Every week, the Low Income Relief team combs through headlines from around the country to gather all the news that low income Americans need to know into one place. In this week’s roundup, we’ve got a new low income scam to watch for as well as low income housing assistance, AI-powered legal assistance and more.
Nationwide Low Income News
No matter where you live in the United States, these headlines are relevant to you! Let’s talk about some of the biggest low income news we’ve found this week.
Big Brand Pricing Scam
A group of high school students near Boston compared prices at different Stop & Shop locations in their area. When they compared the prices at stores in low income areas to those in higher-income areas, they found a big difference! Stop & Shop charges about 18% more for identical products in low income neighborhoods.
The students tried to talk to the corporate office but they were told that nobody had time to meet with them. When local news provider WBZ-TV got involved, the Stop & Shop Corporate said, “We are aware of that and unfortunately can’t provide much of a comment there, but I do want to say how proud we are of our commitment to this community and what we do to nourish the neighborhood here.”
I wanted to let you know about this because you need to be careful where you shop. Don’t assume that one store is going to have the same price as another store just because they have the same name. You may be being upcharged just because of your zip code or your neighborhood.
The DEPOSIT Act
Congress is considering a new bill called the DEPOSIT Act. That’s an acronym, of course. The actual title is The Delivering Essential Protection Opportunity and Security for Tenants Act.
This act would expand the Section 8 Voucher Program and the HOME Investment Partnerships Program so that low income renters can get help with security deposits. In the meantime, if you need help with security deposits, please check this list of agencies that can help with that.
AI Legal Assistance
According to reports, over 93% of low income Americans do not get help with their legal issues. After all, lawyers can be very expensive!
Tech companies claim that generative AI could be the solution to the justice gap. Companies like DoNotPay and Upsolve are trying to introduce legal tools and AI-driven legal chatbots to help.
Unfortunately, many states have threatened to sue because these chatbots are providing “an unauthorized practice of law.” That being said, ChatGPT-4 recently scored in the 90th percentile on the Uniform Bar Examination so it’s probably better than not having a lawyer… right?
Hearing Aid Help
I also recently read that about 48 million Americans, or about 14% of all Americans, struggle with some degree of hearing loss. Statistically, one of five men and one out of 8 women report that have some trouble hearing.
If you are struggling with hearing loss, please don’t hesitate to call CareConnect USA’s Hearing Aid Relief Line at 888-258-5305. This line is staffed by experts who are familiar with all types of hearing aid assistance programs and payment programs so that you can get the help that you need.
Proposed SNAP Changes
There are three new bills before Congress that could radically change the way that the SNAP program works.
- The Keep Kupuna Fed Act would remove Social Security benefits from the SNAP calculation, effectively reducing the amount of income that counts against people who receive those benefits. This would drastically increase the amount of food benefits given to seniors and people with disabilities.
- The Senior Hunger Prevention Act of 2023 would increase the SNAP benefit for seniors from $23 to $95! It would also add a standard medical deduction and streamline the application process by expanding ESAP options.
- The Healthy SNAP Act of 2023 would make it illegal to buy soft drinks, candy, ice cream, prepared desserts (such as cakes, pies, cookies or similar products) with SNAP food benefits. This new bill would require the government to re-categorize all the existing food products and thousands of new products every year to keep up with the new regulations.
Local Low Income News
This week, we found low income news in the following areas: Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas and Washington DC.
Please remember that these weekly low income news roundups only look at headlines for the week. This list only includes new programs or programs that have had recent changes. For more information about how to get help in your state, please select your state from the drop-down menu in our sidebar. On mobile, you should be able to find the sidebar at the bottom of the screen.
Residents in Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon and Texas may benefit from a new initiative by RIP Medical Debt. A sizeable donation from SCAN and CareOregon allowed the company to buy and eliminate $110 million in medical debt for residents of those states. You may receive a letter in the mail that your medical debt was eliminated by RIP Medical Debt, so keep an eye out for that.
The new discounts can be found in:
- New Hampshire
- New York
- North Carolina
In California, the Sonoma County Water Agency will reduce their sanitation rates by half for qualified low income property owners. You must own your home and live in it to qualify for the discount. Applications are due by July 10 and must be renewed every year.
In Colorado, the state is getting ready to launch the largest statewide e-bike rebate program. This program will provide a $1,100 discount on an e-bike for any Colorado resident who earns less than 80% of the Area Median Income. If you make 80-100% of the Area Median Income, you can still get a rebate but it will only be $500. Those who qualify can also get $100 off their purchase of a bike helmet and lock as well. Applications will open in August.
The Denver City Council has also approved new low income housing projects for homeless families and seniors in the area. These include the Warren Village III Apartments, the All Saints Apartments and the Montbello FreshLo complex. A total of 249 new apartments will be created through these programs.
In Hawaii, the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher waitlist is opening up again! Applications will be accepted online starting at 8:30 am on June 26. Applications will only be open for TWO DAYS so you need to make sure you apply right away. The application window will close on June 28 at 4:30pm. You can apply for free online, according to the county’s news release. Only one application per household is allowed.
Applications are also open for the Low Income Energy Credit Assistance program as well. The deadline for applications is June 30 and 4:30 pm. You can apply online.
In Illinois, the Cook County state’s attorney office announced that it will no longer object to weaving court fees for low income defendants. The office has also said that it will not prosecute cases involving driving with a suspended license, either.
Representatives from the office pointed out that these financial burdens often make poverty worse.
In Indiana, a new 122-unit affordable housing complex is coming to Indianapolis. The complex will be built where the Central State Hospital used to be. There will be two and three bedroom apartments available, and the most expensive unit will be $1,400 per month.
Families must make 60% of the Area Median Income or less in order to qualify. That’s about $55,000 per year for a family of four.
In Iowa, the Dubuque Salvation Army is giving way fans for low income residents who need help battling the heat. If you need assistance, please contact them to see if they have any available.
New grants were given to organizations that help low income Iowa residents find affordable homes. These grants were given to 18 different nonprofit organizations, including Anawim Housing, Iowa Homeless Youth Centers, the Oak Ridge Neighborhood, and the Iowa Primary Health Centers.
Applications are also open for Students First ESA accounts. The application period for the 2023-2024 school year will continue until June 30th, so you’ll need to apply by then if you want to use this for your kids. Applications can be found online.
In Kansas, Johnson County wants to pilot a property tax rebate program for seniors and disabled veterans. In this case, senior is defined as someone who is at least 65 years old. You would also have to meet income requirements, although it looks like some Social Security income would not be counted against you.
The maximum refund would be about $200 per household and the pilot program would last one year before the county would make a decision.
If you live in Johnson County and want to see this happen, please reach out to your Board of County Commissioners to express your support.
In Louisiana, a Baton Rouge woman has launched an affordable summer camp for children between the ages of five and twelve. The cost is $50 per week per child. According to local news provider WBRZ, you can register your child by calling 225-255-1319.
In Massachusetts, the state has created an emergency shelter at the Days Inn Hotel in Greenfield. This is available for low income families with children under age 21, as well as pregnant women. There are 50 rooms available.
This appears to be managed by Housing and Livable Communities, so I would contact them for more information.
In Springfield, those vouchers are distributed by the SeniorAge Area Agency on Aging. In other areas, you’ll need to contact your local Area Agency on Aging for details.
In New Jersey, an organization called New Standard Senior Living is hosting informational sessions about how to get affordable assisted living for seniors. These sessions include a free lunch and a tour of the community. You can attend a session on any Wednesday in June between 11am and 2pm at 308 S. White Horse Pike in Hammonton, New Jersey.
Seniors in the Bayonne area can get free farmers market vouchers through the Bayonne Office on Aging starting on June 20th. The vouchers will be distributed on Tuesday the 20th and Wednesday the 21st between 10am and 2pm. Distribution will continue on every Tuesday between 10 and 2pm while supplies last.
In New York, the New York City Council has voted to pass a law that would have the city cover eye exams and eyeglasses for low income residents. Low income would be defined as having a household income that is 250% of the federal poverty level or less. The city believes that up to a million New Yorkers may be eligible for this program. The law will take effect in early December.
Also, the New York Civil Liberties Union has accused the state of pushing foreclosures through the courts without making sure that property owners have an attorney. State law says that the courts have to assess whether a property owner can afford an attorney and appoint free legal representation if they can’t because the process is confusing and very high-stakes. The NYCLU has found that courts are skipping that step and pulling low income homeowners at greater risk of foreclosure.
Hopefully now that this issue has come to light, that situation can be fixed. If you are threatened with foreclosure in New York, please make sure that you get legal assistance!
In North Carolina, low income homeowners in Greensboro can request a rebate through the Low Income Homeowner Assistance Program. This program will give you a rebate for the difference between your 2022 and 2021 taxes.
In order to be eligible, you must:
- Be a low income homeowner
- Own a home in Greensboro
- Have owned your home for the last 5 years
- The home must have a tax value of less than $250,000
- You must meet income limits.
If you are eligible, you can apply online. Applications are due June 20, so act right away.
In Ohio, the Marysville Public Library will not be providing free lunches this summer. This is the first time in seven years that the library will not serve meals.
However, families can receive free meals through Summer P-EBT. If your student attends Marysville Exempted Village School District, you need to fill out a P-EBT application on the school district website right away.
In Pennsylvania, the state House has approved a property tax and rent subsidy for seniors and people with disabilities. The bill passed with an overwhelming majority but it still needs to be approved by the state Senate.
If this bill passes, seniors and people with disabilities could receive up to $1,000 through this program. The income limits will also be increased so that more people are eligible.
The bill’s sponsors estimate that almost 200,000 more Pennsylvania residents could be eligible with the expanded guidelines.
In South Dakota, a new affordable housing complex is coming to Rapid City. The 21-acre district will include 180 new units for low income residents. The complex will have a groundbreaking at the end of this month or next and they expect the homes to be completed by December 2025.
In Texas, the state legislature recently passed a bill that will allow low income mothers to keep their Medicaid coverage for up to a year after childbirth or up to six months following a miscarriage.
Also, qualifying families in Harris County may be able to receive $500 per month for 18 months through a new guaranteed income program called Uplift Harris. The program will provide benefits to up to 1,500 households. In order to be eligible, you must have an income that is below 200% of the Federal Poverty Line. Families will be selected at random. The program hopes to focus on residents from 10 specific zip codes in the Forrest Acres, Acres Homes, South Park, East Six Jensen, Sunnyside, Northgate, Greater Fifth Ward, Settegast, Gulfton and Galena Park areas. The program is expected to begin in September.
In Washington DC, anyone who qualifies for SNAP will soon be able to enjoy half-price fares from WMATA. About 377,000 people are expected to qualify for this program.
The Low Income Relief team has compiled a roundup of important news for low-income Americans. Highlights include a pricing scam at Stop & Shop stores, proposed changes to the SNAP program, AI-driven legal assistance, and a new affordable housing complex in Colorado. Other updates cover programs and initiatives in various states, such as discounted sanitation rates for low-income property owners in California, a rebate program for e-bikes in Colorado, and the reopening of the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher waitlist in Hawaii. Additionally, there are updates on healthcare, hearing aid assistance, and free farmers market vouchers in different regions.