NCBA Honors Robinson Bradshaw, Access to Justice Pro Bono Partner, with State-wide Award

Three huge projects. One unprecedented year. Despite the challenges and legal boom of 2020, Robinson Bradshaw took charge in their pro bono initiatives. For their unyielding commitment to pro bono service demonstrated by their undertaking of several complex and impactful projects during 2020, the North Carolina Bar Association granted Robinson Bradshaw  the Law Firm Pro Bono Award with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s nomination.  

In the first project, Robinson Bradshaw successfully litigated against the Lake Arbor Apartments with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and the North Carolina Justice Center. Led by Julian Wright, the firm was instrumental in securing over $547,000 in settlement funds for tenants who were forced to pay rent for sub-standard housing. Wright says: “Where you live is important. For a lot of people, it’s the base of their life, it’s the place from where they go out into the world and do things they want to do, it’s where families are raised.”  

Overall, Julian Wright, Caroline Reinwald, Tami Redi, Adam Wehler, Adam Doerr, Andy Tarr, David Wright, Erik Zimmerman, Satyra Riggins and Jake Raynor donated 510 hours of legal services to the Lake Arbor case. Because of these advocates’ tireless commitment, class members were reimbursed for rent paid and compensated for the violation of their rights as tenants. Furthermore, Robinson Bradshaw set a strong precedent of preserving safe and affordable housing in the Charlotte area—a key issue in the region.   

Robinson Bradshaw’s second project creatively bolstered pro bono resources to represent The Advocacy Center in a real estate transaction to acquire our new building. The effort was led by Robinson Bradshaw’s Jane Ratteree, who focuses her pro bono initiatives on “helping organizations that in turn help individuals.” It is important for The Advocacy Center “to have a more dignified space. To show the clients that they are valued as clients, that they are coming to a place that’s going to treat them well and do a good job for them,” Ratteree says. Ratteree’s service will make a monumental impact on Charlotte’s legal services community, ensuring that The Advocacy Center’s staff have a modern office space for our expanding programs. Ratteree contributed nearly 250 hours to this effort. 

In the third project, Robinson Bradshaw, led by attorney Adam Doerr, successfully litigated on behalf of low-income families against the State of North Carolina to ensure eligible low-income families with children would receive $335 dollars in COVID-19 relief. Almost 25,000 low-income residents applied to receive the grant after a court ordered the State to re-open the deadline for low-income families to apply, resulting in over $5 million for those most in need. 

 “When we realized that many of the families most in need would miss out on these critical pandemic relief funds, we knew that the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy would have the expertise and resources to help us manage the kind of impact litigation and outreach campaign needed to ensure that these state grants actually got to the low-income families in our community,” said Doerr. 

He and the Robinson Bradshaw team were attentive, swift and impressive. However, Doerr’s commitment to the successful execution of the project  demonstrates his and the firm’s innovative approach to wholistic pro bono service. Doerr and team recognized that their litigative efforts were only part of the picture and did not rest until as many eligible families received the grant as possible, including negotiating contracts with a web development company and national call center provider to handle a statewide outreach effort. Overall, Robinson Bradshaw donated 581 hours to this effort. 

In addition to these impactful projects, Robinson Bradshaw as a firm has donated 1,293 hours of legal services to low-income clients through the Access to Justice Pro Bono Partners Program over the years. Robinson Bradshaw routinely has several attorneys inducted to the Access to Justice Pro Bono Partners Honor Roll (requires either 20 hours of service or closure of three cases in the previous year) and the NC Pro Bono Honor Society (requires at least 50 hours of service in the previous year). Robinson Bradshaw attorneys undertake pro bono cases in areas such as wills, consumer protection, access to healthcare, immigration and others.  

Julian Wright, Jane Ratteree, Adam Doerr and Robinson Bradshaw’s commitment to serving low-income families in North Carolina through these complex projects demonstrates the firm’s innovative and comprehensive approach to pro bono service. They go beyond individual case referrals to ensure the Charlotte-Mecklenburg community has equal access to justice and civil legal aid. We applaud their creative leadership of non-traditional pro bono initiatives and hope that Robinson Bradshaw’s efforts inspire other firms in the area. Congratulations!  

The 2021 Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy Pro Bono Award: Elizabeth Murphy

If you looked at Elizabeth Murphy’s resume, you would learn she is a partner at Alston & Bird where she serves as Chair of the Commercial Real Estate Lending and Servicing Team. What you would not see is that she has represented fourteen immigrant children escaping brutal violence in Central America, volunteering over two hundred hours in the last five years, to ensure they are safe with their families in the United States and have a path toward residency and citizenship.  

For her endeavors, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is proud to grant Elizabeth Murphy our 2021 Pro Bono Award.  

Elizabeth Murphy

Murphy champions pro bono representation for children seeking Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS)–a status granted to immigrant minors who have been victims of abuse, neglect or abandonment by a parent. Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is the primary source of legal representation for these children in North Carolina and there are far more children in need of representation than we can assist without pro bono help. 

Murphy’s first SIJS case left a lasting impact on her and her client’s life. She represented a little girl from Central America who came to live with her mother in search of better opportunities. Thought to have a learning disability, she did not receive an adequate education in her home country. However, after attending a local Charlotte-Mecklenburg school, her family learned she only suffered from hearing loss. The child was given hearing aids and the proper tools to succeed. Without Murphy’s representation, she could have been deported.  

“She was written off. All it took was a little bit of the resources we have in this country to give her a better life to make sure she stays with her parent. The most menial benefits of a hearing test and a doctor changed her life forever. Being a meaningful part of her life is everything. It’s amazingly fulfilling to help do those cases and help those children. It’s so easy to see why we need to do this work.” 

With the surge of immigration at the Southern border, The Advocacy Center anticipates an increase of children in need of SIJS. As the coordinator for her firm’s Safe Child Immigrant Project, Murphy has been key in recruiting others at Alston & Bird to take on SIJS cases. Overall, the firm has represented twenty-two immigrant children. Any NC licensed attorney can learn to represent SIJS children at The Advocacy Center’s upcoming CLE on June 15th.  

Murphy says “it’s so easy to see why we need to do this work. I get to go to court and make sure a child can stay with his family and get a fantastic education.” 

Expanding the scope of her pro bono commitment, Murphy recently became a Charlotte Triage Champion for The Advocacy Center’s new Driver’s License Restoration Project. In this role, she recruits attorneys from Charlotte law firms and corporations to be trained and take on license restoration cases, increasing clients’ access to transportation, employment and education.  

“It shows the privilege of our legal education by giving just a couple of hours, we can help get someone their driver’s license back which immediately improves their economic outlook.  They get their life back, they can drive to work.” 

Her advice for those new to the legal profession or pro bono work? “No matter who you are, you can still do pro bono. No matter what your skill set is, no matter what your specialty is, there is still pro bono for you to do and you can still do it well. You just need to give what you can give.” 

Our volunteers are critical to Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s mission to pursue justice for those in need. Murphy is a role model for the Access to Justice Pro Bono Partnership in Mecklenburg County, enabling us to serve more people in need, to narrow the Justice Gap, and to build a stronger, more just community for us all. Elizabeth, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and our clients thank you for your volunteerism and commitment to access to justice. 

Justice Would Bring Them Home

Friends,

For the past month, many have followed the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin who killed George Floyd last May. We thank the prosecution and courageous witnesses who took the stand and recounted this traumatic event in the pursuit of justice and accountability for Floyd’s family. Yesterday, the jury unanimously convicted Chauvin on all charges—of second- and third-degree murder and manslaughter. 

This has been a pivotal year for the Black Lives Matter movement. We extend our gratitude to the organizers of protests, community discussions, and mutual aid efforts this year and beyond. Without your dedicated and persistent work, we would not have witnessed yesterday’s affirmation that Black lives do matter. You have our ongoing support and appreciation.  

The conviction of a single police officer cannot be the close to the protests of the past year and advocacy for and by marginalized communities of the last four hundred years. As Daunte Wright’s mother, Katie Wright proclaimed, “Everybody keeps saying ‘justice.’ But unfortunately, there is never going to be justice for us. Justice would bring our son home.” 

Many families of victims of police brutality and racialized violence still have not received this justice. Police and white supremacists have also unjustly killed Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Eric Garner, Eric Reason, Atatiana Jefferson, Antwon Rose II, Botham Jean, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Jordan Davis, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Emmett Till, Addie Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo, Ma’Khia Bryant and thousands of others. 

We must reimagine what justice means for American society. Standalone convictions do not reduce the need for comprehensive policy change and genuine justice. 

True justice ensures no parent, child, sibling, or friend will fear police will target their loved ones. True justice guarantees everyone has an equal opportunity for success and happiness in this country. We will continue towards the pursuit of this true justice, following those who have come before, partnering with the community on the ground, and calling in all who wish to walk with us.  

In solidarity, 

The staff at Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy 

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s call for Artist Qualifications for Purchase or Creation of New Work for our Building

Call Summary 

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is requesting qualifications from emerging visual artists age 21+ local to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg region to create or sell art of any medium relevant to our mission for our new building at 5535 Albemarle Road, Charlotte NC. Qualifications will be reviewed on a rolling basis until May 2nd, 2021 at 5pm. Artists interested in the project should apply by that date. The project must start after July 1st, 2021 and be complete by June 30th, 2022 (fiscal year 2022). The Advocacy Center has $15,000-$25,000 available depending on grant funding for multiple projects from different artists or collectives. Artists who are Black, Indigenous, Latino, people of color, immigrants, women, disabled people, LGBTQ+, veterans, and artists who come from low-income backgrounds are especially encouraged to apply.  

Contact

Meghan Rankins, Development and Pro Bono Associate 

Email: meghanr@charlottelegaladvocacy.org 

Phone Number: 980-202-7347 

Project Description 

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is searching for artists to commission new work or purchase artworks of any medium including but not limited to murals, photography, painting, etc. that align with our mission below for our new building. Artists can submit qualifications individually or partner with other local creatives.  

The Advocacy Center’s mission and vision statements are: 

Our mission is to pursue justice for those in need. 

Our vision is to build a just community where all people are treated fairly and have access to legal representation to meet their basic needs of safety, security, and stability. 

In addition to reflecting our mission and vision statements, the selected proposals should encompass the following themes: 

  • Inclusivity and Welcomeness 
  • Justice for all in our community 
  • Hope and inspiration 
  • Diversity of our client base and community 
    • Including Black, Indigenous, Latino, and other people of color, immigrants, women, disabled people, LGBTQ+, veterans, and low-income individuals and families 
  • Intersectionality of Identity 
  • Ending Poverty 
  • Racial Equity 

These artworks should represent the respect and esteem that The Advocacy Center’s staff and clients deserve—bridging gaps to address complex community issues such as access to healthcare, housing, and opportunity. 

About Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy 

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy helps people in the Charlotte, North Carolina, region who cannot afford legal services, but desperately need them. Without legal representation in civil matters, thousands of families can lose access to financial security, healthcare, housing and opportunity. 

The impact goes far beyond our neighbors in need. It affects our entire community. 

Since 1967, our staff and pro bono attorneys have provided comprehensive civil legal services for our region’s low-income residents. We accomplish our mission through a variety of advocacy strategies, including individual advice and representation, community education and outreach, representation of groups, self-help remedies, collaboration with other agencies, community economic development, legislative and administrative advocacy, and impact litigation. 

The need is everywhere. 

That’s why Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is here. 

  • We were formed in 1967 as a part of the War on Poverty and are the oldest legal services program in North Carolina.  
  • We serve 3,500 families each year facing a crisis of safety, shelter, health or income. More than 300,000 people in our region are eligible for our services and in need of legal assistance but are unable to afford private lawyers. 
  • We are the largest provider of legal assistance in Mecklenburg County improving access to healthcare for low-income and vulnerable populations. 
  • We are the largest non-profit provider of representation in the Charlotte immigration court in all of North and South Carolina. 
  • We advocate on behalf of clients, resulting in policy changes at the local and national level. 

When people with severe illnesses need healthcare coverage — 
When homeowners are on the brink of foreclosure — 
When disabled veterans cannot obtain their benefits — 
When domestic violence victims seek protective orders — 
When immigrants are in danger of exploitation — 

There is a place to turn. 
A place that has served for more than 50 years as a beacon of hope and a tireless champion for our diverse and growing population. 
A place where legal staff and volunteer attorneys and advocates fight to protect the fundamental rights of all. 

Justice lives here. 

Learn more about our services and programs here.  

Art Location Description 

Artwork could be displayed around or inside of Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s new building at 5535 Albemarle Road, Charlotte NC. The building is in East Charlotte near Central Avenue. The city of Charlotte’s greenway will eventually extend near the site. The Advocacy Center chose this location because of its proximity to our clients, particularly the Latino and immigrant community in Charlotte. See linked plans for dimensions and more details.  

The building’s exterior has excellent opportunities for art. The exterior has stretches of brick wall between large windows for murals. The largest wall faces an open green space that will be landscaped and used for casual collaborative working, meeting, and presentation space. The campus also has two plazas ideal for outdoor art display. Murals and other exterior art will be seen primarily by The Advocacy Center’s staff, clients, board of directors, other legal professionals, and nonprofit community partners who visit or work in the campus. The campus exterior is viewable from Albemarle Road in the Fall and Winter, but trees block the view of the buildings in the Spring and Summer.  

Due to the design of the building and ample usage of glass walls, the interior has minimal wall space but still has good opportunities for display, particularly in our client-facing spaces downstairs including reception, the client waiting room, and interview rooms. Wall space in the interview rooms will be shared with teleconferencing technology. Upstairs will be accessible by staff only and has some wall space around “spine walls” as shown in the attached design. Windows wrap the exterior of the building and office fronts are glass. Materials used should be able to withstand substantial light exposure. 

View the exterior and floor plans of our building here. Potential display dimensions can be found here. We welcome ideas for creative usage of space that would allow for other display options outside of those marked.

Budget 

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy has currently allocated $15,000 toward the commission or purchase of artwork. The Advocacy Center may select multiple artworks or invest in a singular proposal depending on quality, creativity, and cost. Budget would include purchase of existing artwork and/or total cost of creating new work including artists’ fees, materials, and installation.  

Artist Eligibility 

Artists selected for this project should:  

  • Be over the age of 21 
  • Emerging artists preferred, but not required 
  • Artists who are local to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg region preferred, but not required 
  • Artists who are Black, Indigenous, Latino, people of color, immigrants, women, disabled people, LGBTQ+, veterans, and artists who come from low-income backgrounds are especially encouraged to apply. 
  • Can be single applicants or part of an artist team or collective 

Art Criteria  

Successful artwork should: 

  • Follow thematic guidelines listed above 
  • Be appropriate for a non-profit, professional office 
  • Use durable and affordable materials that can withstand weathering and light exposure (art chosen will be a permanent installation) 
  • Be completed the project in fiscal year 2022 
  • Support the mission of our organization 

Application Requirements 

To apply, please submit the following to Meghan Rankins at meghanr@charlottelegaladvocacy.org by May 2nd, 2021 at 5pm. 

  • Artist Bio and Resume/CV. 
  • 3-4 examples of your artwork aligned with our mission and vision statements that are currently available for purchase. Please include title, dimensions, creation year, media, material and retail price. 
  • Alternatively, artists can submit existing examples of work that would serve as inspiration for a new proposal. Proposal should include details about concept, material, proposed dimension, and full budget to execute proposed work. 
  • A few paragraphs commenting on your ideas for the space, medium of art you would use, estimate price of the commission, and plans to involve the community of Charlotte in your piece. If you are proposing a new work, please outline any experience you have had with public art commissions 
  • Links to your website and/or social media handles 

Selection process 

Submissions will be evaluated by Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s Art Committee. Artists interested in the project should apply by May 2nd, 2021. Submissions will be evaluated by Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s Art Committee and selected artists will be notified by the end of May. Selected artists will be invited to the new building to see the space and opportunities for artwork. 

Selection Criteria 

Submissions will be selected based on the following criteria: 

  • Representation of the desired goals and themes of the artworks 
  • Interpretation of mission and clarity of concept 
  • Creativity and originality in interpreting mission. 
  • Consideration of the scope and criteria of the project 
  • Quality of the artwork and proposal 
  • Approximated cost of commission/artwork 
  • Priority given to emerging artists 
  • Priority given to artists local to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg region 

Project Timeline 

Projects should begin after July 1st, 2021 and be complete by June 30th, 2022, but ideally be completed during Fall of 2021 when The Advocacy Center staff will move into the new building.  

Sources for Additional Information/Questions 

If you have additional questions, email Meghan Rankins at meghanr@charlottelegaladvocacy.org 

Learn more about Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy at www.charlottelegaladvocacy.org  

Pro Bono Service Critical in Acquisition of The Advocacy Center’s New Building

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy has purposefully been searching for a new building for over two years to accommodate our growing staff and programs. Jane Ratteree of Robinson Bradshaw & Hinson represented The Advocacy Center in a real estate transaction in which we acquired the building that will be our new home beginning later this year. Ratteree’s service and expertise were invaluable to The Advocacy Center as we navigated this search and transaction process. Because of Ratteree, our future modern office space will represent the respect and esteem that The Advocacy Center’s staff and clients deserve. 

Jane Ratteree

The building’s transaction was complex. The seller was an international organization with its headquarters in Florida and officers in Puerto Rico. In order to make the properties function as a coherent campus once legally separated, Ratteree negotiated and executed a reciprocal easement agreement with multiple provisions. The property also included an access easement on adjoining land that needed to be preserved for both properties.

Ratteree contributed over 200 hours of her time to this effort. Ratteree’s work will facilitate the creation of The Advocacy Center’s future home that will enable it to better serve the community for years to come.

Ratteree’s commitment to serving low-income families in North Carolina through these complex projects demonstrates the her innovative and comprehensive approach to pro bono service. She went above and beyond to ensure the Charlotte-Mecklenburg community has equal access to justice and civil legal aid. We applaud her creative leadership of non-traditional pro bono initiatives and hope that Ratteree and efforts inspire others.

Do you have an innovative pro bono project or idea that bolsters legal resources in creative ways? Contact Meghan Rankins at meghanr@charlottelegaladvocacy.org.

2021 Pro Bono Honor Roll

Download a copy of the 2021 Honor Roll

The Mecklenburg Access to Justice Pro Bono Partners Program of Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and Legal Aid of North Carolina-Charlotte is pleased to recognize our committed pro bono attorneys who donated at least 20 hours of service or closed three or more cases for our clients in 2020.

Individuals with asterisks next to their names completed more than 50 hours of pro bono service in 2020.

Congratulations and thank you to the dedicated legal professionals listed below. Each of you has played a key role in helping our agencies provide access to justice to low-income clients in our community.

Stephen D. Allred

*Keith F. Atkinson

Katharine Yale Barnes

Robert Locke Beatty

Russel P. Blaise*

Linda Elise Boss

Demi Lorant Bostian*

Richard Christian Brose

Alesha Brown

Hugh Hagan Brown

Emily Lynn Cantrell

Jules Wesley Carter*

Diana C. Castro*

Avery Devin Catlin

Joy McMurry Chappell

Katherine Susie Clarke

Amanda Marie Colley

David A. Concha*

Richar H. Conner III*

G. Lee Cory Jr.*

Carly Michelle Couch*

Matthew H. Crow*

Heather W. Culp*

Kevin L. Denny

Adam Karl Doerr*

W. Scott Dove

Addison Walker Dufour

Anastasia Elizabeth Fanning

Richard L. Farley

Walter D. Fisher Jr.*

Jacob Richard Franchek*

Jasmine Kelly Gardner

Edward Staples Garrett*

Matille Clark Gibbons

Christ K. Glista*

Jeffre C. Grady*

Stephanie E. Greer Fulcher

George V. Hanna III

James T. Hedrick Jr.

William Robinson Heroy*

Karen Marie Hinkley*

Travis Styres Hinman

Thomas G. Hooper

Rebecca Joan Horton

Brett Alan Hubler

Alexis Marie Iffert

David H. Jones

Sarah B. Kemble

Mark W. Kinghorn*

Heryka Rodriguez Knoespel*

Jonathan C. Krisko

Jodie H. Lawson*

Emily H. Leazer

Nicholas Haynes Lee

Antone J. Little*

Lauren Elizabeth Lowry

Dana C. Lumsden

Jonathan Adam Martin

Hilary Renee Levine May

William C. Mayberry

Lauren Nicole McHale*

Thomas E. McNeill*

Emma Claire Merritt

Samuel Clinton Merritt*

Timoth Misner*

Elizabeth C. Murphy

Sara Elizabeth Ohlman

Fern A. Paterson

Kim Brett Perez

Kathleen Elizabeth Perkins

Benjam M. Petitto*

Benjamin Scott Pleune

Yesenia Polanco-Galdamez*

Elham Rabiei*

Jane Rattaree*

Claire J. Rauscher

Marla Tun Reschly

Etheridge Brittin Ricks*

Carlo L. Rodes

Robert J. Roth*

Brian Michael Rowlson

Lee Kimball Royster

Brett Michael Shockley

Ronald J. Shook

Courtney Crook Shytle

John N. Suhr Jr.

Nadira Aisha Swinton

Daniel Lee Tedrick*

Lauren Tonon

Nicholas Evan Tosco

Leslie Campbell Tucker III

Ann Lee Warren

R. Kent Warren

Sara Page Waugh

Brian Marlowe Weynand

Abigail Forrister Williams

Joseph Miles Wobbleton

Fred M. Wood Jr.

Karlee Nicole Wroblewski

Julian H. Wright Jr.*

Erik R. Zimmerman*

North Carolina attorney volunteers!

Be sure to report your pro bono hours to the N.C. Pro Bono Resource Center to be recognized with your colleagues statewide for your service. Visit ncprobono.org/volunteer/ to learn more about the N.C. Rule of Professional Conduct 6.1 and statewide pro bono initiatives.

Attorneys who report at least 50 hours of pro bono legal services in a year will be inducted into the NC Pro Bono Honor Society and receive a certificate from the Supreme Court of North Carolina recognizing their service. Learn more and report your hours at https://ncprobono.org/report/.

NC Extra Credit Grant Program

Feb. 16, 2021, Update:

Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper signed a COVID-19 relief bill that extends the deadline for parents to apply for $335 NC Extra Credit grants. 

The $335 checks are intended to offset parents’ virtual schooling and child-care costs during the COVID-19 pandemic. They were part of a previous coronavirus relief package, but there were leftover funds after more than a million parents received their checks. This extension allows parents who qualified for an NC Extra Credit grant but did not receive checks in 2020 apply for the grant through May 31, 2021. 

The new law extending the NC Extra Credit Grant program through May 31, 2021 only applies to eligible individuals who have NOT received the $335 grant. If you have already received the $335 grant, you are not eligible under the new law.

The application for the NC Extra Credit Grant will only be available on the NC Department of Revenue website, but we do not know when.

Sign up for an Extra Credit Grant alert, and we will send you an email when the application is ready.

Who is Eligible?

North Carolina families with qualifying children who were 16 or younger at the end of 2019 who did not already receive the $335 check from the NC Department of Revenue.

Qualifying individuals who were not required to file a 2019 state tax return and have NOT already received the $335 grant.

Eligible individuals who filed a 2019 state tax and did NOT receive the $335 grant. This includes individuals who suffered from a tax preparation software error that resulted in their 2019 NC tax return not including their qualifying children. 

Ready to file your 2020 tax return?

Here are five things to keep in mind this tax season:

1. The tax filing season is February 12th, 2021 through April 15th, 2021

Update

The federal tax filing deadline has been extended to May 17, 2021. The filing deadline for state taxes in North Carolina is also May 17.

The Internal Revenue Service announced that the nation’s tax season will start on Friday, February 12, 2021, when the tax agency will begin accepting and processing 2020 tax year returns.

The February 12 start date for individual tax return filers allows the IRS time to do additional programming and testing of IRS systems following the December 27 tax law changes that provided a second round of Economic Impact Payments and other benefits.

Start collecting your tax documents and preparing your tax return today!

2. Many families can file for free using IRS Free File

The IRS Free File Program is a partnership with tax filing software leaders who provide their brand-name products for free. There are two ways to file your return online for free:

  • Traditional IRS Free File provides free online tax preparation and filing options on IRS partner sites. Only taxpayers whose adjusted gross income (or AGI) is $72,000 or less qualify for any IRS Free File partner offers.
  • Free File Fillable Forms are electronic federal tax forms you can fill out and file online for free. If you choose this option, you should know how to prepare your own tax return. It is the only IRS Free File option available for taxpayers whose income (AGI) is greater than $72,000.

Learn more at https://www.irs.gov/filing/free-file-do-your-federal-taxes-for-free

3. Eligible people who didn’t receive stimulus payments can claim them with the Recover Rebate Credit

Economic Impact Payments (EIP) are referred to as the Recovery Rebate Credit (RRC) on Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR. You may be eligible to claim your EIP through the RRC if you are a recent college graduate, were claimed as a dependent on a 2019 tax return but will file independently on your 2020 tax return, are incarcerated or were recently incarcerated, or missed the Nov. 21 deadline to use the non-tax filer tool to claim your stimulus check.

4. You can deduct up to $300 in charitable donations without itemizing

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, enacted last spring, includes several temporary tax changes helping charities, including the special $300 deduction designed especially for people who choose to take the standard deduction, rather than itemizing their deductions.

Under this new change, individual taxpayers can claim an “above-the-line” deduction of up to $300 for cash donations made to charity during 2020. This means the deduction lowers both adjusted gross income and taxable income – translating into tax savings for those making donations to qualifying tax-exempt organizations.

5. 2019 incomes can be used to determine your Earned Income Tax Credit

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) helps low- to moderate-income workers and families get a tax break. If you qualify, you can use the credit to reduce the taxes you owe – and maybe increase your refund.

You may claim the EITC if your income is low- to moderate. The amount of your credit may change if you have children, dependents, are disabled or meet other criteria.

If your earned income was higher in 2019 than in 2020, you can use the 2019 amount to figure your EITC for 2020.

VITA Offers Free Help Filing 2020 Taxes

Biden Implements 100 Day Moratorium on Removal Proceedings

On inauguration day, the Biden Administration announced that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would “conduct a review of [all] policies and practices concerning immigration enforcement” to, among other things, “build fair and effective asylum procedures that respect human rights and due process.” Titled the “Pekoske Memo,” the announcement also requires DHS to provide recommendations for the issuance of revised policies as soon as possible and no later than 100 days.

The Pekoske Memo prohibits removal (deportation), for 100 days beginning January 22, 2021, of any immigrant who was present in the US before November 1, 2020. There are only two categories of persons to whom this moratorium does not apply. The first category includes persons who are terrorists, suspected terrorists or individuals who pose a national security threat. The second category is comprised of individuals who have stipulated to removal as part of a criminal disposition.

The Pekoske Memo further instructs DHS that, during the 100-day period beginning February 1, 2021, any actions taken by DHS that would be permitted outside of the removal moratorium be consistent with the priority of apprehending and removing immigrants only in the following categories: (a) terrorists, suspected terrorists or other individuals who pose a national security threat; (b) individuals who crossed the border after Nov. 1, 2020; and (c) non-citizens who have committed certain serious crimes as defined by immigration law.”

The moratorium will impact the vast majority of immigrants in the United States. However, we caution immigrants who have had contact with the criminal justice system to determine whether they might have stipulated to removal as part of a criminal disposition. A stipulation to removal as part of a criminal disposition disqualifies a person from eligibility for the moratorium on removal. Immigrants who have had contact with the criminal justice system and are worried about removal (deportation) should call Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy for assistance in making this determination.

With limited exceptions, the Pekoske Memo provides a desperately-needed reprieve to immigrants who, for the last several years, have woken up to the daily realization that this day may be their last here. We celebrate the memo’s publication and look forward to the reforms that are underway at DHS!

You can find a full text of the Pekoskie Memo at: https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/21_0120_enforcement-memo_signed.pdf

El Memo de Pekoske prohíbe la deportación por 100 días

El día de la inauguración, la Administración de Biden anunció que el Departamento de Seguridad Nacional (DHS) “realizaría una revisión de [todas] las políticas y prácticas relacionadas con la aplicación de la ley de inmigración” entre otras cosas, “construir procedimientos de asilo justos y efectivos que respeten los derechos humanos y debido proceso “. Titulado “Pekoske Memo”, el anuncio también requiere que el DHS brinde recomendaciones para la emisión de políticas revisadas lo antes posible y no más tarde de 100 días.

El Memo de Pekoske prohíbe la deportación por 100 días, comenzando el 22 de enero del 2021, de cualquier inmigrante presente en los EE. UU. antes del 1 de noviembre de 2020. Solo hay dos categorías de personas a las que no se aplica esta moratoria. La primera categoría consiste de personas que son terroristas, presuntos terroristas o personas que representan una amenaza para la seguridad nacional. La segunda categoría está compuesta por personas que han estipulado la deportación como parte de una disposición criminal.

El Memo de Pekoske también instruye al DHS que durante el período de 100 días que comienza el 1 de febrero de 2021, cualquier acción tomada por el DHS que se permitiría fuera de la moratoria de deportación sea consistente con la prioridad de aprehender y expulsar inmigrantes solo en las siguientes categorías: (a) terroristas, presuntos terroristas o personas que representan una amenaza para la seguridad nacional; (b) individuales que cruzaron la frontera después del día 1 de noviembre 2020; y (c) no-ciudadanos que hayan cometido delitos graves según lo definido por la ley de inmigración.

La moratoria afectara a la gran mayoría de los inmigrantes en los Estados Unidos. En cambio, nosotros advertimos a los inmigrantes que han tenido contacto con el sistema de justicia criminal que determinen si podrían haber estipulado la deportación como parte de una disposición criminal. Una estipulación de remoción como parte de una disposición criminal descalifica a una persona de la elegibilidad para la moratoria de deportación. Inmigrantes que hayan tenido contacto con el sistema de justicia criminal y están preocupados de la deportación son bienvenidos a llamarnos para obtener ayuda para tomar esta determinación.

Con limitadas excepciones, el Memo de Pekoske proporciona un respiro que tanto necesita la comunidad inmigrante que durante los últimos años se han despertado y se han dado cuenta este día puede ser el último aquí. Celebramos la publicación del memorando y esperamos con interés las reformas que se están llevando a cabo en el DHS.

Puede encontrar el texto completo del Memo de Pekoskie en: https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/21_0120_enforcement-memo_signed.pdf

Our Call to the Biden Administration on Inauguration Day

In his speech “The Other America,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. condemns consequences of a divided and inequitable society built from a long, tiring, and terrifying history of white supremacy and calls us to make “America one nation, Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” We have been given a precious and urgent moment to do so, which begins today, Inauguration Day. Time cannot resolve the divides in our nation, action must be taken now. The staff at Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy urges the Biden Administration and our congressional leaders to pass and enforce legislation that brings us closer to “justice for all.” 

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have organized one of the most diverse executive cabinets that this country has had the privilege to know. We applaud their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and hope that this commitment influences and follows throughout the administration’s programs.  

Promises made in the campaign, such as upholding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), preserving family unity at the border, upholding the Affordable Care Act, reinvigorating consumer financial protections, providing support for families, and enhancing our pandemic relief efforts must become a reality. We acknowledge President Biden’s American Rescue Plan as a noble step toward combatting the current health and economic crises our country faces. However, we are far from the end of the COVID-19 pandemic and even further from a united, equitable, and just country.  

Focusing on these issues at the local, state and federal level will enable us to capture King’s and our own vision of “one America.” Through our work, we will continue to fight for the very things King advocated for in his speech: economic justice, the right to safe and affordable housing, quality education, access to healthcare, and racial equity. May today be the start of a stark shift in American politics and a continuance of our country’s reckoning with its past and steps toward true, genuine equality.