Pauls Note: Friday, January 22, 2021

Paul's Ward 3 News and Updates
 
Friday, January 22, 2021
 
News and Updates
Pet of the Week                 
Ward 3 Neighborhood Association/Coalition Meetings
Ward 3 Events
City Wide Events
Did You Know?
 
Ward 3 News and Updates
 
For Ward 3 residents and friends, we bring you a mix of information on the pandemic, the City of Tucson’s efforts to reduce harm to renters and small businesses, and the return of free tax preparation assistance. First, a word of appreciation that it rained this week! For us desert dwellers any and all rain is welcomed, more so during these days of drought. The little rain we received is a sharp reminder to conserve and to find ways to improve our sustainability. 
 
The Pima County Health Department and the City of Tucson are ramping up their vaccination all-out efforts. Several sites are providing COVID-19 vaccinations to school-based workers and employees in the law enforcement-first responder category as well as individuals older than 65. The City has opened the Tucson Convention Center for walk-in vaccinations. Last year the City invested more than $10 million in rental and utility assistance and now the City is preparing to invest more than $16 million. More details are forthcoming. Lastly, the United Way’s VITA program is ready to launch. Read about the small group of volunteers who have worked with the Ward 3 office who will again provide expert tax assistance, only this year it will be online. 
 
VITA
 
If you had worked for the Internal Revenue Service for years, managing tax returns, big and small, what would you do when you retired? Travel? Read books? Make a self-promise to never read a spreadsheet again?
 
Well if you are Caryl Sharp, you would retain your interest in tax returns and channel your knowledge into helping the many people who need the always valuable assistance in filling out their federal and state tax forms.
 
“I felt I had the skills to prepare taxes. I’m still committed to it,” said Caryl who is part of a small team of volunteers who, through the Ward 3 office, work with the VITA program of the United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona. The VITA program provides quality tax preparation assistance to individuals and families who earn up to $66,000 annually.
 
 
In previous years, VITA volunteers held weekly Saturday sessions at the Ward 3 office where clients would come to the community room and work with the volunteers to prepare their returns. But because of the pandemic the Ward 3 VITA team will do the work online. To get started go to the website GetYourRefund.org. There is also a Spanish-language site. People can register now for tax preparation, which is scheduled to begin February 1.
 
The online tax preparation site has been tested and used, said Roger Van Zele, a retired Exxon project executive who has volunteered with the Ward 3 VITA team for the last seven years.
 
Like Caryl, Roger uses his knowledge to help others. He is a certified tax preparer and is strongly committed to assisting the many people who cannot do their own returns or do not have the money to hire someone.
 
“We provide a lot of value to a lot of people,” Roger said.
 
 
In addition to helping residents, the Ward 3 team offers tax assistance to international students and staff, most of whom are studying or working at the University of Arizona, Roger said. The tax rules for foreign students and professors -- yes, they pay income tax too! -- are different than those for residents. Even among the students, who come from an array of countries, the tax returns are not uniform, Roger added.
 
“The deductions and exemptions are different for foreigners depending on their county’s rules,” he said.
 
The goals of the VITA volunteers are to complete the tax returns accurately, quickly and to obtain the maximum amount of deductions and eligible earned credits for their clients. To Roger and Caryl they do the work because they know there is great need for free professional-level tax preparation. They are proud of their work and level of expertise.
 
In the years that Caryl worked for the IRS, she often wondered why tax returns, specifically those for the average person and family who had no-to-few deductions, could still be complicated and difficult to complete. That is one of the reasons she has thrown herself into the VITA program: to help those who need it and to give back.
 
“I’m satisfied being able to do it,” she said although she admits her friends thinks she’s “nuts.” Not for helping people with their tax returns, she said, “but because I still find the tax laws interesting and challenging.”
 
In addition to the online assistance, there is in-person tax help through VITA. For more information about that effort and other tax assistance offered by VITA, visit this site
 
Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety
 
As a part of Council Member Durham’s priorities while in office, bike and pedestrian safety has always been near the top. The City of Tucson has adopted Complete Streets, which most importantly states that our community will beto prioritize safety and multimodal transportation options for all users.
 
In addition, Council Member Durham also has been very supportive of the City’s Bicycle Boulevard Master Plan. This plan outlines the implementation of bike facilities and infrastructure in the City of Tucson. One of these projects is beginning here in Ward 3.
 
Blacklidge Bike Boulevard
 
The City is kicking off the public input and design phase of the Blacklidge Drive Bicycle Boulevard project this month, which is funded through the voter-approved Proposition 407 Parks & Connections bond package. This project will bring neighborhood traffic safety improvements to Blacklidge Drive between Oracle Road and Columbus Boulevard. Goals of the project include slowing and reducing cut-through traffic as well as making it easier for people walking and biking to cross busy cross streets.
 
The Transportation and Mobility Department will hold the first Join the Virtual Town Hall for the Blacklidge Bicycle Boulevard on Wednesday January 27th at 6 pm, where it will provide more information about the funded project, answer questions, and seek input from neighbors.
 
You can also call into the meeting using this phone number: 213-293-2303. When prompted, enter the following Conference ID: 496 882 141#. We hope you can join us. If you have further questions or comments, please contact Collin Chesston at Collin.Chesston@tucsonaz.gov or call 520-305-0254.
 
 
COVID-19 Vaccination Update
 
Vaccination distribution for individuals in the 1B.1 category is moving quickly, albeit not completely free of frustrations regarding registration. The current points of distribution (POD), including TMC, Banner South and North, the UA and the Tucson Convention Center (TCC), are getting shots in arms. The UA has been a bit slower to launch, but the other sites have quickly ramped up.
 
Within days of opening, the City of Tucson-run site at the TCC is providing between 600-700 shots per day. Today, we anticipate that 1,100 shots will be administered at the TCC. City employees are staffing this site and shots are provided by EMTs with the Tucson Fire Department.
 
Dr. Theresa Cullen, Pima County Health Department Director, reported to Mayor and Council on Wednesday that the supply of vaccine doses for the following week looks good and appointments for vaccines should keep pace. To date, 50,000 have received their first vaccine shot with 10,000 individuals having received their second shot. Pima County has received 80,000 doses with another 28,000 arriving next week.
 
 
The Ward 3 office has heard a number of concerns about how to register for the vaccine. First, the State of Arizona and Pima County Health Department each have their own systems for registration. You can visit the vaccination registration page here or call (520) 222-0119. Be advised that call times are long. If you are reading this, then you are in a position to assist a loved one who does not have access to the internet to register online. That same page will provide updates on when and where to register if you are included in the later 1B.2 category.
 
Maintaining Housing Stability for Tucsonans
 
Tucson’s Mayor and Council have invested over $10.5 million to provide rental and utility assistance to households and small businesses this past year. Council Member Durham has consistently advocated for these supports to keep residents safe and in their homes.
 
With additional funds for rental and utility assistance included in the Congressional omnibus spending bill passed last month, the City of Tucson has received an additional $16,675,428 to be provided as rental and utility assistance. 
 
Very soon, we will be announcing where residents can go to file an application. Here is what you should know. We have approximately 1,000 applications that are first in line who had eligible applications that were not able to be funded with Cares Act dollars earlier this year.
 
Prioritization will be in accordance with federal Treasury rules and City priorities that include:
  • City of Tucson residents
  • 50% of AMI
  • Unemployed
  • Severity of Need – Writ of Restitution Issued or Court date
These funds can be used to pay arrears, or renter’s debt to their landlord, for rents not able to be paid due to a loss of income due to COVID-19. Ward 3 staff is working closely with the City of Tucson’s Housing and Community Development to ensure that we continue to work with our constables and individuals who are in the eviction process to fast track assistance to prevent those evictions from moving forward.
 
Keep reading the Ward 3 newsletter for updates as additional information for accessing rental and utility assistance becomes available.
 
Ward 3 Neighborhood Series
 
Thank you to everyone that has participated in the Ward 3 Neighborhood Series. The first six sessions are now online and you can view them here.
 
Session 1: Introduction
Session 2: Zoom
Session 5: Instagram
Session 6: E-Newsletters
 
We here at the Ward 3 office have really enjoyed putting together this neighborhood series. We have learned a lot along the way. We have also enjoyed the chance to see everyone and stay connected.
 
We hope that you have enjoyed our Neighborhood Engagement Webinar series as well. You can register for the latest session that takes place on February 4 at COVID Compatible Events
 
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Pet of the Week
 
 
 
Santos is a handsome 6-year-old boy who lived his whole life in the same home before coming to Pima Animal Care Center. Despite the big life change, Santos isn't letting his new digs get him down. In play group, Santos was easy to leash up and extra friendly with his handlers. He was a bit nervous and unsure of the other dogs at first, but once he warmed up, he engaged in some gentle and dainty play before getting the zoomies. In his previous home, Santos lived indoors and with other dogs, and also spent time with children (we're told he was great with them.) He's housetrained and spent most of his time indoors. Santos is a friendly boy who would love to get out of the shelter, where he has been since last November, and back into a home.
 
To adopt, please submit an adoption survey and schedule an appointment using the link found in the survey confirmation email. Please email pacc.adopt@pima.gov with questions.
 
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Ward 3 Neighborhood Association/Coalition Meetings
 
Ft Lowell/Country Club Safety Group
Monday
January 25
6-7 pm
 
Keeling
Monday
January 25
7-8 pm
Alvernon Grant Initiative
Tuesday
February 9
6 pm
If you would like to attend the January Zoom AGI meeting, send an email to paloverdena@gmail.com Send your request by Tues. Feb. 9, at noon.
 
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Ward 3 Events
 
Free COVID Testing
Saturday, Jan. 23, at Literacy Connects, 200 E Yavapai Rd., from 10 am to 2 pm. Amphi neighborhood residents and members of immigrant communities in Ward 3 are urged to receive a nasal swab virus test. Staff at the testing speak a variety of languages (English, Spanish, Apache, Arabic, Nepali, Kinyarwanda, French, Kirundi) and all educational materials are bilingual as well. Interpretation services are available for anyone who speaks another language. No appointment is needed. Registration on site. Walk ups only.
 
Blacklidge Bicycle Boulevard Virtual Town Hall
Wednesday
January 27
6 pm
 
 
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City Wide Events
 
 
El Pueblo Center Testing
The City of Tucson and El Rio Health are offering free COVID-19 tests at the El Pueblo Center, 101 W. Irvington Road.
 
The testing takes place on Mondays and Wednesdays, 5-8 p.m., Thursdays, 1-4 p.m., and Saturdays, 7 a.m.-noon. To register for a test, call El Rio Health at (520) 670-3909 and schedule an appointment. A doctor’s order is not needed to get the test, but organizers do ask everyone to make an appointment. Follow on-site signage to the testing location.
 
Udall Center Testing
 
The free testing, administered by the Pima County Health Department and Paradigm Laboratories, is also available at the Udall Recreation Center, 7200 E. Tanque Verde Road by appointment only. 
To register for a testing appointment, go to pima.gov/covid19testing and click on the Schedule My Test link for Udall, or call 800-369-3584 to schedule an appointment. No walk-in tests will be conducted, people must have an appointment. The Testing Center will be open Tuesday-Sunday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Testing will continue at the Center until it is no longer needed to control the pandemic.
 
 
Community Pop-Up Testing Centers
The City's pop-up testing locations are available on a walk-up basis only. No appointment is necessary. The free, saliva tests are administered by Rescue Me Wellness. and results are available in 3 - 5 days. Full list of times and locations.
 
 
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Did You Know?
 
VITA
 
Did you know that if you made $66,000 or less last year, you do not have to pay to file your taxes? Starting on February 1st, United Way of Tucson's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program can help you file for free. Mindful of the COVID-19 pandemic, United Way is teaming up with www.GetYourRefund.org to provide free, online, one-on-one tax assistance from real, live IRS-certified tax preparers. VITA tax preparation saves taxpayers an average of $250 per return. The program helps taxpayers access all tax credits for which they are eligible – including the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
There are three ways you can get your taxes done for free:
 
-GetYourRefund.org – taxpayers can connect with VITA volunteers online
-In-Person Assistance – limited in-person assistance is available at select sites
-DIY Self-Prep Software – online services for those who feel confident in filing on their own Click here for more information.
 
 
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Council Member Paul Durham is on Social Media!
 
Follow us on Twitter: @CMPaul_Durham
 
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