Just like every other organization trying to determine how to provide its services safely, the global pandemic that was COVID-19 came with a mountain of challenges.
CWF responded to COVID-19 quickly and strategically by working tirelessly to adapt our technology to create a new way for individuals that rely on us for free tax preparation. CWF maintained its commitment to our community and filed over 47,000 federal and state returns (only slightly below pre-Covid accomplishments), returned $40.9 million in refunds, and saved over $8 million in tax preparation fees to 26,000 individuals in need in 2021. In addition, we were also able to introduce a new initiative in partnership with the Department of Prisons to serve over 450 non-filer returns on behalf of individuals who are currently incarcerated.
During the pandemic, CWF continued to serve its community by implementing an online virtual process so that tax refunds–as well as follow-up benefits applications and financial counseling–could proceed while physical locations were forced to close their doors.
In addition, training for over 600 volunteers was also transitioned to an online virtual experience. As the first organization in Pennsylvania to adopt an online tax preparation and training model, CWF was asked to provide training to other VITA sites in PA. This innovative transformation occurred in the summer/fall of 2020 so that tax preparers would be fully trained to implement this new model of service at the start of the 2020 tax filing season in January 2021.
With fully remote options now in place, CWF can serve more individuals unable to make it to a tax site in person due to disability, age, language limitations, and/or other mobility issues.
CWF is a champion in our community in its commitment to providing services to low-income residents that lead to increased economic stability to help lift individuals in our community out of poverty, even in times of crisis and unexpected urgent need.