From the dinner table to disaster relief, transformative policies are reshaping the financial futures of Americans. In this week’s resource recap, we explore everything from tax programs to ways you can claim extra cash!
Nationwide Low Income News
In this section, we delve into recent changes and programs that could significantly impact various aspects of financial life for our readers. From the taxation of increased Social Security benefits due to Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) to the unveiling of new student loan forgiveness plans, this report covers a spectrum of updates crucial for informed financial planning.
New Student Loan Debt Forgiveness in February
Student loan borrowers who have been repaying their loans for at least 10 years and borrowed less than $12,000 may have their balances eliminated in February! CNET reports that the Department of Education will begin processing SAVE plan forgiveness in February.
However, it’s important to note that the program is based on how much you originally borrowed. For every additional $1,000 you borrowed, you will need to wait an extra year to obtain that forgiveness.
It does not appear that you have to take any action to get your student loans forgiven. It should be processed automatically if you are eligible and enrolled in the SAVE Income-Driven Repayment Plan.
If you do not qualify for this program and want to get help with your student loans, don’t forget to call our sponsor CareConnect USA’s Student Aid Relief line at (888) 201-0431.
New $2,500 Credit for Low Income First-Time Homebuyers
Fannie Mae has announced a new feature that will help very low income buyers purchase homes through their HomeReady mortgage program. This new program will provide a $2,500 loan-level price adjustment credit for those who qualify.
In order to get this credit, you will need to use the HomeReady program to purchase a house. The $2,500 credit can be used for down payments or closing costs. You only need 3% down through this program. You must have a household income that is at or below 50% of the Area Median Income in the area where you want to purchase a home.
Claim Your Compensation Checks
If you qualify for any of these class action settlements, there’s a chance for you to receive additional cash! The process to file your claim is straightforward and cost-free, usually requiring just a brief amount of your time and often without the need for any paperwork.
Such settlements arise when numerous individuals are impacted by a company’s improper actions. If you’re among those affected, you have the opportunity to file a claim and receive a share of the settlement funds.
Below, you’ll find a list of current settlements that you might be eligible for:
|GoodBelly Probiotic JuiceDrink Sugar Content
If you purchased any variety of GoodBelly Probiotic JuiceDrink in 32-ounce bottles between August 13, 2017, and November 27, 2023, you could be eligible to receive compensation as part of this settlement. Claims are due January 29.
|Mueller Kitchen Products – $15 est.
If you purchased specific Mueller products between December 9, 2018, and August 23, 2023, you may potentially be included in this class action settlement. File by Jan 30.
|CareCentrix AMCA Data Breach – $50 est.
If your healthcare benefits were coordinated by CareCentrix and your personal information was potentially exposed in a data breach at American Medical Collection Agency, you might qualify for inclusion in this settlement. File by Jan 31.
|Gas South Data Breach – up to $250
If you were affected by the Gas South data breach in February 2022, you may be eligible for some money from this settlement. File by Feb 1.
Keep in mind, these are only the opportunities with looming deadlines. There are more options available. Dive into our extensive list of class action settlements for more chances to secure some funds!
Moreover, if you’ve suffered personal harm or been impacted by a corporation’s misconduct, you might qualify for substantial monetary recompense. Our sponsor, Injury Claims, is equipped to assist you in seeking justice and securing the financial compensation you’re entitled to.
|Ozempic Side Effects
If you have been diagnosed with an serious illness or side effect after taking a diabetes drug like Ozempic, Wegovy, Mounjaro or Rybelsus, you may be eligible for compensation. Apply now!
|Rideshare Assault Claims
If you experienced unwanted physical contact while riding in an Uber or Lyft, you may be eligible for compensation. Apply now!
|Other Open Cases
There are also open cases for toxic chemical exposure, medication side effects, birth injuries, and so much more. Browse the open case list!
Act now! Several cases we’ve discussed in earlier updates are no longer accepting new claims. The window for these opportunities is narrowing, so start your complimentary claim review immediately.
For detailed insights on guaranteed income programs and other initiatives unique to your state, refer to the subheading for your state provided below for additional information.
Affordable Connectivity Program at Risk
Unless Congress authorizes additional funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program, this program will end in April. Lawmakers have proposed infusing the program with another $7 billion through a new bill called the Affordable Connectivity Program Extension Act. This bill has strong bipartisan support but it is not clear if it will pass before the program runs out of funds this spring.
If you are currently using the ACP program to pay for your internet service, make sure you look at the other low income Internet assistance programs that may be able to help you.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell have announced significant reforms to FEMA’s policies, aiming to expedite and streamline aid for disaster survivors.
These changes, which will take effect on March 22, 2024, are designed to reduce bureaucratic hurdles, provide more direct and flexible funding, and broaden eligibility criteria, especially in light of increased extreme weather events due to climate change.
Key updates include:
- New benefits like Serious Needs Assistance, offering $750 for immediate disaster-related expenses, and Displacement Assistance for flexible housing solutions.
- Removal of the requirement to apply for a Small Business Administration loan before accessing certain FEMA funds.
- Streamlined support for underinsured survivors and simplified processes for entrepreneurs to rebuild businesses.
- Expanded habitability criteria for home repairs, including pre-existing conditions.
- Enhanced accessibility improvements for homes of survivors with disabilities.
- Simplified application and appeals processes, with reduced documentation requirements and support for late applications.
FEMA’s website and Transitional Sheltering Assistance platform have also been revamped for easier navigation and use. These reforms reflect decades of feedback from disaster survivors and aim to ensure equitable access to aid, particularly for vulnerable communities.
More Social Security Benefits Taxed After COLA
Social Security benefits are a vital part of many seniors’ incomes. Since 1984, the government has set rules about taxing these benefits. These rules only affect you if your total income is over a certain amount, so many Social Security recipients aren’t aware of them.
Here’s how it works:
- If you’re single and your total yearly income, including your Social Security, is over $25,000, you might have to pay taxes on some of your Social Security money.
- If you’re married and together you make more than $32,000, the same rule applies.
Now, there’s been a big increase in Social Security payments recently because the cost of living has gone up a lot. Those increases come in the form of a Cost of Living Adjustment, or COLA. Last year, it was a 8.7% increase, which added about $140 more to the average monthly benefit.
While this extra money helps with higher prices, it also means your total income might be higher. For some, this could lead to paying taxes on more of your Social Security benefits. The Senior Citizens League reported that 23% of retirees paid taxes for the first time during the 2023 tax season and that number is expected to increase this year.
It’s important to know about this, especially if your income is close to those limits I mentioned. Planning ahead can help you manage your finances better. If you are unsure if you owe taxes on your Social Security benefits, you can use the IRS calculator or contact a VITA volunteer near you.
VITA & Free File Programs
Low income Americans can get free help filing their taxes through the IRS Free File and VITA Tax Preparation programs. VITA provides in-person assistance while the Free File program allows you to process your paperwork online without paying a fee.
Many VITA locations are open for appointments now. They can only serve a limited number of people, so it’s important to make your appointment right away. Use the search tool on the IRS website to find a VITA provider near you.
Starting this March, a new option for filing federal taxes is launching. The IRS is introducing its own Direct File pilot program in 12 states, specifically designed for taxpayers with simpler tax situations. This program is a direct response to the underused and often confusing IRS Free File program offered through private companies.
However, the program is best suited for those with straightforward income sources and claims. It’s not the right fit if you have to detail your deductions, work in freelance or gig economy jobs, or need to claim less common credits like the Child and Dependent Care Credit, Saver’s Credit, or the Premium Tax Credit.
Local Low Income News
We have found local news updates for many states. Please scroll to your state subheading below to learn more about low income housing, resource fairs and other opportunities for financial assistance.
Affordable housing is being lost in several Arizona communities because nonprofits can’t afford to maintain the older properties while also charging low rents. Older buildings like Hotel San Carlos in Yuma will be sold because the owners can’t afford to maintain them. It is likely that the new buyers will repurpose the building into something other than housing.
Meanwhile, the Maricopa County branch of Clip Dart recently received new funding to provide free haircuts to people in the community.
An innovative new solution for low income housing may be on the way. The Rogers City Council has approved a sale that will allow a developer to build 3D-printed homes in the area. The NWA Council Foundation has paid $50,000 for the lot on which they intend to build these homes.
Don’t forget about these:
- Jan 31: Deadline to register for KP Community Health Care Program
- Feb 2: Vibrant Living Resource Fair in Los Angeles
- Feb 2: Veteran Resource Fair in Batavia
The application for Colorado’s free preschool program will open in late February. This program provides free preschool for children who turn four before October 1. It also provides benefits for some 3-year-olds who need extra help.
The amount of free preschool available through this program varies:
- All 4-year-olds can qualify for up to 15 hours of free preschool each week. The hours may be reduced become some providers only offer 10 hours per week.
- Low income 4-year-olds can qualify for up to 30 hours of free preschool each week. In order to qualify for this, the household income must be at or below 100% of the Federal Poverty Level.
- Middle-income 4-year-olds can qualify for up to 30 hours of free preschool each week if they speak English as a second language OR have an IEP OR are homeless OR are in foster care.
- Some 3-year-olds may qualify if they have a special education plan in place.
To register, you need to contact the local group that coordinates the program in your county. You can also reach out to the state’s help desk for more information.
Also, in Greeley, low income customers who receive service from Greeley’s Water and Sewer Department may be eligible for an extra $100 credit. You can check your eligibility on the Greely website.
Don’t forget about these:
- Jan 28: Next Steps Neurodiversity Resource Fair in Fairground
- Jan 29: Special Needs Resource Fair in Longmont
Don’t forget about the deadline for Delaware Mortgage Relief Program on January 31!
New state laws have made it possible for Floridians to carry a gun without a state permit and without a firearm safety course. As a result, around 20 police departments around the state have received funding to teach free gun safety courses to people in their community. These courses are available in Tequesta but may be available in your community as well. Call your local police department for details.
New tax breaks have been approved for low income seniors in Pasco County. Low income seniors who are at least 65 years old will be able to get a $50,000 reduction in the assessed value of their property. The new discounts will take effect in the 2025 tax year. You will need to submit a sworn statement about your income to the Pasco County Property Appraiser by March 1, 2025, in order to get the discount.
Don’t forget about these deadline for Miami Dolphins Scholarship.
Low income families in the Chattahoochee Valley area may be able to get a free car seat. The West Central Heath District has received a grant to help families in their eight-county service area. You may be eligible if you live in Chattachoochee, Crisp, Dooly, Harris, Macon, Marion, Muscogee or Stewart Counties. Contact the West Central Health District for details.
Idaho State legislators are considering a proposal that would basically repeal the Medicaid expansion in 2025. The law requires that an enrollment cap and other adjustments be created to ensure that the state does not spend too much money on the program.
Some of the proposed adjustments include:
- Enrollment caps of no more than 50,000 people
- A 36-month lifetime benefit limit
- Work requirements for Able-Bodied Adults
- and more.
Twin Falls County residents who want to attend the College of Southern Idaho this year can apply for the Drug-Free Scholarship from the Twin Falls County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. The winner will receive a full tuition scholarship for the upcoming year. Two additional finalists will receive a one-semester scholarship as well.
In order to apply, you must submit an essay on the topic of “What can be done to reduce the use and sale of illegal drugs in Twin Falls County?” Finalists will be asked to complete an oral presentation as well. You can pick up the application at the prosecuting attorney’s office.
Don’t forget about the Veteran Resource Fair & Town Hall in Batavia on Feb 2!
A bombshell report in Iowa found that low income communities pay higher percentages in property tax than wealthier areas. The report discovered that every $1,000 increase in Area Median Income correlated with a 10.6 cent decline in overall property tax rates.
Don’t forget about the deadline for Iowa Homeowner Assistance Fund on Jan 31!
Don’t forget about these:
- Feb 1: Wichita Home Repair Program opens for applications
- April 15: Deadline for Johnson County Senior & Disabled Property Tax Relief Program
Kentucky residents who used gambling websites like pulsz.com or funzpoints.com may be eligible for a class action settlement. If you spent more than $5 in 24 hours on either of those sites, you’ll want to check your eligibility for either the Pulsz Settlement or the Funzpoints Settlement.
Don’t forget about these:
College students who need financial assistance will be able to use a new online portal to connect with state scholarships and grant programs. The new portal is called the One-App. To use it, you need to create an account on the Maryland College Aid Process System.
Food for Free is a major food rescue operation in eastern Massachusetts. Through a new grant and partnership, this organization will receive a weekly delivery of almost 2,000 pounds of fresh seasonal produce. This will be distributed to area food banks and soup kitchens to help people in the area.
Kinship assistance is available for grandparents or other relatives who are taking care of a family member’s children. If you are in this situation and you live in the Upper Peninsula, you may qualify for financial assistance, respite care, guardianship and other forms of support from the UPCAP Kinship Care Program. Call 211 for assistance.
Low income families in Columbia may be able to get free tickets to the 2024 True/False Film Fest. You may be eligible if you have a household income that is at or below 185% of the Federal Poverty Level. You need to register by February 6 to get your tickets.
Don’t forget about these:
Don’t forget about the deadline to apply for utility tax rebates! You have to apply by March 15.
Governor Murphy signed a new law that will allow an additional 51,000 students to enjoy free breakfast and lunch at schools int eh state. This program covers families who make up to 224% of the Federal Poverty Level eligible for free meals at school. It also allows eligible private school students to participate in the program. The law will go into effect for the 2024-2025 school year.
Don’t forget about the Special Needs Resource Fair in Scotch Plains on February 25!
There is a Family Resource Fair in Albuquerque on February 8.
Registration is open now for the February Food $en$e program. This is a discount grocery program operated by the Central New York Food Bank. You can buy food at a steep discount through this program. You can register online if you pay with a debit or credit card. If you want to use cash, check or food stamps, you will need to register at one of these events.
New York City has also announced that they will eliminate $2 billion in medical debt owed by city residents. This will be handled through a partnership with RIP Medical Debt.
Don’t forget about these:
- Jan 30: Virtual Job Fair for job seekers in Chenango, Delaware, Herkimer, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, and Otsego Counties
Residents of Carrboro may be eligible for financial assistance through the new Carrboro Family Financial Assistance Program. The funds from this program can be used to help with rent, housing, utilities, child care or transportation costs.
In order to be eligible, you must meet these requirements:
- You must be a US citizen or eligible alien.
- You must be a Carrboro resident.
- You must meet income requirements (which are generally 200% or less of the Federal Poverty Level or 60% or less of the Area Median Income)
- You must provide proof of need, such as an unpaid bill.
If you want to apply, you will need to submit your application by January 31. The town expects to send the money out on February 19th.
Don’t forget about these:
- Jan 31: Deadline for Carrboro Family Assistance Program
- Feb 2: Free over-the-counter meds from NC MedAssist at Davidson-Davie Community College
- Feb 6: 2024 Spring Wellness Festival in Chapel Hill
Scioto County has $315,000 available to help low income homeowners with home repairs. The money will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis starting February 5. You will need to call the Scioto County Commissioners office at (740) 355-8313 to request an application form.
Don’t forget about these:
- Feb 2: Job & Resource Fair in Toledo
- Feb 5: Applications open for Scioto County home repair program
- Feb 15: Gun & Violence Prevention Resource Fair in Hillsboro
Dauphin County has launched an innovative pilot program in collaboration with MidPenn Legal Services, aimed at providing free legal representation to seniors in guardianship cases. This initiative is specifically designed to assist residents who are 60 years of age and older, ensuring they have access to vital legal support during such proceedings. The program represents a significant step in offering crucial assistance to the senior community of Dauphin County, safeguarding their rights and interests in legal matters.
Don’t forget about the Career and Resource Fair in Erie on February 8!
Don’t forget about the Career Fair in North Smithfield on February 14!
The Housing Voucher waitlist will open in several South Carolina counties in February! The covered counties include Clarendon, Colleton, Dorchester, Fairfield, Kershaw, Lee and Lexington. The application period will only be open for two days so you need to act fast. The applications will open at 8am on February 5th and it will close again on February 7 at 5pm.
There will be a Disaster Recovery Resource Fair in Clarksville on February 2.
Don’t forget to apply for FEMA assistance if you were affected by the December 9th tornadoes. The deadline is February 12.
Some lawmakers have questioned whether guaranteed income programs are legal. State Senator Paul Bettencourt has asked the state attorney general to weigh in. The attorney for Harris County has affirmed that the program is legal and that they intend to defend it. The decision in this matter will doubtlessly have an impact on the Uplift Harris program that just launched.
The Southside Community Development and Housing Corporation has created a new pilot program that will promote Black homeownership in Richmond. The fund will help 10 eligible first-time homebuyers with down payment assistance grants. In order to be eligible, you must be a Black first-time homebuyer who earns 80% to 150% of the Area Median Income.
The Secular Society has forgiven $12.1 million in medical debt owed by Southwest Virginia citizens through their partnership with RIP Medical Debt. You may receive a letter stating that your debt has been forgiven if you live in Bland, Buchanan, Carroll, Craig, Dickenson, Floyd, Franklin, Giles, Grayson, Lee, Montgomery, Patrick, Pulaski, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington, Wise or Wythe Counties.
Don’t forget about these:
New reports reveal that Washington State intercepted more than $41 million in child support payments intended for low income families in 2022. This is because the state intercepts child support payments that are sent to payments who receive support from the TANF assistance program.
The state passed new rules in 2021 that were intended to help low income families keep more of that money. Under the new rules, the state sends $50 to $100 per month to families who also receive TANF.
However, lawmakers are now considering a new proposal that would remove that cap so that families could receive all the child support money.
Don’t forget about these deadline to apply for Grays Harbor housing assistance on Feb 16!
Don’t forget to apply for the Yeti cooler giveaway! The deadline is February 29.