my information

--- Issued March 22, 2018

Story and photo courtesy of

Cheyenne is a single mom who lives with her 2-year-old son, Jasiah, in an Erie City Housing Authority apartment.

After graduating from the Eagle’s Nest program in 2016, Cheyenne became employed at a local hospital. After recently losing the job, she  submitted employment applications to 8 places.

“I don’t want to go backwards, I want to go forward.” She is confident she will not remain unemployed for long. When the 2018 filing season approached, Cheyenne began to explore her tax filing options since this would be the first time she would be doing her taxes on her own. Last year, she and her mom paid $250 to file their tax returns.

She knew she did not want to pay this year. “I want to get all my money back to help me be stable. Why would people pay? It doesn’t make sense. Why pay when you’re struggling?”

Each year, residents of the Erie City Housing Authority receive information about free tax preparation through the United Way Erie FREE Taxes program. When Cheyenne received a housing authority newsletter advertising the free service at the John E. Horan Garden Apartments, she called for an appointment. “I got in in 3 days. It was nice and easy. They explained everything to me and checked everything over with me. They talked me through it and I knew how much I would be getting back.”

Cheyenne’s refund of nearly $6,000, including a $1,000 Earned Income Tax Credit refund, was direct deposited into her bank account.  In order to meet the needs of her son, she developed a financial plan for using her refunds. A portion of the refund will be used to “catch up after Christmas.” Cheyenne also will prepay 6 months of car insurance and 12 months of rent in order to have enough money throughout the year “so I can do something for my son every month.” When asked her how she became so wise about budgeting matters, she said, “The Eagle’s Nest. I learned how to save and have a bank account.”

Cheyenne expressed surprise when she learned that there are free VITA tax sites across the country and that a high percentage of eligible tax filers do not take advantage of the free service. She said she has friends who don’t know about it.

 “I want them to know there’s help out there and you just have to look for it,” she said.

Without the Erie FREE Taxes VITA, Cheyenne said, "Without it, I don’t know what I would have done."