Seniors leaving a staggering $30 billion in unclaimed benefits on the table, according to Kelsey Gordon from AgeOptions Illinois. That’s an insane amount of benefits going unclaimed.
Meanwhile, a new survey from Bankrate shows that Americans say they would need to earn about $233,000 per year to feel financially secure. The median household income in the US is around $70,000 right now, which means that the overwhelming majority of America feels very insecure.
Nationwide Low Income News
In a bit of good news this week, celebrity Tyler Perry has pledged his support to help a 93-year-old South Carolina woman stay in her home. Although her family has owned that land since the Civil War, Josephine Wright has been struggling to fight a development group who wants to force her to sell her land. They want to incorporate that land into a new 147-unit neighborhood.
Now, let’s talk about some of the nationwide news that may affect you.
Utilities Disconnected in a Heat Wave
In 31 states, it is perfectly legal for a utility company to disconnect your services even in the middle of a deadly heatwave. Last year, over one million customers had their utilities disconnected during the summer.
Last month was the warmest June on record globally and two daily record temperatures have already been shattered in July. If you can’t afford your utility payments, it’s more important than ever to understand your options.
First, you need to know where the cooling centers are in your area. If you call 211 (or 311 in NYC), the service coordinators at that hotline should be able to help you find a designated cooling center in your area.
Next, you need to know about the organizations and programs that can help you pay your utility bills. Applications are opening up for summer LIHEAP assistance nationwide and we have a list of other assistance programs, too.
LED Lightbulb Expansion
Later this month, new regulation goes into effect that will ban the sale of lightbulbs that don’t meet certain requirements. The new rules will require light bulbs to meet certain efficiency requirements. Specifically, light bulbs must have at least 45 lumens per watt.
According to EnergyStar, the average American will save $50-$100 per year when they switch to LED bulbs. Those light bulbs typically cost more at the store than the incandescent bulbs do but you should be able to make up the cost within about 18 months of use.
Pell Grants Now Available to Incarcerated Students
Starting July 1, Pell Grants are available to low income students who are incarcerated. Students must be enrolled in a prison education system that has been approved by the state Department of Corrections and the federal Department of Education in order to qualify.
According to several sources, the Pell Grant can be received in addition to Second Chance Pell Experiment funds.
New Health Care Initiatives
Yesterday, President Biden hosted a press conference to discuss junk fees in health care. The Administration plans to crack down on scam insurance plans, prevent surprise medical bills, and reduce medical debt for Americans.
The goal of these initiatives is to increase transparency while reducing health care costs. Among other things, the new proposals target short-term health insurance plans that deny basic coverage and insurers who increase costs by claiming services are out-of-network.
The President also summarized some of his previous initiatives, such as negotiating lower medication costs for Medicare and capping insulin costs at $35 per month for certain eligible Americans.
Meanwhile, a new study found that expanding Medicaid can actually save money over time because it allows low income people to access preventative care. The study found that the states that expanded Medicaid allowed low income people to have increased access to medications and treatments that help prevent or delay costly health problems later in life.
Local Low Income News
In local news, we’ve found updates for Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) applications opened on Monday! This program has over $7.1 million available to help Arkansas residents with their energy bills. Applications will remain open until funds run out, so make sure you apply right away with your Community Action Council.
In Palo Alto, the nonprofit La Comida has found a place to continue their senior lunch program. The meals will be served at the Avenidas building on Bryant Street, where both indoor and outdoor seating will be available. Lunches are served on weekdays between 11:45 am and 12:30pm.
In Claremont, a new affordable housing complex is being built! This new complex will include three apartment buildings with over 300 units for low income seniors, families and people with disabilities. The building is expected to be ready in two years.
The state has also acknowledged that their current affordable housing strategies are not sufficient. A new bill, AB 1287, would expand the California Density Bonus Law so that developers can build taller and higher-density buildings if some of the units are set aside for affordable middle-income housing. The idea, as explained by Assemblymember Alvarez, would be to have each unit set aside a certain number of units for very low, low, and middle-income earners.
The Denver City Council is considering a program that would set aside $3 million for immigrants and refugees who need financial assistance. More than 2,000 families could benefit from this program, which would send checks worth between $1,000-$1,500 to eligible households.
The program will help those who experienced a significant financial impact from COVID-19 and who weren’t eligible for other assistance. Households must have at least one child in their household in order to be eligible.
The vote is expected to happen on Monday, July 10.
The United Way of the Big Bend has pledged funding to 79 different programs in the Big Bend area that will help support low income people in the area. The programs will serve those who live in Franklin, Gadsden, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Tyler, and Wakulla Counties.
Residents of Hillsborough County can visit the SouthShore Community Resource Center in Ruskin to get connected with financial assistance programs and other resources in the area. The center is open on weekdays from 8am to 5pm.
In Lakeland, more than 830 pounds of food were donated at Red, White & Kaboom this year! A local nonprofit called Volunteers in Service to the Elderly (VISTE) has been distributing bags of groceries to local seniors thanks to these donations.
Seniors in the Central Florida area may be able to receive up to $5,000 in assistance through the Emergency Home Energy Assistance for the Elderly Program. You must be 60 years old and live in either Brevard, Orange, Osceola, or Seminole Counties in order to be eligible. If you meet those requirements, you can apply with one of the following organizations:
- Brevard Alzheimer’s Foundation
- Meals on Wheels of Seminole County
- Osceola Council on Aging
The new Pathways to Coverage Medicaid waiver program launched July 1. This program will provide insurance to more than 60,000 low income residents who are currently uninsured.
However, participants must report at least 80 hours per month of work, job training, education or volunteering to maintain that coverage.
To be eligible, you must be between the ages of 19 and 64, meet citizenship requirements and income limits. You can apply online.
Applications are now being accepted for the affordable senior apartments at Meheula Vista. There will be 75 one-bedroom apartments available when the complex is finished this fall. In order to be eligible, you must have a household income that is 60% or less of the Area Median Income. For these apartments, rent will range between $708 and $1,150 per month. Utilities are included.
In order to apply, you need to contact Catholic Charities Hawaii. There will be a lottery-style selection process in mid-July so you need to apply right away!
AgeOptions Illinois can help low income seniors find benefits that they may qualify for. They’ve helped over 8,300 seniors so far this year. You can reach them at (708) 383-0258 or through the live chat feature on their website.
Indiana is reworking the scholarship law called 21st Century Scholars. Those who participate in these programs must pledge to reach academic in other goals in high school and college.
The new law makes it easier to enroll in the program but they haven’t yet addressed the high drop-out rate. Some students have found that the scholarship’s demands are too rigorous and inflexible.
Paducah Cooperative Ministry is helping low income people in the Paducah area get food. If you live in the area, please contact them for assistance.
The MJ Foster Promise Program provides financial assistance to students who want to go into high-demand fields like construction, healthcare, IT, manufacturing and more.
In order to be eligible, you must meet income guidelines and other requirements. You must also attend classes at a participating college.
Due to budget adjustments, it is possible that Maine’s property tax freeze program will soon come to an end. This program has been instrumental in enabling eligible residents aged 65 and above to effectively freeze their property tax assessment as long as they have received the homestead exemption for a minimum of 10 years.
This isn’t entirely bad news, though! The plan is to use the funds from this program to expand the Property Tax Fairness Credit and Property Tax Deferral Programs, which could help low income seniors save up to $500 more on their property taxes.
Bristol Elder Services is distributing SFMNP vouchers in the Attleboro area! You can contact their organization for a list of distribution events. You can reach their Nutrition Department at (508) 324-4619.
Spay and Neuter Natchez offers financial assistance for those who need to get their cats fixed. They help pay for procedures at Natchez Veterinary Clinic and Bluff City Veterinary Clinic. If you need help, you can reach them by calling (601) 392-0232.
The Governor of Missouri recently signed an interesting law into effect. This new law establishes something called “transitional benefits” for SNAP and TANF.
The transitional benefits will change the way that these programs currently handle income changes. Instead of abruptly reducing your benefits when you experience an increase in income, the state will gradually reduce your benefits. This gives people more time to adjust to their new budgets.
The law also makes the transitional benefits for the child care subsidy program permanent as well.
These changes will go into effect on August 28.
The Ohio Department of Development has opened the Home Energy Assistance Summer Crisis Program for applications! If you need help paying your electric bill or getting your central air conditioning unit repaired, then you may be eligible for up to $800 in assistance through this program. Contact your Community Action Agency to apply.
Life Senior Services is looking for senior volunteers to assist with programs in the Salupa or Creek County area. If you’re interested, you can call (918) 227-3844 for details.
Oregon now offers free health insurance to all residents who meet the requirements, no matter what their immigration status. This means that everyone can get the healthcare they need.
This new Medicaid-style program started July 1. It is called Healthier Oregon and it covers those low income residents who are between 19-24 years old or over 55 years old. The state expects 55,000 people to be covered through this new program.
The Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) program will begin applications in Pennsylvania on July 10! This program can provide up to $2,500 in grants toward your water bills. That’s money that does not have to be repaid. Applications will remain open until August 11 and you can apply online.
Pennsylvania is finally distributing SFMNP vouchers to low income seniors! If you live in the Greater Erie area, you can receive yours from the Greater Erie Community Action Committee. These vouchers are available on a first-come, first-served basis starting July 21, so it’s important to claim yours right away.
In North Philadelphia, a former warehouse may be renovated into affordable housing for seniors. The hope is to convert the lot into 48 affordable apartments and a large commercial space, perhaps for a grocery store.
The city of Myrtle Beach is suing an apartment complex manager for having an improper business license. Due to that, veterans and low income families are being evicted from the Pace View Apartments. If you have been affected by this, you may want to check with your local legal aid organization to see what your options are.
A local nonprofit called Families Matter Inc. has partnered with the Shelby County Juvenile Court to help low income fathers. The new program is called AFIRM, which stands for A Father’s Involvement Really Matters.
This free program will offer parenting classes and job training over a four-month period. You can call (901) 445-0015 or visit the AFIRM Memphis website for details.
A new law in Texas has changed the rules so that homeowners associations cannot make rules against Section 8.
This new law was crafted in response to a bold move by Providence Homeowners Association. This HOA enacted a new rule last summer that would ban any landlords in the neighborhood from renting to tenants with Section 8 vouchers. This rule would have made it impossible for low income residents to find Section 8 housing in the entire town of Providence Village. Over 170 families, the majority of whom are minorities, would have been forced to move under this new rule.
Although Texas allows individual landlords to reject renters who receive Section 8, this move by the Providence Homeowners HOA was determined to be blatant racial discrimination.
This new law takes effect September 1.
Applications are open for the summer LIHEAP program! This program can help you pay your electric bill. It can also help you buy, install or repair an air conditioning system. You can apply online using the Virginia CommonHelp system.
In Lacey, the Days Inn on Quinault Drive has been converted into an enhanced shelter. Now known as Maple Court, it can provide shelter for 125 people who are homeless in Thurston County. The shelter is open to singles, couples, and even people with pets.
The Tacoma-Pierce County Habitat for Humanity is working with GAF Roofing Academy to replace roofs for five low income seniors in the area. This new partnership is expected to double the number of roof replacements that Habitat is able to accomplish. You can contact their organization for details, if you need help.
Spokane is struggling to handle the city’s housing crisis after the recent closure of Camp Hope, which had been the largest homeless encampment in the state. The city wants to reduce homelessness by 40% over the next two years, so they plan to establish a new agency called the Spokane Regional Authority for Homelessness, Housing, Health and Safety. This organization will be tasked with coordinating community resources.
The West Virginia Homeowners Rescue Program can provide up to $10,000 in grants for critical home repairs for low income people who experienced a pandemic-related financial hardship. In order to be eligible, you must own your own home and live in it as your primary residence.
Critical home repairs are defined as those that must be completed to keep the house livable or make it safe to live in. These repairs could include accessibility modifications like wheelchair ramps, as well as repairs to roofing, heating, cooling, plumbing, mold mitigation and more.
In order to apply, you will need to submit photos that illustrate the repair as well as a detailed cost estimate from a contractor that is licensed to work in West Virginia. You can apply online.
In this week’s low income news update, we addressed many nationwide and local updates. Some of the highlights include Tyler Perry helping a 93-year-old woman in South Carolina to keep her home, as well as news about utility disconnections, Pell Grants, health care changes and more. Various local programs and initiatives provide assistance to low-income individuals and families are also included.