If you have been impacted by the recent hurricanes and are looking for more information, or to apply for assistance, please visit www.DisasterAssistance.gov.

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

Welcome to the beginning of a brand new year! With the commencing of 2017, we offer you another Benefits.gov Compass eNewsletter.

Benefits.gov would like to wish you a Happy New Year! With 2017 in full swing, you have an opportunity to start the year off on the right foot by finding new and exciting ways to give back to your community.

Traditionally, the holiday season is the time for giving gifts, and January is the time for dealing with the bills! This year, why not extend the spirit of giving past the holidays and into the New Year?

It’s the start of the New Year, and you may notice an influx of people at the gym, new employees at work, or friends making new budget resolutions for their families. The New Year is often a season of hope and new beginnings.

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed into law that the third Monday in January would be recognized Federally as Martin Luther King Jr. Day, in an effort to commemorate and honor the life of one of America’s greatest figures in the non-violent Civil Rights movement more than half a century ago. Dr. King was born on January 15, 1929, and every year around this time, our nation honors his fight for equality for all Americans.

February is Cancer Prevention Month, and there are many resources provided by both Federal agencies and non-governmental organizations. In this article, you’ll learn about some steps you can take to prevent cancer, as suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A Message from Al Sloane, Benefits...
A Message from Al Sloane, Benefits.gov Program Director

Welcome to the beginning of a brand new year! With the commencing of 2017, we offer you another Benefits.gov Compass eNewsletter. In this January 2017 edition, we are pleased to share relevant benefit resources and updates. The Compass eNewsletter offers information to help you on your path to government benefits, including articles on how to volunteer and serve in your community, donate blood to help save a life, start a business through an SBA.gov loan, celebrate the legacy of MLK Jr., take steps toward cancer prevention, and more.

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.

Make a Difference in 2017
Make a Difference in 2017

Benefits.gov would like to wish you a Happy New Year! With 2017 in full swing, you have an opportunity to start the year off on the right foot by finding new and exciting ways to give back to your community. Check out some of our recommendations below to get into the giving spirit.

Volunteer

Make some time to volunteer in your local community! On the Benefits.gov Volunteer Opportunities category page, you can learn about the volunteer programs managed by the Corporation for National & Community Service, a Federal agency that helps improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering. You can also visit USA.gov’s Volunteer page for a list of resources to help you find Federal organizations with service opportunities. Consider volunteering at a soup kitchen, donating clothes and toys, or participating in a community clean up.

Become a Mentor

January is National Mentoring Month (NMM), which focuses on how individuals and organizations can work together to mentor youth around the nation to make a positive impact in their lives. The NMM Become a Mentor page offers great resources for those interested in becoming a mentor in their state. Benefits.gov also houses information about a few mentoring programs, including the Fortune/U.S State Department Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership. This program specifically connects women between the ages of 25-43 with members of Fortune’s “Most Powerful Women Leaders” for a month-long program. Also, anyone 55 years-of-age or older can participate in the Foster Grandparent Program, where they can serve as role models, mentors and friends to children with exceptional needs.

Share Benefit Information with Friends and Family

Another way to make an impact is to share the information you find here on Benefits.gov and online with your friends, family and community members in need. Our site offers information on over 1,200 government benefits and assistance programs from a partnership of 17 Federal agencies. On our site, you can discover benefits you may be eligible for, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid/Medicare, Unemployment Insurance, and many more. Simply take our pre-screening questionnaire, the Benefit Finder, to receive a list of programs that may be right for you based on your current situation. We also provide a wealth of timely news articles in our Newsroom with helpful tips and benefit-related information.

Take some time at the beginning of the year to set a goal to make a difference in your community, and remember, Benefits.gov is here to help! Subscribe to the Compass eNewsletter, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to learn more and stay connected.

Give the Gift of Life this Season
Give the Gift of Life this Season

Traditionally, the holiday season is the time for giving gifts, and January is the time for dealing with the bills! This year, why not extend the spirit of giving past the holidays and into the New Year? Best of all, you can be a champion for giving without opening your wallets. At your convenience, you can offer a very useful and vital gift that no one will return or exchange, and even better, it costs you nothing but your time. That gift is a blood donation, which can literally be the gift of life.

Winter is a challenging time for blood banks. With the holidays, bad weather, and surges in colds and the flu during this time, the amount of blood donations can be significantly diminished. In 1970, the American Red Cross, which organizes most public blood drives, sought to increase awareness of the need to donate blood in the winter months by designating January as National Blood Donor Month. Their awareness activities remind people that donations are needed all year long, but especially in the winter.

There are two ways to donate -- you can give whole blood, which is the most common kind of collection, or you can donate blood platelets, which are used for some cancer treatments. Donating whole blood takes about 30 minutes, while donating platelets requires more time, but is worth the effort to help someone in dire need. You can donate whole blood about every two months, and make platelet donations even more frequently, if you choose.

To encourage blood donations, many community groups offer incentives, such as free movie tickets or grocery coupons. The best reward, however, is knowing that the blood you shared is doing an incredible amount of good for others, at no cost to you but a little time and a little pinch.

For more information or to schedule an appointment to donate, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit redcrossblood.org.

Starting a Business in the New Year
Starting a Business in the New Year

It’s the start of the New Year, and you may notice an influx of people at the gym, new employees at work, or friends making new budget resolutions for their families. The New Year is often a season of hope and new beginnings. For many, it is a time to refresh old habits and to work toward new goals. This may include reconsidering your career, retiring, or even starting a new business venture.  

According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), approximately 4,000-6,000 businesses are approved for loans with them each month, averaging $24 billion between 2015 and 2016. While entrepreneurship in the 21st century has certainly adapted and changed over time, SBA has been a steady contributor to allow businesses across the country to get started, to expand, and to prosper.

In 2017, the number of entrepreneurs and small business owners is expected to continue growing. Some even expect this number to reach 1 billion entrepreneurs globally by 2020, doubling the current number. Both millennials and baby boomers alike are looking now more than ever to have more options, either financially or with work/life flexibility. Workers today want the ability to control their own financial destinies and have a shot at the American Dream of business ownership through the free enterprise system.

The SBA defines a small business based upon the size within each industry category. Generally, the size-standard for a services or construction firm is based on the average receipts (over three years) of a firm, and the size-standard for a manufacturing firm is based on the number of employees. While SBA determines size on an industry-by-industry basis, the “anchor” standard, more broadly, is $7.5 million in annual receipts and 500 employees.

Once you determine whether your business qualifies as a “small business,” check and see if you are eligible for a small business loan through the standard SBA requirements. To check your eligibility, visit the SBA.gov evaluation criteria page to see what they look for in an ideal business loan request.

You can also use our Benefit Finder on Benefits.gov to find specific small business benefits that will be most helpful to you, as it relates to qualifying for loans, identifying tax breaks, and more.

Remembering the Legacy of MLK
Remembering the Legacy of MLK

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed into law that the third Monday in January would be recognized Federally as Martin Luther King Jr. Day, in an effort to commemorate and honor the life of one of America’s greatest figures in the non-violent Civil Rights movement more than half a century ago. Dr. King was born on January 15, 1929, and every year around this time, our nation honors his fight for equality for all Americans.

Dr. King received the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Congressional Gold Medal for his activism. Unfortunately, his life was tragically cut short when he was assassinated in 1968. However, Dr. King’s efforts led to direct changes within the Federal government. Among these being the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which established the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. His efforts also lead to the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (also known as the Fair Housing Act) which prohibited discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of dwellings based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

Many of the benefits available on Benefits.gov could not even exist today if it were not for Dr. King’s continuing fight for equality. The Department of Labor (DOL) works to ensure individuals are not discriminated against for employment opportunities or in the workplace. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) was created by DOL to enforce non-discrimination and affirmative action obligations for Federal contractors and suppliers to the Federal government. Additionally, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) aims at enforcing the Fair Housing Act through programs like the Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP) Private Enforcement Initiative. The FHIP’s direct goal is to develop, implement, carry out, and coordinate programs or activities designed to enforce the rights granted by the Fair Housing Act or by substantially equivalent state and local fair housing laws. Programs such as these are a direct result of Dr. King and other civil rights activists’ efforts to make the United States a more equal nation.

To learn more about assistance programs and other initiatives for equal opportunities in both employment and housing please visit the Department of Labor and/or the Department of Housing and Urban Development website.

Stop Cancer in its Tracks
Stop Cancer in its Tracks

February is Cancer Prevention Month, and there are many resources provided by both Federal agencies and non-governmental organizations. In this article, you’ll learn about some steps you can take to prevent cancer, as suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). You will also learn about the screening services that are provided by the Medicaid Program and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Prevention Steps

The CDC produces a series of Web Features that include “prevention steps” for many different demographic groups. According to the CDC, these steps, focused on avoiding exposure to carcinogens and more, can reduce the likelihood of being diagnosed with cancer. Some of the most common CDC tips are:

  • Stop tobacco use and avoid secondhand smoke. More men and women in the U.S. die from lung cancer than any other kind of cancer, and cigarette smoking causes most cases.
  • Get recommended screening tests for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer. Screening tests are the best way to find these cancers early, when they are easier to treat.
  • Protect your skin from the sun. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. and can be easily prevented by applying sun screen for both sunny and cloudy weather.
  • Stay active and keep a healthy weight. Adopting a lifestyle that includes healthy eating and regular physical activity can help lower your risk for several kinds of cancer.
  • Get vaccinated for HPV. The HPV vaccine is available for girls and women from 9 to 26 years old. Men can be vaccinated up until they are 21 years old. HPV infection can cause several types of cancer in both men and women.

If you are interested in more specific types of advice based on your age, gender, or on a specific form of cancer, the CDC’s Web Features includes a number of short articles on a range of topics including men, women, children, and even tips for cancer survivors.

If you would like to learn more about cancer and cancer prevention, visit the CDC’s website, Healthfinder.gov, or the National Institute of Health’s Cancer.gov. You can read more about how to apply for healthcare coverage through either Medicaid or CHIP on Benefits.gov, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) through Healthcare.gov.

In This Issue
A Message from Al Sloane, Benefits...
Make a Difference in 2017
Give the Gift of Life this Season
Starting a Business in the New Year
Remembering the Legacy of MLK
Stop Cancer in its Tracks
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