Comity CEO Gerad Hanono spent many years preparing tax returns as a volunteer in the IRS' Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. At the center where Gerad volunteered, the preparers helped their clients claim about $500,000 in tax credits and overpaid income tax each week.
Each year, the IRS offers prizes for VITA clients if they commit to put some portion of their tax return into a savings account. Precious few clients ever took the prizes. Each year, the community comes with their tax credits already promised to creditors, utilities, auto repairs, back rent, or some new shoes for a child growing too quickly.
It was clear: once-per-year cash benefits are misaligned to the needs of working people.
VITA was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so Gerad couldn't see his clients. Instead, he and his cofounder Alex Favaro set to work on modernizing America's safety net, starting with a Guaranteed Income.
Visionary local leaders have tapped into private donor networks to fund Guaranteed Income pilots of varying sizes, with demonstrable success. In Stockton, 80% of funds were spent on essential items (food, utilities, home goods and clothes, auto costs).
With an annual cost of $6,000 per family per year, these programs have not scaled beyond private donor networks.
At Comity, we're creating the first nationwide Guaranteed Income program by tapping into existing policy infrastructure, and we're facilitating the benefit at a cost of $120 per family per year.