Every Saturday, the Low Income Relief team summarizes headlines from around the country so that you can find all the news that low income Americans need to know in one convenient spot. In this week’s roundup, we’ve got information about the Google settlement payout, expanded child tax credit proposals, how to get more help with your prescriptions and more.
Nationwide Low Income News
There is a lot happening at the federal level that could impact all low income Americans. No matter what state you live in, the updates in our Nationwide news segment apply to you.
Claim Your Google Settlement Check
If you used Google search between October 25, 2006, and September 13, 2013, then you may be eligible for part of a $23 million settlement! The payments are expected to be around $7 per person which isn’t a lot, but every little bit helps!
You will need to take action by July 31st to either claim your part of the settlement or exclude yourself. If you do nothing, you will forfeit your right to sue Google or receive any compensation.
You can submit your claim form online at referrerheadersettlement.com. You’ll need to click “Registration Form” and then fill out the information. You’ll get an email with a Class Member ID, and you’ll need to follow the instructions in that email to complete your claim. If you don’t follow all the steps, you won’t be included.
More Financial Help for Low Income Families
The expanded Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit were a huge blessing for many low income families throughout 2021. Studies have shown that these expanded credits, issued as monthly checks, had a huge impact on reducing child poverty and even unemployment. Unfortunately, those measures have expired and ended.
This week, several senators introduced the Working Families Tax Relief Act. This new bill would make the 2021 expansions of the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit permanent.
The biggest argument against these payments is that they encourage people not to work. However, studies have shown that this is not the case.
In a statement, the US Senate Committee on Finance chairman said:
In July 2021, when the first payments under the expanded Child Tax Credit went out, the unemployment rate was 5.4 percent. In December of that year, after 6 monthly payments had gone out, the unemployment rate was 3.9 percent. It’s awfully hard to see how the CTC kept people out of the workforce in 2021.US Senate Committee on Finance
Extra Help Expansion
The Department of Health and Human Services has announced that eligible seniors and people with disabilities will be able to get extra benefits to lower their prescription costs through the Extra Help program starting in January 2024!
The eligibility rules will be expanded to make more people eligible. Under the new rules, you may be eligible for the full low income subsidy if you have an income of up to 150% of the Federal Poverty Level and meet other eligibility criteria.
CMS estimates that around three million low income seniors and people with disabilities could save up to $300 per year on average through this expansion.
Student Loan Payments Resume
The pause on Student Loan payments will end in October. According to the Department of Education, Interest will start accruing again in September and those first payments will be due in October.
The Supreme Court has not yet decided about President Biden’s plan to forgive up to $20,000 in student loan debt. Since it is unclear what will happen with this program, it’s important that you don’t rely on it. You must prepare to resume those payments, just in case that measure fails.
That being said, there are a lot of other programs that can help you, like Income-Driven Repayment Plans, forgiveness for people with disabilities, and more. If you owe student loans or if you’re a parent or grandparent who co-signed for someone’s student loans, you can call the Student Aid Relief Line by our sponsor CareConnect USA to find out if you are eligible for relief through any of the existing programs. You can reach the Student Aid Relief line at 888-201-0431.
Over 1 Million Have Lost Medicaid
President Biden is asking certain states to slow down their Medicaid reviews after one million people were abruptly cut off from the program. It is expected that millions more will lose their access in the coming months. However, when states rush through this process, they are more likely to remove people who are still eligible but simply haven’t returned their paperwork in time.
I personally know at least one vulnerable senior who lost her insurance coverage even though she’s still eligible. This is a personal issue to me, because this dear friend of mine has a number of health challenges that make it very difficult for her to complete the necessary paperwork to re-enroll and I live too far away to be there in person.
If you do lose your Medicaid coverage, please don’t hesitate to reapply if you are still eligible. You can also check out our list of Medicaid alternatives if you aren’t eligible any more.
Health Care Scams on the Rise
Homeless people are being targeted by health care scams, so please watch out! In Florida, agents have been combing the streets and falsifying addresses on applications for homeless people. As a result, some have lost their Ryan White coverage and couldn’t get their medications. It’s heartbreaking.
In the most recent report, the federal agency in charge of overseeing the Affordable Care Act Marketplace said that they received over 25,000 complaints from people who were enrolled in policies without their consent or discovered that an agent or broker had falsified information on their application.
It may not seem like a bad thing on the surface. After all, statistics show that more homeless people are getting health coverage and that seems like a good thing. However, this is fraud and it also interrupts the services that the homeless already use. Doctors and medical professionals have reported a huge interruption in health care services that can put vulnerable patients at risk of relapse into drug use, mental health crises or other critical health crises.
If someone approaches you about enrolling in a health care plan, please don’t sign anything without carefully considering how it may impact your other benefits. Many of these agents are paid on commission and are incentivized to deceive you. When in doubt, consult with someone at your local Area Agency on Aging, medical clinic, or another community service provider to be sure.
Pandemic Fraud Revealed
Did you know that billions of dollars in COVID pandemic relief aid was stolen or wasted? PBS recently reported on this, calling it “the biggest grift in US history.”
There was Social Security fraud, unemployment fraud and so much more as the government pumped out unprecedented amounts of money in a very short period of time during the peak of the pandemic. For example, the IRS allegedly doled out over $8 billion in stimulus checks to people who weren’t eligible for them.
The US Justice Department Inspector General has estimated that the fraud is “clearly in the tens of billions of dollars” and could potentially soar above $100 billion when the investigations are complete. SBA Inspector General Hannibal Ware said that his office has a backlog of more than 80,000 leads, which is about 100 years worth of work to investigate. Clearly, it will be a long time before the final picture of this fraud is fully understood.
Local Low Income News
There are a ton of local news updates this week! Please scroll through the subheadings below to find your state.
In Huntsville, the Stoneridge Villas have added 65 more rental units to their development. This complex is dedicated to providing affordable housing for low income seniors. You must have an income that is at or below 60% of the Area Median Income to live there. That’s about $41,220 for a single person in Huntsville.
There are several updates for California today!
New Guaranteed Program in LA
In Los Angeles County, a new guaranteed income program called Breathe will provide $1,000 per month for 200 eligible applicants. The payments will continue for three years. The money will be sent on debit cards and you don’t even need a bank account to participate.
In order to be eligible, you must meet these requirements:
- You must be between 21 and 24 years old.
- You must have aged out of foster care.
- You must have an income that is at or below 100% of the Area Median Income (or 120% if you have more than two people in your household).
- You must live in an eligible Los Angeles County neighborhood.
- You must not ben enrolled in any other guaranteed income program.
Applications will open on June 20 at 6am! You can apply online. Only one application per household will be accepted.
Free Rides for Seniors in San Diego
The San Diego County Senior Transportation Program is expanding their free ride service! This organization will now offer free wheelchair-accessible transportation for low income seniors across San Diego County as well.
This program serves all low income seniors, whether they are ambulatory or not. The program is operated by Jewish Family Services of San Diego through their On the Go program.
In order to be qualify, you must meet these requirements:
- You must be at least 60 years old.
- You must have a household income that is at or below 30% of the Area Median Income (that’s $27,350 for a single person, $31,250 for a couple, or $39,050 for a four-person household).
- You must live in an eligible zip code.
If you are eligible, you can enroll online using the On the Go website.
Help for Seniors in Oceanside
In Oceanside, several low income organizations received grants to help low income seniors who are at least 50 years old. To see the list of those organizations, please visit The Coast News.
In South Florida, the VA has partnered with Uber to make sure that veterans can get free rides to and from their appointments. Veterans who live in either Palm Beach or Treasure Coast may be able to use the new VHA Uber Health Connect program to get to their appointments at the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center. Eligible veterans can call 591-422-6905 to reach the West Palm Beach VA Healthcare System Beneficiary Travel Office for more information.
In St. Augustine, the nonprofit Pie in the Sky provides food for low income seniors. This agency just received a huge pledge from Winn-Dixie. The grocer will donate 100 dozen eggs per month to the nonprofit, which will allow them to give two dozen eggs to each senior. If you need help wiht food in the St. Augustine area, you can reach Pie in the Sky by calling (904) 217-4863.
Seniors in Fulton County may be able to get free home repairs through the Meals on Wheels program! The new Home Rehabilitation Program was announced earlier this month. Applications are still being gathered for this program and they expect to help about 60 homes by the end of the year. You can apply online, over email, or by calling (404) 351-3889.
The state of Illinois has partnered with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to send free books to low income children in the state. The program is still rolling out statewide, so it’s not available in all areas yet but should be soon.
AES Indiana is disconnecting a lot of customers lately. In fact, it was recently reported that their company is among the top five companies who are disconnecting the most customers nationwide. Although LIHEAP applications in Indiana don’t open again until October 2, there are other assistance programs and resources available to you. If you are facing disconnection, please contact 211 for assistance.
There is some good news, though. About 30 nonprofits in the Fort Wayne area have received federal funding to support their missions. You can get a list of the newly funded programs from local news provider WANE.
In Louisiana, the state has added more funding for the Child Care Assistance Program. This program helps low income families pay for child care so that the adults can work or attend school.
In Massachusetts, the government announced that the first 27 restaurants and food trucks have been selected for the state’s Restaurant Meals Program. This pilot program will allow certain eligible elderly, disabled, or homeless people to purchase hot, ready-to-eat meals with their food stamps card. The program is expected to begin in Fall 2023.
In Somerville, a new pilot program is distributing 500 free MBTA passes to low income households. The passes last for a year and are given out on a first-come, first-served basis. You may be eligible if you currently receive benefits from another means-tested program like SNAP or if you have an income that is under 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. You can apply online or call (617) 599-4185 for details.
Have you heard of the Michigan Activity Pass?! Their new website will launch this week but in the meantime, I’m so excited about this. You can visit around 450 destinations across the state for free with this pass, which you can get for free through your local library. Get started.
A new investigation has been launched into the mishandling of TANF funds in Mississippi. Reports have flagged at least $77 million in TANF funds that the state misused between 2017 and 2020. So far, at least six officials have pled guilty to embezzlement charges and there is an open civil case against 38 more defendants.
SFMNP and FMNP vouchers are available for Missouri residents! These vouchers can give you free food at your local farmers markets. The Missouri Department of Agriculture maintains a list of application sites on their website.
In Missoula, NeighborWorks Montana has received funding to help improve housing accessibility in the area.
If you are a New Mexico resident and you didn’t file your taxes in 2021 because your income was low, then you may be able to claim an Economic Relief Payment from the state. You will need to fill out the form on the New Mexico Department of Human Services website.
In order to be eligible, you must meet these requirements:
- You must be a resident of New Mexico.
- You must have a valid Social Security Number or Taxpayer Identification Number.
- You must be an adult who does not file taxes and who is not claimed as a dependent on anyone else’s taxes.
In Albuquerque, a new housing complex for low income seniors opened this week. The Casa De Sierra Apartments have 188 new apartments, as well as a fitness center, swimming pool and library. Rent is calculated at 30-60% of the median monthly household income. You have to meet income guidelines to live there. You can get more information, including application instructions, on their website.
In Bernalillo County, low income seniors can pick up groceries at the Bernalillo County Extension Services Building during certain hours. In order to be eligible, you must meet income guidelines and be at least 50 years old. The program distributes fresh produce, non-perishable dry and canned goods, toiletries and even pet food. You can call (505) 884-3881 for more information.
We’ve found a lot of rental relief resources in New Jersey! If you’re struggling to pay your rent, check out this list of assistance programs that may be able to help.
Hammer & Heart helps with home repairs for low income people who cannot afford them. According to Director Ben Fortson, the work they offer spans from replacing roofs to installing mobility ramps. You can learn more about this organization on their website.
Cincinnati recently approved a guaranteed income pilot program. The program, called Financial Freedom, will provide monthly checks for up to 100 qualified low income residents. The city has not explained how much the checks would be worth yet.
Oklahoma Gas & Electric Company donated hundreds of fans for low income people in various areas of the state. In order to find out if any more fans are available or when the distribution event will take place in your area, you’ll probably need to contact the company directly. The news usually only picks this up after distribution has occurred and I don’t want you to miss out.
The Pet Food Pantry of Oklahoma City provides free pet food for low income seniors, veterans and people with disabilities in central Oklahoma. According to their guidelines, seniors are defined as people who are at least 63 years old. Veterans and people with disabilities of any age can be served as long as they show proof of service or disability benefits. All pets who receive assistance must be spayed or neutered. You can call (405) 664-2858 to request an application.
The state’s House of Representatives has passed a new bill that would create a state-level earned income tax credit for low income workers in Pennsylvania! This bill is now headed to the state senate for consideration. If you would like to see this bill enacted into law, make sure to reach out to your state senators to express your support for HB 1272.
In the meantime, the state has also authorized LIHEAP funds to be used to help with summer cooling bills. This program can provide you with new air conditioning equipment or help fixing your broken equipment. In order to get summer help, you must have received help from LIHEAP or the Weatherization Assistance Program during the 2022-2023 cycle. Contact your local LIHEAP agency for details.
There’s a new program that helps with home repairs in Columbia! Single Family Housing Improvements for Neighborhood Enhancements (SHINE) helps low-to-moderate income households rehabilitate their homes. The services range from minor repairs to complete rebuilding in some cases. In order to be eligible, you must have a low-to-moderate income and have lived in your home for five years.
A recent report in Local 3 News stated that the YMCA offers free and affordable swimming lessons for low income families. It appears that these lessons may only be available at certain times but you will need to contact your local YMCA for details.
Entergy Texas has donated 1,300 fans to help Southeast Texas stay cool this summer! These fans are given to 36 agencies across the region.
You will need to reach out to one of the following cities or agencies for details on how to get a fan through this program:
- Christian Care Center
- Christian Loving Care Center
- City of Daisetta
- City of Dayton, Police Dept.
- Cleveland Senior Center
- Community Assistance Center
- Community Care Prayer Outreach
- Caring Christians Sharing
- Corrigan City Hall
- Covenant with Christ
- Interfaith of the Woodlands
- New Waverly
- Salvation Army – Beaumont
- Salvation Army – Orange
- Shepherd Senior Center
- Some Other Place
- St. Vincent De Paul – Sacred Heart
- St. Vincent de Paul – Winnie
- The Mission NE
- Tri-County CAP, Inc.
- United Board of Missions
- United Christian Care Center
In the Brazos Valley, The Prenatal Clinic helps low income women access health care even when they can’t afford it.
In Utah, it appears that Salt Lake City is close to establishing the first sanctioned homeless campground. The Utah Office of Homeless Services recently released a new plan to comabt homelessness. The new plan says that by 2025, “the state of Utah will identify public land to develop safe parking, structured sanctioned encampments and high access shelter.” As local news service KSL reports, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall recently confirmed that “sanctioned camping is coming.” The Office of Homeless Services is currently looking for lots and land along I-15 and I-80 where they can create a sanctioned homeless campground.
Low income Vermont residents may be able to receive a $1,200 voucher to get a new refrigerator through Efficiency Vermont!
This program helps low income residents who spend more than 6% of their income on electricity buy more energy-efficient home appliances. The organization provides vouchers for refrigerators, washing machines, freezers, air conditioners and dehumidifiers. The vouchers can be used at 15 different retailers in the state.
The Valley Program for Aging Services is offering free air conditioners and fans to low income seniors who live in Augusta, Rockbridge or Rockingham Counties.
You must be at least 60 years old and meet income limits in order to be eligible. To meet those income limits, your household income must not exceed $1,823 per month for a single person or $2,465 for a couple.
These items are available on a first-come, first-serve basis so you need to claim yours right away.
The Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program is underway in West Virginia! The program has been expanded to offer more benefits as well. If you are over 60 years old and meet income limits, you can get $50 in free produce vouchers through this program.
According to The Herald Dispatch, each county’s distribution dates and times vary. You will need to contact your local Senior Center for instructions on how to get yours.
The SFMNP program is underway in Wisconsin as well. If you’re over 60 years old and meet the income limits, you can pick up free food vouchers at one of eight locations. For more information, you will need to contact your local Aging and Disability Resource Center for details.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has also awarded over $5 million in grants to low income dental clinics throughout the state. The hope is to expand dental health access. You can find a list of funded clinics on the DHS website.
Every week, the Low Income Relief team compiles a roundup of important news for low-income Americans. Highlights from this week’s report include how to claim your share of the Google settlement, a new bill before Congress that would expand child tax credits, instructions on how to get help before student loan payments resume and more. Other updates cover programs and initiatives in various states, such as new guaranteed income programs, free public transport vouchers, free food vouchers, housing assistance, free air conditioners and other resources.