Frequently Asked Questions

General

Where is MEDA located?
We look forward to welcoming you to MEDA’s Mission District neighborhood center, Plaza Adelante, which is conveniently located in San Francisco at 2301 Mission Street (corner of 19th Street). We are close to the 16th Street and 24th Street BART stations, plus Muni bus lines. Please head up to the third floor to Suite 301 to check-in. The exception is clients heading to the Digital Opportunity Center and Workforce Development, which is on the second floor in Suite 203. There is an elevator on the first floor, if needed.

Are your programs and services free?
Yes, with the exception that our Housing Opportunities First-Time Homebuyers program (pre-purchase) charges for a credit report.

What programs and services does MEDA offer to the community?
MEDA offers Financial Capability, Business Development, Free Tax Preparation, Workforce Development, Housing Opportunities and more. Learn more about our programs.

How do I access MEDA’s programs and services?
MEDA’s website (medasf.org) provides details about each program’s participation guidelines. Most of MEDA’s programs begin with a workshop. You can sign up for a program’s workshop using the information below:

Program First Step Registration
Housing Opportunities Welcome Orientation* (415) 282-3334 ext. 101 homeownership@medasf.org
Financial Capability Welcome Orientation (415) 282-3334 ext. 101 financialed@medasf.org
Business Development Welcome Orientation (415) 282-3334 ext. 101 business@medasf.org
Free Tax Preparation Appointment (415) 282-3334 ext. 178 othompson@medasf.org
Workforce Development Welcome Orientation (415) 282-3334 ext. 160 workforce@medasf.org

*Except First-Time Homebuyers

What are your hours of service?
MEDA’s normal business hours are from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. Some workshops are held evenings and weekends. During the tax season (mid-January to April 15th), MEDA extends its Free Tax Preparation services to Saturdays.

What is the first step to attaining free services at MEDA?
Every client will be required to attend a Welcome Orientation and Financial Capability Workshop before they can start working with a coach. (The exception is our First-Time Hombuyers workshop clients, which is part of Housing Opportunities.)

We invite you to our Welcome Orientations:

  • English: Every Wednesday, 5:45pm-8pm in Room 211
  • Spanish: Every Wednesday, 5:45pm-8pm in Room 301E

Do you accept walk-in clients?
We generally do not accept walk-ins. MEDA’s services are provided mainly by appointment or workshop. On a case-by-case basis and for urgent needs (such as submitting an affordable housing application or avoiding imminent foreclosure), MEDA will accommodate walk-in clients.

In what languages are services provided?
English and Spanish.

Why do I need to fill out so much paperwork to access services?
The short answer: the paperwork you fill out helps us continue to offer free services to clients, by proving to our funders that we are providing such services to real people.

A more detailed answer: different programs at MEDA use different forms based on funding requirements. At a minimum, you can expect to complete an intake form that collects basic demographic information, a consent form that allows us to report information to the U.S. Department of Education and a universal services agreement that outlines your and MEDA’s roles and responsibilities for participation in MEDA’s services. MEDA is a nonprofit organization that is supported entirely by grants and donations. Our funders require that we use the forms that we do.

Do I need identification documents to access services at MEDA?
It depends. Clients without an identification (ID) card can participate in MEDA’s workshops. Clients will need an ID (for example, Driver’s License, Foreigner’s Passport, Matricula Consular) to participate in such services as filing taxes, requesting an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), applying for a Secured Credit Card, applying for public benefits, getting a job and enrolling in a cesta (lending circle).

To obtain a San Francisco ID, you must establish proof of identity and San Francisco residency at the County Clerk’s Office. The minor’s parent or legal guardian must complete an application submitted on behalf of that minor. On your confirmed appointment date, arrive 10 minutes early at City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, Room 162 in San Francisco. There, you will fill out an application, show proof of identity and residency, pay a $15 fee, get your picture taken and receive your San Francisco City ID Card before you leave your appointment. For an appointment for a Matricula Consular de Mexico and Passport, call (877) 639-4835. The Matricula fee is $27 for five years; Mexican passport fees are $32 for one year (for children under three only), $74 for three years and $101 for six years. There is a 50% discount for people with disabilities or who are 60 years of age or older. The Consulado Mexico is located at 532 Folsom Street in San Francisco; call (415) 435-1700. For a Matricula Consular or passport from another country, please visit the Consulado for that country.

If you need more information on how to obtain an ID, one of MEDA’s financial coaches can guide you through that process.

How long am I required to participate in MEDA’s services?
It varies according to the program or service. For example, some services are transactional, such as filing taxes, applying for benefits or working on a resume. Other programs, such as Financial Capability, Business Development and Homeownership, expect to work with clients for one year.

What is a deactivation letter?
For most MEDA services (Financial Capability, Business Development and Homeownership), clients sign a one-year service agreement as they begin their individual coaching. At the expiration of the one-year agreement, clients are mailed deactivation letters that invite them to renew their contracts with MEDA within 30 days. If the agreement is not renewed, clients become inactive and do not receive further services. Clients may renew their participation with MEDA at any time.

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Housing Opportunities

What is the first step to attaining Financial Capability services at MEDA?
Every client will be required to attend a Welcome Orientation and Financial Capability Workshop before they can start working with a coach. (The exception is our First-Time Hombuyers workshop clients, which is part of Housing Opportunities.)

We invite you to our Welcome Orientations:

  • English: Every Wednesday, 5:45pm-8pm in Room 211
  • Spanish: Every Wednesday, 5:45pm-8pm in Room 301E

How can MEDA help me buy a home?
MEDA helps first-time homebuyers in San Francisco navigate the purchase process through free workshops and individual coaching.

How can MEDA help me avoid foreclosure?
MEDA helps homeowners in San Francisco avoid foreclosure through free workshops and individual coaching.

How do I get a first-time homebuyer certificate to be eligible for special programs at MEDA?
To obtain a first-time home buyer certificate at MEDA, you must complete a six-hour, pre-purchase workshop and individual coaching session. You will receive your certificate during your individual coaching session.

How long does my first-time home buyer certificate last?
Your certificate is good for two years with MEDA; however, for some programs your certificate may be valid only for six months. At MEDA, you are eligible to receive an updated, first-time homebuyer certificate up to two years from your initial one-on-one coaching session with a homeownership coach.

What do I need to do to get an appointment with a coach?
Please follow the instructions on the intake packet you received at the workshop. You will need to submit a completed intake packet, along with your supporting documentation, for you to get an appointment with a housing opportunities coach. You may email your information to homeownership@medasf.org or bring it into our office during office hours.

Is there an exception to this policy?
If you are a foreclosure client with a home sale date in fewer than 30 days, a housing opportunities coach will see you as soon as possible as a walk-in client. Please bring a copy of the sale notice with you and be prepared to complete an intake packet.

Do I need to submit original documentation or copies?
Copies only, as regulations from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) do not allow MEDA to keep physical documentation in the office for your security.

Does MEDA charge for a credit report for Housing Opportunities customers?
Yes, for pre-purchase customers. MEDA believes that it is important for a first-time homebuyer to be prepared for the costs of homeownership, including a credit report. For those ready to purchase a home, First-Time Homebuyers certificates are $50, which also includes an official credit report (this is payable as check or cash). As foreclosure clients are going through a hardship, MEDA provides the credit report to such customers free or charge.

Where can I find out about money to buy a house?
You can learn such information at our First-Time Homebuyers workshop. Financial assistance to buy your first home in San Francisco can take several forms: grants; low-rate loans; matched-savings programs; silent seconds, where repayment is not due until the sale of the home; and below-market rate (BMR) homes. The availability of these programs changes periodically.

Does access to mortgage loans even exist now?
MEDA is ready to use our resources to help you buy your first home. We helped 38 households purchase their first home in 2013. Every month, several MEDA customers are buying homes somewhere in the Bay Area.

Is 20 percent down required to get a mortgage loan?
MEDA works with down payment assistance loan programs (DALP) that make 97 percent financing an option. Also, government-sponsored loan programs can require as little as 3.5 percent down, and loans are available with a 95 percent loan-to-value (LTV). MEDA helps you evaluate what you can borrow and connects you to the loan programs that make sense for you.

Do I have to buy a home in San Francisco if I come to MEDA?
While MEDA’s service area is San Francisco, we will help buyers throughout the Bay Area.

Can I buy a home if I only have an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number)?
Yes, but options are limited. At this time, only Community Trust Self-Help Federal Credit Union offers such loans. Please make an appointment with a homeownership coach about further eligibility requirements.

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Financial Capability

What is the first step to attaining Financial Capability services at MEDA?
Every client will be required to attend a Welcome Orientation and Financial Capability Workshop before they can start working with a coach. (The exception is our First-Time Hombuyers workshop clients, which is part of Housing Opportunities.)

We invite you to our Welcome Orientations:

  • English: Every Wednesday, 5:45pm-8pm in Room 211
  • Spanish: Every Wednesday, 5:45pm-8pm in Room 301E

Can MEDA help me strengthen my personal finances?
MEDA helps you strengthen your personal finances through workshops and individual coaching. MEDA’s Financial Capability program focuses on increasing your income, reducing your debt, increasing your savings and improving your credit.

Can MEDA help me fill out a rental application?
MEDA’s financial coaches can help with this service. MEDA encourages you to make an appointment for this service, but realize that urgency may require you to be a walk-in client for the needed help.

Can MEDA help me read my personal mail if it is in English and I speak only Spanish?
Once you are a Financial Capability client, MEDA’s coaches can help translate financial and benefits documents that are provided only in English.

Can MEDA help me to obtain public benefits?
MEDA’s financial coaches can pre-screen you to see if you quality for any benefits and then help you apply for the appropriate benefits.

Can MEDA help me obtain my credit report?
As part of the Financial Capability program, you will receive a free copy of your credit from all three of the major credit reporting agencies: TransUnion; Experian; and Equifax. During financial coaching, you will receive a personalized review and guidance on how to improve your credit score.

Will checking my credit at MEDA hurt my score?
When MEDA pulls your credit report, it is a soft inquiry, or soft pull, which is an inquiry into your credit history that does not adversely affect your credit score. MEDA is able to do this as a nonprofit organization that is pulling your credit report for informational and coaching purposes only. Additionally, you can check your free credit report online at www.annualcreditreport.com.

Can MEDA help improve my credit score?
MEDA’s financial coaching includes an action plan that outlines specific steps to improve your credit score, if applicable; however, following through on the action steps is the client’s responsibility.

What are the best ways to improve my credit score?
It is important to note that it takes time to improve a credit score. The best advice is to manage your credit responsibly over time by always paying your bills on time, getting current with any delinquent accounts, paying down debt, maintaining low credit card balances, disputing any inaccurate information in writing and applying for/opening new credit accounts only as needed. The first step is to check your credit report to see where you stand.

Can MEDA help me establish credit?
MEDA offers a Secured Credit Card, which requires a cash collateral deposit (minimum of $206) that becomes the credit line for that account. To establish and build your credit rating, buy a few things and pay off the Secured Credit Card each month.

Can MEDA help me establish credit with my ITIN number?
ITIN holders are eligible for MEDA’s Secured Credit Card.

Can MEDA help me enroll in online banking?
MEDA’s financial coaches can help you enroll in online banking.

Can I download a budget, financial action plan, dispute letter templates or credit tip sheets from MEDA’s website?
Not at this time. MEDA’s financial tools will be provided to you in the workshop and/or individual coaching session.

What are some savings opportunities in San Francisco?
In San Francisco, you can open a traditional savings account at a bank or credit union. Alternatively, you can open a TripleBoost account with nonprofit EARN to save for your child’s education; with EARN’s TripleBoost account, you receive $3 for every $1 you save.

Another option is a cesta (lending circle)–via nonprofit Mission Asset Fund–which is a social loan that builds your savings and credit at the same time.

What are some ways to trim expenses in San Francisco?
Think about the small stuff. Cut out gum, coffee, fast food, alcoholic drinks and eating out. Also, look for free events happening across San Francisco.

What is the difference between a bank and a credit union?
Bank and credit unions deliver a wide array of financial services, with both types of financial institutions regulated and insured by the government. Banks are for-profit, generally shareholder-owned companies that serve the public at large. Credit unions are nonprofit organizations that are owned by their membership and exist to serve their members. Membership can be limited by industry (for example, teachers or firefighters) or geographic area.

How do I open a bank account?
Opening a new account can help you ease into the habit of managing your money and making sound financial decisions. The first step is to determine what you need. Are you looking for an easy way to access cash? Do you need a way to set money aside for longer-term savings goals? How close do you need the branches and ATMs of your financial institution to be? The type of accounts (checking and/or savings) you require will be based on your personal and financial needs and goals. The next step is to choose the right financial institution (see the difference between a bank and a credit union above) based on your personal and financial needs and goals. Once you have selected the financial institution and type of accounts, you can open your accounts over the phone, online or in person, depending on the financial institution. To open an account, you will need an ID to prove your age, address and identity.

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Business Development

What is the first step to attaining Business Development services at MEDA?
Every client will be required to attend a Welcome Orientation and Financial Capability Workshop before they can start working with a coach. (The exception is our First-Time Hombuyers workshop clients, which is part of Housing Opportunities.)

We invite you to our Welcome Orientations:

  • English: Every Wednesday, 5:45pm-8pm in Room 211
  • Spanish: Every Wednesday, 5:45pm-8pm in Room 301E

How can MEDA help me start my business?
MEDA guides budding entrepreneurs through a process that includes core training (six classes) and individual coaching. This free program helps you prepare a business plan, start or expand your business, attract and retain customers, apply for a commercial loan, use technology to improve your business and strengthen your personal finances for successful business ownership.

Can MEDA help me negotiate a lease for my business?
MEDA can provide advice in negotiating or renewing a lease and guidance in the case of eviction or dispute with a landlord.

Can MEDA help me apply for a business loan?
MEDA provides assistance in obtaining financing for your business. Your business coach can explain potential sources of funding, what loans programs might be a good match for your situation and what the likelihood of loan approval is in your case. MEDA also has its own lending arm for small business: Adelante Fund offers loans from $5,000 to $100,000 at 7-9 percent interest rates.

Can MEDA help me design a website for my business?
MEDA offers topical technology trainings, including one on web design.

Can MEDA help me promote my business to bring more clients and increase sales for my business?
MEDA provides services to assist you to market your products and services. These services may include identifying your market, targeting customers and strategizing on the best ways to reach your customers. When market research is required, your business coach will guide and support you in doing this research.

Can MEDA help me start my family childcare business?
MEDA specializes in helping family childcare businesses get started and expand.

Can MEDA help me learn how to use social media to promote my business?
MEDA offers a workshop where you can learn how to use social media and the importance of this tool to promote your business and bring in more clients.

Can MEDA help me prepare my taxes if I am a small business owner?
MEDA can help you prepare your taxes if you own a business and have a maximum of $5,000 in expenses.

Can MEDA help me apply for a business license?
MEDA can help you to complete the forms, register your business and obtain your business license.

Can MEDA help me decide if my business concept is the right idea?
MEDA can help you to evaluate the idea and guide you through the planning process for you to make an informed decision on the business you want to start.

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Free Tax Preparation

Can MEDA help me file my taxes?
MEDA provides free, year-round tax preparation services by appointment to income-qualifying families. We are the largest free tax preparation service in the Bay Area. If you are interested in free tax services, please call 2-1-1 (available 24/7 in 150 languages) to make an appointment during tax season or (415) 282-3334 ext. 178 the rest of the year. We can also help with other free services.

What documents do I need to bring with me to my tax appointment?
Please bring with you:
• Proof of identification (photo ID)
• Social Security card or ITIN assignment letter
• Any tax documents you received by mail in January (wage and earning statements such as Form W-2 and Form 1099-MISC)
• Copy of last year’s federal and state returns, if available.

Do I need to file my taxes this year?
Most people need to file taxes by April 15th every year. In 2017, the deadline will be April 18th. If you have no income or your only income is from a pension plan or Social Security, you do not have to file, but you may want to anyway, so that you have proof of your income for immigration or public benefits purposes.

Does filing for an extension give me more time before I need to do my taxes?
Unfortunately, extensions are really just extensions for filing – not for paying. If you owe the government money, you may have to pay a penalty for filing after April 18th, even though you filed for an extension. You will be charged interest on any tax debt not paid by April 18th.

Can I file taxes without a Social Security number?
Yes, people who don’t have Social Security numbers can file taxes using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). MEDA provides free assistance with filing ITIN applications. National Latino organizations and local partner agencies are still recommending filing taxes with an ITIN, plus renewals are fine to do. The IRS is not allowed to share information with ICE unless there has been an act of terrorism or a crime committed by the ITIN holder.

What if I owe the government more than I can pay?
The IRS and the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) allow you to arrange for payment plans. You can set up a payment plan with the IRS by calling (800) 829-1040 or going in person to 450 Golden Gate Avenue in San Francisco. Call (844) 545-5640 before going in person to 450 Golden Gate Avenue. You can set up a payment plan with the FTB by calling (800) 689-4776.

Does MEDA help with back taxes?
MEDA can assist with back taxes outside of the tax season, which runs mid-January to April 15th. Because we have less capacity the rest of the year, please call for more information. If MEDA is unable to help, staff will refer you to other organizations that can assist you.

I’ve called and left voicemails, but nobody has returned my phone call! What’s going on?

MEDA has volunteers and staff members working to meet the demand of the community. Some of the common problems we have encountered include the following:

  1. Person calling called from a different or blocked phone number and did not clearly leave their phone number to call them back.
  2. Phone number to call back is no longer working, does not have a voicemail setup or is a wrong number.
  3. We get several thousand people calling throughout the year. We do our best to return the phone calls as soon as possible and appreciate your patience.
  4. You should always make sure that you are calling the right extension, as that can delay your receiving a response. Please make sure that you calling (415) 282-3334 ext. 178.

What if I still am not satisfied and want more options?

You can do one of the following:

  1. Donate or volunteer to help and tell your friends and family to also assist us in increasing our capacity to provide more services to more families.
  2. Come in person to speak with a receptionist.
  3. Contact Owen Thompson at (415) 282-3334 ext. 178; othompson@medasf.org.
  4. Call 2-1-1 or visit earnitkeepitsaveit.org for a list of other free tax preparation agencies in the nearby area.

Can I claim dependents who do not live in the United States?
Yes, but only if they live in Mexico or Canada. You can claim people only if they have Social Security numbers or ITINs. MEDA can help you apply for dependents who do not have ITINs yet.

My child is over 18. Can I still claim them on my taxes?
Yes, as long as the child lived with you all year and did not pay for more than half of their own living expenses. If your child was a full-time student for at least three months and was under 24-years-old at the end of the year, it does not matter if they lived with you.

Who can I claim as a dependent?
In general, you can claim anyone as a dependent, whether or not they are related to you, if all these things are true:
• They lived in your home all year
• You paid more than half of their living expenses
• They made under $4,000
• Nobody else can claim them as a dependent

I want to do my taxes, but my spouse does not want to, or they can’t because they don’t have a Social Security Number or ITIN. Can I file my taxes as Single?
No. According to the IRS, you must do your taxes as Married Filing Jointly or Married Filing Separately. You may also qualify to file as Head of Household.

My spouse lives in another country. Can I do my taxes as Single?
No. According to the IRS, you must do your taxes as Married Filing Jointly or Married Filing Separately. You may also qualify to file as Head of Household.

How can I find out what is going on if I never received my refund?
You can check the status of your federal refund at www.irs.gov/refunds and your state refund at www.ftb.ca.gov. If the websites do not give you any information, you can wait two weeks and try again. You can call the IRS about your federal refund at (800) 829-1954. You can go in person to the IRS offices at 450 Golden Gate Avenue in San Francisco, but you must call (844) 545-5640 to first schedule an appointment; or head to the FTB’s offices at 121 Spear Street, Suite 400 in San Francisco. For state refunds, you can call (800) 852-5711 to verify refund or ask questions related to your California return.

Why did my friend, who made the same amount of money that I did, get a much bigger refund?
Everyone’s situation is different and can change every year. The size of your refund depends on many things, such as the number of people in your family, the age of your children, your household income and whether or not you have valid Social Security numbers.

Can MEDA help me get a bigger refund (or have me owe less money) when I do my taxes?
MEDA’s goal is to get you the largest refund to which you are legally entitled. We will help you identify all the credits for which you are eligible and all the costs you can deduct. If there are changes you could make to your taxes that would save you money but could get you in trouble with the government, we have a responsibility not to make those changes.

Can I volunteer for the tax program?
Of course! We would love to welcome you to our community of over 100 tax volunteers who join us each season so that we can prepare free tax returns for the low-income community. Please take five minutes to fill out our online volunteer form. For more information, please contact Lucia Obregon, Volunteer Services Manager: volunteer@medasf.org or (415) 282-3334 ext. 156.

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Workforce Development

What is the first step to attaining Workforce Development services at MEDA?
Every client will be required to attend a Welcome Orientation and Financial Capability Workshop before they can start working with a coach. (The exception is our First-Time Hombuyers workshop clients, which is part of Housing Opportunities.)

We invite you to our Welcome Orientations:

  • English: Every Wednesday, 5:45pm-8pm in Room 211
  • Spanish: Every Wednesday, 5:45pm-8pm in Room 301E

How can MEDA help me get a job?
MEDA helps jobseekers through free workforce preparation, sector-based training, individual coaching, job placement/retention and supportive services. The sector-based training provides entry points into the retail, financial and technology industries.

How do I get started?
If you are interested in free job training and related services, you must first come to an orientation session. Orientations are held in English and Spanish on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9am. Once you attend an orientation, you will have the opportunity to schedule a follow-up appointment with a job coach. Drop-ins are welcome. For more information, email emartinez@medasf.org or call Ernesto at (415) 282-3334 ext. 163.

What is a neighborhood access point?
MEDA’s Plaza Adelante serves as a neighborhood access point for the Mission District of San Francisco, providing comprehensive educational, workforce preparation and asset-building services by MEDA and partner organizations to address the needs of young adults (17- to 24-years-old) and adults.

What are the hours of the neighborhood access point?
MEDA’s neighborhood access point is open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm (closed for lunch daily from 12pm to 1pm).

Am I guaranteed a job?
MEDA will provide you with the tools, knowledge and resources to find a job, but successful employment is ultimately up to you and cannot be guaranteed.

How long will it take to get a job?
It depends on where you start. Some jobseekers only need help with their resumes; others want to attend training to enhance their skills. If you go through the entire suite of services, most of our clients find a job in no more than six months.

Can I use a computer during office hours?
The Workforce Development program also provides digital literacy training. All trainings are provided in English and Spanish. MEDA is a San Francisco CERTIPORT Microsoft Office Specialist Testing Center, offering Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint 2010 Specialist Exams. Intuit QuickBooks training is also offered.

What other types of training can I access?
MEDA offers three training programs that are designed to provide entry points into the retail, financial and technology sectors. MEDA also offers referral services to other Workforce Development programs.

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