Friday, January 29, 2016

Health Insurance Deadline Drawing Close!

Need Health Insurance? Enroll by Jan 31.

If you – or someone you know – needs health insurance, now’s your chance to sign up for quality and affordable coverage.

If you need local help, North Dakotans are here to help with free personal assistance at Get Covered North Dakota and at 800-233-1737.

Here are a few fast facts about getting covered through HealthCare.gov:
·         It's not as expensive as you think. 8 out of 10 people who enroll in a health plan receive financial help. In fact, most people can find a health insurance plan for as little as $75 or less per month. 
·         It doesn't take as long as you think. During last year’s open enrollment, it took most people only about 10 minutes to submit an application.
·         It is the law, the January 31 deadline is your last chance to avoid the penalty on your taxes of $695 or more next year.
·         Free help is available! If you have a question about HealthCare.gov, you can always call 1-800-318-2596 for personal assistance, all day and every day. The call is free. Trained enrollment specialists will provide free, personal help and share other important advice, including how to qualify for financial help, how to start an application, or how to re-enroll.

Don’t miss your chance to get covered and tell your friends why they should, too!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Webinar: The Impact of Predatory Lending on Small Businesses

TOMORROW, Wednesday, January 27, 2016 | 3-4 pm EST

Capital is one of the most critical supports for small businesses—it often determines whether a business can access the resources it needs to grow. Unfortunately, as capital availability from traditional sources has declined since the Great Recession, predatory practices have emerged, making capital available but at great risk to small businesses. To advance responsible practices in the marketplace, a coalition of think tanks, small business advocates, nonprofit and industry lenders and brokers launched the Small Business Borrowers’ Bill of Rights (BBOR), which defines a set of borrower rights and lending practices that can ensure that small businesses receive financing that supports their long-term success.
Please join CFED tomorrow for a webinar to introduce the Assets & Opportunity Network to the BBOR and efforts underway by organizations nationally and locally to lead the effort. The webinar will highlight how predatory lending practices impact small business owners/borrowers, policy solutions including the BBOR and local efforts to end predatory small business lending practices. Whether you represent an advocacy organization, small business service provider, CDFI, lender, broker, investor or think tank, this is your chance to learn more about the impact of predatory lending practices
Speakers will include:
  • Joyce Klein, Director, FIELD, Aspen Institute
  • Mary Fran Riley, Senior Vice President, External Affairs,Accion Chicago
  • Caitlin McShane, Marketing and Communication Director,Opportunity Fund
  • Harold Pettigrew, Director of Entrepreneurship, CFED

Friday, January 22, 2016

From The Hill: Bipartisan idea to lift millions out of poverty

By Deborah Weinstein and Rev. Jennifer Butler
President Obama in his State of the Union address called us to a better politics, and Gov. Nikki Haley (R-S.C.) likewise called for us to resist the temptation to “follow the siren call of the angriest voices.” Such remarks should bring glimmers of hope to voters frustrated by a hyper-partisan Congress that is often unable to pass pragmatic legislation on areas of broad bi-partisan agreement.

One of the clearest and most impactful next steps Congress can take in 2016 is to expand tax credits for low-income workers who don’t have dependent children: a bipartisan idea that would lift millions out of poverty. President Obama described this proposal in his speech as a strategy “we can all support,” and prominent Republicans including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) have favored it.

Last month, Congress recognized the importance of tax credits for low-income workers by ensuring that these credits will not expire for families with children.  That means a minimum wage-earning mother with two children will not lose her $1,725 tax credit.  These credits for families with children are increasing incomes for 16 million people.  They provide a proven work incentive, and the work-plus-tax-credit package is lifting millions out of poverty.
But we do far less for workers without dependent children.  Millions of childless cooks and restaurant workers, home health aides, maintenance and housekeeping workers, retail staff and many more are taxed into poverty, creating disincentives for work and inflicting needless suffering.  When clear, proven pathways out of poverty, widening them is the right thing to do.

Surprisingly, a woman with adult kids who works in a nursing home at a poverty-level wage of $12,566 gets a tax credit estimated at only $172 for 2015. If she manages to increase her hours to full-time at the minimum wage, her tax credit drops to only $23.  The same goes for a young man just out of school in an entry-level job struggling to make ends meet.

Proposals by Obama and Ryan would raise the credit for the poverty-level worker from $172 to $841.  The full-time minimum wage worker would see his or her credit rise from $23 to $542.  While not the complete answer to low-wage work (raising wages would help a lot), this advance would do more to make work pay and to help workers make ends meet.

Expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit as Obama and Ryan have proposed would help young workers just starting out by making the credit available to people as young as 21 (under current law, you can’t be younger than 25).  It will help middle-aged and older workers (raising the maximum age from 64 to 66).  It will help 13.5 million workers, either by making them newly eligible or by increasing their credits.  Ten million poor people would see the severity of their poverty reduced; 500,000 would be lifted out of poverty. Unfortunately, not every job is a ladder out of poverty, but these tax credits provide just that for many working Americans that elected officials claim to represent.

Faith communities have lobbied persuasively for this tax cut on the principle that every great society is measured by how it cares for the least among us. Others have focused on the importance of helping more young people get a foothold in the labor force, or the greater support that noncustodial parents can provide to their children.  These are central values shared by the vast majority of Americans.

It’s amazing what we can do when we come together. Millions of children provided with a brighter future, families and communities strengthened. Such a small yet powerful step forward will also be welcome proof that our leaders can overcome partisan divides to work for all of our people, not just the well-connected.

Weinstein is executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs. Butler is CEO of Faith in Public Life. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

Report: Low-Income Students Face Unfair Roadblocks to Nation's Top Schools

Report: Low-Income Students Face Unfair Roadblocks to Nation's Top Schools

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January 15, 2016 - Brandon Campbell, Public News Service (ND)
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New research suggests low-income students face unfair barriers to access to the nations top colleges. (iStockphoto)
New research suggests low-income students face unfair barriers to access to the nations top colleges. (iStockphoto)
BISMARCK, N.D. - Low-income students make up just three percent of the student body at the country's most selective colleges. That's according to new research published this week by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.

The report, titled True Merit, also shows the nation's wealthiest students make up almost three-quarters of the population at about 100 of the schools which reject most applicants.

Brenda Zastoupil is director of financial aid for the North Dakota University System. She says while they do face obstacles, low-income students in the state have several options to help.

"We go out to the high schools and assist students, especially trying to reach out to the low-income, first-generation students in filling out college applications," she says. "And that's a national effort, of course."

Specifically, Zastoupil points to efforts by the Bank of North Dakota, which has a program dedicated to helping under-served students.

Harold Levy is executive director of the Cooke Foundation. He says his group found that the problem for low-income students is twofold.

"They don't apply because they get poor college advising," says Levy. "And for the students who do apply the actual admissions process is rigged against them."

Levy suggests that college admissions boards should implement a "poverty preference" for high-performing, low-income students to help level the playing field.

Levy points to admissions tests as one example of how these students face far more barriers in the application process than their more affluent peers.

"Kids in poverty are given a fee waiver to take the SAT once," he says. "Kids of middle class and wealth take it repeatedly and submit their best grades. How fair is that?"

This report comes as the U.S. Supreme Court is considering arguments to roll back race-based affirmative action in college admissions.