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February 03 2006

Operation HOPE will work with the Clinton Foundation, ACORN and Leading Financial Services Companies in effort to help Hurricane Katrina Survivors take advantage of EITC

(New York, NY) – Friday, February 3, 2006. Former President Bill Clinton was joined by Operation HOPE Founder and CEO John Bryant, and corporate leaders today to announce the Clinton Foundation’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Initiative; which will work with leading financial services companies to support Operation HOPE’s Project Restore HOPE and the ACORN Institute’s (ACORN) Katrina Benefits Access Project.
 
“Can you imagine working all week and instead of cashing your paycheck, you rip it up?” President Clinton said at the announcement. “If you earn under $35,000 a year and you’re not claiming your Earned Income Tax Credit, then you’re doing just that—throwing away your hard earned money. The main idea of EITC is still the old idea of the American Dream, that if you work hard and play by the rules, you ought to have a decent life, and a chance for your children to have a better one. I hope this Initiative helps more Americans achieve their dreams and reaches those Americans whose lives were shattered by last year’s Hurricanes.”
 
Through its work with Operation HOPE, the Clinton Foundation will support Project Restore HOPE in which Operation HOPE will incorporate EITC outreach and free tax filing services into Project Restore HOPE, a comprehensive economic counseling and financial case management service helping Hurricane Katrina victims to address issues such as credit management, deferring mortgage payments, obtaining copies of destroyed financial records and insurance claim assistance. The Clinton Foundation will also support the hiring of two full time case workers to provide services to 200 families in the Forest Heights community of Gulfport, Mississippi, where President Clinton visited in October 2005. Various private sector groups are also involved in this effort to mobilize support and President Clinton announced some of these commitments today. President Clinton has asked Clinton Foundation staff and interns to volunteer with local EITC programs in Boston, Massachusetts; Little Rock, Arkansas; and New York, New York, where the Clinton Foundation offices are located.
 
“At Operation HOPE our goal is to help the devastated citizens of the Gulf Coast get stabilized and back on their feet financially, and this EITC awareness program is a monumental step toward that,” said John Bryant, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE. “I am deeply grateful to the Clinton Foundation, ACORN, and the financial services firms who have stepped up today to be a part of this initiative, and I challenge others out there to help us see through the economic recovery of the poor and underserved victims of disaster in America. We have 1,000 volunteers committed now; we need at least 4,000 more.”
 
Several representatives from the corporate community attended the announcement and committed resources to the effort. Companies such as Deutsche Bank, E*TRADE FINANCIAL, The First American Corporation, Microsoft and H&R Block have committed more than 1,500 volunteers with a financial background to Project Restore HOPE. In addition to volunteers, H&R Block is providing free tax preparation and EITC filing to 5,000 Project Restore HOPE clients and unlimited free EITC filing and free IRA and savings accounts for clients as well.

The New York Bankers Association will encourage its members, which includes 13 of the top 30 commercial banks in the nation, as well as regional banks and over 100 community banks to commit volunteers.
 
“Deeply concerned by the personal turmoil that has resulted from the devastation wrought by hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, E*TRADE FINANCIAL has committed monetary and human resources to help these citizens regain their dignity and their lives,” said Arlen Gelbard, Chief Administrative Officer, E*TRADE FINANCIAL Corporation.  “Today with President Clinton and John Bryant, we renew our pledge to rally E*TRADE employee volunteers to provide financial counseling, including information about and access to the earned income tax credit.  I am pleased to report that E*TRADE FINANCIAL has recruited – and Operation HOPE has trained – close to 100 employee volunteers who are delivering these services to those affected by the hurricanes.”
 
Microsoft has also deployed a custom economic case management system enabling volunteers to serve clients remotely. “As the region rebuilds from the incredible devastation across the Gulf Coast, programs like the Clinton-HOPE Partnership will be vital to millions of affected families,” said Microsoft U.S. Public Sector Vice President Linda Zecher.  “It is Microsoft’s pledge to provide those impacted by the Katrina disaster with whatever assistance we can offer and this technology donation will help direct them on the next step toward renewed hope.  We’re proud to stand together in support of the Clinton-HOPE Partnership.” 
 
ACORN’s Katrina Benefits Access Project will provide EITC screening and free tax preparation services to victims of Hurricane Katrina. This grassroots outreach campaign will target the hotels, apartment complexes, FEMA relief sites, disaster assistance centers and others places where survivors are living. Mobile units will provide on-the-spot tax EITC screening and free tax preparation services. The mobile units and ACORN’s free tax preparation sites will also help Katrina survivors access all of the federal and state benefits programs for which they qualify. The program will operate in ten cities directly affected by Hurricane Katrina or with large numbers of Katrina survivors: Birmingham, AL; Little Rock, AR; Atlanta, GA; Baton Rouge, LA; Lake Charles, LA; New Orleans, LA; Jackson, MS; Dallas, TX; Houston, TX; and San Antonio, TX.
 
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About the Clinton Foundation:
The mission of the William J. Clinton Foundation is to strengthen the capacity of people in the United States and throughout the world to meet the challenges of global interdependence. To advance this mission, the Clinton Foundation has developed programs and partnerships in the following areas: Health Security with a focus on HIV/AIDS; Economic Empowerment; Leadership Development and Citizen Service; Racial, Ethnic and Religious Reconciliation.

While in office, President Clinton doubled the EITC, giving more than 15 million working families a tax cut. In 1998 alone, the EITC lifted more than 4 million people – and more than 2 million children – out of poverty. The Clinton Foundation is committed to continuing this and making sure all eligible Americans are aware of the EITC and how to take advantage of it. Working with ACORN, Operation HOPE, and corporate participants, the Clinton Foundation will support their programs and promote taking advantage of the EITC. More resources on EITC information will be available at the EITC Resource Center throughout tax season at the Clinton Foundation website www.clintonfoundation.org
 
About ACORN:
ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) is the nation's largest community organization of low- and moderate-income families, with over 200,000 member families organized into 800 neighborhood chapters in 99 cities across the country. Since 1970 ACORN has taken action and won victories on issues of concern to our members, including better housing for first time homebuyers and tenants, living wages for low-wage workers, more investment in our communities from banks and governments, and better public schools. Over the past five years, ACORN has become a national leader in grassroots education efforts targeting EITC eligible taxpayers. In 2005, ACORN worked with the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Preparation (VITA) program to run tax preparation centers in 43 cities, filing tax returns for nearly 16,000 low-income families, and helping them claim more than $9.5 million in EITC. This year, ACORN has partnered with the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Preparation program to run ACORN tax preparation centers and outreach programs in 75 cities. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, ACORN organized the ACORN Katrina Survivors Association, the first nationwide organization of families displaced from New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. With over 5,000 members in several cities the ACORN Katrina Survivors Association works for more effective relief efforts and a voice for survivors in the rebuilding process. Learn more at www.acorn.org.