Welcome to The Benefit Bank’s Training Department!
Counselor Best Practices for Tax Season
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Log in to The Benefit Bank Training website for self-guided update trainings and training demos here: https://training.thebenefitbank.org/
Contact us for Training Schedules.
Training is essential
to The Benefit Bank online service.
In 2011 nearly 5,000 counselors were trained to assist people file their taxes, and apply for public benefits and student aid.
We hope you’ll join us!
|Why We Train|
Even before the economic downturn, many found it difficult to keep their families afloat. With the price of health care, food and higher education on a steady incline, and wages failing to keep up with the financial reality, there is a growing need for assistance.
But even as the need expands, and recent changes to state and federal policy increase income limits, benefit amounts for some assistance programs and the value of important tax credits, many are not receiving the benefits they are eligible for. Over 39 billion dollars in food stamps, medical benefits, child care assistance, tax credits and student aid go unclaimed each year.
There are lots of reasons why eligible families are not receiving the help they need. Individuals are frequently unaware of programs that can help, want to avoid government agencies and misunderstand program guidelines.
Meeting people where they live, work and socialize, housing a host of programs under one roof and reliably estimating the eligibility of each household member, The Benefit Bank is uniquely poised to reach people in need.
What We Train|
Trainings cover three topics: taxes, benefits and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
While each training provides counselors with a great deal of background information that puts into context the questions encountered in the modules, the goal is never to memorize or become an expert in the nuances of tax, public benefits or student aid policy.
Instead we aim to introduce and build core skills needed to successfully use The Benefit Bank. We focus on the logistics of logging in and navigating, making use of help resources as well as reviewing and editing entered data.
In addition to technical issues, we discuss skills that are intangible but nonetheless critical to managing an ideal session. Counselors will learn best practices for setting expectations with clients, maintaining privacy, handling sensitive questions and reviewing follow-up procedures.
Finally, we spend some time touring The Benefit Bank website. We highlight information that has been assembled to help counselors do their jobs more efficiently. There are resources to help you quickly assess clients’ likelihood of eligibility for specific benefits, keep track of changes to programs that matter to you and promote TBB in your community.
Some cringe when they hear “taxes”, the word calling up visions of intimidating auditors and complicated forms. But for most, these fears are misplaced -- their finances are pretty simple and completing a return with TBB is simpler still.
The TBB tax training provides counselors with the skills and knowledge needed to help individuals complete their federal and state tax returns. The course covers basic tax principles, such as income types, filing status, allowable deductions and tax credits. Throughout the day we move between the training guide and the applications, reinforcing key concepts with hands-on practice.
No matter what your current tax knowledge is, it’s impossible to leave this course without learning something new. And when you’re done you can help your clients, neighbors, friends and family file their taxes correctly and on-time.
The benefit training covers a host of safety net programs intended to assist families in meeting basic needs. A core set of programs offering food, medical and cash assistance is available for each state. Beyond these, many states in our network have additional benefits included in their suite of services. These programs are designed to help people cover the cost of home energy bills, child care, prescription drugs, property taxes and rent. (For a complete list of programs organized by state click here.)
Our discussion of benefits covers the eligibility guidelines governing each program. There are generally age, income and resource limits that one must meet in order to qualify for assistance. Beyond this, factors such as an individual’s immigration status, employment status and length of residence in a particular state, are often considered in making eligibility determinations.
It is possible to electronically submit some applications to government agencies using The Benefit Bank. In such cases, the course reviews the procedures counselors and clients must follow in order to ensure that applications are processed in a timely fashion.
Whether you’re a veteran social worker or volunteer with no previous experience helping people to access public benefits, this course has a lot to offer.
A review of The Benefit Bank’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form is offered in conjunction with the tax and benefits courses. Few people can afford the sticker price of higher education and this is the first step one needs to take in order to be considered for federal grants and loans. The course covers the nuances of filing the application. Counselors will explore the advantages of completing this application after filing taxes, submission deadlines and electronic filing requirements.
Who We Train|
We train individuals for two roles.
Counselors and Community Trainers
Counselors are individuals with a passion to help their community. Working or volunteering with partner organizations, they are on the front lines of the issues affecting low and moderate income families across the nation. They listen as people share their struggles to keep food on the table, make rent and mortgage payments, avoid utility shut-offs and cover tuition costs.
Once trained on The Benefit Bank, these counselors are in a better position to help. Using the service they help individuals file federal and state tax returns, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and prepare applications for health care, child care, energy and cash assistance.
Community Trainers are individuals who train others to be counselors. Usually employed by their local Benefit Bank affiliate, they travel throughout their state, conducting trainings in rural, urban and suburban areas. Often the first point of contact a counselor will have with The Benefit Bank, community trainers play an important role in building the TBB network in their state. More than making sure that counselors learn the practical skills of using the service, the best community trainers make the important link between the curriculum and the situations counselors will encounter in the field.
How We Train|
While we adhere to a core curriculum in order to prepare counselors for their work in the field, there is considerable flexibility built into how trainings are structured. This flexibility allows trainers to meet the varying needs of the communities being served. However, there are some generalities that we can offer regarding what you are likely to encounter on training day:
•The majority of counselors will receive one full day of tax training and one full day devoted to benefits. However, some partners offer an accelerated training which covers the full suite of services in a single day.
•You will receive a counselor guide which you can keep and add notes to.
•Counselors will practice real life scenarios.
•Some facilities will allow you to bring covered beverages and snacks to the training, but check with the training registrar in advance.
Community trainers can expect:
•You will work with our training department over several days in order to prepare. At minimum, the training will include the counselor training on the complete suite of benefits, self-guided work, observing a trainer at work and conducting a training while being observed.
•You will receive a trainer’s version of the counselor guide and other materials which you can keep and add notes to.
•Adult learning and classroom management techniques will be explored.
•There are best practices and protocols for handling training logistics and – we’ll make sure you know them all.
When and Where We Train|
Trainings are held in various states throughout the year. To find out about trainings in your region use the links below.
Last Update 1/13