LIC nonprofit expands its free tax prep program
By Bill Parry

Urban Upbound, the nonprofit community development corporation based in Long Island City, has found a way to expand its influence throughout the borough.

By providing free tax preparation and saving people money, it is introducing a wider base to its financial services.

“We get people into our offices for the tax service and then we introduce them to all of our programs that are designed to break the cycle of poverty,” founder Bishop Mitchell Taylor said.

Elected officials, community leaders and residents from housing projects in western Queens joined Taylor at an EITC Awareness Day last Friday to spread the word about the money-saving service.

“Free tax prep sites like ours enable qualified working families and individuals to take advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit benefit, an important lifeline for families in our public housing neighborhoods and beyond,” Taylor said.

Last year, Urban Upbound helped 2,825 people receive a total of $3.4 million in refunds. This year it is hoping to assist 4,000 New Yorkers.

“We do it for free so the people don’t have to give a third of their return for the instant gratification of the Rapid Return,” Taylor said. “ You go through us and you get your refund in five days.”

Once a person has a refund, Urban Upbound offers financial advice on how best to spend it.

“Anything that will help get people jobs, navigate their finances and even get their kids into college. It’s working and we’re growing leaps and bounds,” Taylor said.

Bishop Taylor grew up in the Queensbridge Houses and started the East River Development Alliance to administer to residents there as well as the three other housing projects in western Queens: Ravenswood, Astoria and Woodside houses.

Ten years later the organization has a new name and a broader base that services neighborhoods in Flushing and Far Rockaway.

“We’re bringing our model to other public housing around the borough, expanding our footprint outside of northwest Queens,” Taylor said.

“Each year, Urban Upbound helps public housing residents and low-income New Yorkers get back millions of dollars on their tax returns,” City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said. “By keeping the community at the heart of its services, Urban Upward empowers those they assist through quality programming that improves the fabric of the neighborhood.”

State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said, “Every year when tax season rolls around, Urban Upbound and Bishop Taylor are there to help those in need get the most out of their tax returns,”

He added, “This helping hand is invaluable, and this year even more Queens neighborhoods will benefit as Urban Upbound expands its reach.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718.260.4538.

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