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How to Reduce Credit Card Debt

 

 

Reducing your credit card debt can increase your financial stability. The less debt you have, the more money you are able to save. By taking control of your credit card debt now, you can ensure a brighter future. Not sure how to reduce your debt? Consider these useful tips:

 

 

Stick to Just One Card

Do you keep cash in several bank accounts? Probably not. Handle your debt the same way. Instead of managing several credit cards, use just one card that has the lowest rates and fees. Leave the others at home. By using a single card you simplify your expense tracking, and you’re less likely to incur unnecessary debt.

Know Your Interest Rate

Credit card interest rates can range from as low as 0% for introductory periods to over 20%. If you’re in debt, you should know how much you’re paying in interest. You can find this information in your monthly bill, or by calling your lender. Interest rates play a huge role in any debt-recovery plan.

For example, if you had a balance of $1,000 and your interest rate was 22%, it would take you 12 years to pay off the balance making minimum payments. Also, you’d pay back more than twice your original debt. However, if your interest rate was 12%, you’d repay that same debt in less than five years, making the same payment.

Pay Regularly and On-Time

They typical late fee for missing a credit card payment is $50. So if you had, say, three credit cards, and you missed making a payment on each just twice a year, you’d pay $300 in fees—and that doesn’t go toward your balance. By paying your bills on time you avoid the late payment fee and maintain clean credit. Look at the various payment methods offered by your lender, and choose an option that helps you pay on time.

Lower Your Interest Rate

Eric Tyson, author of Personal Finance for Dummies, suggests you contact your credit card company and inform them that you wish to discontinue your card because a rival has offered you a lower interest rate. If you have an upstanding payment history, the bank will likely match or beat the competing offer. In a competitive marketplace lenders will generally go the extra mile to keep your business.

Make Extra Payments

By paying more than the minimum monthly payment on your card you effectively reduce the interest you owe to the lending institution. When you reduce your balance, you save money in interest. It stands to reason, then, that whenever you have some extra cash, pay a little extra on your credit card.

Carry Cash

Whenever possible, carry extra cash in your wallet for unexpected expenditures. This will save you from using your credit card all the time.

The key to reducing your credit card debt is understanding how credit cards work. Treat them as a tool and not something for making any old purchase. Being debt-free not only feels good, but also leaves you with extra money, which you can spend elsewhere or save.

National Student Loan Data System

 

 

The National Student Loan Data System is responsible for receiving data from schools, guaranty agencies, the direct loan program, and other Department of Ed programs. The National Student Data System compiles all of the loan information into one central database for student aid. The National Student Loan Data System provides student access that provides them with a centralized and integrated view of Title IV loans and grant that recipients can access. They can use this access to inquire about their IV loans and grant data. All recipients of Title Iv loans can access their record through the National Student Loan Data System.

 

 

Loan information listed on the National Student Loan Data System website is reported from many different sources. Most commonly, the information is reported from the agency that authorized the aid. Information on the NSLDS website is updated daily, new loans are reported within 30 days of receipt of funds. The listed outstanding balance may not reflect current payments and may be up to 120-days old.

For more up to date information, you will need to contact the loan provider. In order to access the website, you must use an FSA ID and Password that you create. Your FSA ID and password are used to access many U.S. Department of Education website, such as: FAFSA, NSLDS, Studentloans.gov, Studentaid.gov, and the TEACH grant website. It is very important that you keep your FSA ID and password secure. The unique combination of the FSA ID and Password make using it extremely safe. The National Student Loan Data System is available to user’s 24/7.

By accessing the National Student Loan Data System, you can obtain access to a vast amount of information regarding student loan data, such as:

  • View your federal loans, grants, and aid over-payments
  • View your current enrollment status or let the National Student Loan Data System know about future enrollment.
  • View the status of your loans that are subject to subsidized usage limits.
  • View and add your personal contact data
  • Complete counseling that is required for your TEACH grant.
  • Authorized a 3 rd party loan servicer to access your information on the National Loan Data System professional web site.

For more information regarding the Federal Student Loan Data program, please see the following resources:

  • The Federal Student Aid information center- 1-800- 730-8913
  • National Student Loan Data System- Access website
  • studentaid@ed.gov
  • Federal Student Aid- Frequently asked questions and information

Veterans Health Administration Compensated Work Therapy Program

 

 

Program Description

The Department of Veteran’s Affairs’ (VA) Compensated Work Therapy Program matches and supports work ready Veterans in competitive jobs. The program also consults with business and industry about their specific employment needs.

 

 

What Does the Compensated Work Therapy Program Do?

The program helps Veterans with disabilities get competitive employment in the community, working in jobs they choose, while receiving the support they need.

Are You Eligible?

Veterans generally must be enrolled to receive VA health care. The VA system then will prioritize your enrollment by priority groupings of 1-8 in the following way:

  • Priority Groups 1-3: Service-connected Veterans who have received a VA disability rating, POWs, awarded Purple Heart Medal or Medal of Honor.
  • Priority Groups 4-8: These groups identify other eligibilities generally based medical conditions, combat status, environmental exposures and income.

Then, eligibility is as follows:

If you served in the active military service and were separated under any condition other than dishonorable, you may qualify for VA health care benefits.

Current and former members of the Reserves or National Guard who were called to active duty by a Federal order and completed the full period for which they were called or ordered to active duty may be eligible for VA health benefits as well.

Combat Veterans who served in a theater of combat operations after November 11, 1998 are eligible to enroll in PG 6 within 5 years from the date of discharge and will receive free health care services and nursing home care for conditions possibly related to their military service.

Veterans who were discharged or released from the active military, naval, or air service after January 1, 2009, and before January 1, 2011, but did not enroll to receive hospital care, medical services, or nursing home care during the five-year period as currently specified by law, will have an additional one-year period from the date of enactment of the Clay Hunt SAV Act (February 12, 2015) to enroll for VA health care.

Veterans who served on active duty at Camp Lejeune for not fewer than 30 days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987 are eligible for care for treatment of certain medical conditions regardless of enrollment status.

For more detailed eligibility requirements, you can go to the VA Health Benefits homepage at http://www.va.gov/healthbenefits/.

How do you Apply?

The easiest way to apply for VA health benefits is by completing and submitting VA Form 10- 10EZ, Application for Health Benefits online. You may also

apply in person at your local VA medical facility, by calling 1-877- 222-VETS (8387) or you may mail the completed form to:

VA Health Eligibility Center

2957 Clairmont Road, Suite 200

Atlanta, Georgia 30329

Filing Bankruptcy

 

 

Deciding whether to file bankruptcy can be extremely stressful, and there are many important things to consider when making such a decision. For many people, bankruptcy can be a solution to a dire financial situation. Whether you’re unable to cover your mortgage, auto loan, or credit card payments, bankruptcy can provide a fresh start if you are over-extended.

 

 

Bankruptcy Attorneys

You are not legally required to have an attorney to file for bankruptcy, but having one will certainly help you navigate the filing process. And a good bankruptcy attorney will handle all paperwork, which can be a huge relief when in a stressful situation. Also, it’s important to understand court requirements. For example, one requirement is that you complete credit counseling. Without certification of this counseling the courts will not accept your filing. Bankruptcy attorneys can put you in touch with the agencies that offer such counseling.

Different Types of Bankruptcy

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the liquidation chapter. All debts must be listed regardless of whether you plan on continuing to make debt payments. Chapter 7 is typically one of the most common filings of bankruptcy.

Chapter 11 bankruptcy is primarily used for businesses that are reorganizing their assets and debts. It’s not commonly used for individual purposes.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy is also called a wage earner’s plan. It enables individuals with regular income to develop a plan to repay all or part of their debts. Under this chapter, debtors propose a repayment plan to make installments to creditors over three to five years.

Bankruptcy and Property

Individuals can exempt 12,000$ worth of property. That amount is doubled to $24,000 for married couples filing jointly. This exemption allows you to keep essentials like furniture and an inexpensive vehicle. Of course, you will keep necessary personal items like clothing and housewares.

Post-Bankruptcy Proceedings

After filing and appearing in court, a judge will make a ruling regarding your bankruptcy. If approved, the bankruptcy process is completed and stated debts are removed and the agreed upon terms are finalized. The bankruptcy will be reported to credit bureaus and remain on your credit for up to 7 years. This may affect your ability to borrow money during that period of time.

There is nothing “bad” about filing bankruptcy. It is a federally enacted service for the purpose of protecting consumers and businesses. If you are considering a bankruptcy, be sure to inform yourself and consider all possible options so you can proceed in an informed and relaxed manner should you elect to file.

Get The Help You Deserve: Top Ten Federal Assistance Programs

 

 

Food Stamps or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (formerly Food Stamps) helps low-income people and families buy the food they need for good health. Benefits are provided on the Illinois Link Card – an electronic card that is accepted at most grocery stores.

 

 

Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (often known by the acronym TANF

TANF stands for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. The TANF program, which is time limited, assists families with children when the parents or other responsible relatives cannot provide for the family’s basic needs. The Federal government provides grants to States to run the TANF program.

 

 

Head Start Program

The Head Start Program is a program of the United States Department of Health and Human Services that provides comprehensive early childhood education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families. The program’s services and resources are designed to foster stable family relationships, enhance children’s physical and emotional well-being, and establish an environment to develop strong cognitive skills. The transition from preschool to elementary school imposes diverse developmental challenges that include requiring the children to engage successfully with their peers outside of the family network, adjust to the space of a classroom, and meet the expectations the school setting provides.

Medicaid

Medicaid in the United States is a social health care program for families and individuals with low income and resources. The Health Insurance Association of America describes Medicaid as a “government insurance program for persons of all ages whose income and resources are insufficient to pay for health care.” (America’s Health Insurance Plans (HIAA), pg. 232). Medicaid is the largest source of funding for medical and health-related services for people with low income in the United States. It is a means-tested program that is jointly funded by the state and federal governments and managed by the states, with each state currently having broad leeway to determine who is eligible for its implementation of the program. States are not required to participate in the program, although all currently do. Medicaid recipients must be U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, and may include low-income adults, their children, and people with certain disabilities. Poverty alone does not necessarily qualify someone for Medicaid.

Supplemental Security Income (often known by the acronym SSI)

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a United States government program that provides stipends to low-income people who are either aged (65 or older), blind, or disabled. Although administered by the Social Security Administration SSI is funded from the U.S. Treasury general funds, not the Social Security trust fund. SSI was created in 1974 to replace federal-state adult assistance programs that served the same purpose. The restructuring of these programs was intended to standardize the eligibility requirements and level of benefits. The new federal program was incorporated into Title XVI (Title 16) of the Social Security Act. Today the program provides benefits to approximately eight million Americans.

Health Benefit Coverage under Child Health Insurance Plan (often known by the acronym CHIP)

CHIP Is Available in Every State. In general, children in families with incomes up to $47,700/year (for a family of four) are likely to be eligible for coverage. In many states, families can have higher incomes and their children can still qualify.

The National School Lunch Program’s Free Lunch Program.

The National School Lunch Program is a federally assisted meal program operating in public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions. It provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day.

Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (often known by the acronym LIHEAP)

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a United States federal social services program first established in 1981 and funded annually through Congressional appropriations.

Federal Public Housing Assistance (often known as Section 8)

“Section 8” is a common name for the Housing Choice Voucher Program, funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Home Forward administers the program throughout Multnomah County. Low-income residents apply through Home Forward to qualify for a rent assistance voucher.

FDPIR Program – Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations

The Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) is a Federal program that provides USDA foods to low-income households, including the elderly, living on Indian reservations, and to Native American families residing in designated areas near reservations and in the State of Oklahoma.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

 

 

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is a federal program that provides cash assistance to struggling American families with dependent children. This cash benefit is often referred to simply as “welfare”.

About TANF

 

 

As stated by the Office of Administration for Children and Families, the purpose of TANF is to:

  • Provide assistance to needy families so that children can be cared for in their own homes.
  • Reduce the dependency of needy parents by promoting job preparation, work and marriage.
  • Prevent and reduce the incidence of out-of-wedlock pregnancies.
  • Encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families.

 

 

Eligibility Requirements

TANF benefits are awarded by states, and, as such, individual states determine who is eligible for TANF benefits and services, so long is they conform to federal guidelines.

In general, states must use TANF funds to help families with children, or, if they do assist single persons, it must be for the purpose of reducing non-marital childbearing.

TANF funds cannot be used to assist most legal immigrants until they have been in the US for at least five years. Additionally, the following work requirements must be met in order to qualify:

  • Recipients must go to work as soon as they are able, and no later than two years after beginning to receive assistance.
  • Single parents are required to do some form of work for at least 30 hours per week. Two-parent families must participate in work activities for 35 or 55 hours a week, depending upon circumstance.
  • Failure to follow work requirements can result in a reduction or termination of benefits to the entire family.
  • As of 2004, states must ensure that 50 percent of all families and 90 percent of two-parent families are participating in work activities.

Apply for TANF

Be prepared with these documents:

  • ID or Driver’s License
  • Proof of Residency Utility Bills
  • Proof of Income
  • Social Security Card(s)

Also, you should be prepared to answer the following questions:

  • Are you applying for your own children? If yes, how many children and what is the birth date of your youngest child?
  • Do you receive SSI or disability Social Security benefits? Are you a 100 percent disabled veteran?
  • Have you received a TANF payment this month?
  • Have you ever received cash assistance in another state?
  • Is there another parent in the household? If yes:
  • Is the other parent working 100 or more hours per month?
  • Is the other parent disabled?
  • Is there a child in the home without both parents?
  • Have you quit a job, reduced hours or been fired in the last 60 days? If yes, what was the reason?
  • How much money do you or your children have in checking, savings, CDs, etc?
  • Are you currently employed? If so what is you total earned income? Do you receive child support, UI or BIA general assistance, or any other income? If so, what are the totals of each.
  • Do you and your children live alone? Do you live in subsidized housing or get help from anyone else with your housing costs?
  • Have you ever been convicted of a felony? Are you running from the law to avoid prosecution? Have you ever been convicted of receiving duplicate public assistance?
  • Are you a citizen of the United States?

To apply for TANF benefits, you will need to contact your local Department of Social Services (DSS) office. You can also call the federal hotline at 202-401-9275.

Apply For Medicaid

 

 

Medicaid is a federally funded program created for low-income families, children, senior citizens, and persons with disabilities. Today, nearly 60 million Americans are covered by Medicaid. If you have medical needs, are 65 or older, or are struggling due to little or no income, you may qualify for Medicaid.

 

 

Eligibility

In 2010 President Barack Obama signed into law the Affordable Care Act, lowering the threshold of eligibility to 133% of FPL (annual income level of $29, 700 or less for a family of four in 2014). This new threshold went into effect on January 1, 2014. Other criteria is considered when applying for Medicaid, too, such as immigration status, current residency, and documentation of US citizenship. Medicaid recipients must be U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.

Benefits

There are numerous benefits with Medicaid, and they can make a big difference if your struggling financially. Some of the benefits include, but are not limited to:

  • Inpatient hospital services
  • Prescription Drugs
  • Clinic services
  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Podiatry services
  • Optometry services
  • Dental Services
  • Dentures
  • Prosthetics
  • Eyeglasses
  • Outpatient hospital services
  • Nursing Facility Services
  • Home health services
  • Physician services
  • Rural health clinic services
  • Federally qualified health center services
  • Laboratory and X-ray services
  • Family planning services
  • Nurse Midwife services
  • Certified Pediatric and Family Nurse Practitioner services
  • Transportation to medical care
  • Prescription Drugs
  • To get the most from Medicaid benefits, apply early and educate yourself.

Apply

Medicaid benefits are awarded through the states, so applications vary by state. Before applying, be sure to have all documents of citizenship handy. Also, you’ll have to have records of your income and expenses. Lastly, any medical records you have will be helpful to have ready. You can apply through the federal site and will be screened on the information you input.

Apply for Medicare

 

 

The Federally administered Medicare Program is a statewide social insurance program that uses about 30 private insurance companies all over the United States. Medicare offers health insurance to people 65-years-old and up who have worked and contributed into the benefits system as well as to younger people with disabilities, end stage renal disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

 

 

Medicare offers 48 % of the health care charges for those who qualify; the remaining 52 % is covered either with supplemental insurance or with another form of out-of- pocket coverage. The out-of- pocket costs may vary according to the amount of health care a Medicare beneficiary may need. The Medicare Program has four parts: Hospital/Hospice insurance (Part A), Medical insurance (Part B), Medicare Advantage plans (Part C), Prescription drug plans (Part D).

Medicare allows the following out-of- pocket uncovered services:

  • long-term care;
  • dental care;
  • hearing and vision care;
  • supplemental insurance.

The Medicare Program requires that you meet the following conditions in order to become eligible:

  • have 65 years of age or older;
  • be a legal resident of the United States for at least 5 years;
  • have a disability (even if you are under 65) and be the beneficiary of a Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI);
  • get continuing dialysis for end stage renal disease;
  • need a kidney transplant.

The Medicare Program allows those who are 65-years-old and up the opportunity to enroll in Medicare Part A to pay a monthly premium if they or their spouse have not paid the qualifying Medicare payroll taxes. Otherwise, they cannot take part in the benefits of Medicare Hospital/Hospice insurance. The Medicare Program allows those who have disabilities and receive SSDI to be eligible for Medicare while they continue to receive SSDI payments. Otherwise, if they stop receiving SSDI, they lose eligibility for Medicare based on disability. All benefits offered through the Medicare Program are subject to medical necessity.

If you feel that you may be eligible, you may contact Medicare on the phone at 1-800- MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) or you may access the Government’s official website. You can also use the Medicare mailing address: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services 7500 Security Blvd, Baltimore, MD 21244-1850. If you want someone else to call on your behalf (at the official number 1-800-MEDICARE) or you want your personal information be given to someone else but you, you have to fill out a Medicare Authorization to Disclose Personal Health Information.

Low-Income Americans Get Free Cell Phone and Service

 

 

If you’re struggling financially, paying for cell phone service can be a real challenge. Yet having a cell phone is almost necessary these days. If you’re looking for a new job, applying for benefits, or just raising a family, you need a phone so people can reach you. Thankfully, the Lifeline program helps low-income Americans by providing them a cell phone and covering some if not all of their cellular service costs.

 

 

If you’re struggling financially, paying for cell phone service can be a real challenge. Yet having a cell phone is almost necessary these days. If you’re looking for a new job, applying for benefits, or just raising a family, you need a phone so people can reach you. Thankfully, the Lifeline program helps low-income Americans by providing them a cell phone and covering some if not all of their cellular service costs.

How It Works

Lifeline Assistance is a benefit program enacted by the federal government that provides low-income households with discounts for monthly phone service. This program was designed to help Americans stay connected to communication networks so they can find jobs, access health care services, and get help in emergency situations. Lifeline is supported by the federal Universal Service Fund.

The Lifeline program covers the cost of a new cellphone and will pay for anywhere from 250 to unlimited minutes. Your service plan will depend on where you get service, as various providers participate in the program. Your free phone will be a current model with full features.

To get your free phone and service, you’ll need to contact one of the several providers throughout the country, such as Safelink Wireless, Assurance Wireless, Access Wireless, or one of several others. To see if you qualify, click below to continue reading.

Eligibility

The Lifeline Assistance program is available in all states, territories, commonwealth and Tribal lands to low-income subscribers. To qualify for a free cell phone and service, your income must either be at or below 135%* of the federal poverty guidelines, or you must already be enrolled and participating in one of the following programs:

Medicaid

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps or SNAP)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8)
  • Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
  • Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)
  • National School Lunch Program’s Free Lunch Program
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
  • Tribally-Administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TTANF)
  • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)
  • Head Start (if income eligibility criteria are met)
  • State assistance programs (if applicable)

Qualifying for free cellular service through the government is easy if you already are enrolled in one of the above programs, because you won’t have to prove your income. However, if you are not already a part of any of these programs but are below the income guidelines, you can still qualify with a littler paperwork.

Dozens of companies participate in the free government cell phone program, or the Lifeline assistance program. And the program has been hugely successful, with an estimated 12-15 million Americans already using a free government cell phone. Thanks to Lifeline Assistance, millions of Americans have regular access to cellular service.

In order to claim your free government cell phone, you need to meet the income requirements. If you think you qualify, here is what to do next:

Getting Free Government Cell Phone is Easy

To claim your free government cell phone, first you will want to identify the eligibility requirements in your state and the companies that offer phones. To check your eligibility, this tool can give you an idea if you qualify.

After you’ve determined whether you are eligible for your free government cell phone, you’ll want to find all the companies offering free cell phones in your state.

Lastly, you will need to re-certify your eligibility for your free cell service each year. Also, the Lifeline Assistance program is good for one phone per household. You will receive annual requests to update your information. Be sure to reply to these requests immediately, as not doing so may stop your benefits of free cellular service.