Tuesday, April 16, 2019

LIHEAP Can Help Pay the Utility Bills When You Can’t

April 16, 2019
LIHEAP is an energy assistance program that was developed over 30 years ago by Congress to assist those who need help with utility bills.

The program, Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, is overseen by the Department of Health and Human Service and is operated under state agencies.  LIHEAP operates with the federal grant money they receive, as well as private dollars, in order to provide low-income households with assistance for their utility bills.  This program started in the Northeast to address the rising heating costs in the area but soon became prevalent around the country.

In the beginning, LIHEAP only offered help for fuel or electricity bills. The program has since expanded to ensure that low-income families receive the help they need all-year long to live in safe conditions. More than seven million households have been helped since the start of the program. The majority of those who received help have been the disabled and elderly, as well as families who have young children in the home.

Understanding How LIHEAP Works

Those who apply and qualify for LIHEAP will be eligible to receive government assistance to use towards cooling and heating costs. There is also additional support available to those who have energy emergencies, such as in the event of a natural disaster or extreme cold or heat. This program allows for the working poor to receive the assistance they need when they cannot pay their utilities. As many families often have to choose between paying their utility bills or buying necessities such as food and medicine, LIHEAP offers a way to do both.

A grant from LIHEAP also provides low-income families and individuals assistance with residential weatherization projects that can help keep their utility bills low to begin with. They also offer educational programs that are related to energy consumption and savings. The LIHEAP program aims to improve all cooling and heating safety issues in homes that need help. They also aim to prevent any medical issues that can arise because of unsuitable temperatures in the home.

LIHEAP Qualification Guidelines

Every state varies when it comes to the rules of LIHEAP. However, these benefits are usually available for families dealing with a wide range of energy issues. One example is renters who are living in public or subsidized housing. These individuals will still be eligible for LIHEAP if they meet the income guidelines. The government may either provide the assistance directly to the renter if he or she is responsible for the bills, or they may give it to the landlord if the property owner is responsible for heating and cooling costs, allowing them to charge their tenants less rent.

Individuals are typically able to receive LIHEAP help even when they are receiving assistance from other programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Those receiving help from the Veterans Administration or Social Security may also be eligible.

An individual can receive LIHEAP assistance when they are employed, as long as they do not earn more than the maximum income limit. This limit varies state to state.

LIHEAP Assistance Amounts

The amount of assistance that a person will be given from the LIHEAP program will vary greatly depending on a few factors. One is the state that they reside in and the other is their circumstances. Generally, the amount is determined by the income of the person or family, how many people are residing in the home, and how much heating and cooling costs are. All wages of the adults living in the home are typically considered when applying for LIHEAP.

Other Services Available Through LIHEAP

There are other LIHEAP services that may be available to homeowners and renters depending on their specific location. To find out more, contact the state agency responsible for assistance programs. In some cases, LIHEAP funds may be provided to those who are in danger of having their utilities cut off. Renters and homeowners may also find assistance that will help them replace inefficient air conditioners and heaters in the home, which will reduce the utility bills in the future. LIHEAP and other programs may also provide help to those who have suffered through a natural disaster, such as a tornado, flood, or hurricane.

Lifeline Program Promotes Equality in Communication

April 16, 2019
Lifeline is a federal benefit that lowers the monthly cost of phone or internet service.

Safelink Wireless

If you get Lifeline for phone service, you can get the benefit for one mobile phone or one home phone, but not both.  If you get Lifeline for internet service, you can get the benefit for your mobile phone or your home connection, but not both.  If you get Lifeline for bundled phone and internet service, you can get the benefit for your mobile phone bundled service or your home bundled service, but not both.

If you are part of a family that the government considers 'low-income,' there are programs available to you that can help you receive a free phone. These programs will typically help connect your phone to eligible, equally free services as well.

All new subscribers must demonstrate that they are eligible. In some states, a subscriber’s eligibility may be able to be confirmed through a database. Where a database is not available, subscribers must show proof of eligibility by demonstrating that they meet the income qualifications or participate in a qualifying program listed above.

Under FCC rules, you may only be enrolled in a single LifeLine program per household. However, in the event you are receiving service from another provider and want to change your LifeLine benefit, it is easy to switch. Once approved, you can even keep your phone number. After you apply, you can transfer your LifeLine service from the current provider and you can begin to enjoy the benefits provided under the terms of the Lifeline program.

You might be able to use any one of the following programs to establish at least one landline at a fraction of the usual cost. In addition, they might be able to help you and your family get additional minutes per month for each phone as well as provide you with the phones themselves. The terms and conditions for each program will vary, and not every program is available in every U.S. region. We recommend that you check availability when you're looking into these matters.

1. Safelink Wireless

If you're approved for the Safelink program, you'll get a free cell phone and the number of free minutes you receive depends on the plan you choose.

As long as you qualify for the service according to state regulations, there are no other restrictions other than that your phone line must be based in your place of residence and under the legal name of the qualified customer.

LifeLine customers are required to make at least one call or send one SMS message every month or risk being de-enrolled from the program.

Virgin Mobile helps to provide low-income families with free phone services via its Assurance Wireless program. If you are approved for the Assurance Wireless program, you'll get a free phone complete with unlimited texting and 500 minutes per month for taking calls. Although the Assurance program was originally only offered in just five states, it has recently grown to encompass several more.

The Toll Limitation Service, or TLS, is now partnered with both LIfeline and Link Up services to provide resources to low-income families still in need of a landline. This program aims to provide those in need with the non-cellular services that other companies might not be able to offer. Lifeline is available through several phone carries and telecommunications companies. It can save members a minimum of $10 per month and cover a portion of start-up costs. The program covers up to $30 of these costs and you have the option to borrow up to $200 at no interest for a year.

Other Services for Single Parents

Single parents raising children on small budgets can qualify for several programs via the government. The SNAP program, formerly the Food Stamp program can help you with groceries and there are housing programs to help with shelter and utility bills. You may also qualify for medical programs and childcare assistance. You can call 211 to learn about the programs offered in your region.

To apply, please visit Safelink Wireless

Understanding Government Grants

April 16, 2019
Navigating Government Funded Assistance Programs

Those who are enduring hardships or financial struggles might find assistance from various government aid options. This is also beneficial for students who wish to pursue a higher education, or for people who are forced to deal with the skyrocketing medical costs. Those who usually look for government aid and assistance make the major mistake of thinking they are entitled to the aid. However, the truth of the matter is that government aid is only provided to the individuals that the government thinks has a good reason to need it. There is no one in the world that is guaranteed this government aid just for being alive.

In fact, this government aid is not just “free money” that the government just gives out at random times or just for anyone dealing with a hardship. The truth is that there are many programs out there that are designed by the government specifically to serve a purpose of both relief and aid. These created programs are set to cover a wider range of needs that the government thinks is necessary to provide the aid. Many of the programs include things like health care, job training, infant care, nutrition, and education. The programs are each funded by the government, and they have the right to distribute this aid to anyone that has a specific need. In this way, it is easier for the government to distribute the aid to people, instead of fielding any general requests for the help from anyone out there that thinks they need it.

In order to receive the aid, the applicant needs to fill out and file the application for the specific program in which they need the aid. Along with the application, the applicant must also meet the strict requirements for eligibility. Most of these aid programs do not offer cash options.
The government benefits website is not designed to provide any government aid directly to the individual, but instead, it is used to find the government benefits program that you might be eligible for. Sometimes, these programs are vital to a family, especially if they are struggling to survive financially. Having many children and several bills can make it difficult to get government aid, but it can help makes the ends meet in several ways.

If you choose to use this website, you need to head to the website and choose from one of two options: browsing benefits and the benefits finder.

The Benefits finder is a simple questionnaire that will ask the individual about their current situation, why they are searching for aid, and more. By answering all the questions along with the survey, you will be provided with a set of benefits that you might be eligible for. This questionnaire works by searching through the government aid programs, which makes it much easier for finding the appropriate programs for your needs.

Browsing benefits is a service that allows you to search for the benefits you might be eligible for. You can simply use the search feature by going to the website, finding the Browse Benefits tool, and browse according to the categories of assistance. If you want, you can easily arrange the list by state, category, or Federal agency in order to better help you find the best program for your needs.

Obtaining Grants

Unfortunately, the government benefits website can’t help you obtain the government grants that you want. These awards are not designed to give personal benefits or assistance instead of toward organizations or individuals. To apply for the government aid, you need to go to the grants government website to find the available grants to apply for them.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does the website know which aid programs I might be eligible for before applying?
The website uses a series of complex software options that cross-reference your specific answers to the questionnaire with the available programs list. While there are more than 1,000 Federal funded programs out there, the software will check with each of them to ensure that you match with them. When you answer more questions, you will get a higher accuracy in the system. This also helps you match with more programs. The first set of questions are the only ones required, but many people recommend that you answer all questions possible in order to maximize your potential benefits.
Why does my specific surgery mention that I “might” be eligible?

Since the aid is never a guarantee until it is approved by the government, you can never know for sure whether you are eligible or not. The only way you can fully know if you are eligible is by completing an application. Benefit eligibility is also an ever-changing situation, so things like birthdays, deaths, or accidents can change your specific eligibility.

There are a few individual grant opportunities out there that might better help you get aid where you need it. Some of these opportunities will require a certain eligibility as well. The Rural Rental Assistance, Good Neighbor Next Door Program, Disaster Relief Assistance, and Housing Loans and Grants are just a few of the individual programs available right now. If you want to search for the full list of housing grant opportunities as well as other benefit opportunities, you can go to the government website, using the browse feature, and look through the programs until you find the one that best fits your needs financially. This website is also helpful for getting your application finished.

 To apply, please visit Benefits.gov.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Millions of Homeowners Qualify for $4,000 Rebate

April 12, 2019

When you consider the rate at which inflation is still on the rise, job seekers keep hunting for ever
elusive employment and families barely survive, you may wonder whether the sub-prime mortgage crisis of 2008 was actually solved. Given the hard economic times, many homeowners are tempted to shelve home repairs for later. Unfortunately, things are only bound to worsen when properties deteriorate.

If you are a homeowner who finds it difficult to make ends meet and you do not know how to make the necessary improvements in your home, do not lose hope. The following programs can help you qualify for a rebate worth up to $4,000.

Dealing with Tough Times

Your home structure may already be carrying a lot of burden depending on your circumstances. Your elderly parents and college graduate may be living with you because of the challenging economic times, not to mention that you also have other concerns in the same hard times.

Apart from carrying out some necessary home repairs and general maintenance, you may need to add space to accommodate all the people living with you. You may be considering replacing some things in the home to reduce your budget in the long run, such as energy-saving equipment. Apart from replacing existing appliances, you may consider installing new ones, such as a home security system so that your family can sleep peacefully. If you are still a young couple, you may have to consider a new member of your family.

No matter how stretched your budget may be, you should not postpone necessary repairs. If you neglect your roof until it starts leaking, for instance, you will be forced to spend more to repair it.

Defaulting Nightmare

Banks may sweet-talk you into taking a loan, and you may have a great relationship when you are making regular repayments. However, you may discover that you turn into a great enemy overnight when you miss even a single repayment. You will have to pay what you already owe (including interest, of course) plus fine for defaulting, and you are likely to receive “courtesy calls” at the most inappropriate times.

Prohibitive Interest Rates

Many homeowners with mortgages are not eligible for the HELOC or home equity line of credit. Many of those who qualify are put off by the high rates of interest. Personal loans do not suit those with high student or credit card debt because the high interest rates would counter the benefits of their loans.

Does this mean that the situation is hopeless?

The US government has put various measures to help you out of your predicament. Improving your home will not just benefit you, and the politicians are aware of this fact.

Improving your home will increase its value, which will in turn benefit property taxes. You will hire people to carry out the necessary improvements and increase employment in the process. A conducive environment will not only make your family happy but also more productive.

Home improvement is a win+win+win undertaking.

Cash-Out Financing

Any loan that you take against your home is considered to be secured because the home itself is the collateral. Since you are applying for a secured loan, you will get a relatively low interest rate. With cash-out financing, you are likely to get more money than you need for home repairs, giving you the opportunity to fulfill other financial obligations.

The American government offers loans with low interest rates, thanks to its size. Since the government understands the value of improving your home, you are likely to qualify for one of the following programs.

It is estimated that about 700,000 Americans are qualified to receive the rebates, but many of these people have not used the opportunity. It is important to understand that you can qualify for the savings even if you refinanced recently.

You do not need to pay anything to qualify for the government programs. Different brokers avail the programs, which you can freely review without any obligation to accept them.

The government understands the importance of home improvement, but you must do your part as a responsible homeowner. You have the home that needs improvement and Uncle Sam provides the money to improve it.

Low Income Families: All About Housing Assistance

April 12, 2019

In middle of the Great Depression, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was started to assist low-income families in finding affordable options for housing. Since then, HUD has expanded its assistance to include rent subsidies for lower income families and the construction of housing units.

The Begninning Of Section 8 Housing

In 1974, Congress passed The Housing and Community Development Act. This act helped low-income families locate and afford safe housing by subsidizing part of their rent. This act was later labeled the Section 8 Housing Program. The program allowed renters to put only 30 percent of their entire income toward rent. The Federal Government covered the remaining 70 percent by compensating the landlords.

The Addition of Subcategories to Section 8

Originally, the Section 8 Program consisted of three separate subcategories - Existing Housing, New Construction and Substantial Rehabilitation. A new subcategory, Moderate Rehabilitation, was added in 1978. In 1983, another subcategory known as the Voucher Program was added on. A final subcategory, the Project-Based Certificate Program, was added in 1991. Each of these subcategories were created with the intention of determining if landlords were eligible to participate in the Section 8 Program.

Section 8 Housing - Who Is In Charge?

Individual states regulate Section 8 Housing. Each state's particular Housing Authority determines the amount of funding available for programs. The amount of funding, availability of programs, and budget fluctuates frequently due to changes in the money provided by state Housing Authorities. However, subsidies already in place have had their funding renewed by Congress.
Housing Voucher Program

The Housing Voucher Program was established for families with extremely low incomes, the elderly, or disabled people. These groups are eligible to receive subsidies that help them live in safe, affordable, clean housing. The vouchers can help tenants find housing - whether an apartment, townhouse, or single-family home - best suited to their needs.

The Housing Authority in each individual state sets the eligibility requirements. Factors such as the size of the family and gross annual income help determine a family's eligibility. Both citizens of the United States and non-citizens with an appropriate immigration status are eligible for vouchers.
What Does the Application Process Involve?

To be determined as eligible for a voucher program, applicants are required to provide the Housing Authority with proof of their income and the immigration status for all family members listed on the application. The Housing Authority then contacts banks, employers, and family members to verify that all eligibility requirements are met and to set the total amount of the subsidy.

Waiting List for Vouchers

Since vouchers are highly sought after, the majority of eligible applicants are placed on a waiting list until the necessary funding is available. Once funding becomes available, families on the wait list are contacted and can proceed with obtaining a voucher.

The following situations may cause a family to be positioned at the top of the waiting list:
They are currently homeless
They are residing in dangerous or substandard housing
Their total rent is over 50 percent of their entire income
They have lost their housing without choice

Families dealing with these situations are placed at the top of the list. Qualifications and eligibility requirements are set by each state's Housing Authority and vary from state to state.
Participating Landlords - What Are the Requirements?

People who qualify for vouchers must choose housing in accordance with the Housing Authority's particular codes and requirements. Participating landlords are required to allow the site to be inspected to confirm it complies with the Voucher Program. If the premise meets the standards, a voucher will be approved.

Since landlords can choose to avoid participating in the Section 8 Voucher Program, some landlords may not accept vouchers. Participants in the Section 8 Voucher Program must confirm that their potential landlord is aware of the program and willing to receive vouchers.
Families with vouchers are required to notify Section 8 of any changes in income or family size. Failing to notify the Housing Authority of these changes can be considered fraud and can result in losing the voucher.

You can apply for benefits here:  Benefits.gov

The Good Neighbor Next Door Program

April 12, 2019

Basic Overview of the GNND Program

Who Is Eligible?
  • Law Enforcement Officer
  • Firefighter
  • Emergency Medical Technician
  • Teacher employed full time
(Must be current or prospective homeowner)

The Good Neighbor Next Door program gives qualified individuals an opportunity to purchase homes with a significant 50 percent discount.  It's intended to encourage community helpers to move into the same communities that they provide a service. Teachers of public school students, emergency medical technicians, firefighters, and police officers are encouraged to participate in the program to improve neighborhoods.

The discount is applied toward the appraised value of the home, and participants must make the purchase within the seven days that it's listed. If a home is currently appraised at $300,000, the GNND program would allow qualified candidates to purchase the property for only $150,000. The buyer may also take advantage of an FHA-insured mortgage to finance any acquisition expenses, such as major home repairs and closing costs. It's required that the purchaser use the home as their primary residence for at least three years to fulfill the entire agreement. There are no restrictions once the three years have past if the owner decides that they would like to remain in the home, rent it out to a tenant, or sell it for a profit.

Qualifying for Participation

An applicant must hold a full-time job in a position that promotes a safer, stronger community. Participants may be employed at a state accredited school, a local government division, a larger government division (federal or state, for example), or Indian tribal government. You cannot be eligible for the program if you or your spouse own a home, you have owned a home in the past year, or if you have already obtained a home through the Good Neighbor Next Door or any similar program.

Guide to Acquiring a Home

Successfully purchasing a home truly relies on receiving a timely notification of homes available in your community. The homes listed under the GNND program are only offered for a total of seven days, so it's a good idea to request text and email notifications. There is an equal opportunity for all qualified participants to apply for a listed home, and one candidate will be selected randomly to purchase the specific property. A real estate agent will be assigned to each applicant so that they can officially place their name into the drawing. The agent can also get started on the pre-qualification process with various mortgage lenders to find any additional programs that reward community helpers.

What Are the Odds of Being Selected?

Although it's difficult to predict the exact odds of being awarded, there are plenty of homes that go to the only interested participant. The program doesn't sell all of the homes that are listed because of the short seven day application period. No special privileges are given to individuals with a specific job title as long as you are a qualified participant. Your odds of being selected only decrease based on the amount of people that apply for the same property.

Officers of the Law

Police that wish to take part in the GNND program may only apply for properties within the area that they service on a typical day. You must get verification from your employer that you work full-time in law enforcement for a qualifying division of the government. This may include a parish, state, local, or federal government agency that requires that you uphold the law and make arrests for violations. Indian tribal government employees can also take part in the program, but there are law enforcement agents that are ineligible. The GNND home program does not allow dispatchers, law enforcement employed at private corporations or schools, or civilian employees to participate in most cases.

Public School Teachers

Any educator at a state-accredited public or private school may enter the lottery for homes within the district that they teach. The boundaries are determined by the service area of the employer, and they must also verify that you work full-time as a pre-kindergarten through 12th grade classroom teacher. Property that you apply for must also be within the same area as the students of your district.

Emergency Medical Technicians and Firefighters

A firefighter or EMT must be employed full-time at a station or emergency medical services unit of an official government agency, and they must service the area that the property is located. First responders cannot qualify for the program if they work for a privately owned company.

In order to participate, you must follow the guidance on HUD's Good Neighbor Next Door web page.

To read more about this program, go to this page