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Low Income News: April 2021 Edition

Low Income News: April 2021 Edition

Things are changing fast around the country, so in this post we’re going to recap 50+ announcements that impact low income individuals and families across the US. 

There’s some really interesting news here – including state-specific stimulus packages,  COVID-19 funeral cost reimbursement, deferrals on past-due traffic tickets and more!

US News

A few weeks ago, we introduced the American Rescue Plan. This is the third stimulus bill that has been passed, and it provides $1,400 checks, advances on tax credits and much more to help low income households.

The Emergency Capital Investment Program is also part of that stimulus package. This program provides $9 billion in funding for small mortgage lenders, minority-owned banks and rural credit unions. These funds are designed to help these lenders extend loans and grants to their communities and extend forbearance for struggling customers. The Treasury Secretary stated that the goal was to reduce “financial services deserts” in low income communities.  

FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has announced that the COVID-19 funeral reimbursement program will begin in early April. News Center Maine reports that FEMA Administrator Bob Fenton said that people will need to apply via a toll-free number and that an online registration system will not be available for this program because the agency wants this handled “in an empathetic way.” Those who have had to pay for funeral expenses due to COVID-19 are encouraged to keep and gather documentation of their expenses. 

In the course of researching this, I discovered that many areas are allowing people to start applying for rental and utility assistance beginning April 1st. We’ve discussed this program extensively in previous videos, so I won’t go over it again here… but if you are eligible, it may be time to apply!

State News

Of course, we’ve also found a ton of state-by-state updates as well. We’ll list the states in alphabetical order, so please look for your state in the alphabetical list below.

Alabama

In Birmingham, a new type of school called “Build UP Birmingham” is helping low income ninth-graders earn high school diplomas and associate’s degrees while also training as construction workers through paid apprenticeships. In this program, they remodel homes in their neighborhood which they can later move into and even potentially buy! This revolutionary program has already provided housing for seven students’ families. 

Alaska

Alaska is the first state in the country to make the COVID-19 vaccine available to any resident ages 16 and over. Anyone who is interested is encouraged to call the State’s COVID-19 helpline for an appointment.

Arizona

Arizona has announced that Arizona’s Medicaid Program will cover transportation costs to and from COVID-19 vaccination appointments. This is a temporary change that is expected to help the 2.2 million Arizonans enrolled in Medicaid to get vaccinated, if they so wish. 

No-cost healthcare in Phoenix is getting a boost through a partnership between St. Vincent de Paul and Creighton University’s School of Medicine. The partnership will turn the St. Vincent de Paul clinic into the primary training spot for Creighton med students… and that means more access to free health care for low income and uninsured households in Phoenix. 

Arkansas

Single parents need to know that the Single Parent Scholarship Fund for Summer 2021 is now open. This scholarship helps single parents attend college, and you can learn more at spsfnwa.org

You can also find more single parent scholarships in our master list!

California

After our last video calling out California for excluding low income health care clinics from their vaccine provider list, the state has now decided to devote 40% of their vaccines to California’s lowest income communities!

California has passed its own stimulus bill specifically for California residents! This bill, called the Golden State Stimulus, provides $600 for low income households, undocumented immigrants, and people with disabilities. 

In order to qualify, low income households must earn $30,000 or less per year and claim the Earned Income Tax Credit and/or be enrolled in CalWORKS. Undocumented people must file taxes with their ITIN number and make less than $75,000 per year. Disabled and elderly people who are enrolled in programs like Supplemental Security Income will also receive payments. According to SFWeekly, those who qualify under two categories will receive two payments. 

To receive your Golden State Stimulus, eligible California residents must simply file their 2020 taxes. SFWeekly reports that “most eligible taxpayers will receive the payments by check or direct deposit 4-5 weeks after filing, separately from other tax rebates.” 

In South Valley, Self-Help Enterprises has 20 home lots available for those who have not been able to afford their own homes. These lots are in Woodlake, California. In order to qualify for their program, you will need to: 

  • Meet the minimum income requirement of $25,000 per year, 
  • Have no outstanding collections on your credit records, 
  • Be a US Citizen or Legal Resident, and 
  • Contribute a minimum of 40 hours per week toward the construction of the home.

For more information, California residents are encouraged to contact Maria Pereda of Self-Help Enterprises at (559) 802-1262. This contact information was provided by local news affiliate ABC30.

Colorado

LEAP, Colorado’s Low Income Energy Assistance Program, is open for applications until April 30th. In order to qualify, your income must fall within 60% of the state median income. That’s $2,619 or less for one person or $5,038 or less for a household of four. Apply online at colorado.gov/cdhs/leap.

Mobile home owners in Dotsero can apply for free home energy makeovers to reduce their utility bills and make their homes more efficient. This program aims to renovate another 20 mobile homes throughout 2021. Interested residents are encouraged to apply for help from teh Mobile Intercultural Resource Alliance Bus, the Weatherization Assistance Program and Colorado’s Affordable Residential Energy program.  

Colorado Springs, approval was given for a new 200-unit apartment complex on East Fountain and North Academy Loop. These units will only be available for people who earn less than six figures per year, in an attempt to combat raising home prices in the area.

Connecticut

Connecticut families who rely on low income benefits need to be aware that the upcoming minimum wage hike may send them off a so-called “benefits cliff.” Because so many of the assistance programs are based on the federal minimum wage, the Connecticut Mirror is warning that “Connecticut families that rely chiefly on minimum wage jobs could effectively lose more than half of the pay hikes they will receive by mid-2023 due to the potential loss of state benefits.” Increased wages can cause low income households to lose food stamps, free school lunches, free health care, energy, rental, and child care assistance and more… so be careful, my Connecticut friends! 

Delaware

Pathways 2 Apprenticeship has reached an agreement with Delaware State University to use their campus for training. This program helps low income Kent County participants enter construction union apprenticeship programs. For more information or to enroll in the P2A program, visit P2adelaware.org. 

Florida

According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, the city has $600,000 in federal rent assistance, more than 100 renters who would love to use the money, but not enough landlords willing to cooperate… so they are now offering landlords a $400 bonus for every low income tenant that signs a contract in April. If you’ve been looking to rent in Daytona Beach, this looks like a great opportunity! 

Also in Florida, the Treasure Coast Food Bank has a new Mobile Market refrigerated vehicle that can bring nutritious grocery items to low income areas on the Treasure Coast! The MobileMarket rolls out Wednesday and includes shelving, cold storage and even a kitchen or cooking demonstrations! 

Georgia

Georgia College is offering up to $8,000 per year in grant money for students who are interested in science! Recipients can receive up to $32,000 over four years, if they are pursuing degrees in chemistry and physics. 

Hawaii

Hawai’i County is now accepting applications for their Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program waiting list! Applications must be submitted electronically by April 30th, 2021 at 4pm in order to be accepted. Applications are free and only one application per family will be accepted. Applications can be found online at https://www.hawaiicounty.gov/departments/office-of-housing

Idaho

Residents in Ada and Canyon County can receive eviction help from Jesse Tree, an eviction prevention non-profit. Jesse Tree has recently teamed up with University of Idaho’s College of Law, which provided four legal interns to help those at risk for eviction. According to Boise Dev, tenants in need of rental assistance to avoid eviction can call Jesse Tree by calling or texting 208-383-9486. 

Illinois

Illinois has enacted a one-year deferral program that will stop the state from deducting past-due court fines, traffic tickets and other debts from the state returns for this year only. This deferral only applies to filers who claim the Earned Income Tax Credit, but it will allow around 41,000 people to keep their state income tax returns!

The Winnebago County Board has made it easier for low income households to access their low-income veterinary services, including euthanasia and spade/neuter services. Before the change, low income households had to verify household size and income in a messy process that took weeks. Now, low income households can access these services in a day or less because SNAP and SSDI eligibility can be used to verify this information. 

Indiana

Indiana residents can apply for the Indiana Emergency Rental Assistance program beginning April 1st! This program can provide up to 12 months of rental assistance. Apply online at indianahousingnow.com. Please note that if you live in Elkhart, Hamilton, Lake, Marion (Indianapolis), the City of Fort Wayne or St. Joseph County, you will need to apply with your local area program instead. 

Iowa

Iowa residents beware! The state is entertaining a bill that would allow landlords to reject low income rental vouchers. This would do away with city and county ordinances that protect low income renters who rely on assistance, such as Section 8 Vouchers. You must contact your state officials and express opposition to this dangerous bill that would harm low income families! 

Kansas

Governor Laura Kelly has announced that the application deadline for the Low Income Energy Assistance Program will be extended to May 28th. They are also increasing the income requirements from 130% of the federal poverty level to 150% of the federal poverty level, which means more people will qualify to receive help. In order to be eligible, you will need to be responsible for the direct payment of your heating bill and you will need to have made payments on your heating bill for two out of the last three months. Each payment must be either $80 or the total balance due, whichever is less. Apply at your local DCF office. 

Kentucky

McCracken County Library has been purchasing additional wifi hotspots for patrons to check out and take home. These WiFi hotspots have been vital in helping Kentucky families over the last year. For more information about how to get free internet at home, check out LowIncomeRelief.com/Internet.

Louisiana

Residents in New Orleans can get a free or discounted ride from Uber when they are headed to a coronavirus vaccination appointment. This partnership is expected to provide up to 20,000 rides. You can get a code in the Uber app or arrange transportation by calling 311. 

Maine

Maine State Housing Authority has announced that it has allocated $30 million for nine affordable housing developments. These housing developments will create or preserve 430 housing units, of which 388 will serve households at or below 60% of the area’s median income. 

Maryland

Residents may be able to benefit from a large donation of refurbished computers! Aegon TransAmerica Foundation has teamed up with the Maryland branch of PCs for People to provide up to 350 retired computers. These computers will be refurbished and donated to low income children and families throughout Maryland. For more information about PCs for People and other ways to get free computers, please visit LowIncomeRelief.com. 

Massachusetts

Residents in Boston may be relieved to hear that Mayor Walsh has set aside $34 billion to create and preserve 841 affordable homes in Boston. These income restricted homes will be found in Allston, Back Bay, Dorchester, Fenway, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, Mattapan, Roxbury and South End. Of the 841 units, 198 will provide permanent housing opportunities for homeless individuals and families. 

Michigan

Saginaw Valley State University will offer free tuition for low income Michigan families starting this fall! The SVSU Cardinal Commitment Financial Aid Package will cover the cost of tuition and mandatory fees for first-time undergraduates with a family adjusted gross income of $50,000 or less. The program will pay for four concurrent years or until the completion of a Bachelor’s Degree, whichever happens first. 

Also in Michigan, Ferris State University is offering free tuition to low income students with a GPA of 3.0 or higher. In order to qualify, you must have an Expected Family Contribution of zero when you submit your FAFSA. 

Michigan State Officials have also stated that approximately 16,000 low income college students who are enrolled in career and technical education programs are eligible for food stamps. Eligible students are encouraged to apply for food assistance at Michigan.gov/MIBridges.

Minnesota

Due to the recent deep freeze, Minnesota’s Energy Assistance Program has doubled the amount of their annual crisis benefit. It’s a one-time increase that can provide up to $1,200 toward your utilities. The deadline to apply is May 31, so be sure to contact your local community action agency right away. 

Mississippi

Residents with EBT benefits should be aware that the state has migrated websites for managing these benefits. Effective March 12, the state benefits have moved from the Eppicard system to a new Go Program system

Missouri

Missouri Job Center is now open again – and no appointments are needed! The Job Center can help you improve your resume and search for jobs, even if you’re already employed and simply looking for a better opportunity. 

Montana

Homeschools and private schools may be eligible to receive special Coronavirus relief funding! The state is still working on the details, but you can follow the updates on the Montana Office of Public Instruction website. 

Nebraska

Nebraska till has USDA disaster recovery funds available! These funds can be used to replace livestock and even honeybees that died in the winter storms, as well as compensate for extra feed costs, feed losses, rehabilitation of trees, bushes or vines and more. If you were affected, be sure to contact the USDA Service Center for more information. 

Nevada

Nevada’s Department of Employment Training and Rehabilitation has warned that there may be payment delays despite the recent passage of the American Rescue Plan. The Nevada Independent cautions that Nevada still hasn’t fully implemented the last coronavirus relief bill, and it may take time before any Nevada residents see the benefits of this newest plan… but the benefits are coming and it appears they will be retroactive when they do take effect. 

New Hampshire

In Manchester, the city has appointed their first-ever Director of Homeless Initiatives. Experienced advocate Schonna Green, who was appointed to the position, states that her primary solution is to build more housing in the area. 

New Jersey

NJ has finally made it official! Governor Phil Murphy has signed into law the “Community College Opportunity Grant,” which provides up to 13,000 eligible students the chance to attend two years of community college for free. Households must earn $65,000 or less to qualify for this program. 

New Mexico

Comcast is installing 30 Wi-Fi Lift Zones in New Mexico! These areas provide safe spaces for students and adults to access free Wi-Fi. These zones will be found in Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Santa Fe, Silver City and more. 

New York

NY has a discrimination problem with low income renters. 88 landlords and real estate brokers, including Century 21 and Corcoran Group, have been accused of refusing to rent apartments to low income New Yorkers who relied on rental assistance vouchers. An undercover investigation shows that they illegally refused to rent to low income households in nearly 50% of cases.

The Housing Rights Initiative’s Aaron Carr said, “For context, 82% of New Yorkers with housing choice vouchers are Black and Hispanic. So when you discriminate against tenants with rental assistance, you discriminate against tenants of color.” 

North Carolina

NC doesn’t seal eviction records and that’s created a problem for children in the state. Local attorney Emily A. Benfer observed on Twitter that landlords are listing children as defendants in court evictions, which means that those children will have an eviction record before they ever enter preschool. This can damage their credit score and rental history before they are even old enough to attend school. This is a damaging cycle that needs to stop, so please contact your local and federal lawmakers with your concerns. 

North Dakota

Residents have ample resources to catch up on rent, according to the Grand Forks Herald. They report that High Plains Fair Housing has put together a program designed to halt evictions for non-payment, but people are not using it. If you need help with housing in the Grand Forks area, be sure to contact them right away! 

Ohio

Low income children in Richland County will receive brand new athletic shoes from Governor Mike DeWine’s Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives. This agency will provide 300 pairs of shoes to children in Richland County whose families receive TANF benefits. In order to apply, you will need to fill out a TANF form. More details available at RichlandSource.com.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma became the first state to expand Medicaid coverage to include Opioid treatment! Through this change, the state will allow Medicaid coverage and reimbursement for prescriptions that treat opioid addiction, such as methadone, naltrexone, and others. It also covers counseling, behavior therapy and other treatments. 

Oregon

Multnomah County has launched a Weatherization Program initiative! This program makes homes safer, more energy-efficient and more comfortable while reducing utility costs by up to 40%! There’s no cost to the homeowner, and you can apply online at multco.us/weatherization.

Pennsylvania

Comcast has announced that they will be installing 7 “WiFi Lift Zones” in community centers. These Lift Zones are designed to provide free WiFi hotspots for low income families, so that they can participate in distance learning and more. According to WBRE, Comcast will be installing these free hotspots at East Lycoming YMCA, Jersey Shore YMCA, Lock Haven YMCA Child Care Services, Lock Haven YMCA School Age Program, Vineyard Community Center, Williamsport YMCA Child Care Center and Loyalsock Child Care Center.  

Rhode Island

Governor Dan McKee is pushing to make the Rhode Island Promise Program permanent. This program provides high school students who attend full-time and maintain at least a C+ average with two years of free tuition at Community College of Rhode Island. This program is set to expire this year, so the Class of 2021 would be the last ones eligible… but leaders of both the House and Senate have expressed their support, so hopefully this program will stick around. If you live in Rhode Island, be sure to call your state elected officials to voice your support! 

South Carolina

Residents are still waiting on the rental assistance funds that were authorized in the December coronavirus relief act and many are worried that they will be evicted before they are able to get assistance. It appears that the hold-up appears to be caused by state lawmakers, who have not finalized a plan to distribute the federal relief money. South Carolina residents, please reach out to your state lawmakers and encourage them to prioritize the distribution of these funds. 

South Dakota

State lawmakers recently passed a state budget that provides $50 million in needs-based scholarships, $100 million in state broadband grants meant to improve internet connectivity in rural, hard-to-reach areas and more.

Meanwhile, support for a full Medicaid expansion is also growing in the state. South Dakota is one of just 12 states that have not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, but many are hoping that will change. If you live in South Dakota and support the Medicaid expansion, contact your state officials and let them know.

Tennessee

In Memphis, residents who need rental assistance can apply online at home901.org. 

Texas

On March 8, it was reported by The Texas Tribune that Oportun Inc, a personal loan company, had been aggressively suing thousands of low income Latino borrowers in Texas during the pandemic. More than 5,000 lawsuits were filed by this company after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic. That company is now being investigated by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, so if you’ve received a loan from Oportun Inc.  you should follow this news closely.

Utah

Low Income Students in Salt Lake City and Ogden will soon have access to WiFi “Lift Zones,” as well! Approximately 35 locations between the two cities will have public WiFi hotspots by the end of 2021. 

Vermont

Residents in the Capstone Community Action service area will be relieved to know that the agency exceeded their fundraising goal by more than $100,000! That means they will have even more funding than usual to help vulnerable Vermont individuals and families with their utilities, food, and other essential services. 

Virginia

Virginia has recently increased the number of households eligible for food stamps! Under the new rules for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in Virginia, applicants must earn 200% or less of the federal poverty level in order to qualify. That’s $44,000 for a family of three or $25,760 for an individual. According to NBC12, this will bring more than $100 million in new food aid to Virginia. 

Washington

The College Bound Scholarship for Washington students may soon be available for more students across the state! 

Currently, students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches during the 7th or 8th grade may qualify if they sign a form pledging to graduate with at least a C average and no felony convictions. Students who stay in Washington for their post-secondary education and have a household income below 65% of the state median income can be awarded up to $12,000 per year after all other state and federal aid is taken into account. 

The new system would remove the pledge form and create an auto-enrollment system for eligible 7th and 8th grade students. This will open the opportunity to an additional 10,000 students per year. 

West Virginia

WV is home to one of the nation’s largest spikes in HIV infection and experts are blaming the pandemic for making it harder to reach those who need help. Intravenous drug addiction is blamed for the outbreak, and those affected are encouraged to contact Solutions Oriented Addiction Response for help with HIV testing, clean needles, homeless resources and referrals.  

Wisconsin

More than 93,000 Wisconsin households could lose electricity, gas or water service next month after a year-long moratorium on utility shutoffs expires. Although the Public Service Commission will be meeting to discuss extending the moratorium, Wisconsin residents should know that the federal government has provided money to assist with past-due utilities in the last two Coronavirus relief packages. Please contact your local Community Action Agency, or agency in charge of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, right away to get help. 

Wyoming

Food Bank of the Rockies recently announced that they would be turning to pop up pantries in order to get food to those who need it. The pop up pantries will provide food boxes, which will contain fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as some meat and a gallon of milk. Please contact the Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies for more information. 

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