#Comebackcity: How Clean Energy can Revitalize a City, State

This blog is a guest blog written by Ariana Gonzalez with the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC). It was originally posted here

Go ahead. Call it a comeback.

Governor Snyder and others have been touting how Michigan cities like Detroit are surging forward like never before. The recent grand opening of the new Outdoor Adventure Center in a Detroit building formerly vacant for twenty years is just one example of the city’s rebirth. But, don’t think this growth is just contained to in-state revamps. It’s also extending to new businesses like Shinola and GalaxESolutions who are finding reasons to set up shop in town.

Old Globe Building.jpg

Former Globe Building. Globe Building Interior Transformation into the Outdoor Adventure Center” by Michigan DNR is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The New York Times recently chronicled a similar story of revitalization occurring in Buffalo where the wind and solar industry are attracting companies like SolarCity, BQ Energy (a renewable-energy developer), and the renewables-friendly Yahoo. With the prospect of good clean energy jobs, a flood of people, many youth returning home, are gravitating to Buffalo. The message is clear: companies and individuals alike see the promise of a city increasingly embracing clean energy.

Over the years, Detroit’s population has become more known for mass exoduses than influxes. But, that story could be put firmly in the past. With smart energy policy in Michigan, Detroit could follow in Buffalo’s footsteps: becoming a hub of solar, wind, and other renewables that continues to feed the city’s renaissance.

In New York, it’s clear that the enlightened Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) process has been an important back drop in advancing this new dawn of clean energy development. The goal of the “energy modernization” initiative is to build a bridge to a cleaner, more efficient, and affordable energy system which will help protect the environment, lower energy costs, and create opportunity for economic growth. Sounds a lot like all the goals and ambitions Governor Snyder outlined, but with the enforceable policy process to back it up.

The final, historic rule limiting carbon pollution from power plants is likely to come out next week and at this critical juncture between state and federal energy policy, Michigan needs to commit and put some teeth in its legislation. As currently proposed, however, the bills on the table look to do just the opposite. HB 4297, SB 437, and SB 438 will paralyze Michigan’s ability to provide affordable, reliable, and clean energy to the state while boosting the economy. The following are five ways to most critically improve the recently introduced Senate Bills, though this list is by no means exhaustive.

  1. Maintain and increase, based on cost-effective potential, the energy optimization standard (EOS) and renewable portfolio standard (RPS) for electric utilities. Setting a minimum energy efficiency/waste reduction goal, with incentives for utilities that capture cost-effective savings beyond the targeted amount has been enforceable and effective in Michigan, and many other states, and sends an important signal to markets that still have barriers for these resources.
  2. Eliminate artificial caps on the budgets for energy efficiency as long the utility efficiency portfolio is, on the whole, cost-effective. The spending cap limits a utility’s ability to take full advantage of energy efficiency’s potential–a limitation that is absent for every other resource.
  3. Properly value energy efficiency and renewable energy. Consideration in the integrated resource planning (IRP) process is undermined by assigning no value at all to environmental benefits that extend beyond minimal compliance with federal regulations and requiring resources to compete mostly on the basis of their value as a capacity resource – rather than on the basis of all costs of generating, transmitting and delivering electricity.
    1. Require the Integrated Resource Planning (IRP) policy to have utilities include all of the cost-effective potential for energy savings in their plans before the utility is able to invest in supply side resources.
    2. Include the words “symmetrical” and “true-up”in the language clarifying the Commission’s authority to approve proposals to decoupling utility revenues from electricity sales. This ensures that utility financial health is not dependent on energy sales, but on service as a whole.
    3. Remove, do not create, barriers for customers who want to install energy systems (net metering) so that they can be appropriately compensated for electricity and other benefits their systems provide to the grid (while paying appropriately for their own use of the grid).

We know what works for Michigan. We know what builds the economy, lowers energy bills, protects the environment and reliably provides energy. And, it’s echoed in cities like Buffalo. Now is not the time to walk away from that. As currently proposed, the bills would eliminate mechanisms for accountability (EOS and RES) in the pursuit of a new and ambiguous pathway where everything rests on an IRP with no guarantee. Let’s get Michigan’s leaders to recognize this and build on our current success, not dismantle it.

Additional Resources:

Check out CEDAM’s Resource Library and download the Michigan Energy Efficiency Incentive Programs for Multifamily Affordable Housing list.

Welcome Home

By Lisa Assenmacher, Communications & Training Specialist

522. This is the number of families in the Detroit area that have fallen into homelessness and have since found furnished housing since 2009 with the assistance of Humble Design, a nonprofit organization based in Pontiac.

I listened to Treger Strasberg, one of the founders, talk about her work at the Building Michigan Communities Conference in April, and it made me think about CEDAM’s membership with the gamut of supportive housing- and community-related programs intertwined with empathy, education and support to advance self-sufficiency and empowerment. I’m always amazed when I discover how these pieces of the puzzle relate and work together for something much more impactful.

What must it be like to be homeless?

The harsh reality of life exposes us to illness, adversity and challenges that change the way we empathize with one another and interpret the world. Without having either experienced it personally or indirectly through those we meet, it’s not quite understood just how vulnerable, insecure, scared, hungry or lonely a person’s existence feels for them. Vulnerable populations often lack support to prevent a crisis from devastating their lives, and often rely upon themselves.

Beyond survival, it is unlikely that a homeless person even considers any type of luxury a possibility, and it is very likely that they may not understand how to plan for any next step to protect a repeat of this experience.

It’s an exhausting cycle of poverty that plagues millions of Americans.

Even after a person has found a place to live, the struggle continues.

Homelessness and access to affordable housing are consistent problems in Michigan. State and federal programs are continually at risk and the decreasing available funds are more difficult to obtain. The bigger picture understands that helping people transition into safe and affordable housing is the primary priority.

However, what are we doing to help build a sense of place and stability and keep people in those homes once they have found them?

What will end the cycle of homeless?

Organizations across Michigan have created inventive programs to empower people and assert them into the lives they want to lead rather cycling through this endless struggle and feelings of desperation. These programs address the concept of change through education and ongoing support and include skill development, mental health programs, financial literacy and others.

Further, establishing a sense of place and security only begins with a roof over their head. Furniture and other details together create a home and help to form a psychological connection with a place along with feelings of ownership, reliability and commitment.

Imagine if you and your family were living in an empty home, sleeping on the bare floor. It’s the type of situation most of us don’t even think about.

Families transitioning from homelessness into housing often move in with just their selves and lack anything other than basic furniture or possessions to create a comfortable home.

Now imagine the child’s sense of security, stability and safety, and consider the parent(s) perspective on trying to both make ends meet and be the anchor that the family needs. Many times, there just aren’t enough resources for everything to work out.

The imbalance between what is feasible and what is required continues to grow, heightening the feelings of hopelessness and disconnection for filling the voids. And, in these vulnerable situations, all it takes is one crisis for the pieces to fall.

That’s where all of the wonderful organizations, funders and volunteers come in.

With the identification and integration of these programs implemented across the state, these overlooked aspects can help add to the support network that will keep people in their homes and become self-sufficient and successful.

One such organization is Humble Design.

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 1.59.40 PMSharing a similar story to many who start an initiative, a friend struggling with a problem and an opportunity to help changed the way founders Ana Smith and Treger Strasberg looked at unneeded furniture.

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 1.06.34 PM

Humble Design Founders Treger Strasberg and Ana Smith

It provided insight into understanding the real conditions faced by those transitioning from homelessness. They also saw the positive psychological effects related to the perception of moving into their new home rather than a space that feels temporary, cold and insecure.

From that point on, Humble Design was born and has grown into a fully functioning nonprofit organization with a flowing supply chain process implemented by staff, volunteers and funders. They formed partnerships with affordable housing and social services organizations to get referrals for families ready to transition. Beyond collecting and storing furniture, the designers at Humble Design carefully coordinates homes for each family and sets it up for them.

522 families have benefited from the work done by Humble Design at the time of this article. Some of them are children receiving their own bed for the first time. Others are simply relieved they don’t have to think about yet another thing that’s out of reach. While every story is different, each one was grateful for the support and sees this as an opportunity for a new life.

Every person stands the chance to break their cycle of insecurity and instability because of the supportive programs that exist to provide education and empowerment.

The next time you drive past furniture on a curb, think about how something seemingly so insignificant can change a person’s perception and direction of their life.

Voices of AmeriCorps: Betsy Quakenbush


MFPC-Member12Though my AmeriCorps time has been full of file keeping and database entry activities, the things I will remember more are the life stories I have heard; I have a whole file cabinet in the corner of my brain with the label “Crazy life stories.” This cabinet has slowly been filling up with the stories I have heard, and continue to hear, as I meet with foreclosure prevention clients at ICCF; it continues to be a very interesting time. I hear all sorts of stories and listen to people tell me things that are sometimes hard to hear and sometimes hard to process. Some days, I can listen to the stories, file them away in that cabinet in my brain, and continue to go about my day. But sometimes, I have to leave the file open on the desk right next to the cabinet, unable to file it away quite yet. I have to spend some time processing what I have heard and trying to make some sense of it before I file it away.

One client’s story in particular from this past quarter of my AmeriCorps time was like that. We’ll call this client Kelly. Kelly had been referred to me and called me one afternoon. I answered. Her taxes were behind on her house and she was looking for help-a very normal start to a triage and intake conversation, but the conversation quickly dove into a deeper retelling of Kelly’s life story.

Kelly told me about the deep depression she had been stuck in for a number of years- the onset caused by her mother’s death. Kelly had been able to keep her job the entire duration of her depression, but that was all she was able to do. She got up, went to work, came home, and went to bed. She did not realize how low she actually was. This went on for years, when finally Kelly decided to go to the doctor to see if anything could be done. The doctor prescribed some antidepressant medication right away. Kelly asked the doctor, “Well, doesn’t everyone’s mother die?” The doctor answered, “Yes.” Kelly replied, “So is the whole world on antidepressants?” The doctor replied, “Yes.” This was not a satisfying answer to Kelly. She refused the antidepressants. There had to be another way.

Since that visit, Kelly’s life has really been on the upward climb. She is going to school and getting a college degree, still working her steady job, and also encouraging others to let their mothers know how much they love them. Kelly not only experienced a recent change in attitude towards life, but also towards our housing counseling. She did not want to write her hardship letter when she first came into our office, as she knew it would bring up all of her hard emotions all over again, but by the time she was done meeting with our housing counselor, she was willing to write one. She slowly began to relax and allow the counselor to try and help her with her situation. Kelly is still working with our housing counselor, and though the outcome of her situation is unsure, trust has been built and Kelly experienced a drastic change of attitude.

My own mother lives in the Philippines, just about as far away as you can get from where I live, here in Grand Rapids. After that first conversation on the phone with Kelly, I knew I had to write an email to my mom to tell her I loved her. I did.

Betsy Quakenbush is an AmeriCorps member at Inner City Christian Federation in Grand Rapids.

This post is part of a blog series highlighting the viewpoints of Michigan AmeriCorps Foreclosure Prevention Corps members serving at different foreclosure host sites around Michigan. View information about the program or see more stories in this series.

Voices of AmeriCorps: Rene Halberg



Beep! Beep! Beep! My alarm is waking me; I want to stay in bed. After all it’s cold and rainy, good dayMFPC-Member11 for staying in bed. I slowly move out of bed and gather my thoughts. Today is my Russ Mawby Service project; it’s an outside project, YUCK!! Really, does it have to rain? Couldn’t it just be a nice sunny day? As I gathered my water bottle, coffee, work gloves and jacket I couldn’t get the YUCK attitude out of my system. As I’m jumping in my truck for an hour and 15minute drive to Gaylord, I’m thinking… well at least I can go shopping after the project. We have a family dollar and one grocery store here in the UP. Any chance to go shopping in Gaylord is a great plus to my day.

When I arrive at Gaylord’s Otsego Environmental Learning Site I noticed I wasn’t really prepared for the weather and my “yuck” attitude was still strong. This is going to be a long day. I had a sluggish walk to the cabin and my tennis shoes were already soaked…UGH! Others services members had galoshes, rain coats, hats and smiles. I freshen up on my coffee, grabbed a granola bar and begin looking for familiar faces. I didn’t recognize a single face… UGH. Sometimes I have trouble mingling.

As the cabin continued to fill with volunteers I began to relax and have small talk with those around me. We divide up into several small groups each with a mission to accomplish. I was on the ponds habitat improvement team. The goal was to plant several flats of native plants around the pond. As I stood at the pond looking at all the flats of flowers/plants I realized there was no way I was going to stay dry during this project, which meant no shopping after the project as I didn’t think to bring dry clothing. I acknowledged that it was going to be a long drive back to the UP with wet clothes. I grabbed a flat of flowers and with a gloom I begin planting. Small talk began among my fellow AmeriCorps members and other volunteers.

It wasn’t long and my knees were wet, however, I noticed my “yuck” attitude was drying up. I suddenly realized I was enjoying myself regardless. With my first flat of plants planted I stood up and stepped back, wow they look nice. There was chatter going on behind me, I turned around, the gravel path project behind me was coming along beautifully. I felt a since of warmth on a cold rainy day. I walked along the pond and picked up another flat of plants. As I was walking back to my area of flower planting I could see a group of volunteers working hard at digging a hole. Hmmm what’s going on over there? My curiosity took the best of me and I wandered over to see the project. The group was constructing a hibernaculum for retiles. WOW! How cool is that. Again I felt a since of warmth on a cold rainy day. I walked back to the pond with a smile, knelt down on the wet ground and started planting my second flat of plants.

With my second flat planted I needed a fresh sip of coffee so I wander up to the cabin where again I felt the warmth of sunshine on a rainy day. There was a cheerful group pulling invasive spotted knapweed. Another group was collecting trash from the site. Inside the cabin was the smell of fresh paint. I was admiring newly painted bird houses that the volunteers had made. I walked back to the pond with pep in my step on the newly graveled path, grabbed another flat of plants and continued planting until lunch.

After a yummy lunch and great conversation I realized how fast the day was going. I stood on the deck of the cabin there was a fresh but heavy mist in the air, I looked around. What a difference we had made already. I noticed the educational forest trails had been trimmed and cleared. I could now see the disc golf course. There were educational boards and tools set up to study prairie wildlife. The pond was looking sharp with all the new plants. The afternoon flew by and the day came to an end: my knees were wet and muddy, my hair very damp, tennis shoes soaked and a stiff back, however there was a smile on my face and pride in my heart. What I thought was going to be a long cold yucky day turned into a short warm awesome day. I did not make it shopping that day, nor did I mind my ride home with wet clothes. I was filled with warmth during my ride home as I pondered on how great I felt, the fun I had, how wonderful it is to be an AmeriCorps Service member and the fact I made a difference at the Otsego Environmental Learning Site and in myself. 

We had more than 65 volunteers on a rainy day. The day ended with a beautiful gravel path leading from the nature center to the pond. There were thirteen bags of invasive species collected, five bags of trash, eight cover boards for the educational trail, an awesome hibernaculum for the reptiles to take refuge in for the winter, thirteen bird houses built and installed along with 1,260 native plants planted. All on a rainy day.

Rene Halberg is an AmeriCorps member at H.O.M.E. of Mackinac County.

This post is part of a blog series highlighting the viewpoints of Michigan AmeriCorps Foreclosure Prevention Corps members serving at different foreclosure host sites around Michigan. View information about the program or see more stories in this series.

Better Than A Webinar

Dequindre Cut 4We thought we solved the problem of people not being able to make it to in-person trainings with the invention of the webinar. Maybe with a webinar they wouldn’t feel the need to pull out their cellphone or laptop and answer emails during the presentation. If you’ve hosted a webinar, you know this to not be the case. Since the speaker is invisible and the audio quality is usually poor, people tune out or don’t even show up and just wait for the webinar recording to come out.

So why not just skip right to the recording?

We filmed some of our beginner Real Estate Development workshops. They are the exact same information you would get by attending in person, except as videos. You can go at your own pace and you get a copy to keep, so you can rewatch it any time you need a refresher.

Each online training is $15 for CEDAM members. You can purchase Market Analysis, Utilizing Land Banks and Site Selection & Due Diligence here.

We also have a phenomenal Conflict Resolution training that is specifically designed to be presented in video format. You can see a demo and read about what this training includes here. (P.S. This training will significantly improve your life at work and at home; it’s definitely worth it.)

Happy learning!

6 Steps for Writing a BIG Grant

training201Written by Olivia Courant, New Media Specialist

Julie Powers has been writing HUD grants for twenty years. She has written almost 60 grants, and every one of them has succeeded. During the 2015 Building Michigan Communities Conference, she shared her methods on how to write successful large grants that have multiple organizations involved.

Before starting, Julie emphasized that each grant should have one captain who makes all the final decisions, one person who does all the media and press activities and one editor. The biggest mistake is to piece these responsibilities out, because when this happens, the grant will read like it was written by many different people with no consistent message.

1. Write the budget first.

The rest of your application will be determined by your budget.

2. Write the needs section.

Properly footnote your needs with real data and real research sources. Even if your work plan is not solid, a strong needs section that proves you know your community will dominate.

3. All drama happens in the wee hours of the night.

Do not take vacation before the grant is due. Anticipate that something may go wrong at the last minute: a partner organization drops out, technology fails, a section of the grant is accidentally skipped, etc.

4. Get anything from others that you need before the deadline.

If multiple organizations and people are working on the grant, tell them the deadline is earlier than it actually is so they get their stuff in on time. The head editor needs to put everything together and review the final product before turning it in.

5. Be ready with solid internet.

Large grant applications take a lot of power to upload. If you have a weak or unreliable internet connection, go to a school or library.

6. Write only for things that matter.

The grant reader wants to hear inspiring stories about the difference the funding will make.


Tech Soup has copies of Microsoft Office, Quickbooks, Adobe software, Windows and all other types of software that nonprofits can get for dirt cheap.

• If you are submitting an application for a federal grant, it is usually done through grants.gov. Set up an account for your nonprofit now. It takes a few weeks to clear and be approved, and this has to happen before you can submit a grant application.

• There is a human on the other end who will receive the grant. They might be willing to help you make sure everything uploaded correctly. If something goes wrong, look for contact information for the application site.

• You might make frenemies (friend-enemies). When you have a vision and you know it will change the world, you will need to leave people/organizations out if they don’t bring what is needed to the table – even if they are great people and you like them. Choose only the strongest partners who you know will carry their weight, communicate and turn materials in on time.

• If you need to prove you have matching funds, but those funds will not be in your hands until after the grant application deadline, you can try the following:

Attach a letter saying you’ve gotten $X every year from XYZ organization for X number of years, and attach previous years’ grant letters. Say you intend to apply to that organization and get $X again this year, and there’s no reason to expect XYZ will not approve that application.

City Leaders Are Paving the Way Toward Financial Empowerment

Written by Megan Kursik, Michigan Communities for Financial Empowerment Coordinator

Two weeks ago, I spent a busy three days in Seattle at a CFE Coalition forum, learning from city leaders working across the country to promote financial capability for their residents.

The Cities for Financial Empowerment Coalition is a group of dedicated local elected officials and staff who lead initiatives in their communities that improve access to financial counseling, affordable banking products, small business support and longer term asset development. These leaders have also instituted local policy to restrict predatory practices, like high cost payday lending.

This year, the City of Lansing was invited to join the CFE Coalition after successfully launching a Financial Empowerment Center in 2013 and Lansing SAVE, Michigan’s first universal, automatic kids savings program in January! I got to tag along to the CFE Coalition forum with Amber Paxton, Director of Lansing’s Office of Financial Empowerment.

I learned so much from the discussions at the forum, I just had to share a rundown with CEDAM’s membership in Michigan. There’s something in here for everyone!


Jose Cisneros with Megan Kursik

I’m also excited to announce that CEDAM will be welcoming a founding member of the CFE Coalition, Jose Cisneros, back to his home state of Michigan for our second annual Michigan Financial Empowerment Summit in August!

As Treasurer of the City and County of San Francisco, Jose established the first ever locally-based universal, automatic college savings program in the U.S. This year, the MI Summit will focus on building similar community-based children’s savings programs.

Find out more about the MI Summit here. I hope to see you there!

The Bright Side: Rural

We released a new series of videos about small towns and rural areas in Michigan. Learn how to bring investment to a small town and see how others found surprising opportunities in Michigan’s rural areas.

2 hussHuss Project, Three Rivers [watch now]

Visit a historic former school in Three Rivers and take a tour of the future community center and garden at The Huss Project with *culture is not optional.

3 conferenceMI Rural Conference, Thompsonville [watch now]

Each year leaders from small town communities gather at Crystal Mountain for the Michigan Rural Council Small Town and Rural Development Conference.

4 stormcloudStormcloud Brewery, Frankfort [watch now]

Go on a tour of Stormcloud Brewing Company, a local brewery in Frankfort specializing in Belgian-inspired ales. At the pub on the shores of Lake Michigan you can get beer, ale, mead, and great food!

5 olivetFarm to School, Olivet [watch now]

Kids in Olivet experience local foods during a farmer visit to their cafeteria on Farm to School month. Video produced by MSU CRFS.

6 cultivate miCultivate Michigan, Bangor [watch now]

Visit Michigan’s hispanic farming cooperative Farmers on the Move and hear about how Cultivate Michigan aims to help institutions purchase 20% of their food locally by 2020. Video produced by MSU CRFS.


7 milanEast Main Redevelopment, Milan [watch now]

Tour a model success story for any small town that wants to upgrade its downtown. The East Main Redevelopment in Milan is a full block historic redevelopment that will have 15 apartments and 8 storefronts.

The Impacts of Free Tax Preparation

by Ross Yednock, Program Director of the Michigan Economic Impact Coalition

“The income tax compliance system is represented by two separate, and distinct groups. The free preparation sites where IRS certified volunteers prepare and file taxes for no cost and the paid preparers who do the same service, for a cost. These are their stories.”

bookkeeping-615384_640Every year, more than 100,000 people in Michigan rely on free tax services to prepare and file their federal, state and city income tax returns. They come from all walks of life and all across the state. From Detroit to Traverse City, Benton Harbor to Cheboygan, workers, retirees, parents and all others go to free tax sites to save money on tax preparation fees and ensure they receive all of the tax credits for which they are entitled. Members of the Michigan Economic Impact Coalition are committed to serving these taxpayers and during the first three months of 2015, I interviewed some of these taxpayers. Here are some of their stories.


accounting-57284_640Velma used to go to a paid preparer to file her taxes. She did it because that is the way she and her husband would file their taxes before he passed away. It only cost $92, not a lot considering all the forms that were used and the seemingly endless numbers that needed to be entered. Besides, her return always was about $98 or $99 dollars – more than enough to cover the fee with a couple of dollars left to spare. Then someone told her about the free tax services offered by Community Action in Adrian. She figured it would give it a try. That was four years ago. She has come back every year since and even brings along her friend so he can save money too.

“It’s great,” she said. “They ask questions about rent and heating costs that the other guy never asked. Now, instead of paying $92 so I could receive a return of $98, I get about $400 back and I don’t have to pay!”

dollars-426023_640Velma’s story is not unique. Unlike some paid income tax preparers, every volunteer tax preparer at the Community Action’s free tax site is certified by the IRS and trained to know about all the federal and Michigan credits for which people may be eligible. That is why Velma’s tax refund went up – she was getting the Michigan Property Tax Credit, something her other preparer had missed.


flag-216887_640A Vietnam veteran from Ypsilanti, Jerry used to be a computer programmer with a nice home in a middle class neighborhood. Then he got sick.

“I’m making a 1/16 of what I used to make before I got sick…my life has changed quite a bit,” he said.

Unable to work, he lost his home and ended up staying in shelters. That is where a program for homeless veterans in Washtenaw County found him. Thanks to their efforts and local community supports – including free tax assistance – he is now living in a Habitat Humanity home and back on his feet, despite the daily challenges.

“It is real frustrating… paperwork, taxes. I got a degree in computer science. I am not an accountant whatsoever. I know binary, octal, hexidecimal numbers all that but I can’t deal with forms like that,” he said. “By the time I am done (filling out all the forms), I am so wound-up and frustrated, so this helps tremendously. I’ve sent other people here before, at least a couple people every year and tell them where I get (my taxes) done and how great it has been.”

Jerry is grateful for all the help he has received and keeps the United Way’s 2-1-1 number on speed dial so he can get help when he needs it. As for how the United Way of Washtenaw County’s free tax program compares with the service he used to pay for he says “No difference at all. Actually nice people here. I haven’t had any one bad experience so far… (No difference) except for paying them a lot of money to do the exact same thing free (tax services) does.”


house-605227_640“Thank you, thank you, thank you.” That is what Liz had to say to the volunteers at the volunteer income tax assistance site run by the United Way for Saginaw County. Working as a customer service representative, she doesn’t make a whole lot of money or have complicated taxes.

“I own a home, but nothing special,” she said, but that didn’t stop the “big box” tax preparer she used last year from telling her it would cost $400 to do her taxes this year. The $250 increase from the $150 she paid in 2014 was more than she could pay. When she asked about the price hike, she was told that they “charge per form, not per return.”

bill-41817_640“I have a little deal where I have a 1099 this year,” she said. “That still seems way ridiculous to me just for one extra form…. I couldn’t afford it. This money I get back I use to pay my property taxes and I really need that because working minimum wage, I can’t hardly save enough to pay my property taxes.”

The free tax program not only saves her money on tax preparation fees, but also ensures that she gets all the credits for which she is legally eligible including Michigan’s Homestead Property Tax Credit and Home Heating Credit.

“I have my home and all my bills and the (heating) bill absolutely killed me (this winter),” she said. “I actually had to borrow money from family to help me pay my gas bill. They shut me off last year because I got behind.” She is hoping that this year, with the help of the Home Heating Credit, which is used to offset the cost of heating for seniors and lower-income households, will help her avoid a similar situation, again.

All of these stories come the MEIC’s Client Story Initiative. Throughout the 2015 tax season, the MEIC gave away 30 $50 gift cards to clients willing to share their story. For more information about the MEIC, please visit meic.cedam.info.