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Miami, Florida
 
 


Contact Information

If you, your business, or organization are interested in becoming a part of the Disability Initiative Workgroup, please contact Lynne Stephenson of Human Services Coalition of Dade County at [email protected].

If you are already a member of the Disability Initiative Workgroup and have questions regarding the IRS participation, then please contact Oria Terry at [email protected].

 
 

Disability Initiative Workgroup

The Prosperity Campaign, coordinated by Human Services Coalition (HSC), consists of seven organizations and eight VITA sites in Miami-Dade County. PC actively reaches out to immigrants, the homeless and those at risk of homelessness, the disabled, youth transitioning out of foster care, and other marginalized populations to help them overcome barriers to financial success.

HSC’s innovative and effective methods include: 1) Service at workplace for those unable to travel off-site. 2) Outreach at highly frequented unusual sites--laundromats, childcare, jitney buses, convenience stores, housing projects, agencies serving those with disabilities. 3) Work with banks, chambers of commerce and United Way to reach employers. 4) Prosperity Matters e-Newsletter, a bi-monthly publication sent to 5,000 businesses. 5) Door-hangers with free tax return coupons in hard-to-reach and low-income areas. 6) Presentations to hotel human resource staff to reach low wage workers. 7) Target Limited English Proficiency community. 8) Radio kickoff event, Health and Prosperity Days, prominent billboard placement and use of Miami Dade Schools automated calling service. 9) Tri-county partnership to showcase VITA’s regional economic impact and statewide prosperity alliance.

The majority of program participants have been ethnic minorities, especially African-American, Cuban immigrants, and immigrants from the Caribbean Islands.  They generally have low educational levels and often have limited English proficiency.  Last year, 27% of those served were African Americans, 56% were of Latino heritage, 8% were Caucasian, 3% Haitian, 2% Multi, less than 1% Asian & Native American, and 4% Other (based on 1,333 respondents).  Also, out of 1,293 respondents to the site survey question regarding disability, 285 of those answered yes (22%) [Source: Steve Holt, HoltSolutions]  In order to reach Limited English Proficiency (LEP) populations, Creole and Spanish-language marketing materials are distributed. Both language and sign-language interpreters are available at all scheduled events. Media outreach is in all three languages.

The very low-income employees typically work in Miami-Dade’s local service sector businesses including, but not limited to: hotels (such as the Four Seasons, the Hilton, Marriott and InterContinental), temporary work placement agencies, shipping, hospitals, and grocery stores. Publix, Miami’s largest grocery store, is one of the largest employers of people with disabilities. We have found that working with large employers has been most effective in reaching significant numbers of employees, but we also work with small and medium employers who are interested in the program. Some of the employers are locally-based companies, while others, including the hotels, Macy’s, and Publix, are national or regional.

HSC has long recognized the need for a comprehensive resource guide to assist the many organizations in Miami-Dade to meet the needs of consumers in a more holistic way.  To this end, HSC developed, printed, and disseminated Prosperity Essentials, a resource guide containing contact information for free tax preparation and EITC outreach at the Prosperity Centers, federal and state benefits programs such as Food Stamps and KidCare, financial services such as credit counseling, healthcare, transportation, immigration and other legal assistance, entrepreneurial support, and housing and homeownership.

More than 4,200 businesses have learned about the Prosperity Campaign via direct outreach or through the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce e-newsletter. Hundreds of businesses have participated, enabling HSC to reach tens of thousands of employees.

Advocacy, as well as direct service, is important to the Campaign. Carlos Alvarez, the Mayor of Miami-Dade County, came to their January kickoff at the Colombian American Service Association (CASA).  The county has its own VITA program but works collaboratively with HSC, and when HSC suggested a joint kickoff, the county readily agreed. The resulting publicity was so effective that 60% of clients who came to the site where the event was held during the tax season said they heard about the service through the media.