Flor relies on her car to shuttle her children to childcare, get to school, and put in a day’s work at the Children’s Law Center to keep a roof over everyone’s heads. So, when the catalytic converter of her Prius was stolen for the fifth time, she had to pay out of pocket.
Fortunately, Flor had the funds to keep her car on the road because she had claimed the Foster Youth Tax Credit. John Burton Advocates for Youth (JBAY) successfully advocated for the creation of the Foster Youth Tax Credit, the first tax credit for foster youth in the nation. In 2023, the credit totaled $1,083 per youth and provided $5 million to 4,800 young people like Flor.
Her road to the Foster Youth Tax Credit, however, was winding.
Flor entered foster care with her young child when she was 17. She spent the next few years living with foster parents across Los Angeles before arriving at a group home. Throughout this time, she was filing her taxes with a brick-and-mortar tax preparer.
“I was paying $250 every year for two years to get my taxes done. They always promised big returns, usually $8,000 or more. But I would typically receive half of that” she said.
When her work sent an email about the Foster Youth Tax Credit, she immediately took notice.
“I thought to myself, I’m a foster youth, why am I not doing this?”
She also learned about a free virtual filing event being hosted by The Community College Foundation, one of seven Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites that received financial and technical assistance from JBAY. Together, these seven sites helped over 800 youth claim a total of $1.7 million in money refunded.
The event paid off for Flor. Her tax return nearly doubled, and she didn’t have to pay a cent to file. “Instead of the $4,000 I would get after paying $250 to get my taxes done, I received $7,000 last year after filing for free,” she recalled.
The extra money she received came just in time. She was able to repair her Prius and keep her – and her family’s – lives moving forward.
When asked what she would like other foster youth to know when it comes to the Foster Youth Tax Credit, she says it’s important to ask for help and not be afraid to ask questions. “As a single mom, I’m not used to asking for help. When I went to [the VITA site event], I was able to ask all my questions, and everyone was just so nice about it,” she said.
JBAY will continue to support VITA sites during the 2024 filing season so youth like Flor can receive relief like the Foster Youth Tax Credit when they need it most. JBAY will also be adding a range of strategies to increase utilization, including a statewide digital marketing strategy. More information will be provided on a webinar to be held Wednesday, November 1st.
To learn more about the Foster Youth Tax Credit, click here.