February 06, 2014

LAWT News Service

 

Board of Equalization Chairman Jerome E. Horton, reported that 1.2 Billion Dollars in federal tax refunds and $180 million in state income taxes go unclaimed by California taxpayers every year.  Fremont High School welcomed Horton, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, State Controller John Chiang, City Councilmember Curren Price Jr., Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce President and CEO, Gary Toebben and other business leaders in declaring a united front against poverty in Los Angeles County, which now afflicts 2.6 million residents or 27% of the county’s population. “Over 350 tax experts have been trained and certified to help California taxpayers file their tax returns for free,” Horton said, “with a goal of helping taxpayers increase their refunds.”

Board of Equalization employees helped over 60 residents file their tax returns for free.  Qualified taxpayers who earn less than $51,000 a year applied for up to $6,044 in earned income tax credits; significantly increasing their state and federal income tax refund. Joined by the Franchise Tax Board, Internal Revenue, and several state agencies, a broad range of family services were also made available, including financial literacy training, job preparation assistance, food and nutrition services, low-cost and free medical services, and health screenings, to name only a few.

“Under any other circumstances I would not be as excited about being in a room with the IRS but in this case I’m getting money from them,” said Alex Martinez one of the residents benefiting from the free services.

The Board of Equalization’s 4th District, which includes most of Los Angeles County, will conduct several more free tax preparation assistance workshops and offer family programs  (until the end of the tax filing season.)

For more information, visit the Board of Equalization website, boe.ca.gov.

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February 06, 2014

LAWT News Service

 

Mayor Garcetti and community partners gathered at John C. Fremont High School recently to launch the “Investing in Working Families” Campaign, which aims to promote state and federal programs that are under-utilized by Los Angeles working families. This event will kick-off the tax and financial aid filing season. Over 60 sites throughout Los Angeles opened their doors February 1 to help Angelenos collect the Earned Income Tax Credit, file tax returns for free, apply for student financial aid, help undocumented students apply for Deferred Action, connect unbanked individuals to low-cost checking and savings accounts, and help people enroll in health care.

“In tough economic times we need to make sure hardworking Angelenos are getting all the help they need,” said Mayor Garcetti. “We want to ensure that all qualifying low and moderate-income households reap the benefits of the Earned Income Tax Credit, apply for financial aid, gain access to free tax assistance, and learn about other available resources.”

During tax season, each of the 21 FamilySource centers throughout the city are designated Volunteer Income Tax Assistance — or VITA — sites.  Supported by the (Earned Income Tax Credit) EITC partnership, VITA sites provide families with free tax assistance and help them apply for tax credits.  These sites also offer asset-building programs that include financial education and resources to help families open low-cost bank accounts.

For 2014 (the 2013 tax year), the EITC can offer refunds up to $6,143 for low and moderate-income families with three or more children - a figure equal to nearly two months of income for many hardworking but needy households.

 To qualify for EITC services and tax credits, claimants must be qualified working U.S. citizens and legal residents with Social Security number who have lived in the US for more than half the year.

For more information and to find one of the sites, individuals and working families can call 2-1-1 or visit the EITC Partnership’s web site at www.FreeTaxHelpLA.com.

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January 30, 2014

Special to LAWT

from the African American Board Institute

 

We are proud to announce that Faye Tillery, Manager of Legal Affairs at ABC Entertainment and AABLI Alumna, was elected to serve on the board of Black Women for Wellness. Black Women for Wellness is a multi-generational, membership-based organization committed to the well being of Black women and girls by building healthy communities through health education, empowerment and advocacy.

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January 30, 2014

LAWT News Service

 

Are you tired of seeing vehicles illegally parked on front lawns in your neighborhood? Frustrated by graffiti on public buildings, in local parks and at other landmarks? The County of Los Angeles has a solution for you. Today, the Department of Public Works launched an update to ‘The Works’ iPhone app to provide more solutions and expand functionality to three other County departments.

Initially launched in 2012, ‘The Works’ app enables constituents to connect with the County to request services and report possible violations. Residents can now interact with the Departments of Parks and Recreation, Public Health, and Regional Planning by:

• Requesting facility and trail maintenance at County parks, as well as reporting potential health and safety concerns

• Reporting potential public health violations at hotels, motels and apartments – such as unclear or cloudy pool water, broken pool gates or fences, and missing pool lights or drain covers

• Reporting possible property violations, including excessive vegetation, junk or trash; illegal parking; inoperable vehicles; occupied RVs; and improper signs or banners

Users can submit a detailed description of an issue and attach related site photos. While not required, users may provide contact information for additional follow-up. They are also able to see status updates to their request in real time when they subsequently access the app.

The app targets users in the County unincorporated areas, as well as incorporated cities that contract with the County. The app is able to determine the appropriate agency based on the address or GPS coordinates. If a user requests a service that is handled by a local city they will be provided with a phone number at that city for further investigation.

For more information and to download the app, visit: http://dpw.lacounty.gov/theworks/

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January 23, 2014

By Zenitha Prince

Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper

 

A federal court ruling on Jan. 14 striking down “net neutrality” could forever change consumers’ access to the full Internet experience, observers say.

Web surfers could find themselves having to pay to watch videos on YouTube or seeing traffic on their favorite news site slow to a crawl now that the court has overturned a 2010 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule meant to stop Internet service providers (ISP) from playing favorites or discriminating against specific content sources.

The FCC rule was championed by President Obama, who said in 2010 that he felt it was necessary to preserve the “democratic spirit” of cyberspace by helping to “preserve the free and open nature of the Internet while encouraging innovation, protecting consumer choice, and defending free speech.”

Supporters were afraid ISPs would, for example, bog down the websites of rival companies while boosting their own, among other abuses. Others were concerned that if premium content came with a cost, it could be prohibitive for poorer consumers thus limiting their access.

The FCC safeguard was undone, however, by its own writing of the law, which classified ISPs as information services instead of telecommunications services, exempting them from common carrier anti-discrimination rules. As a result, the agency did not have the statutory authority to enforce the policy, the court ruled in Verizon v. FCC.

“Given that the Commission has chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers, the Communications Act expressly prohibits the Commission from nonetheless regulating them as such,” Judge David S. Tatel, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, wrote in the opinion. “Because the Commission has failed to establish that the anti-discrimination and anti-blocking rules do not impose per se common carrier obligations, we vacate those portions of the Open Internet Order.”

The decision was a win for telecommunications giant Verizon, which led the charge against the FCC rule. But Randal Milch, Verizon general counsel and executive vice president of public policy, said the company had no plans to implement a preferential access system.

“One thing is for sure: Today’s decision will not change consumers’ ability to access and use the Internet as they do now,” he said in a statement. “Verizon has been and remains committed to the open Internet, which provides consumers with competitive choices and unblocked access to lawful websites and content when, where and how they want. This will not change in light of the court’s decision.”

Some advocacy groups remain doubtful, however, despite such assurances. Rashad Robinson, executive director of ColorofChange.org, called the court’s decision a “blow,” particularly to consumers of color.

“Because the court has given Internet service providers the green light to start openly discriminating against web content they don’t want to compete with, the Internet could very soon start looking like cable TV, where one corporation holds the power to decide which content we’re able to access,” the communications advocacy group’s head said in a statement.

“Black folks’ ability to be heard is now in real danger,” he added. “Our communities rely on the Internet to speak without a corporate filter, to access information and connect to the world, and to be able to organize and hold public officials and corporations accountable. Without decisive action by the FCC, just a handful of major corporations will control which voices are heard most easily — and which may never get heard at all.”

FCC commissioners have said they will consider all options to safeguard consumers, including a possible appeal.

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