Things That Matter

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

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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)

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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

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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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The Trump Administration Is Proposing Raising Application Costs For DACA Recipients And Charging For Asylum Applications

Things That Matter

The Trump Administration Is Proposing Raising Application Costs For DACA Recipients And Charging For Asylum Applications

U.S. National Archives / Flickr

There is tough news out of Washington this week that could make chasing the American Dream cost a lot more. According to a report published on Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security is proposing raising a range of fees for those seeking legal immigration and citizenship, as well as an increase in Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) renewal fees. There would also a proposed charge for asylum applications, which would charge $50 for applications and $490 for work permits. As of now, only Fiji, Australia and Iran currently do this for asylum applications. 

The price hikes would make the cost of citizenship applications go up by 83 percent, from $640 to $1,170. This would primarily affect roughly 9 million immigrants that are eligible to become U.S. citizens. DACA fees would also see a substantial rise as they would increase from $495 to $765. News of this fee hike comes in the same week that the Supreme Court heard arguments on the validity of President Trump’s justification to terminate DACA.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, the “current fees do not recover the full costs of providing adjudication and naturalization services.” The last time this such fee schedule was adjusted was at the end of 2016.

Credit: The Washington Post

The reasoning for the proposed price hikes and new fees is to help cover new expenses at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of USCIS, said that this will help the agency cover new costs in the last few years due to an increase in citizenship applications. 

“USCIS is required to examine incoming and outgoing expenditures, just like a business, and make adjustments based on that analysis. This proposed adjustment in fees would ensure more applicants cover the true cost of their applications and minimize subsidies from an already over-extended system,” Cuccinelli said in a press release. “Furthermore, the adjudication of immigration applications and petitions requires in-depth screening, incurring costs that must be covered by the agency, and this proposal accounts for our operational needs and better aligns our fee schedule with the costs of processing each request.”    

As of now, the agency will have a period of 30 days to receive public opinion, as established by law. The plan then is expected to go into effect Dec. 2, while the comment period will remain open until Dec. 16. 

Credit: @nytimes / Twitter

After the comment period ends next month, USCIS is then obligated by law to consider comments on the proposal before any of the new fees can put forward. This time period is key for millions of immigrants that are eligible to naturalize and become U.S. citizens before such fees rise. Immigration advocacy groups are calling forward to those groups as they may have only a few weeks before these price hikes go into effect. 

“If you were lacking motivation before, it’s now even more important because this outrageous rule aims to price out low-income and working-class immigrants from U.S. citizenship and so many other immigration benefits,” Diego Iñiguez-López, NPNA’s policy and campaigns manager, said in a statement to NBC News. 

These proposed price hikes come at a time when the overall percentage of lawful immigrants living in the country that are willfully applying for and gaining citizenship has reached its highest level in more than 20 years. That can’t be said for Mexican Americans who fall behind other groups when it comes to naturalization rates. This is also despite being the biggest group of lawful immigrants in terms of country of origin. 

“This is one more way under the administration that they are making legal immigration unattainable,” Ur Jaddou, former chief counsel at USCIS under the Obama administration, told Buzzfeed News.

Advocacy groups call the price hikes an attempt to further hurt those with already limited resources.  

Credit: @ken_crichlow / Twitter

Boundless, an immigration services firm, called the proposed price hike another blow to immigrants trying to come into the U.S. The firm says that increased fees target the poor and those in vulnerable positions by pricing them out of citizenship.

“Once again, this administration is attempting to use every tool at its disposal to restrict legal immigration and even U.S. citizenship,” said Doug Rand, the group’s co-founder, told the Washington Post .“It’s an unprecedented weaponization of government fees.”

READ: Mexico Has Made It Illegal To Buy And Sell Moss: What Will Your Tías Use For Their Nacimientos Now?

After Years Of Fighting It, Trump Has Been Told By Judges That He Has To Turn Over His Tax Returns

Things That Matter

After Years Of Fighting It, Trump Has Been Told By Judges That He Has To Turn Over His Tax Returns

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

President Donald Trump has been saying for years that he would release his tax returns, but he just kept putting it off. When he first began his presidential campaign, GOP and Democratic candidates insisted he release his tax information in a bid to be completely transparent. Trump always maintained that he was under an audit and would release them when the audit was complete. Well, the audit turned out to be one big lie, and when all was said and done, Trump still didn’t release his tax returns. In August, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office finally said enough is enough and sued to get Trump’s tax returns in order to see his financial dealings in particular concerning Stormy Daniels. You may recall the adult film star said she was paid to be quiet about her affair with Trump, and his former lawyer Michael Cohen confirmed it was true after his arrest. Trump, however, said it was all hoax, but the law is still the law, and we’re a little close to seeing Trump’s tax receipts. 

Today, a three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit Court Appeals all ruled that Trump’s tax return isn’t protected just because he is the president and can still be investigated. So his lawyers have to turn over his taxes to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.

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After reviewing historical and legal precedent, we conclude only that presidential immunity does not bar the enforcement of a state grand jury subpoena directing a third party to produce non-privileged material, even when the subject matter under investigation pertains to the President,” Second Circuit Chief Judge Robert Katzmann wrote, in an opinion joined by Judges Denny Chin and Christopher Droney, POLITICO reports. 

Jay Sekulow, Trump’s lawyer, will reportedly appeal this decision, which means it will now go to the Supreme Court. And you may recall, Trump has more friends at the highest court.

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“The decision of the Second Circuit will be taken to the Supreme Court,” Sekulow said, according to NBC News. “The issue raised in this case goes to the heart of our Republic. The constitutional issues are significant.”

There are nine judges on the Supreme Court. After Trump’s appointee, Brett Kavanaugh was allowed to join the Supreme Court last year after he publicly testified that he did not partake in any sexual assaults in college. Now Trump has more conservative-leaning judges which could work in his favor when this tax case makes it to their courtroom. 

The matter at hand is that Cyrus Vance, head of the Manhattan D.A., wants to investigate whether Trump committed illegal acts when he allegedly paid off two women using campaign money. 

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If Trump is in the clear and did not use campaign money to keep two women quiet about an alleged affair, why is he trying to keep his financial records from being investigated? According to his lawyers, it’s not about that at all, it’s about protecting the president and future president’s from being indicted

The judges ruled that Trump’s taxes were fair game because the Manhattan D.A. wasn’t calling to subpoena the president, but rather his accounting firm.

Credit: @independent / Twitter

“This appeal does not require us to consider whether the president is immune from indictment and prosecution while in office, nor to consider whether the president may lawfully be ordered to produce documents for use in a state criminal proceeding,” the judges said in their ruling opinion. 

One of the many reasons why Trump is trying to keep his financial records secret is not because they may be incriminating but rather because they could show the fraudulent financial dealings of his father, their loss of billions, and perhaps their withholding of taxes. 

Earlier this year, the New York Times released stories that exposed Trump’s father, Fred Trump, paid “remarkably little in taxes to the Treasury Department,” back in the ’80s. The stories also showed how they became so-called giants in real estate. As Vox explained, “[The stories} also indicate some potentially illegal activity as Fred Trump sought to pass wealth tax-free to Donald and his siblings. The statute of limitations has passed, however, and Trump’s sister, a federal judge, abruptly retired in February, ensuring there would be no judicial ethics investigation either.”

Trump has yet to comment on the latest ruling concerning his taxes.

READ: President Trump Would Rather Sue California Than Release His Tax Returns