(Washington, D.C. – Nov. 9, 2011) – National Disability Institute announced today that its Real Economic Impact Tour – a seven-year collaboration with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and more than 800 public and private partners in 100 cities across America – has helped individuals with disabilities take steps out of poverty by providing access to financial education, asset building programs as well as free volunteer income tax assistance (VITA) nationwide for more than 1 million Americans with disabilities generating more than $1 billion in tax refunds.
IRS Wage and Investment Commissioner Richard E. Byrd Jr. joined representatives from National Disability Institute and the REI Tour’s public and private partners at the IRS Headquarters in Washington, DC, to kick off the eighth year of a partnership that has made disability awareness, thinking and inclusion a natural part of the tax preparation and financial independence conversation at the local, state and national level.
Since National Disability Institute and the IRS joined forces in 2005 to better serve taxpayers with disabilities and engaged more than 800 community tax coalitions, asset development and disability organizations across America, the number of persons with disabilities accessing VITA services and realizing they qualify for an earned income tax credit (EITC) has increased dramatically:
- 5,125 percent increase in number of persons with disabilities filing taxes through REI Tour VITA sites (7,600 in 2005 to more than 397,000 in 2011)
- 6,143 percent increase in earned income tax credit (EITC) claims filed through REI Tour VITA sites ($0.7 million in 2005 to more than $43.7 million in 2011)
"Access to free volunteer tax preparation services and increased education about earned income tax credit (EITC) eligibility are vital tools to help the one in three Americans with disabilities living in poverty take steps toward brighter financial futures," said Michael Morris, National Disability Institute’s Executive Director and co-founder of the REI Tour. "National Disability Institute is proud of the public and private partnerships we’ve forged with hundreds of organizations and businesses in 100 cities across the country who understand that community programs not inclusive of or accessible to persons with disabilities leaves out a huge portion or every community – namely 54 million persons with disabilities, 1 out of every 5 Americans."
"The IRS is very proud to call the National Disability Institute a partner, and we applaud them for their great work in assisting Americans with disabilities," said Commissioner Byrd.
In addition to Commissioner Byrd, Morris and Dr. Johnette Harnett from National Disability Institute, representatives from National Disability Institute’s non-profit partners NISH, United Way Worldwide and One Economy, who work with NDI on the MyFreeTaxes.com campaign funded by Walmart, and Washington, D.C.’s Capital Area Asset Builders also addressed the crowd. REI Tour sponsors Walmart, Bank of America, AT&T, Acorda Therapeutics, the Institute for Economic Empowerment and the Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University were also recognized for their support.
"National Disability Institute started an important conversation in the basement of a bank nearly a decade ago to address a vital question – why are so many Americans with disabilities living in poverty and how can we change it?" said Dr. Hartnett, National Disability Institute’s Director and co-founder of the REI Tour. "Thanks to innovative public and private trusted partnerships among non-profits, government agencies, businesses and community groups, we are working together to answer and remedy that question and help pioneer a roadmap out of poverty for millions of Americans with disabilities."
According to the latest Census data released in September 2011, nearly 28 percent of persons with disabilities ages 18 to 64 – nearly 1 in 3 – live in poverty, among the highest percentage of any minority group profiled in the Census report. The poverty rate for persons with disabilities was nearly double the 15.1 percent overall poverty level – affecting nearly 1 in 6 Americans – cited as the nation’s highest poverty rate in nearly 20 years.
National Disability Institute’s 2012 Real Economic Impact Tour will once again work with more than 800 partners in 100 cities across America to increase outreach to persons with disabilities for financial education, asset development and free volunteer income tax preparation services. After three years leading a DeafTax pilot project that allowed deaf and hard-of-hearing taxpayers to file their taxes with deaf tax preparers using state-of-the-art videophones and American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate, National Disability Institute, with assistance from Schwarz Financial Services, is helping cities in 2012 to implement their own local DeafTax initiatives. Also in 2012, National Disability Institute will pilot a new Virtual VITA program with the IRS. The program will allow qualified taxpayers in hard to reach areas or areas without resources for a more traditional VITA model to work with volunteers at a remote site who will act as liaisons between the taxpayer and partnering volunteers at a preparation site.
For more information on National Disability Institute’s Real Economic Impact Tour visit http://www.realeconomicimpact.org. To download the 2010-2011 REI Tour Annual Report, visit http://bit.ly/NDI-REITour-2011.
About National Disability Institute?
National Disability Institute (NDI) is national non-profit organization dedicated to building a better economic future for people with disabilities. The first national organization committed exclusively to championing economic empowerment, financial education, asset development and financial stability for all persons with disabilities, National Disability Institute effects change through public education, policy development, training, technical assistance and innovative initiatives such as the Real Economic Impact (REI) Tour, which brings tax and financial education for people with disabilities to more than 100 cities nationwide. To learn more, visit www.realeconomicimpact.org.
?National Disability Institute