There have been SO many announcements this week! From EBT payment pilots to expanded state benefits, there have been a lot of changes made to help support low income people across America. Let’s talk about what’s new this week.
First, let’s talk about the nationwide changes.
Digital Wallets for EBT
The USDA announced on Wednesday that they have selected five states to test a new mobile payment technology for EBT purchases! The test states are Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri and Oklahoma.
This new program will allow EBT users to use contactless payment methods. Debit cards already have tap-to-pay technology and some people have been using mobile apps called ‘digital wallets’ to make their debit payments. Now, EBT users will be able to use those methods too.
The USDA hopes that enabling mobile payments for EBT will prevent those benefits from being stolen by skimmers. However, the implementation is complex and will take time. USDA has to work with states, EBT processors, mobile wallet providers, retailers and more. It may take years before the mobile payments are implemented and ready for use.
If you live in one of the test states, you will not be forced to use this payment method. You can still continue to swipe your card as normal if that’s what you prefer.
More Funding for Low Income Housing
In an announcement dated March 9, the White House Briefing Room explained that the President wants to invest more than $175 billion in building and preserving affordable homes, and reducing barriers to housing production like changing restrictive land use policies.
According to the briefing, the President’s ultimate goal is to provide universal housing vouchers to all low income people in the United States. That’s not feasible yet so they are making this a first step.
The Budget makes a long-term commitment to housing accessibility and affordability for youth aging out of foster care and veterans. This support – targeted to extremely low-income populations that are vulnerable to homelessness – is a historic down payment on the President’s goal of providing universal housing vouchers for low-income households.” Universal housing vouchers for all low income households sounds like a great goal, but we’re still a ways away from that.White House Briefing Room
The Budget also provides new down payment assistance for first-time, first-generation homebuyers and funds the previously announced eviction prevention measures that we covered in a previous video. Overall, the President’s goal is to reduce homelessness by 25% by 2025.
FedNow Payment Portal
The Federal Reserve will be launching a new instant payment portal called FedNow later this year. This system is designed to reduce the problems that low income people face when they make payments to the federal government.
Currently, there is a delay between when you make a payment and when they actually process that payment, which has caused a lot of users to experience overdraft fees and other problems.
FedNow should process those payments immediately and eliminate that delay, which should help. Again, that’s expected to launch by the end of this year.
We have a lot of state-by-state news today as well. If you don’t see your state listed, please leave us a comment and we’ll try to find more updates for you next week.
In California, Habitat for Humanity of Southern Santa Barbara is repairing roofs for low income homeowners that have been impacted by recent storms.
Also in California, Alameda County currently has a huge backlog that is delaying EBT applications and recertifications. A college student at UC Berkeley reported to the Alameda Post that it took more than two months to receive their EBT card. This process is only supposed to take 3 days.
In Colorado, Fort Morgan has received state funding from the Department of Energy that will be used to purchase 30 e-bikes and safety equipment for low income residents. It is not clear how the 30 people will be chosen yet but it appears the bikes will be purchased at Bicycle Adventure on Main Street. I would follow your City Council for updates on how those bikes will be distributed.
In Delaware, a new bill has been proposed that would remove copays for low income families who earn 200% or less of the Federal Poverty Level.
In Florida, there’s an exciting opportunity to be a mystery shopper for the Fresh Access Bucks program. This is a program that can double your SNAP benefits so that you can purchase more locally grown fruit and vegetables when you shop at participating outlets.
The FAB program is looking for mystery shoppers, but applications are due this month and you must make your mystery shopping visit before April. In exchange, you’ll receive a $35 virtual gift card for each survey you complete.
Here’s the application form for that.
Also in Florida, Hillsborough County is offering scholarships to low income students. The scholarships are worth $5,000 and can be used at trade schools, community colleges or four-year universities. Applications must be received by Friday, March 24, and can be accessed online.
In Georgia, the Georgia state Senate has approved a bill that could provide cash to low income pregnant women. The bill allows women to receive TANF cash assistance before the child is born. A woman with one child who is also pregnant could receive around $280 per month through this measure.
This state also recently extended Medicaid coverage for low income mothers, so that those moms are now covered for an entire year after the baby is born.
Also in Georgia, a nonprofit called The Vitamin Bridge will begin serving 10,000 low income pregnant women with prenatal vitamins. These vitamins are provided through Georgia nonprofit pregnancy care centers.
In Hawaii, EBT shoppers should be aware that you have two additional options to protect your SNAP benefits.
I recently received a helpful email from Mapuana, who told me that there’s an on-off slider switch for Interstate Transactions and Internet Transactions. Mapuana keeps those options off unless she’s making an Amazon purchase, and then she quickly toggles the option on and then back off again after the purchase to keep those benefits safe.
That’s a great tip, so I wanted to pass that on.
In Massachusetts, Governor Healey is pushing the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to begin developing a means-tested fare program. They’re working on developing an online application process and figuring out how to enroll eligible riders, but no decisions have currently been made.
In Michigan, Governor Whitmer signed a new law that raised the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit dramatically. According to local news outlet WSJM, the change will raise the average state EITC from $150 to $750.0
This change is expected to benefit around 700,000 families in Michigan.
In Nevada, a new proposal would raise the real estate transfer tax to help pay for more low income housing. This would raise the average tax on a median-priced home in Las Vegas by about $170 per year.
That money would be put into a Critical Needs Fund, which would give assistance for low income housing and supportive services for low income Nevada residents.
In New York City, the City Council is working to expand Fair Fares to more New Yorkers. The hope is to give everyone with incomes below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level access to half-priced bus and subway rides. That will double the income limits, making more people eligible.
It is not clear if the Mayor will sign off on this or when it will go into effect.
North Carolina & South Carolina
In North and South Carolina, new funding will be available for home repairs, renovations and energy-efficiency upgrades. The funding has been provided by Google and Sol Systems to Roanoke Electric Cooperative, Santee Electric Cooperative, Aiken Electric Cooperative, and the Sustainability Institute of South Carolina.
Also in North Carolina, a new nonprofit called Spirit & Truth Harvest Table is setting up to provide hot meals to elderly and homeless residents of Rockingham County. The meals are supposed to start today at Spirit & Truth Church of Worship in Reidsville.
In Oregon, a Portland nonprofit called the Community Investment Trust helps low income people invest in real estate.
This is a really cool program that lets you invest $10 to $100 per month for a share in a building, but then you’ll get dividends as the value goes up and you can cash out whenever you want.
There are around 300 investors in CIT right now. They own Plaza 122, and CIT has already paid out over $100,000 in dividends. The program just received a $1.75 million contribution from JPMorgan Chase to bring this model around the country.
In Texas, a bill has been introduced that will help low income people keep their pets that need medical care.
Under current Texas law, animal shelter veterinarians can only provide sterilization services to pets that have owners, so many low income owners who can’t afford veterinary care have had to surrender their pets to the shelter in order to get them the care that they need.
A new bill called House Bill 3439 would allow animal shelter veterinarians to provide veterinary services for low income Texans. If passed, this bill will go into effect in September.
In the meantime, check here for pet care assistance.
In Washington, the Tacoma Housing Authority has announced that the waitlist for low income housing will open at 9am on April 3rd. The application period will close again on April 17th, so you will need to apply right away. This is the first time since 2015 that ALL household sizes can apply. You can apply online at tacomahousing.org/waitlist or in person at the Tacoma Housing Authority.
Also in Washington, the Metro Flex service has changed to allow customers to go wherever they choose to. This service operates like a publicly funded Uber or Lyft, so you basically order a ride on the Metro Flex app. This app also honors fare discounts, so seniors, people with disabilities and low income riders can use this service for just $1. Youth ride free. Again, you can order a ride using the Metro Flex app.
In Wisconsin, low income residents of Madison who live with a fixed income and have chronic pain may be able to get free 30-minute massages from Be Well Madison. In order to receive these, you must be referred to the program by a local community center.