Winter 2004-2005

UMass/Boston Community Media and Technology (CMT) Program Update
CTC VISTA Project Year 5, EITC/TOP Project
by Daniel Schackman and Dorie Krauss

The CMT Program at the College of Public and Community Service (CPCS) at UMass/Boston is currently offering a Bachelor of Arts degree in community media and technology, the first of its kind in the country, and a six course/competency stand-alone Certificate. Classes are available on-line as well as in person.

CMT Initiatives include the CTC VISTA Project, now in its fifth year, the Community Technology Review, the Commonwealth Broadband Collaborative (CBC), and the Boston Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Electronic Filing and Technology Access Project.

CTC VISTA Project Welcomes Class of 2004-05
J. Keith Motley and Rep. Barney Frank
UMass/Boston Chancellor J. Keith Motley and Rep. Barney Frank (MA) at the CTC VISTA Orientation

On September 1, 2004, 40 new CTC VISTAs serving around the country were sworn in by Rep. Barney Frank (MA) during a ceremony following the program's Pre-Service Orientation at the College. Rep. Frank spoke enthusiastically about the importance of public service and the inequities that the VISTA program is intended to help rectify. University Chancellor J. Keith Motley also spoke with appreciation about the importance of the program. The orientation included workshops on community organizing, led by Rich Cowan of the Organizers' Collaborative, and digital media production led by Commonwealth Broadband Collaborative Director Nettrice Gaskins, as well as a panel discussion featuring CTC VISTA alumni. CTC VISTAs are working in a variety of capacities at community technology sites, including coordinating computer labs, developing after-school curricula, organizing regional CTC networks, and producing community cable access television programming. The PSO also included an orientation to AmeriCorps*VISTA by Corporation project officers Marsha Colbert and Sherry McClintock.

This year, the Project is being supported by two VISTA Leaders. I am working with Saul Baizman, who had been a CTC VISTA at CPCS last year, and we're joined by Resource Specialist Lauren Penney, who had been a CTC VISTA at EDC/ YouthLearn.

The Boston Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Electronic Filing and Technology Access Project

As presented in last winter's Review, CPCS received a grant in 2003 from the U.S. Department of Commerce Technology Opportunity Program (TOP) to develop a low-income community support project using the simplified EITC tax filing software application called “I-CAN! EITC.” I-CAN assists low-income residents in applying for and receiving the full amount of Earned Income Tax Credit due to them, and opens up substantial new possibilities for "Putting Money Back into Poor People's Pockets," as reported the previous spring.

The EITC program brings more people out of poverty than any other federal program, including welfare. EITC is eight times the size of the Workforce Investment Act program and more than ten times the size of Community Development Block Grant funding. Low-income families can qualify for up to $4,741 in federal and state money. But many people are unaware of the EITC and therefore don't apply for it. Many of those who take advantage of the credit pay high fees to commercial preparers.

The purpose of the project is to:

•  Expand the capacity of free tax preparation sites in providing assistance to taxpayers by using I-CAN! EIC.

•  Assess the ease of use of I-CAN! EIC and its capacity to promote greater independence for EITC-eligible individuals when submitting their tax returns.

•  Increase the number of access sites to include CTCs and similar organizations.

•  Provide access to financial literacy information and programs.

In implementing the program for the '04 tax year, CPCS invited Massachusetts CTCs and other community-based organizations to apply for $5,000 mini-grants to develop an outreach and service program using I-CAN.

CPCS' I-CANN/EITC Project Director Dorie A. Kraus (l.) leads the program training session on November 16, 2004
CPCS' I-CANN/EITC Project Director Dorie A. Kraus (l.) leads the program training session on November 16, 2004.

Nine mini-grants have been awarded to Full Service Free Tax Preparation sites and I-CAN/EITC-Only Sites. Full Service sites have the expertise, staff and full range of software to offer tax preparation to everyone in its service area who is eligible for free tax preparation, whether they are EITC-eligible or not; I-CAN/EITC-Only sites provide services only to those who are EITC-eligible.

I-CAN/EITC Only sites are: the Egleston Square YMCA in Dorchester, and the Timothy Smith Lab at the John A. Shelburne Community Center in Roxbury. Full Service Tax Preparation sites include Action for Boston Community Development's Parker Hill/Fenway Neighborhood Service Center and South Boston Action Center, the Codman Square Health Center in Dorchester, the Hispanic Office of Planning and Evaluation (HOPE) in Jamaica Plain, and the Roxbury Resource Center of the Boston Office of Jobs & Community Services, and, outside of Boston, the Greater New Bedford Community Computing Center, the International Institute of Greater Lawrence, and the Massachusetts Justice Project in Holyoke . Additionally, the Taylor Center for Media, Arts and Technology at CPCS is serving as an ICAN/EITC site. Training for grantees took place at the Taylor Center on November 16.

CTC VISTAs Alli Shaughnessy and Jennifer Schmitt work on the filming of an EITC PSA with Alan Gentile of the Roxbury Resource Center.
CTC VISTAs Alli Shaughnessy and Jennifer Schmitt work on the filming of an EITC PSA with Alan Gentile of the Roxbury Resource Center.

The project hopes to help add an additional $1,000,000 to the pockets of low-income individuals and families this tax season. CTC VISTAs have supported the project by participating in the production of public service announcements and a promotional video, led by CBC Director Nettrice Gaskins. CBC's “First Tuesday” series produced a program in February, 2003 about EITC.


Dan Schackman, previously a VISTA with CTCNet, is one of two VISTA Leaders with the CTC VISTA Project and Assistant Editor of the Community Technology Review. Dorie A. Krauss is Director of the Boston EITC and Tech Access Project.

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