

In 2015, Felix was not working. He is blind and receives Social Security, which covers his expenses. But, he needed more income if he was going to make strides toward his goals.

The first thing she made me do was to go to work. Child support and student loans were not going to come off my credit report. Over the years, all those loans have been paid off. The only debts left are one or two collections.  I highly recommend Financial Coaching for any of you out there that want to change your life around. At this point, my bank account has thousands of dollars. 

Felix has worked hard to earn more income, pay down debts and build savings. Now he is looking to the future with optimism about a goal that once seemed unattainable: homeownership.

Because of Ms. Leos and becoming employed, I created an escrow account that ended in almost $9,000.

Now we’re looking at savings bonds purchase, CD purchase and gold and silver purchase, and ultimately home purchase. Erika is the greatest asset that God has put in my journey and she is worth her weight in gold – twice the amount. I couldn’t do it without her. I gotta stay close to Ms. Leos.

Over the last seven years, Felix’s financial coach has provided perspective, encouragement, and the time and space to make a plan, and Felix has done the hard work of executing the plan. At the end of the day it’s a team effort.

Prosper Centers Open for Tax Filing, Child Tax Credit

August 19, 2022 | Posted in Tax Services |

“I think for a lot of single mothers like me, it’s really, really helpful. We have no other source of income other than our job income and, with prices going up it’s even harder.” That’s what Sheila, a Prosper Tax Help client who is a mother of four, said about receiving advance Child Tax Credit payments. She said after using Foundation Communities’ free tax services several years ago, she started filing her own taxes because they were simple. Then, changes in the tax laws, especially the Child Tax Credit, convinced her to return to Prosper Tax Help. “For the Child Tax Credit, I just really like that ya’ll are up to date with everything, and ya’ll do your best for everyone to get their max tax [refund] and Child Tax Credit. It’s just worth coming here, I feel,” said Sheila.

Until October 15, Foundation Communities’ two Prosper Centers in Austin will be open on Tuesdays and Thursdays, as well as some “bonus” days, to assist our neighbors who still need to file their taxes. Many of them have not received the Child Tax Credit they are eligible for because they haven’t filed a 2021 tax return yet. Our IRS-certified tax professionals are also helping clients access stimulus checks they have not received, respond to letters from the IRS and apply for, and renew ITINs (Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers).

Sheila says before Prosper Tax Help filed her taxes in January, she was concerned that the advance Child Tax Credit payments she had received would reduce the amount of her tax refund. She was relieved when her refund was not affected. Sheila also talked about how the Child Tax Credits helped her as a single mother. “Like, my baby, I paid daycare,” said Sheila. “We were able to also buy some new clothes or go out to eat to Mr. Gatti’s, especially for the baby so he can have fun.”

Sheila says she has paid to have her taxes done before, through for-profit tax services. Not only did she not like having to share some of her refund with those preparers, she also didn’t feel comfortable about it. “When I’ve paid, I always feel something’s suspicious or hidden. I don’t get my questions answered and I do ask a lot of questions,” said Sheila. She says at the Proper Centers she always gets her questions answered and she likes the way returns are double-checked to make sure they’re done correctly. She says she often recommends Prosper Tax Help to others.

You can learn more about receiving free help with your taxes through Prosper Tax Help at prospertaxhelp.org.

Foundation Communities Hosts Rally for 2022 Affordable Housing Bonds Campaign

July 21, 2022 | Posted in Affordable Housing, Housing, In the News |

On July 21, 2022, Foundation Communities a broad coalition of advocates, affordable housing providers and elected leaders gathered at The Jordan at Mueller to call for a bold investment in housing affordability in Austin. The coalition is urging Council to place an affordable housing bond of at least $300 million on the November 2022 ballot to expand affordable housing opportunities so low and moderate income families can continue to live in Austin. These bonds support the creation of affordable rental units, expansion of affordable homeownership opportunities, provision of home repair services to vulnerable homeowners, and the strategic acquisition of properties to produce more housing for those with lower incomes.
Click below to watch video of the entire rally.

Family Finds Financial Footing with Affordable Housing, Support

July 19, 2022 | Posted in Affordable Housing, Housing |

Iyanna Burns prides herself in being independent and self-sufficient. But in 2019, she had to swallow that pride a bit. Pregnant with her third child, Iyanna made the decision to remove herself from an unhealthy living situation and return to the north Austin area. It’s where she had grown up, and where she could find support from family members. Unable to find an apartment she could afford on what she made at a fast food restaurant, Iyanna took her brother up on his offer to move in with his family.

“There were three ­– and then four of us packed into one bedroom – little toys, little shoes, stuff everywhere,“ said Iyanna. “And, there was never a moment of peace or privacy. I needed that.”

Iyanna says the worst part was having to rely on someone to help her with the kids she gave birth to. She recalls how embarrassed she was when one of her boys spilled paint, leaving a big, permanent stain on the carpet – carpet she could not afford to replace.

In the summer of 2020, Iyanna started looking again for an apartment she could afford. She called 2-1-1 and learned about Foundation Communities. She went through the application process, and weeks later, she received a call that her family was approved for an apartment at Lakeline Station.

“When I came here to Lakeline Station, I was blown away. The apartments were really, really nice apartments – so spacious and in a quiet community,” said Iyanna.

Iyanna says she was excited, but also scared. She was about to be raising her children by herself for the first time. Fortunately, as part of Foundation Communities’ Children’s HOME Initiative, she received free parental support. Iyanna embraced the financial coaching classes even more as she had compiled quite a bit of debt.

Iyanna said, “I made up my mind I was going to do everything they asked me to do, and it paid off.”

She was able to buy a newer car, one with air conditioning that works! Now, she is virtually debt-free. Her goal now is to purchase a home for her family. Iyanna says it wouldn’t have been possible without affordable housing and support services from Foundation Communities.

Iyanna says in the past, she had always been reluctant to ask for help because she was afraid of what people might think of her. Now, she believes what really counts is what you do with the help you receive. Click on the video below to watch her tell her story at a recent housing expansion event.