VITA OFFERS TAX HELP: Offering free income tax help to people who make less than $40,000 a year may not sound like an economic development strategy, but it is, according to participants in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program in Stanislaus County. The VITA program brought individuals and families refunds of $1.5 million this year, according to VITA representatives. The program focuses on getting county residents to claim their Earned Income Tax Credit and other available tax credits. Last year in Stanislaus County, more than $3 million of Earned Income Tax Credit went unclaimed. This year's VITA programs garnered $563,765 in Earned Income Tax Credits for residents, and $330,342 in Child Tax Credit. The VITA program is an Internal Revenue Service program run by volunteers. The United Way of Stanislaus County, Ceres Partnership for Healthy Children and Bank of America participate locally in the program.