Thankfully, the debt ceiling nightmare appears to be over! Let’s talk about what this means for low income Americans, as well as some other important news we found this week.
National Low Income News
Now that Congress has passed the debt ceiling deal, we can all breathe a little easier. I know many of us were extremely worried about our monthly Social Security, VA Benefits, SNAP and other programs will continue without interruption.
New SNAP Changes
First of all, the debt deal does extend the work requirements for SNAP. Able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDS) will have to meet work requirements until age 54 under these new rules. This is a significant increase, but there are also some exemptions for homeless people or veterans who will struggle to comply with the new rules.
The new rules are temporary and will expire in 2030 unless they are extended.
New TANF Changes
The deal also changes the way that states calculate cash assistance through TANF, although I wasn’t able to get any clear details on how that calculation will change.
I will continue looking into this issue and report back when more information is available.
Student Loan Payments Will Resume
The plan also codifies the end to the student loan payment freeze at the end of this summer. The Supreme Court is supposed to rule soon about whether or not President Biden can actually cancel student loan debt. In the meantime, anyone with outstanding student loans should prepare to resume those payments by fall.
On that note, a new study from the US Department of Education has shown that around 40% of people who are eligible for income-driven repayment plans do not know about them. If you or someone you know is struggling to repay student loans, you absolutely need to know about this. There are so many different programs that can help you – whether you’re a student that borrowed, or a parent or grandparent that borrowed on behalf of a student.
Our sponsors at CareConnect USA have a dedicated Student Loan Relief Helpline at 1-888-201-0431, so you can call them to discuss your options. When you call this number, you can speak with experts who can help you figure out if you’re eligible for loan forgiveness, forbearance, deferrals, reductions, or even cancellations.
Supreme Court Protects Property Rights
In other news, the Supreme Court took up the case of a 94-year-old Minneapolis woman who had lost her condo over a small unpaid tax bill. She owed just $2,300 in unpaid taxes, which had somehow accrued over $15,000 in interest and unpaid fines. To get their money, the government took her condo away and sold it for $40,000. The county kept all the money from the sale, even though it exceeded the amount that she owed.
This is a ridiculous policy that exists in a lot of different states. Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, South Dakota and Washington DC have similar rules.
In fact, I read about a family that lost their home in Lincoln, Nebraska, last January. Their home was worth more than $250,000, but they lost their home because they missed one tax payment in 2017. Even though they had paid taxes since that time, an investor was able to pay that one tax bill of $3,978 to claim their entire house.
Fortunately, the Supreme Court agreed that this is wrong. The court ruled in favor of the woman and said that the county could not keep the extra money. Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “The County had the power to sell Tyler’s home to recover the unpaid property taxes. But it could not use the toehold of the tax debt to confiscate more property than was due.”
It’s a small consolation for people who have already lost their homes, but at least this ruling will hopefully spark change and stop other people from suffering the same fate.
In the meantime, if you have property taxes that you cannot pay, please contact your county assessor and ask about any property tax exemptions that are available. There are often exemptions and deferral programs for low income seniors and veterans, as well as others. It never hurts to ask – and in some areas, you can even get a refund check for any taxes you’ve overpaid in the last several years!
And as the Medicaid disenrollment progresses, KFF Health News has found that the majority of people who have lost their coverage were removed for not completing their paperwork. I know I’ve said this before but please make sure that the office knows how to reach you and please make sure that you do that paperwork as soon as possible. Losing your medical coverage is a big deal and it’s very important to keep up on that.
On the flipside, please be careful and don’t fall for scams. In North Carolina, Medicaid members are receiving calls, emails and text messages telling them that they need to send money or gift cards to keep their Medicaid coverage. These are scams. Please don’t fall for them.
Local Low Income News
Today we’re going to talk about low income news updates in Arizona, Utah, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin.
Arizona (& Utah)
In Arizona and Utah, the state supreme courts have approved a new program called Innovation for Justice. This program needed the approval of those state courts because it allows certain licensed advocates who work at community service centers to provide some limited legal advice without a law license.
The program aims to help people who are facing eviction, who cannot receive assistance from traditional legal services due to cost or availability.
In California, applications are now open for a new low income housing community in Hayward. There are 125 micro studio apartments available at the Depot Community Apartments. You can apply until June 19.
In order to be eligible, you must have a one or two person household with an income between 30 and 60 percent of the Area Median Income. The apartments are only 300 square feet, but they include shared laundry facilities, community rooms, outdoor rec spaces, a basketball court, picnic and barbecue areas, a dog park and a community garden.
Also, the Redwood Community Action Agency will hold a public hearing to discuss the needs of low income Humboldt County residents. Your comments will be incorporated into the agency’s plan for the next year. You can review their current plan at rcaa.org/cap. The meeting will take place over Zoom between 6 and 8pm on June 8.
In Hawaii, applications for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program are now open! The application period will close on June 30, so you need to apply right away.
You can apply with your local Community Action Program. You can find the right agency for your area on the Hawaiian Electric website.
In Illinois, Ameren and Leidos are partnering up with Senior Services Plus to provide low income seniors with free home improvements. This program can provide LED bulbs, advanced power strips, faucet aerators and other home energy improvements at no cost to you.
For more details, please contact Ameren Illinois.
In Louisiana, the second annual Super Senior Fest happened last week. This event offers free food boxes, health and fitness activities and more. This is an annual event hosted by JenCare at Lafreniere Park, so please follow their organization so that you can be alerted before the next one happens.
These events are typically not well-advertised until after they’ve taken place. In order to find out about them in time to participate, you usually need to follow the agency on social media and keep an eye on their newsletters. Since Low Income Relief serves the entire country, it is very hard for us to keep track of all these programs in time to help you get there. If you live in the area, it is always best to try to follow those programs directly so you don’t miss out.
In Maine, the state has decided to advance a proposal that would get rid of a program that freezes property taxes for all people over age 65 and instead expand two programs that specifically serve low income seniors. The current freeze program only saves the average senior about $128, whereas the new programs are expected to save up to $500 for low income seniors who qualify.
The bill has not been passed into law yet, but if you live in Maine, you may want to reach out to your local lawmakers and let them know how you feel about this.
In Massachusetts, applications are now open for Rise Up Cambridge. This program will provide $500 per month to low income families with at least one child under age 21. The payments will last for 18 months.
The city expects that 2,000 families will be eligible but over 1,000 people applied on the first day, so it may end up being more than that.
In Nevada, the Nevada Rural Counties RSVP Program will distribute $50 in SFMNP vouchers to low income seniors in Carson City. You can pick them up between 9am and 12pm on June 9th in the front lobby of the Carson City Community Center.
In order to be eligible, you must be a Nevada resident, age 60 or older, and meet income limits. Your income cannot exceed $2,248 per month for a single person or $3,041 per month for a couple.
You’ll need to bring a Nevada ID and sign the self-certification form at the site. Each household can get one set of vouchers.
In New Jersey, some lawmakers are pushing back against the new senior tax credit program called StayNJ. This program is designed to help low income seniors afford their homes by reducing property tax by up to 50%.
The maximum credit would be given to people whose property taxes exceed $20,000 per year and there are no income limits for the program as it is currently written. Because of this, some policy analysts are saying that the proposal would actually benefit wealthy homeowners far more than low income ones.
According to Peter Chen, the Senior Policy Analyst at New Jersey Policy Perspective, “Making New Jersey more affordable for seniors is a noble goal, but we’re not going to get there by giving the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Phil Murphy a $10,000 check. There are more effective and efficient ways to target relief to the seniors who are struggling the most with high housing costs, grocery bills, and prescription drug prices.”
In New York, one of the state’s largest providers of housing to mentally ill or formerly homeless people has started hundreds of eviction cases. Breaking Ground has sued about 345 people since the end of the pandemic-era eviction moratorium.
The New York Times reports that the agency is suing for eviction only to force the city to provide rental assistance faster. Very few of the cases actually lead to eviction, but it can still do lasting damage to the person who has been sued. If you live in New York City and you end up being sued for rent, please contact the city’s Department of Social Services for assistance.
Meanwhile, Westchester County is creating a new Office of Housing Counsel within the Department of Social Services. This agency will help provide legal services to tenants facing eviction. You must have an income that is at or below 300% of the Federal Poverty Level in order to be eligible. The new agency can also assist if you get an unexpected rental increase or have other landlord-tenant issues.
In North Dakota, a program called Food for the Summer helps provide food for children in low income families. The program provides bags of groceries every Saturday at the Maysa Arena in Minot.
The food bags include peanut butter, jam, apples, oranges, and ramen noodles.
In Ohio, the organization called People Working Cooperatively has received extra funding for home repairs, conservation and disability modifications. They provide this service to residents of the Greater Cincinnati and Butler County area.
Please contact the agency directly if you need assistance.
In Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Homeowner Assistance Fund is still available. This fund can help you pay your mortgage, past-due property taxes, homeowners insurance or past-due HOA dues.
In order to be eligible, you must own a home in Oklahoma, live in that home, and be able to afford your home after receiving help. You must have an income that is at or below 150% of the Area Median Income and meet other requirements. Get the details on the Oklahoma HAF website.
In Pennsylvania, the state’s farmers market voucher programs are experiencing delays. The Department of Agriculture has stated that they don’t have enough paper to print the checks this month. The checks are expected to be sent in July instead.
In Washington, the annual Seattle King County Clinic is back after a 3-year hiatus. This event provides free dental, vision and medical care to thousands of patients.
Now, unfortunately, this is one of those things that isn’t widely advertised until it’s over, so this happened in April… but I’m telling you now so that you can follow Kaiser Permanente’s social media pages so that you can be notified before the next one happens. That’s often the only way to find out about things like this in advance.
In Wisconsin, a new low income housing project in Oshkosh is converting an old elementary school into new low income housing. The school has been renovated to include 31 low income housing units. The development is called the “Smith School Lofts.”
The process of renovating other buildings into housing is called “adaptive reuse,” and advocates say it’s the best way to solve the affordable housing crisis.
The article discusses the resolution of the debt ceiling issue, ensuring the continuity of programs for low-income Americans. Changes to SNAP work requirements and the TANF program are mentioned. Student loan payments are set to resume, and the importance of income-driven repayment plans is emphasized. The Supreme Court ruled against a policy allowing excessive property seizure for unpaid taxes. The article also provides various low-income news updates for different states, covering housing, assistance programs, and events. You can always find the latest low income news updates in our News section.