Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Earned Income Tax Credit Can Put Money in Your Pocket!

I hope you’re planning to join us at Catalyst Miami and the IRS and thousands of other community leaders on Friday, January 27, 2012, as we reach out to people earning under $49,078 on EITC Awareness Day. You could be eligible to get more money back from the IRS - as much as $5,751. If you earned less than $49,078 from wages, self-employment, or farming last year, you may qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit  - or EITC.
EITC is a financial boost for working people in a recovering economy. You may be among the millions who will qualify for the first time because your financial, marital or parental status changed in 2011.
Eligibility is based on several factors, including the amount of earned and other types of income, or combined income if married, whether you have qualifying children and how many. Workers without children may also qualify.
Four of five eligible people claim and get their EITC. Use IRS's online EITC Assistant to see if you qualify. If so, you must file and claim the credit to get it.
Free help is available at volunteer income tax assistance sites. Locate a volunteer site by calling your community's 211 or 311 number for local services or call the IRS at 1-800-906-9887.
Get back even more if your state also has an EITC.
EITC. You earned it. Now file, claim it and get it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Be the Change

The following is speech presented by CEO and founder of Catalyst Miami, Daniella Levine, at the Ghandi Day of Service October 2nd, 2011. Considering we just celebrated another service oriented holiday, MLK Day, let’s consider Daniella’s words and engagement in our community. Beyond being engaged in beautification projects, and short term service projects, real change stems from a change in attitude. Society and its structure reflect the aggregate attitudes of its constituents. If we work internally towards becoming better selves, we can then band towards becoming a better “us.”
UM  Ghandi Day of Service October 2, 2011
Be the Change

This line is attributed to Ghandi, the inspiration for this day, for this movement of student engagement. 
So, let us stop and consider the question:
What does it really mean to “be the change”?
1.       Does it mean to live a life of service, seeking ways to make a better world?
o   Yes.
2.       Does it mean to live a life of inquiry, to question the status quo, the reasons for inequalities and injustices?
o   Yes.
3.       Does it mean to act based upon this understanding, to seek to alter the status quo and right inequalities and injustice?
o   Yes.
Yes. Yes and Yes. All three.
To be the change means to EMBODY the change, to authentically reflect it.
Addressing it for individuals through service:  providing food, clothing, shelter, education, jobs. YES. But is this enough?
Don’t we want to understand why some are more fortunate? Why the wealth gap continues to grow in this country? Why it is harder for people to move out of poverty? Why it is harder to find good jobs?
Don’t we want to understand the systemic and structural reasons for these inequalities in society?
Why people who have dark skin in this country are so much more likely to be arrested, imprisoned, receive inadequate healthcare or face discrimination in jobs, housing and voting?
When I look out at this audience, I do believe that you indeed can be the change. You have what it takes to move out of your comfort zones and to move the nation. To help the individuals and to help the whole. To question and challenge the status quo that is leading to greater inequality and injustice, that is moving us further away from many of the precious rights and freedoms we must protect.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Opportunity Nation Summit

Contributed by Jaime Botero

I’ve been blogging about different non-profits that service the Miami area. This will be a shift from my regular blogging.  Late last year I was able to attend the Opportunity Nation Summit held at Columbia University in New York City. I participated as part of the Opportunity Nation Leaders group organized by the Opportunity Nation team. Also, be forewarned, this will be a long, serialized, blog entry. I have a lot of issues to sort out.
*Disclaimer: I was invited to attend, with all expenses covered, so my opinion will be skewed in a positive way. Knowing that, I’ll attempt to be objective. Let’s not kid ourselves though, Opportunity  Nation rocks!* 
 I had a great time in NYC. I felt guilty leaving my Catalyst Miami: Civic Life Team, in the middle of recruitment season to go off to New York and speak abstractly  about “Opportunity.” The inner wonk in me glowed at the chance to talk about policy and take a respite from the day-to-day work of assisting in the operation of a family leadership and civic engagement program. Even as I attempted to take some work with me, my supervisor dissuaded me from doing so. Thank you very much, Ms. Gretchen Beesing.

I arrived earlier than most participants to squeeze some time in friends. Fifteen minutes after landing and boarding the M60 bus, I was greeted with a call by Justin Kang. Justin is organizing the Opportunity Nation Leaders and Scholars. I appreciated his attention to detail, and his concern for my experience during the conference. In relation to other conference attendees like Dr. Cornel West, Wendy Kopp, Dr. Eduard Padron, Suze Orman, and many others I felt like plankton, much less a small fish. Regardless, Justin, his staff and interns, were always there to make me and fellow Leaders and Scholars feel at home and welcomed.  In other words, and in my native tongue, muchas gracias SeƱor Kang.