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Weekly Resource Roundup: Help with Bills, New Cash Programs & Freebies

Weekly Resource Roundup: Help with Bills, New Cash Programs & Freebies

From missing VA claims to new ways to claim cash, our weekly resource roundup is packed with news you need to know. This week’s recap includes essential information about Christmas giveaways, holiday assistance programs, medical debt relief, housing help, transportation assistance and more.

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Nationwide Low Income News

The information in this section applies to low income Americans all over the country. For local programs, scroll to the Local section below.

New Rent Assistance Program Proposed in Congress

A new proposal called the The Rent Relief Act would help low income renters who pay more than 30% of their income toward housing costs. If passed, this legislation would create a new fully refundable tax credit that would be paid monthly like the expanded Child Tax Credit was. The money would be given to households who earn less than $100,000 per year and pay more than 30% of their income on rent and utilities.

More than 30 different advocacy groups have supported this proposal, which was introduced by Representatives Scott Peters, Jimmy Gomez and Jimmy Panetta from California, as well as Representative Danny Davis from Illinois.

State Governments Propose Internet Caps

Dozens of states are considering proposals that would cap how much internet service providers can charge low income households from broadband internet access. The proposed caps would limit rates to around $30 per month. If Congress continues to fund the Affordable Connectivity Program, that would mean that internet would be free for low income users in many states.

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In a published document called Internet for All, the Department of Commerce informed states that they could set a cost for the consumer for low-cost offerings. According to Route Fifty, there are only five states that have not proposed some sort of limit. The proposed rates range from $25 per month to $75 per month, depending on the state.

Medical Debt Relief & Financial Assistance Rules

A few weeks ago, I told you about how PeaceHealth in Washington has to return $13 million to low income patients that should have received financial assistance with their bills. This hospital system harassed and aggressively collected money from people who should not have had to pay. 

This is a problem that is popping up all over the country and lawmakers are starting to do something about it. New laws in Illinois, Minnesota and New York will help people avoid medical debt in the future. I’ve elaborated on those new policies in the local section below.

However, that doesn’t help with medical debt that already exists.

RIP Medical Debt is an organization that buys medical debt and then completely forgives it. They specialize in buying debt that belongs to low income Americans who earn 400% of the Federal Poverty Level or less.

With your help, I’m hoping to raise $50,000 to forgive $5 million in medical debt nationwide. If you can donate, please go to the Low Income Relief RIP Medical Debt campaign to make your contribution. If you can’t, that’s okay! Please consider sharing this information to others who may be able to do so.

More than 120,000 Veterans Claims Lost to Technical Glitches

The Department of Veterans Affairs recently acknowledged that more than 120,000 claims for Veteran’s Benefits were lost due to technical issues. These issues impacted veterans who submitted their claims online. Some of the cases are more than a decade old.

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It appears that the bulk of the affected cases were dependency claims. Veterans must file a dependency claim when they get married or bring children into their home. Around 81,000 of the impacted cases were related to dependency and the rest were other types of claims.

The good news is that the affected veterans will be able to get retroactive compensation from these claims when they are approved. The effective date for approved VA claims is the original filing date. However, the delay has most certainly caused significant financial hardship for the affected veterans and their families.

Don’t Miss Out on Cash from Class Action Settlements!

You may be eligible for a check from an upcoming class action settlement! These happen when companies do something that hurts their customers, like make false claims about their products or fail to secure user data properly. If you’re affected, you could get money back.

Here are some settlements with upcoming deadlines:

SettlementDue
Woolite Color Renew
If you purchased Woolite laundry detergent labeled “Color Renew” or “revives colors” in California, New York, or Massachusetts from February 2017 to May 2023, you might be eligible for some money.
Dec 19, 2023
Magellan Health Data Breach
If you were notified about your information possibly being compromised in the 2020 Magellan Health data breach, you could be eligible for this.
Dec 21, 2023
Metromile Data Breach
If you got a letter from Metromile about a potential data breach between July 2020 and January 2021, you might be eligible for monetary compensation through this settlement.
Dec 21, 2023
Health Net Data Breach
If Health Net informed you about your data being compromised in the Accellion FTA breach, you might be eligible for this settlement.
Dec 22, 2023
Ashley Furniture Sales Prices
You could be part of this settlement if you purchased a “discounted” item from Ashley Furniture between March 9, 2017 and March 31, 2022.
Dec 23, 2023
Biogen 401(k)
If you were participating in a Biogen retirement savings plan between July 2014 and August 2023, you may be eligible for this.
Dec 29, 2023
Chicco “KidFit” Booster Seats – $50 value (estimated)
If you bought a Chicco “KidFit” Booster Seat between April 22, 2015 and December 31, 2021, you may be covered by this settlement! Please note that the deadline has been extended into January.
Jan 7, 2024

Claiming your part of a class action settlement is usually pretty easy. Just follow the links in the table above to get to the settlement website. From there, you just need to fill out the prompts on the claim form!

Get a No-Cost Claim Review for Tort Cases

Sometimes, class action settlements aren’t enough. When customers have been personally injured or harmed by a company or organization’s negligence or wrongdoing, these cases can be escalated into tort claims.

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A tort lawsuit, often referred to as a personal injury or mass tort lawsuit, typically involves individuals who have suffered harm due to someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing. These individuals file individual claims seeking compensation for their specific injuries or losses. Each case is distinct, and plaintiffs pursue their claims independently, often with their own attorneys. Mass torts, a type of tort lawsuit, involve multiple plaintiffs who have suffered similar harm from a common source, like a defective product or hazardous substance. However, each plaintiff’s case is still handled separately.

There are several active mass tort campaigns right now. I’ll list a few of them below, and you can find the full list from our sponsor at Injury Claims. They have assured me that their partner attorneys provide free claim reviews for all of these cases.

Open Mass Torts
Camp Lejeuene
Camp Lejeune, a Marine base in North Carolina, is facing many lawsuits because of long-term drinking water contamination. This led to serious health issues like cancer and birth defects for soldiers and their families. If you or a loved one developed cancer or a serious illness after spending time on Camp Lejeune between August 1953 and December 1987, you may be eligible for financial compensation.
Hair Straighteners & Relaxers
If you developed cancer or a serious illness after using chemical-based hair straighteners or relaxers, you may be eligible for compensation.
Hernia Mesh
Hernia mesh has been found to cause complications and harmful side effects like abdominal pain, intestinal blockage and infection. If you’ve had a hernia mesh implanted since January 1, 2010, and experienced negative side effects, you may be able to get help.
RoundUp
Roundup, a popular weed killer made by Monsanto (now part of Bayer), has been involved in many lawsuits because it contains glyphosate. People claim that using Roundup for a long time could raise the chance of getting non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other cancers. If you have been diagnosed with lymphoma, leukemia, or other cancers after direct exposure to Roundup, you may be eligible for part of Bayer’s recently announced $10 billion settlement.

Injury Claims can also connect you with an attorney if you were injured in an auto accident or if your child experienced a birth injury due to medical negligence.

IRS Demands Money Back from ERC Recipients

Another government agency is demanding money back from people who received help. In this case, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is cracking down on 20,000 taxpayers and entities who filed fraudulent Employee Retention Credit (ERC) claims. In many cases, the businesses did not exist or did not have employees during the eligibility period.

This is likely just the beginning. The IRS previously stated that they were working on hundreds of criminal cases, with thousands more ERC claims being referred for audit.

For taxpayers or entities who are unsure if they were eligible, the IRS is allowing people to voluntarily withdraw their claims and return questionable payments. That’s because many telemarketers used aggressive marketing tactics that deceived and misled business owners. I’ve personally received dozens of calls about this program. Although I never claimed this credit, I can understand how people could fall for these tricks.

Local Low Income News

This week, we found new low income programs and proposals in 42 states, from Alabama to Wyoming! Scroll to find your state subheading below for the relevant information.

Alabama

The Alabama School of Mathematics and Science has introduced a no-cost online ACT preparation program specifically designed for Alabama juniors. This initiative, named ACT Prep with ASMS, will help 100 low income juniors. If your student is interested, you must apply online before noon on January 3rd.

California

California has decided to stop collecting uncollectible child support debt from parents who couldn’t afford it. Under this new decision, about 62,000 parents will no longer be expected to pay for the time their child spent in foster care. It will eliminate around $500 million in uncollectible debt.

The state is gearing up for a legal battle against La Cañada Flintridge. This wealthy community in Los Angeles County has refused to comply with the state’s housing laws. They are refusing to build an 80-unit mixed income housing building, which they are legally required to build. As a result, the state government has asked the courts to intervene.

In Orange County, travelling libraries are bringing books and services to low income seniors and others. These mobile libraries offer books, CDs, hotspots, Chromebooks and more. Contact your local library to see if they have a mobile library and if so, when it will be in your area.

In Stanislaus County, both Stanislaus Regional Transit Authority and Turlock Transit are offering free bus rides for the remainder of December. This does not include On-Demand or Dial-a-Ride services, just the fixed-route and commuter buses.

Watch out for these upcoming events and deadlines!

Colorado

Denver Housing Authority converted an old office space into affordable housing. The nine-story building now includes 96 affordable apartments for seniors or people with disabilities. There are 14 more apartments that will be used as transitional housing for unhoused patients who were treated at Denver Health. The apartments will cost between $950 to $1,250 with a voucher and government assistance. Residents need to meet income limits and other requirements.

Watch out for these upcoming events and deadlines!

Connecticut

Danbury Community Center pool will provide free swim lessons to children ages 17 and under. This new program is expected to help 700 children every year. Your family must receive SNAP benefits or live in a qualified census tract in order to participate in the free lessons.

Florida

Thousands of veterans in the Tampa area are waiting on travel pay benefits. These benefits are supposed to cover the costs veterans incur when travelling to VA Medical Centers. There are 47,000 pending claims that have not been resolved after the VA upgraded to a new system. Some of these veterans have been waiting since July. News Channel 8 and the national VA office are investigating.

Watch out for these upcoming events and deadlines!

  • Dec 17: Free Christmas Giveaway in Pompano Beach
  • Dec 20: Free Christmas dinner in Pompano Beach
  • Dec 22: Free Christmas giveaway in Boynton Beach
  • Dec 27: Applications for Palm Beach County Homebuyer Grant due

Details about these events can be found on New Pelican

Hawaii

Hawai’i residents who are not eligible for Medicaid or other health plans may be able to receive affordable health services from the Hawai’i Health Access Program. This is a new program offered by Kaiser Permanente. This program has a subsidy that covers most of the costs.

In order to be eligible, you must live on Maui, have a household income that is at or below 300% of the Federal Poverty Level, and be ineligible for other health care services like Medicaid, Medicare, or an employer health plan.

Idaho

Watch out for these upcoming events and deadlines!

Illinois

In Chicago, the Sacred Apartments are moving forward. This complex will include a five-story building with a mix of apartments ranging from studios to four-bedroom units. In order to be eligible, you’ll need to meet income limits. It is still being developed.

Watch out for these upcoming events and deadlines!

  • Dec 25: Free Christmas Dinner in Quincy (reservations encouraged)

Iowa

Iowa City Transit usage is increasing thanks to their new fare-free initiative. This two-year program allows riders to travel free between nearly 100 stops!

Watch out for these upcoming events and deadlines!

Kansas

Kansas will begin accepting LIHEAP applications on December 18! There will be a variety of in-person events that can help you apply. You can apply online or request a paper application by calling (888) 369-4777.

Meanwhile, rural hospitals in Kansas are struggling to survive. According to the Kansas Reflector, 58% of rural hospitals are at risk of closing and 82% are losing money on patient care. There are 28 hospitals that are under an immediate threat of collapse.

Advocates are pushing the state legislature to expand Medicaid in order to save these hospitals. Governor Kelly is responsive to these concerns and has tried to expand Medicaid five times. She recently introduced her sixth attempt, which would provide Medicaid eligibility for everyone who earns up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level. In this most recent proposal, she included a work requirement to address concerns from opposing lawmakers.

Kentucky

Partnership Housing has received $200,000 to help with low income housing. This grant is expected to help 12 families improve their homes. Similar grants were provided to Appalachian Service Project, Frontier Housing, Housing Development Alliance and Kentucky Habitat for Humanity.

Watch out for these upcoming events and deadlines!

Louisiana

Catholic Charities of Southwest Louisiana has a trailer that contains two showers and four sets of laundry machines. This trailer travels to different locations and offers a judgment-free zone for people who need a hot shower or a safe place to do their laundry.

Watch out for these upcoming events and deadlines!

Maine

Maine Dental Outreach has received a grant that will be used to provide free dental hygiene services at Spruce Mountain Primary School. Over 200 students will benefit from these services, which will help reduce dental decay.

Maryland

Montgomery County is currently accepting applications for the Rec Assist program. This program provides up to $400 that can be used toward recreational programs and activities in the county. If you receive SNAP, WIC, SSI, energy assistance or other public assistance, you may be able to get help. Funds are limited and will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, so apply now!

Don’t forget to use code MAKEAPLAN23 to claim your free $20 Lyft Credit!

Massachusetts

The Cape Ann Transit Authority is offering free rides throughout the holiday season.

Watch out for these upcoming events and deadlines!

  • Dec 25: Free Christmas Meals in Falmouth

Michigan

Low income families in Michigan will receive an average of $550 from the newly expanded state Working Families Tax Credit program! The payments could be as high as $2,080, depending on your household size and income. The state will begin sending checks based on your 2022 tax return in mid-February and all the money should be sent out by the end of March.

You will be able to claim this credit on your 2023 taxes as well. The maximum benefit for 2023 is $2,229.

Watch out for these upcoming events and deadlines!

Minnesota

St. Paul is moving ahead with plans to give $1 million to RIP Medical Debt, which will use the money to purchase $100 million in medical debt. The debt will be forgiven. The goal is to help very low income residents by removing the medical debt.

The new law we talked about last week will also help Minnesota residents avoid accruing medical debt in the future, so this is a great step!

Mississippi

The USDA recently awarded nearly $3 million to low income nonprofits in the Mississippi area. Some of the money was given to the Leflore and Sunflower County Board of Supervisors to help low income homeowners with repairs and improvements. The City of Durant also received money for this purpose as well.

Missouri

Missouri residents will be able to keep more of their Social Security benefits next year! The state has finally decided to enact a law that will make Social Security benefits tax-exempt starting in 2024. The change goes into effect on January 1.

The Community Action Partnership of Northeast Missouri (CAPNEMO) also has a program that provides free tablets with up to five years of free WiFi service! If you get any type of federal assistance and you live in CAPNEMO’s service area, you may be able to get one free tablet for your household. Their service area includes Adair, Clark, Knox, Schuyler, Scotland and surrounding counties. You can apply online here.

Montana

Montana lawmakers have introduced a new program called the Child Care Worker Child Care Scholarship Program. This program is designed to assist childcare workers with the costs of their own children’s care.

In order to be eligible, you must be a childcare worker in Montana who works directly with children at least 60 hours every month. You must also have a child under age 12 that attends a licensed and registered child care facility. Your household income must be at or below 250% of the Federal Poverty Level.

If you are eligible, then your childcare costs will be capped at $100 per month for 12 months. The state will help subsidize the rest of the costs. You can apply with your local Child Care Resource and Referral Agency.

Nebraska

Next year, people in Nebraska will get to hold onto more of their Social Security benefits. The state has passed a new law that will exempt Social Security benefits from taxes. This new rule will kick in on January 1, 2024.

Meanwhile, the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority is warning people to watch out for rent relief scams. There have been social media posts, fake websites and fraudulent phone calls made about this program. The only way to really apply for it is to visit NebraskaRentHelp.org or call (844) 429-6575.

Nevada

Southwest Gas has requested a 10% rate hike that would take effect in 2024. Many Nevada residents have reached out to the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada to oppose this proposal.

New Hampshire

Students in New Hampshire will have expanded access to 24/7 online tutoring soon. The state’s Department of Education is paying nearly $5 million to provide 24/7 tutoring services through Tutor.com to all students who are in at least fourth grade. This arrangement will cover students in public, private, charter and home schools. Adults in High School Equivalency programs can also get access.

New Jersey

A bill recently discussed in the New Jersey Assembly proposed that if stores offer digital coupons, they must also provide these discounts in a non-digital format. This is to ensure all customers, especially seniors or those who are low income, can access these savings even if they don’t have access to the digital coupons.

Influential industry leaders and lobbying groups have pushed back, saying that this will result in fewer discounts for everyone. Franchised grocery stores usually rely on their corporate partners to implement loyalty programs and coupons, which would complicate the issue.

Watch out for these upcoming events and deadlines!

New Mexico

The Legislative Finance Committee found that the state’s poverty rates have remained high despite the state’s investment in anti-poverty programs. The report has identified several problems, including low enrollment in assistance programs. Many people who are eligible simply don’t apply.

The report also points out that many of these programs make it difficult to transition out of poverty. They found that a family of four could lose over $29,000 in benefits if their income increased by $30,000. It is hoped that the state will use this information to improve the design of their welfare programs.

New York

Medical debt will no longer appear on credit reports for people in New York! This new law, which was signed by the governor on Wednesday, prevents credit agencies from collecting information about or reporting medical debt. It also bans hospitals and health care providers from reporting debt to credit agencies.

It is important to know that this law does not apply to out-of-state health care providers or credit card companies. If you receive medical care outside of New York or if you use a credit card to pay your medical bills, those debts can still be reported.

Governor Hochul has also announced that a new 43-unit affordable housing development will be built in Utica. The development will also include 800 square feet of gallery space for local artists.

Watch out for these upcoming events and deadlines!

North Carolina

Two Charlotte-area hospitals are refusing to sell their medical debt to RIP Medical Debt, a national nonprofit that buys and forgives unpaid medical debt. About 18% of Mecklenburg County families have a bill in collections, which is higher than the national average. However, both Atrium Health and Novant Health have said that they already have charity programs and financial assistance policies.

In happier news, the Holiday Free Store is available at UNC Asheville! This store allows anyone to drop off donations or pick up items for free. The Asheville City Council has also approved 560 new affordable housing units. These homes will be built in two separate developments.

Watch out for these upcoming events and deadlines!

Ohio

A new startup called Gifted Savings plans to launch a unique philanthropic program next month. This program encourages wealthy donors to share their wealth with people in the form of investment savings accounts. Gifted Savings will conduct a two-phase, three-year research study on how these donated assets affect the people who receive them.

They will start by selecting 20 applicants to receive a $2,000 investment savings account. Program participants must hold onto the donated investments for two years and will only be able to withdraw up to $500 per year. After the first two years, they can sell the investments for cash value or keep them in the account to watch them grow.

Watch out for these upcoming events and deadlines!

  • Dec 24: Free Christmas Dinner in Dayton
  • Dec 25: Free Christmas Dinner in Greenville
  • Dec 25: Free Christmas Dinner in Hillsboro
  • Dec 25: Free Christmas Meal in Elyria
  • Dec 25: Free Christmas Lunch in Troy (delivery; must reserve by Dec 23)

Oklahoma

Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma has expanded their Right to Counsel eviction-prevention program to another zip code. If you live in 73120, you may be able to get help now.

Watch out for these upcoming events and deadlines!

Oregon

Sky Lakes Medical Center in Klamath Falls has been sued for violating charity care requirements. The hospital allegedly failed to screen patients to see if they were eligible, as required. Instead, they only told people about their financial assistance programs if they asked about it directly.

The lawsuit was filed by a patient who had a bill sent to collections even though he believes he qualified for charity care. The lawsuit is asking for a $1 million punitive payment from the hospital and the debt collection agency that works with the hospital. In addition, the lawsuit seeks damages for thousands of patients who may also have been affected.

These lawsuits are becoming increasingly common. If you need to be seen at a hospital, make sure you clearly ask about their financial assistance or charity care programs!

Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania House passed a bill that would add dental coverage to Medicaid. The bill is now waiting for a vote in the state Senate. If it passes, this bill will allow Medicaid to pay for root canals, periodontal disease work, emergency exams and other services. Dental coverage was part of the state’s Medicaid coverage until it was removed in 2011.

In a recent press release, Delaware County reminded users that the county has financial assistance programs available. These include the Whole Home Repair Program, which can provide up to $50,000 toward home repairs and modifications for low income homeowners. They also have a Philabundance program that can provide free food packages for seniors.

Watch out for these upcoming events and deadlines!

  • Dec 20: Meal distribution in Kingston
  • Dec 29: Meal distribution in Wikles-Barre

Rhode Island

Single mothers in Providence can get help starting online knitting businesses from Tink Knit. This nonprofit organization helps moms learn how to knit and sell their products online for a profit.

The program is organized by Brown University and RISD students. They’ve returned over $100,000 to the mothers involved.

South Dakota

South Dakota voters have overwhelmingly supported eliminating the grocery sales tax in a recent poll. Governor Noem originally pledged to end the tax but the state legislature has not followed up on that promise.

The state is also simplifying how Child Care Assistance benefits are paid to child care providers. Starting in January, this program will pay the full authorized payment each month regardless of temporary changes in attendance.

Tennessee

Mincy Law is working with RIP Medical Debt to erase medical debt in Tennessee! They are currently trying to raise $10,000, which will be used to purchase and forgive medical debt that is owed in the state of Tennessee.

Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi has received funding that will be used to provide free and low-cost family planning services. These services include wellness exams, birth control, cancer screenings, and more.

Texas

The Dallas Housing Authority has received a $5 million grant from the federal government. The money will be used to move people who hold Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers from low income areas to higher-income areas. This is intended to help them get access to better schools, jobs, and safer neighborhoods. Under this plan, eligible families will be able to get help with security deposits, moving expenses, utility deposits and more.

In Fort Worth, the City Council has increased the amount of money you can get from their down payment assistance program. The program now offers $25,000 to eligible first-time homebuyers. You must earn 80% of the Area Median Income or less to qualify.

Watch out for these upcoming events and deadlines!

  • Dec 25: Free Christmas Dinner at Southern Faith Ministries in Deport (reservations required)
  • Jan 5: Deadline to apply for Texarkana Home Rebuilding Program

Utah

Karma Cafe in Tooele has been making headlines for their pay-it-forward meal program. Their customers can choose to pay for extra meals. The receipts for the paid-for meals are hung in one of the restaurant windows. People who want a meal but can’t afford one can walk in, grab a ticket and redeem it for a meal.

Vermont

Several nonprofits have received funding to help with home repairs and improvements.

  • In Orange and Windsor Counties, Cover Home Repair plans to provide energy improvements to 6-10 homes.
  • In the Northeast, Northeast Employment and Training will help 26 rural seniors age safely in place.
  • In Windsor and Windham, Southeastern Vermont Community agency will help an additional 15 families.

You’ll need to contact those organizations for details and application instructions.

Virginia

University of Virginia has decided to expand their financial aid program to help more families. The plan includes helping families who earn $50,000 per year or less. That’s an increase from the previous guideline of $30,000.

Watch out for these upcoming events and deadlines!

Washington 

The city of Seattle is considering a new program that would create a mobility wallet for low income residents. This wallet would be given out as a debit card that is loaded with $200 every four months. The money could be used for on-demand transportation services or other mobility services. It would only be available for people who live in low income housing.

Watch out for these upcoming events and deadlines!

West Virginia

Watch out for these upcoming events and deadlines!

Wisconsin

Perry Family Free Dental Clinic is open in Fitchburg! This clinic is focused on providing preventative dental care, especially for Black men.

Watch out for these upcoming events and deadlines!

Wyoming

Wyoming Rescue Mission has purchased 355 acres near Esterbrook, which they intend to convert into a recovery ranch. This program will provide weeklong sessions for low income participants.

Watch out for these upcoming events and deadlines!

Relief Recap

This week’s resource roundup highlights many different financial assistance programs that can help. From the Rent Relief Act proposal to state initiatives tackling medical debt, there are new programs, benefits and resources popping up all around the country. Don’t forget to subscribe to our email list so you never miss an update!