With the United State economy posting record levels of employment no seen since the great recession began in 2008, politicians in Washington and Capitol Hill have been looking at the federal government’s spending and trying to roll back most of the increased spending that was approved to deal with the unprecedented recession that the country experienced. Naturally, the programs that got the most increase are the ones that are targeted the most. The two programs that were drastically increased were Food Stamps (SNAP Benefits) and Unemployment Benefits. Not only were these two programs increased in terms of spending but the rules were also relaxed to deal with how long it was taking people to return to the workforce or find a job and how much government they needed to survive until they got back to their feet. For example, the amount of time people could stay on unemployment got extended several times by congress because of how many people were without work and were struggling finding a job. Now that unemployment is close to 5% at the national level, with some states experiencing unemployment rates under 5%, congress is looking at rolling back some of those benefit extensions to save money and trip the federal budget.
Food stamps have also been impacted by this. In most states, legislatures are eager to show they are trimming spending, especially in this election year and one program that gets the most heat from politicians is food stamps. That’s because there is this perception out there that people on food stamps are trying to live off the government for free and therefore there should be cuts to get people to work. That’s even in the face of overwhelming evidence that these cuts negatively impact the most vulnerable people in society, including households with children. That has not stopped politicians from trying to use the program as some sort of scapegoat. One of the issues at stake is how the food stamp receiving population swelled tremendously during the great recession. That’s because work rules were relaxed so people who were able bodied were allowed to receive benefits due to the unprecedented nature of the recession. Now that there is work to be had, politicians are trying to kick able bodied people from receiving food stamps or cutting how long they could receive the benefits for. The question is whether people will go hungry that really need the help. For example there is a whole group of people whose jobs have left the country and there is no way of getting those jobs back. These people just don’t have the skills for today’s workforce. What will happen to them? They need job training and support while they acquire new skills for new careers. Kicking them off food stamps will literally cause the bottom to fall underneath them.
What are the requirements to qualify for food stamps? There are several requirements that anyone thinking of applying for SNAP benefits must meet. The first and obvious one is the income requirement. This is based on a households gross monthly income and net monthly income after you deduct allowable expenses from the gross income. Most households must comply with this requirement and details of that can be found here. There are certain exemptions to the income requirement. If you have a household that has anyone receiving TANF or any other cash assistance from the government, then the requirements changes. You should contact your states food stamps management department for more details about the various exemptions to the income requirements. For example in the state of California, the Calfresh program, which is their food stamps program has the following requirements for income as outlined in the table below:
As you can see, the income requirements increases with the number of people in the household. The more people you have at home, the more they expect more people in the house to work, unless you have a house full of children, and even there, they expect the parents to be working to meet the minimum income requirements for that household. In addition to the income requirements, there are other criteria you have to meet in order to qualify. The first is that you have to be a US citizen. Certain immigrants may qualify but that depends on how long you’ve been in the United States and what category of immigrant you fall into. Refugees and other vulnerable immigrants are generally able to qualify if they meet other requirement.
You also have to live in the state where you are applying. For example of you are applying in Tennessee, not only do you have to meet their income limit but also have to be a resident of the state. Your best bet is to also apply in the county where you live. That way, you are able to get the most attentive help from your local county food stamps office. Click on your state and then you will be directed to the state page where you can search by county for your local office.
Once you meet the income requirement, you should apply. Most states have a way to apply online or you can go to your county office to apply. Once your application is submitted and reviewed, you will be invited for an interview. During the interview, you will be asked to conform any information you provided during the application process. You will also be given the opportunity to bring any documents that was missing from your application. Once you successfully go through the interview and are approved, you will be issued an EBT Card which you will use to buy food from the approved list. Food stamp fraud is real so pay attention to what you buy with your card as the federal government has gotten very aggressive in arresting people who commit food stamps fraud or use their card for something that it was not intended for.
The financial crisis happened in 2008, but six years later, we are still seeing the impact of this devastating economic recession. One area that has been severely highlighted is the issue of long term unemployment. Even though the federal government continue to post declining unemployment numbers, there is another side of the story that is not being told. And that is people who have spent so much time looking for a job (in some cases a year or two) that they’ve given up on the job search. They then drop off the government tracking list since the unemployment data only surveys people who are able and willing to work. Therefore, if you are just looking at the numbers that are officially announced by the government, then you are missing a very big part of the picture. So, how should we look at these people who clearly want to work but are exhausted by the job search process that they’ve given up?
Is it entirely their fault that they now feel discouraged to go back there and search again? Let’s look at it from their perspective. You have been working at a company for a long time, and say you are in your mid 50s, about 10 years away from retirement. Then you are laid off during the financial crisis. Now you have to go out there and compete with all these young people who perhaps have more computer and technology skills like you have. Also, they are probably more attractive to the employer because they can pay them less than the salary you think you deserve for the same job, based on your experience. But there are so many people out there in a similar situation that the companies are willing to drag out the process and find the best talent for very little money. That’s the situation many of these people who are close to retirement face. In a job market that pits them against young talent willing to work more for less, they don’t stand a chance. Some of them have also run out of the unemployment benefits money and no longer qualify for additional benefits from the government.
While we may pretend that the system will sort this issue out, we are leaving millions of Americans who through no fault of theirs find themselves with no money and no prospects for employment any time soon, mostly because of their age. Most have exhausted all the balance on their eppicard debit card and don’t qualify for any more money. The federal government, together with local government should step in and help these people either re-train for other industries or find jobs in their areas of expertise. It is a very tragic situation to have worked all your life, played by the rules, and then be left out by yourself when you are so close to the finish line of retirement. We as a society can do better and we should. No one should be left behind, especially when the economy is recovering and dreams are being reborn again.
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If you’ve been paying attention the last 5 years, you will notice that there is a growing proliferation of prepaid debit cards in the country. It used to be dominated by prepaid brands like the Rush Card, Vanilla Visa Card, Netspend and the Walmart Moneycard. However, lately, banks are also entering the space, with Chase, Citibank and Wells Fargo all offering their own branded reloadable debit cards. Other new entrants include the Bluebird Card by American Express, which they launched in partnership with Walmart. Another popular one is the Green Dot card. Here are three things you should know about these prepaids.
The first thing you should know about these bank issued cards is that they can either be reloadable or non-reloadable. With the non-reloadable ones, after you add money to it the first time, you cannot top it or reload it even if you wanted to. Once the funds you added when you purchased the prepaid card are used up, the card is worthless. These types of cards are great for short term needs, like travel expenses, holiday shopping to help you stay on budget or as a surprise allowance for your high school or college student to use. It may also be given as gifts for any occasion, including birthdays, house warming parties and anytime you want to give someone money but don’t want to give them cash because you may think it is insensitive.
The reloadable prepaid come in may forms. Most are issued by banks and aimed at the general public, especially people in unbanked communities. That is why prepaid cards like the Walmart American Express Bluebird Card have been very successful because they are aimed at people without traditional checking accounts or debit cards. However, reloadable prepaid debit cards are also issued by the government to pay benefits. States use them to pay unemployment benefits and child support payments under the Eppicard prepaid debit card program. They are also used to pay snap benefits, under what is called the EBT program. Most of these EBT Debit cards are issued by banks on behalf of the states that run the programs. Eligible beneficiaries apply for the programs through their appropriate state agencies, then once they are approved for food assistance, then they are issued prepaid debit cards called EBT cards. Then their monthly benefit payments are automatically deposited on the card at the due date for their convenience and they can use the card anywhere the card issuer’s cards are accepted, just like a regular debit card is used.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (also known as SNAP Benefits) is a program run by the United States Department of Agriculture to provide nutrition assistance to low income household. This is to help them purchase nutritious foods that they would not otherwise be able to buy due to limited household income. The program is popularly called Food Stamps. Once a household is approved for the program, they are issued a debit card called an EBT card, which can be used to buy food that is on the approved list. The SNAP benefits program is run at the state level but funded at the federal level. The federal government sets the broader guidelines for the program and states have to administer the program with these minimum standards set at the federal level but can add additional criteria specific to their states.
SNAP Benefits Fraud Video
Like many government programs, the food stamps program is a source of fraud and not a week goes by without a group of people getting arrested in one state or another and charged with food assistance fraud and YouTube is littered with videos of people that have been arrested and prosecuted for illegally using food support money. There are several ways this fraudulent activity happens. The first method is where people with Georgia EBT cards conspire with retailers to trade their funds for cash. They will swipe their entire balance at the store as if they are purchasing approved foods, then the retailer will give them cash instead – but it will be less than the value on the card. This way, the retailer pockets the difference and the cardholder gets cash to buy whatever they want.
Another method by which this kind of fraud happens is where retailers allow people to buy food that is not on the approved list. According to the USDA, these are the approved food items for EBT purchases:
Households CAN use SNAP benefits to buy:
- Foods for the household to eat, such as:
- breads and cereals;
- fruits and vegetables;
- meats, fish and poultry; and
- dairy products.
- Seeds and plants which produce food for the household to eat.
In some areas, restaurants can be authorized to accept SNAP benefits from qualified homeless, elderly, or disabled people in exchange for low-cost meals, especially those on social security benefits.
As you can see, the focus is on nutritious foods. But those who want to buy processed or cooked food are able to get around these limits my conspiring with retailers to get what they want at the expense of the tax payers whose aim for this program is to help households in need by the basic foods they need to be able to live a healthy lifestyle. But usually, some people who get these benefits want to use the money to buy unhealthy food, drugs and alcohol. The federal government is serious about catching these people and as you can see from the videos above, a lot of people are caught and sent to prison for a very long time for committing SNAP benefits fraud. Watch the video and pay attention to what they are being charged with.
This is a video that looks into Medigap Insurance Customer Service and what kind of support you can get from your state’s medicare supplemental benefits plan. Medigap is a plan that people who have Medicare plan A&B are able to buy to cover certain out of pocket costs that they would otherwise have to pay on their own, including co-payments, co-insurance and other payments that come out of the blue that Medicare holders don’t have the money to cover. Medicare is a very complicated program for anyone to grasp. There is plan A&B which are considered the traditional plans then there is the Advantage plan, which has certain benefits that the traditional plans do not have. Those who have plan A&B can get the supplemental coverage also known as Medigap to cover the things that the advantage plan covers that the traditional plans do not.
The video below goes into the question – what is medigap insurance plan – helping you understand how to sign up for a plan in your state since this program is administered at the state level and contact customer service to help you through the process.
As you can see from the, medicare only covers 80% of your medical expenses, leaving you with the other 20% that you have to cover. The supplemental insurance covers 100% of that 20% gap. This helps with a huge financial burden that people 60 and over have when they finally jump onto the government medical benefits program for people in that age category. Each plan with the same name offers holders the same benefits regardless of which carrier is issuing the plan but the cost may vary from carrier to carrier. Hopefully, the video was able to help you understand this program better and be able to make a decision about what plan of coverage is better for you.
AOL is a well recognized brand name in America and also around the world for bringing dial up revolution to the masses and revolutionizing the PC era and paving the way for broadband to replace Dial up and show is the possibilities beyond minutes to just check email to storing large amounts of data online the birth of cloud computing. Whether you are calling with a phone from lifeline program or regular phone, it should not matter.
But when it comes to customer service, this pioneering company in personal computing can be found lacking. AOL still has about 5 million people still using their Dial up service. Trying to get AOL customer service live person is not easy. It’s as if the company considers servicing these 5 million customers a burden. However, any company should be excited that there are 5 million customers out there using their service and they should move mountains to try and keep them happy, especially given they there are better technologies out there that are more inviting.
AOL may have transformed from a dial up company to a content powerhouse that includes the Huffington Post and Techcrunch. However, even their email service that revolutionalized email with the phrase “you’ve got mail” still has millions of account holders even after better services like gmail and yahoo mail came along with bigger space and more sophisticated offering like video calls and integration like Google drive. AOL lifeline phone customer service needs to improve if they are to hold on to their legacy businesses like the Dial up and email services, which is not a bad side business that generates money when there are better options out there.
Are you looking for an apartment to rent in Accra, Ghana? Have you become frustrated with the unavailability of a centralized place to browse through apartment listings? We can provide you a few tips on how to go about looking for an apartment in Ghana. The video below is probably the kind of apartment videos about Ghana you see on Youtube but that is not the reality when it comes to ordinary places to rent.
First, you need to find a realtor to help you in the search. That may sound basic, but finding a realtor in Ghana can be a challenge because the realtor industry is not formalized. You can search the web and it will be hard to find a trustworthy site advertising the services of a realty. And if you find one, reaching the person is not usually easy as it should. That’s because they will usually list their email address as their main contact information but they rarely follow up on emails, which makes you wonder why they provide this information in the first place.
The next tip is to be realistic in your expectations. You are not going to find western style apartments with all the appliances you are used to. There is probably a good chance the apartment will not have a washer or dryer. The kitchen may not have stove either and if it did, it may be a table top gas stove which you will have to get your own propane – LPG gas to run. Lastly, you need to know that you will have to pay a year or two advance rent. That is how is works in Ghana. Because of inflation, property owners collect a year or more in advance rent to protect their investment. That may come as a shock to many western renters but that’s how it works and you have to prepare for it.
The best advice is to give it time and keep trying different realtors until you get in contact with someone that knows the landscape and can give you a good idea of available listings and what amenities you may be able to get on your list. You can find a video like the BBC one above that promises all these luxury apartments in accra, but for the average person looking for a basic western apartment to rent, the pickings can be slip or hard to find.
If you are patient, you can still find an apartment in a good neighborhood that will make your stay in Ghana more pleasant. Just don’t get frustrated at the first obstacle or missing must have.
Food stamps have been on the chopping block since the great recession started. Every time politicians have their back against the wall, they turn to food stamps, otherwise known as SNAP benefits to serve on the chopping block. The cuts have been so bad that even retail giant Walmart is affected and reporting lower sales as a result.
But what is behind all these cuts? The first is that there is this perception that Food Stamps Benefits are only going to people who do not want to work. But the data available shows otherwise. Actually majority of people on food stamps have jobs and work at least part time. The problem is that they don’t make enough to cover even the basic needs like Food, that is why they need the help of the federal government to help them with basic nutritional needs.
As the video above from CNN shows, the cuts have been devastated, including school lunch program that were available for poorer children, who number 22 million. In all, there are 47 million americans who are going to be affected, including 9 million seniors and those on disability benefits. And even though the politicians talk about cutting waste, they are actually impacting real families who need the SNAP Benefits Program the most.
The effects of these changes is that states with a large percentage of their population under food stamps, like Oregon, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Florida and South Carolina are seeing record number of people go hungry, including a large number of households with children.