Things That Matter

These Government Aid Programs Exist For You To Use Because Your Tax Dollars Pay For Them

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There is a multitude of government aid programs that are part of what makes America great. We pay taxes specifically to create government (one that provides equity for all).

Before we dive into the programs, you should know that receiving government aid is far more common than you think. In 2012, more than 1 in 4 Americans benefitted from some kind of government assistance. When you look at the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 analysis of Latinos specifically, you’ll find that about 36 percent of Latinos participate in government aid. Now, here are some programs you might be unaware of but pay taxes to keep them going.

These programs are here for you, paid by you.

CREDIT: @TimGurung / Twitter

While President Trump claims that reliance on welfare “is out of control,” it has actually drastically declined since 1996, and the vast majority of recipients are children. If you’re reading this, we know you’re not a child and that you’re entitled to programs that make life more equitable.

1. American Music Abroad Program

CREDIT: @IndieWire / Twitter

That’s right. Your music group could be eligible to “foster cross-cultural communication with global audiences.” You’ll never know if you don’t find out.

2. Cell Biology and Biophysics Research and Research Training

CREDIT: @CamBiochem / Twitter

If you’re one of those brainy, bioscience people, then The Division of Cell Biology and Biophysics might sponsor you to conduct research to prevent, treat and cure diseases that come about from disturbed or abnormal cellular activity. Serve your country with sicence.

3. The Lifeline Program

CREDIT: @onthehoneyy / Twitter

Lifeline is an income-based program, so if you’re stretched thin, you might be eligible for discounted landline or cell phone services. Take what’s yours. The world is vastly connected through technology and lacking technology is the fastest way to be left behind.

4. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program

CREDIT: @heating_guide / Twitter

There is simply no reason to go cold during cold snaps or sweat your physical energy away during heat waves because of costs. This program issues grants from the Department of Health and Human Services to help heat or cool your home.

5. Unclaimed.org

CREDIT: @BirchwoodInvest / Twitter

Don’t think of this as free money. It’s money that’s literally owed to you, that is turned over to the state when you can’t be found. Moved recently? You might have a forgotten deposit paid to a utility company or uncashed paycheck waiting for you to claim it at unclaimed.org

6. American Council of Young Political Leaders (ACYPL) Leadership Development Programs

CREDIT: @thehill / Twitter

Ok, I’m not saying that ACYPL put Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the map, but you could be the next AOC thanks to ACYPL. Participants are offered leadership training, international relations education, and the connections you need to become an up-and-coming global leader and policy maker.

7. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

CREDIT: @LouisianaDCFS / Twitter

SNAP is the largest federal nutrition assistance program and provides benefits to low-income folks with something that functions as an actual debit card. Whether you’re in the Los Angeles living struggle bus to pay rent, work at an underpaying non-profit or just have found yourself in a pinch, don’t pinch pennies around your health and nutrition. SNAP is here for you.

8. Identity Protection

CREDIT: @hurlinspiel / Twitter

Dwight’s right, which is why the U.S. government created the Identity Protection Program. When your name, Social Security Number is stolen, the IPP will resolve the crime and case for you.

9. The Child Care and Development Fund

CREDIT: @HoneyTWilton / Twitter

Child care is a growing, crippling cost for dual-income households. This fund gives states, territories and tribes money to distribute to low-income families to help pay for the child care of your choice. Just find the Child Care and Development Fund contact for your state.

10. Disaster Legal Services

CREDIT: @LucyWicken / Twitter

DLS offers legal assistance to low-income individuals who have been affected by a presidentially declared major disaster. Boricuas, this is for you.

This legal advice can help with insurance claims for doctor and hospital bills, property loss, home repair, and beef with your landlord.

11. Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program

CREDIT: SUPER BOWL WHATEVER GIF BY AMAZON / GIPHY

At the same time, communities affected by disaster desperately need crisis counseling. Puerto Rico, I see you. The CCP can train you to become a crisis counselor or offer access to one. Just call 1-800-621-FEMA.

12. Education Grants

CREDIT: @insidehighered / Twitter

College grants are goldmines for access to higher education, and an obvious choice for anyone without half a million dollars to drop on an education. Some major grants include:

  • The Pell Grant
  • The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant
  • The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant
  • The Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant

Here’s how to get those grants.

13. Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

CREDIT: @PDHScounseling / Twitter

We all know what FAFSA is, and there is no shame in using the federal student aid program to be able to afford outrageously expensive college tuition. Why let there be shame in any other aid program usage?

14. American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC)

CREDIT: @KTLA / Twitter

The AOTC will help reduce your tax obligations on expenses paid for the first four years of education post-high school. You can get an annual credit of $2,500 and even $1,000 refunded by the IRS if you owe no taxes. 👍

15. Job Accommodation Network (JAN)

CREDIT: @agentyoo / Twitter

You’re done with school and in the workforce, congrats. JAN offers free expert assistance to employees and employers who require workplace accommodations for a disability or health-related issues.

Got terrible endometriosis coupled with debilitating cramps? I feel you, and JAN can tell you what you need to be acknowledged fairly by your employer for sick time.

16. Housing Counseling Assistance Program

CREDIT: @JonathanREdwar1 / Twitter

Most millennials aren’t even financially able to own a home, let alone pay an accountant for their expensive services. the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds housing counseling agencies across the country that will offer up advice on buying, renting, foreclosing, and more…for free.

17. Property Improvement Loan Insurance

CREDIT: @ArgoDevelopment / Twitter

According to our government, “The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) makes it easier for consumers to obtain affordable home improvement loans by insuring loans made by private lenders to improve properties that meet certain requirements. Lending institutions make loans from their own funds to eligible borrowers to finance these improvements.”

18. Health Insurance

CREDIT: @BoostHLTH / Twitter

Last but certainly not least is Obama’s parting gift to Americans: health insurance. Healthcare.gov will guide you on how to find affordable coverage that’s right for you.

You can find out what other benefits you’re eligible for at benefits.gov.

CREDIT: @OaklandResearch / Twitter

There, you can fill out a questionnaire that will generate a list of federal programs that you may be eligible for. I filled it out myself and found out I was eligible for 20+ programs.


READ: DREAMer Gets Hate After Telling The Internet ‘Undocumented Immigrants Pay Taxes Too’

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If Birthright Citizenship Comes To An End, All Americans Can Expect To Pay More If They Have A Child

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If Birthright Citizenship Comes To An End, All Americans Can Expect To Pay More If They Have A Child

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Every time Donald J. Trump brings up the possibility of ending birthright citizenship there is a ripple effect in society. Birthright citizenship is one of the most unique characteristics of the United States legal framework. Birthright citizenship brings hope to millions of migrant families and generates an inclusive society. 

The discussion around birthright citizenship is not new, but it certainly has gained notoriety in the past few weeks. One of the biggest practical consequences of abolishing this right would be the resources and subsequent tax money that would be needed to prove that a baby can be a citizen. 

Of course, people on social media are quick to point out the irony of Trump’s intentions given his own family, past and present.

Credit: agundaokeyo / Instagram

Trump’s ancestors are German migrants who found a home in the United States and even pleaded with the authorities to be able to stay. His wife Melania is an immigrant who was able to bring her parents to the United States. So it is quite ironic that his stance on immigration is so severe and threatens to bring civil liberties to a precarious position. 

So this is how birthright citizenship works…

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From July 9, 1868, if you are born in territory belonging to the United States, you are a citizen, period. Birthright citizenship is established in the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which reads in its Section 1: ” All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside”.

This is pretty clear and there is no room for interpretation, so Trump’s willingness to change this would be a huge deal and an issue of constitutional law. 

Birthright citizenship was first established to protect former slaves: it is what makes the United States an inclusive society.

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Birthright citizenship was a consequence of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which was established to protect recently liberated slaves, guaranteeing their legal protection. Some free men and women were born of parents that were brought to America as slaves, whether from Africa or from slave trade epicenters in the Caribbean.

In many respects, as Martha S. Jones writes in The Atlantic, birthright citizenship is a triumph of diversity.

She writes: “In the U.S., birthright citizenship begins here, in the struggles of the marginalized and the despised to make this nation their own even as so many claimed that when it came to rights, it was a white man’s country”.

Let’s keep it what way, shall we?

In fact, the United States is quite unique among developed countries and that is what makes it special.

Credit: Quartz

Most developed countries including Western European nations, New Zealand and Australia have restrictions on who can become a citizen by birth. These restrictions mean that one of the parents must be either a citizen or a resident of the country. Proving this translates into huge amounts of paperwork, particularly when the parents were brought into a country under difficult circumstances.

In Australia, for example, hundreds of British and Irish children were sent to the country by religious institutions as part of a government initiative to make Australia racially white. Some of these children were not orphaned at all: they were simply taken from their families. For some of these children, proving citizenship once they are grown ups can be a bureaucratic hell.

Ending birthright citizenship would add a huge burden on local, state and federal bureaucratic systems.

report written by Margaret Stock for the National Foundation of American Policy concludes that: “Creating two classes of babies will necessarily be more expensive to administer than the current system. The parents’ status will have to be verified by a government official, who will then determine whether a newborn is a U.S. citizen (or not)”. More prosecutors, immigration lawyers, courts and administrative staff will be needed.

And, let’s face it, this overturn of the Constitution would be enacted under clear racial and racist undertones. She expands: “The parents’ status will have to be verified by a government official, who will then determine whether a newborn is a U.S. citizen (or not). After making the determination, the official will then issue different documents to the two different groups of children, resulting in a two-tier caste system for babies born in America. Distinguishing between the babies in each category will necessarily require more bureaucracy than what exists today”. It all sounds like a Kafkaesque hell to us! 

But there are even worse consequences.

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According to the Margaret Stock report, ending birthright citizenship would really alter what the United States looks like in terms of its moral, ethical and cultural composition. She argues that this change would bring the following consequences, among others.

First, “Creating a two-tier American caste system that will result in a significant decrease in the population of younger U.S. citizens”. 

Damn, and double damn. This sounds like out of Orwell’s 1984 or a bad science-fiction movie. Do Americans want a country of desirables and undesirables?

And second, it would lead to the “Creation of a centralized citizenship authority and National ID card”. Well, this would prove a bunch of conspiracy theorists right, wouldn’t it?

The Drama Continues: Puerto Rico’s Supreme Court Says New Governor’s Oath Was Unconstitutional

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The Drama Continues: Puerto Rico’s Supreme Court Says New Governor’s Oath Was Unconstitutional

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It’s been five days since former Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló resigned following massive protests against scandalous and incriminating chats, and the archipelago still does not have a lawfully recognized successor in La Fortaleza, the governor’s mansion.

Upon stepping down on Friday, August 2, the embattled politico nominated Pedro Pierluisi.

Peirluisi was to fill the secretary of state vacancy left by Luis G. Rivera Marín, who resigned last month for his own part in the leaked messages. As secretary of state, Pierluisi would have been next in line to become governor. However, Puerto Rico’s Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Wednesday that part of the law used by Rosselló to name Pierluisi his successor is unconstitutional.

But the Supreme Court ruled against that part of the law Rosselló used to appoint Pierluisi was unconstitutional.

“The governor’s oath of office was unconstitutional,” Puerto Rico’s Supreme Court said, as reported by NBC News. “Therefore, Hon. Pedro R. Pierluisi Urrutia can’t continue his work as Governor after this Opinion and Sentence becomes effective.”

The decision, which takes effect at 5 p.m. EST, follows a lawsuit filed by Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz on Monday. In the litigation, Rivera Schatz asked the courts to immediately remove Pierluisi from the position because his governorship was unlawful according to Puerto Rico’s constitution. 

While the social codes do say that the island’s secretary of state should be the new governor if the position is vacant, it requires the person nominated to the post to be confirmed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate. However, Pierluisi had only been confirmed as secretary of state by the House when he took his oath as governor on Friday.

“It’s unconstitutional to allow a Secretary of State to become Governor without having been confirmed by both legislative chambers,” the Supreme Court said in a press release.

The Senate postponed its vote for this week, days after Rosselló’s resignation became official, meaning that Pierluisi’s governorship was unofficial and that the Caribbean island hasn’t yet filled the top seat. 

This week, instead of voting on the matter, Rivera Schatz went to the courts to argue that Pierluisi did not “occupy the position of secretary of state in property” because he wasn’t confirmed by both Houses.

In response, Pierluisi contended this wasn’t the only way that the secretary of state could be ratified, citing the law of succession of 2005, which included a recommendation by Puerto Rico’s Department of Justice to waive a secretary of state’s confirmation requirement in case of an emergency.

He is expected to be making a comment later today.

Puerto Ricans are celebrating the ruling.

Since Rosselló nominated Pierluisi as secretary of state, many have taken to the streets for “¡Pierluisi, renuncia!” demonstrations. Opponents have several issues with Pierluisi, a former resident commissioner and an attorney, but predominantly condemn his ties to the unelected fiscal control board, known on the archipelago as “la junta.” 

In the historic protests that removed Rosselló, demonstrators called for both his resignation and the disbanding of the largely-loathed Obama-appointed board that has slashed needed public services on the island. “Ricky renuncia, y llévate a la junta,” went one of the most popular chants of the rallies. Pierluisi has a long history with the board, representing Puerto Rico in Congress when the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act, or PROMESA, was passed, which created la junta; his brother-in-law is the chair of the board; and Pierluisi has been working for the law firm that does consulting for the board — a post he resigned from to take on the role as governor.

But the drama isn’t over yet since the woman next in-line still doesn’t want the island’s top job and Puerto Ricans don’t want her.

According to the Puerto Rican constitution, next in line to fill the governorship seat is Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez, who has said repeatedly that she is not interested in the job. Puerto Rican media are reporting that Vazquez, who has also faced public disapproval for her defense of the leaked chats and her own problematic history as an attorney, will nominate Jenniffer Gonzalez, the U.S. territory’s representative in Congress, as secretary of state, who would then takeover as governor if Vazquez steps down.

When questioned about this scenario, González told local newspaper El Nuevo Día, “that is decided by the bodies and the governor. I will support whomever they choose. That has been my position since day one.”

Even more, Puerto Rico Sen. Zoe Laboy told Central Florida cable news outlet Spectrum News 13 that should Gonzalez be nominated as secretary of state by Vazquez, then she hopes both the House and Senate would have the chance to ratify the nomination.

This would pose an even greater challenge for Puerto Ricans fighting for a just and free future for their island, as Gonzalez is not only a member of the same pro-statehood party of the Rosselló administration but is also a Trump-supporting Republican.

Vázquez is expected to be sworn in as Puerto Rico’s new governor on Wednesday at 5 p.m. EST.

Read: The Governor Of Puerto Rico Was Caught In A Chat Using Grotesque Homophobic And Sexist Language And The Entire Island Is Calling Him To Resign In Massive Protests