Tuesday, Jul 7, 2009 @10:20am CST

More Arkansans who are finding it tougher to make ends meet than most could get the help they need thanks to the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.

WRF recently awarded $125,000 to Southern Good Faith Fund (SGFF), an affiliate of Southern Bancorp, for a program aimed at helping low-income Arkansans.

The 12-month program will focus on supporting the promotion of a state-level Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the launch of three pilot Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites to test various institutional models for potential replication within the state.

The Earned Income Tax Credit is a federal anti-poverty tax credit that is designed to supplement the earnings of low income workers by reducing or eliminating their taxes. The EITC is administered by the Internal Revenue Service.

One of the goals of Southern Good Faith Fund is to help reduce poverty levels in Arkansas. In this project, SGFF will also work with state leaders and policymakers to secure state funding to develop and sustain throughout the state proven VITA site models. VITA, which is a free tax-filing program for low-income tax filers, is a strategy toward ensuring that the EITC is fully utilized and can most effectively help reduce poverty as intended.

“This initiative is a great match for the legacy of the Rockefeller Foundation,” said Dr. Sherece West, WRF president and CEO. “One of our funding strategies is to reduce poverty by helping Arkansans in ways that are sustaining and that increase economic mobility. SGFF and their partners are working to move the needle on reducing poverty in Arkansas.”

According to Angela Duran, president of Southern Good Faith Fund, “as many as 50,000 low-income Arkansans who qualify for the EITC do not apply for it. Through this project, Arkansans could potentially net $104 million a year in additional income. Similar programs have been successful in other states.”

The three VITA pilot sites will be in Blytheville, Mena and Mountain Home. Total project cost is $125,000.

The Winthrop Rockefeller’s Foundation’s mission is to improve the lives of Arkansans in three interrelated areas: economic development, education, and economic, racial and social justice. The organization’s goal for economic development is to empower individuals and institutions to improve the economic viability and standard of living of low-income communities and to build pathways out of poverty.

Since 1974, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation has supported programs and organizations that improve the quality of life for all Arkansans and that promote systemic change.

The Southern Good Faith Fund is a non-profit organization committed to increasing incomes and assets of low-income and low-skilled residents in rural communities.