Quarterly eNewsletter About the Benefits.gov Program
July 2017
In This Issue

Heading into the summer, we hope you look forward to spending time outdoors with friends and family. To best prepare you with resources for this season, we present to you another Benefits.gov Compass eNewsletter.

Across the plains and rural towns in the U.S., you will find citizens who live a simple life and find passion in the hard work they put into their agricultural land. Over the years, farmers have come across hard times both with seasonal weather, technological advances, and economic challenges.

Some of the most common questions we receive from citizens are related to disability assistance programs provided by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Benefits.gov is the official benefits website for U.S. citizens looking to find and apply for government benefits.

Summer is here and with it comes sweltering heat! It may be customary to seek relief by turning the air conditioner on for several hours throughout the day, but this practice could lead to a blackout in your city.

The United Nations designated August 12 as International Youth Day to celebrate the future of humanity. This year’s theme is “Youth Building Peace,” a reminder of the responsibility resting on the shoulders of today’s younger generations.

While planning your summer vacations and outdoor activities this season, it is important to keep weather in mind, especially considering that summer is also hurricane season in the U.S. Pacific hurricane season starts May 15 and Atlantic hurricane season starts June 1, and depending on where you live in the country, your chance to experience a hurricane may be low, but it is always smart to have a plan.

For many American children, the summer months allow for freedom from school, less responsibilities, and a few months of relaxation. However, there are many children and parents who will unfortunately have much more on their minds.

A Message from Al Sloane and Myung...
A Message from Al Sloane and Myung Moon, Program Directors

Heading into the summer, we hope you look forward to spending time outdoors with friends and family. To best prepare you with resources for this season, we present to you another Benefits.gov Compass eNewsletter.

In the July 2017 edition of the Benefits.gov Compass, we are pleased to share timely benefit resources on topics ranging from local farmers’ markets, disability benefits, energy-saving tips, way to keep kids healthy over the summer, and more. We offer this information to help you on your path to government benefits.

As always, we welcome your input - click here to share your feedback with us. And, we hope you'll "Like" us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

- Al Sloane & Myung Moon, Benefits.gov Program Directors

Support Local and Fresh
Support Local and Fresh

Across the plains and rural towns in the U.S., you will find citizens who live a simple life and find passion in the hard work they put into their agricultural land. Over the years, farmers have come across hard times with seasonal weather, technological advances, and economic challenges. During the summer, however, farmers have rain, warm temperatures, and an impending harvest to look forward to. It is our local producers who not only provide fresh ingredients to citizens but also economic growth in the local communities.

In fact, America’s farmers provide millions of citizens with the nutrition they need to live a healthy lifestyle. Many citizens, between the spring and fall, enjoy visiting farmers’ markets in their local community or even when they travel someplace new.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides a list of local farmers’ markets called The Farmers' Market Directory. This list specifically mentions markets that feature two or more farm vendors selling agricultural goods directly to customers at a recurring location. USDA has shown to be dedicated to promoting agricultural growth, especially in the regional food systems in order to offer widespread access to healthy food options. These farmers’ market listings include market locations, directions, operating times, product offerings, accepted forms of payment, and more to ensure simplicity for every citizen. The Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) provides coupons for low-income senior citizens that can be exchanged for eligible foods.

Benefits.gov also offers benefit information in support of regional producers and their farms. If eligible, farmers can apply for Crop Insurance or a Farm Storage Facility Loan, which can help with the financial burdens of running a farm. In addition, the Farmer’s Tax Guide is a specific program designed to offer a tax credit to certain farm owners.

Visit the USDA Local Food Directories page to find more information on locally grown product offerings, agricultural grants, and ways to sign-up as a local vendor. Farmers are consistently known as the backbone of America, and we are happy to provide convenient access to the local citizens and producers in need.

Steps to Social Security...
Steps to Social Security Disability Benefits

Some of the most common questions we receive from citizens are related to disability assistance programs provided by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Benefits.gov is the official benefits website for U.S. citizens looking to find and apply for government benefits. Below, you will find information on program eligibility, where to apply, and how to find information about programs for which you’ve already applied.

Determine your Eligibility:

Naturally, the first part of determining eligibility for disability benefits is to familiarize oneself with the “Listing of Impairments” put forth by the SSA. These listings are separate for adults and children (under 18), but both are further broken down into a classification by the type of disability. After selecting a type, you can find the criteria that SSA will use to determine if you are eligible to claim disability. If you feel that you or a family member has met the criteria, but remain unsure of what SSA programs you may be eligible for, we recommend taking the Benefits Eligibility Screening Tool (BEST). This tool can help narrow your search just by answering additional questions about your current situation.

How to Apply:

Before you apply for SSA benefits, we recommend that you read about the application process. There are two ways to submit your application. First, you can apply online; make sure you read through all the suggested steps before starting an application as it will guide you through collecting all the information you will need to enter before you start the application. Second, you can call SSA toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 to schedule a visit to your local SSA office. You can use the SSA Locator to find the nearest SSA office to you. If you choose to submit your application through an SSA office, it may still be helpful to review what information SSA requires from you in an online application as that will help ensure that you bring all the necessary documents and information to your appointment.

After Applying:

Once you have applied for assistance through SSA, you can track the status of your application using a secure my Social Security Account offered by the Social Security Administration.

After you have been accepted, you can set and change your address or set up direct deposit for your benefits. You can also view a full listing of your Social Security statements. A complete list of online services provided by SSA is here. These services can vary based on which programs you are enrolled in.

We hope you found this information helpful to you or a loved one looking to apply for Social Security Disability Benefits.

Energy Tips to Prevent Summer...
Energy Tips to Prevent Summer Blackouts

Summer is here and with it comes sweltering heat! It may be customary to seek relief by turning the air conditioner on for several hours throughout the day, but this practice could lead to a blackout in your city. There are energy assistance benefits available to take advantage of, as well as many ways to cool down - while doing your part to prevent a summer blackout.

If you believe using your air conditioning or other appliances to cool your home may present a financial burden, look into benefits from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) to see if you are eligible. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) assists eligible low-income households with their heating and cooling energy costs, bill payment assistance, energy crisis assistance, weatherization and energy-related home repairs.

An additional benefit that provides energy assistance is the Weather Assistance Program for Low-Income Persons through The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) enables low-income families to reduce their energy bills by making their homes more energy efficient. Funds are used to improve the energy performance of dwellings families in need, using the most advanced technologies and testing procedures available in the housing industry. The DOE provides funding to states, U.S. overseas territories, and Indian tribal governments, which manage the administration of the program.

Lastly, try using some conservation tips from Energy.gov to conserve energy and help prevent a summer blackout:

  1. Set your thermostat at 78°F, a reasonably comfortable and energy-efficient indoor temperature.
  2. Adjust your blinds and close your windows. Lower the blinds in the summer to keep cool air inside and close the windows and doors when that air conditioner is on.
  3. Maintain home heating and cooling equipment. Regularly check the air filter of your air conditioner – a clean air filter improves system efficiency, which should lead to energy savings.
  4. Unplug unused electrical devices when you leave a room. Chargers use energy when left plugged in after your device is fully charged.
  5. Weatherize your home. Apply weather stripping or caulking around doors and windows to help keep cool air from your system inside your home.

By exploring energy assistance resources available on Benefits.gov and utilizing tips to conserve energy, we are confident that you will be able to beat the heat and do your part to prevent a summer blackout.

Unite for Our Youth
Unite for Our Youth

The United Nations designated August 12 as International Youth Day to celebrate the future of humanity. This year’s theme is “Youth Building Peace,” a reminder of the responsibility resting on the shoulders of today’s younger generations. It’s the perfect time to learn about the programs available to give our young people the chance to reach their fullest potential. On Benefits.gov, you can browse specific Federal programs designed to offer assistance to young people to encourage future success.

One of the best-known programs for young adults is Job Corps, the nation’s largest career technical training and education program for low-income young people ages 16 through 24. Job Corps has helped many Americans get their start in rewarding careers over the years. Young people with a specific goal in mind, such as training to be a nurse or funding a college education, should consider browsing the Education/Training category on Benefits.gov. Here, they can find a list of scholarship, development, and loan programs available to qualified candidates.

For young Americans who are just looking for support to engage with the world around them, there are some very creative opportunities for them to find some international education programs. For example, the Youth Ambassador program is an international exchange program that opens new horizons for young people. The Sports Diplomacy program uses the universal language of sports to bring together the youth of the world.

Lastly, the Street Outreach Program (SOP) aims to assist at-risk young people living on the streets or support programs for children living in Foster Care. Don’t wait to find out how to make a difference in the lives of these often-neglected members of our communities. Benefits.gov is a good starting point to find the information you need.

There are many other programs designed to give our young people the opportunity to make our world a better place for all of us to share. This year, use the resources available through Benefits.gov to give the youth of our country the tools they need to build peace for the future. You’ll be glad you did.

Have a Plan—Prepare Ahead for...
Have a Plan—Prepare Ahead for Hurricane Season

While planning your summer vacations and outdoor activities this season, it is important to keep weather in mind, especially considering that summer is also hurricane season in the U.S. Pacific hurricane season starts May 15 and Atlantic hurricane season starts June 1, and depending on where you live in the country, your chance to experience a hurricane may be low, but it is always smart to have a plan. Benefits.gov provides resources that all citizens can use to better prepare for dangerous and unexpected weather.  

According to Ready.gov, some quick and easy steps to consider before hurricane season are:

  • Know your evacuation routes
  • Have proper tools, supplies, and a first aid kit
  • Have non-perishable food stocked in your home. Make sure it’s enough for every member of your family
  • Make sure your home meets the standard building requirements to withstand a hurricane

In the unfortunate event that you have experienced a hurricane or other natural disaster, Benefits.gov has information on benefits you may be eligible. If your business is affected or damaged by a hurricane, you may be eligible for Business Physical Disaster Loans to help with the cost of repairs. For more information on benefits available to those affected by a hurricane or presidentially declared disaster, visit DisasterAssistance.gov.

If you have been displaced by a natural disaster, you may be eligible for housing assistance through the FEMA Housing Portal. Also, the Casualties, Disaster, and Theft Program provides tax relief for casualty losses that result from the destruction of, or damage to your property from any sudden, unexpected, or unusual event such as a flood, hurricane, tornado, fire, earthquake or even volcanic eruption. 

As always, we invite you to take the Benefit Finder to determine your eligibility for over 1,200 government benefits. We hope you enjoy your summertime season, while also staying vigilant and proactive during hurricane season.

Feeding Children in Need this...
Feeding Children in Need this Summer

For many American children, the summer months allow for freedom from school, less responsibilities, and a few months of relaxation. However, there are many children and parents who will unfortunately have much more on their minds. According to the Child Nutrition Tables on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service website, there are over 22 million children who rely on the National School Lunch & Breakfast program. However, despite the number of children on school lunches, only about 4 million children are enrolled in the National Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). While school is out of session, the children who rely on the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs for their daily meals are likely missing out on the nutrition they need.

Resources such as the No Kid Hungry initiative are working to help the USDA expand the SFSP enrollment. For the first time in history, over half of the public-school students in the United States are from low-income families, and it is estimated that these families spend $300 more on groceries when school is out for the summer. Applying for the SFSP is easy, but the locations where students can receive the food can be difficult to get to in the summer months, which is why the USDA is working with lawmakers to make it easier. In 2016, 44 percent of the participants of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) were children and therefore eligible to receive SFSP benefits. To apply or find out more about other eligibility requirements, please visit the SFSP homepage.

Benefits.gov provides information for low-income families to get the assistance they need to ensure no child is left hungry. Those who are eligible may also be able to apply for USDA sponsored food assistance programs for the start of the school year, and it is smart to get educated and begin preparing early. A few of these school-year programs to consider include the Special Milk Program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), and The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). Each of these programs help to supplement the diets and provide resources for children and families in need.

To find more food or nutrition assistance programs please visit Benefits.gov and view the Food/Nutrition category or view the list of benefits offered by the USDA. For benefits specific to your state, please view the Browse by State page.

In This Issue
A Message from Al Sloane and Myung...
Support Local and Fresh
Steps to Social Security...
Energy Tips to Prevent Summer...
Unite for Our Youth
Have a Plan—Prepare Ahead for...
Feeding Children in Need this...
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