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Be sure to check back regularly to get our latest news updates.

Spending quality time with those you love is not only good for the soul, it’s a great step toward living an altruistic life. But how do you put the quality in quality time? Check out these ways to make the most of quality time to help you on your journey toward an altruistic lifestyle. 

Harrisburg, Pa. -- The Pa. Department of Human Services (DHS) is reminding those still unable to pay rent, a direct result from the COVID-19 pandemic, that programs are still available for renters and landlords to help.

Acting DHS Secretary Meg Snead addressed the recent ruling from the United States Supreme Court that struck down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s nationwide moratorium on evictions in counties with substantial or higher COVID-19 transmission.

“We are once again in a period of great danger to health and well-being due to rapid spread of the COVID-19 delta variant. The CDC’s eviction moratorium has allowed people to remain housed – a basic need that is essential to keeping people safe as cases continue to rise in Pennsylvania and around the country. Without this moratorium, individuals and families may face imminent eviction as enhanced unemployment benefits lapse, the school year begins, and COVID-19 cases continue to rise," said Snead.

Pennsylvania Capital-Star - In the wake of COVID-19’s economic devastation, and with the eviction moratorium phasing out across Pennsylvania, many Pennsylvanians are wondering if they will be able to keep a roof over their heads after losing incomes during the pandemic, even among those lucky enough to be back to work at full pre-pandemic pay.

One essential tool for preventing eviction is legal representation, which preserves the rights of tenants and helps landlords and tenants come to successful resolutions that avoid displacement and prevent homelessness. It has been shown time and time again that legal aid is key to the health of our economy. It only makes sense for Pennsylvania to use a portion of its federal Fiscal Recovery Funds to pilot a universal access to counsel program.

Legal aid is sorely needed to prevent the incoming tidal wave of evictions. Here is but one example: A young mother in Lawrence County, like hundreds of thousands of others throughout Pennsylvania, fell behind on her rent in 2020. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit, her partner was unable to find stable employment – only odd jobs that provided barely enough to buy food for their children and diapers for their newborn baby. Her federal stimulus check took months to arrive. Her landlord knew that he couldn’t evict her and her family for nonpayment of rent because of the eviction moratorium, so he attempted to evict them for alleged lease violations – a past due water bill (although it was in her name, not the landlord’s) and temporarily denying the landlord access to the house to make a non-emergency repair, so she could protect her immunocompromised newborn from exposure to anyone outside the family.

Equal Justice Works - Equal Justice Works Fellows working in the Elder Justice Program serve older adult victims of crime in response to epidemic levels of elder abuse in the United States. Although cases of elder abuse and exploitation are very common, they are not always easy to spot at an initial client meeting. Public interest attorneys are uniquely positioned to identify abuse against older adults and help them recover, not only through civil legal remedies, but also through targeted referrals.

Here are six ways to combat elder abuse in any practice area.

1. Appreciate the Extent of Elder Abuse in Our Society

The Elder Justice Act of 2009 defines elder abuse as “the knowing infliction of physical or psychological harm or the knowing deprivation of goods or services that are necessary to meet essential needs or to avoid physical or psychological harm of an individual age 60 or older.” At least 10% of people 60 and older experience abuse, and most of these crimes go unreported; studies suggest as few as 1 in 24 cases of elder abuse are ever reported. The trauma of elder abuse can lead to hospitalization, depression, social issues, and financial loss, all of which contribute to diminished independence and quality of life.

York Daily Record - The investigation started on Jan. 10, 2019, after Victoria Beard, an attorney at MidPenn Legal Services in Chambersburg, contacted the York County District Attorney’s Office and reported that she represented a man who’d been the victim of financial exploitation and theft.

York County detectives reviewed bank records and found that Redmond stole more than $37,000.

While normally “back to school” is reserved for children, it turns out that this time of year is important for every age. That’s because you’re never too old to continue learning, and it can help you live up to your true potential in everyday life.

Deseret News - The housing affordability crisis that’s hitting chunks of the United States could have implications far into the future. Experts say while housing instability is pressuring families in this moment, it could change education, health and other trajectories for children in those affected families.

That has implications for the economy and entire communities, possibly for years to come.

Today’s housing crisis is multifaceted, with housing costs rising so high some families are kept out of the market entirely, while those whose incomes were slashed during the pandemic have fallen so far behind that the Census Bureau estimates 7 million households as of late June face eviction when the temporary moratorium on eviction enacted during the pandemic lifts at the end of the month. Expanded unemployment benefits will expire in September in states that didn’t curtail them early.

Peter Hepburn, assistant professor of sociology at Rutgers University-Newark, said the eviction process “almost certainly” has had significant long-term repercussions for kids: less stable housing in worse neighborhoods, worse living conditions, disrupted social networks, etc. “Mobility can be tough on kids, and forced mobility all the more so. But there’s very little data that will allow us to measure the full impacts, so we just barely begin to understand the full set of consequences,” he said by email.

Spotlight PA - HARRISBURG — Unemployed Pennsylvanians and their advocates are bracing for the return of work-search requirements, fearing the overburdened system is not yet equipped to handle another change.

Beginning July 18, people seeking unemployment must attest that they applied for two jobs and completed a “work search activity,” like attending a job fair or posting a resume on a recruiting site, the week prior. The requirement will also apply to those in the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which expanded benefit eligibility to business owners, freelancers, and independent contractors.

For unemployed Pennsylvanians, the requirement could create more hurdles to navigate a system riddled with inefficiencies that has left some without benefits for weeks or months. Advocates fear that some unemployed residents don’t know about impending change, leaving them vulnerable to being denied assistance.

bctv.org - The City of Reading’s Human Relations Commission, along with the Berks County Bar Association, and Reading-Berks Association of REALTORS® have joined forces to bring free educational resources to the community at large. The recent virtual session, entitled “The Do’s & Don’ts Regarding Landlord/Tenant Actions” included information about how to handle a court appearance considering both the landlord and tenant perspectives.

“As a volunteer attorney representing tenants facing eviction, I have come to appreciate that both landlords and tenants do not always know their responsibilities as well as their rights. The Reading-Berks Association of REALTORS® is to be commended for hosting last week’s educational session.” Said Donald F. Smith, Jr., Esquire of MidPenn Legal Services; one of the panelists who volunteered for the first of multiple informational sessions available to the public. Additional speakers for the Landlord/Tenant Do’s and Don’ts session included REALTOR® Angela Tolosky of Weichert, Realtors Neighborhood One, and Scott G. Hoh, Esquire from the Law Offices of Scott G. Hoh. The presentation was moderated by Magisterial District Judge Tonya Butler.

Associated Press - A federal freeze on most evictions enacted last year is scheduled to expire July 31, after the Biden administration extended the date by a month.

The moratorium, put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in September, was the only tool keeping millions of tenants in their homes. Many of them lost jobs during the coronavirus pandemic and had fallen months behind on their rent.

Landlords successfully challenged the order in court, arguing they also had bills to pay. They pointed out that tenants could access more than $45 billion in federal money set aside to help pay rents and related expenses.

Advocates for tenants say the distribution of the money has been slow and that more time is needed to distribute it and repay landlords. Without an extension, they feared a spike in evictions and lawsuits seeking to boot out tenants who are behind on their rents.

As of June 7, roughly 3.2 million people in the U.S. said they face eviction in the next two months, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey.

Here’s the situation in Pennsylvania:

Centre Daily Times - The IRS will begin sending money to the majority of families with children starting July 15. Here’s what you should know.

HOW IS THE 2021 CHILD TAX CREDIT DIFFERENT FROM PREVIOUS YEARS?
Advance payments. Half the credit will be paid in advance as monthly payments on the 15th of every month from July-December 2021, with maximum monthly payments of $250/month for qualifying children ages 6-17 and $300/month for qualifying children under the age of 6.

More $$$. The 2021 Child Tax Credit’s maximum amount is $3,000 per qualifying child for children ages 6-17, and $3,600 per qualifying child for children under the age of 6.

No minimum income requirement. You can have zero income and still claim the CTC.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR THE 2021 CHILD TAX CREDIT?
A parent or guardian must have a Social Security number or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.
No minimum income requirement to claim the 2021 CTC. The credit will begin to phase out at $75,000 annual income for single filers, $112,500 for heads of households, and $150,000 for married filers. Each $1,000 of income above the phase-out level will reduce your CTC by $50.

In order to be a “qualifying child” your child must meet five requirements:

WHYY - Families eligible for the 2021 child tax credits, but who do not need to file taxes, have a new way of enrolling in the federal stimulus program.

The IRS has launched an online portal to sign up for the credits, which will start hitting bank accounts in mid-July.

Advocates had been pushing for a simplified process to make sure people who do not file taxes, for example because they rely on disability payments or earn too little income, can still access the program when eligible.

“What this does is it brings people into the tax system in a less stressful, more streamlined way,” said Kristen Dama, managing attorney with Philadelphia-based Community Legal Services.

bctv.org - Landlord / tenant relationships can start out great, but after years of property issues, rent concerns, and recent eviction moratoriums; things can become uncertain and unclear. The City of Reading’s Human Relations Committee, along with the Berks County Bar Association and Reading-Berks Association of REALTORS® have joined forces to offer a free virtual session open to all. This session, entitled “The Do’s & Don’ts Regarding Landlord/Tenant Actions” will include information about how to handle a court appearance, and discuss all that is available to landlords regarding financial assistance, the mortgage eviction moratorium and other like topics.

Panelists will include REALTOR® Angela Tolosky, Donald F. Smith, Jr., Esquire of MidPenn Legal Services, and Scott G. Hoh, Esquire from the Law Offices of Scott G. Hoh.

All landlords, tenants, investors, and the general public are invited to join this informational session. They ask that you register here: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYkd-qtrzIrHNCvLI3zHPCaK7E8rJkyvm1Q?fbclid=IwAR3-d7yhioVadg4GN7zMnCtZqqf-kTIlG8bTD6go2OxBPAiqUvj0HeZoGwQ

Submit your questions inside the chatbox on the day of. The Landlord/Tenant Do’s & Don’ts Session will be held virtually via zoom on June 23, 2021 beginning at noon. If you have any additional questions please feel free to reach out to the Director of Communications & Professional Development at the REALTOR Association: Mayleene DeFreece via email: MayleeneD@RealEstateInBerks.com

BCTV.org - United Way awarded three additional Impact Grants last week, from the $10 million gift United Way received from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott last year. “The gift from Scott is focused on expanding the work United Way engages in on an ongoing basis. It is an accelerant for funding, beyond annual investments, to support innovative programming to create change, improve lives and strengthen our county following the COVID crisis,” said Tammy White, President of United Way of Berks County. he three Impact Grants include:

Supporting renovations and the operations of Mary’s Shelter’s STRONG program, which provides an 18-month transitional housing program for homeless youth, ages 16-22. Specifically, the $93,900 grant will aid in expanding the staff and the facility, which includes capacity for 20 youth and access to services and supportive adult role models. With over 50% of the youth in the current 10-bedroom youth program requesting or requiring an extension of stay due to the difficulties in securing safe, affordable, appropriate housing or reunification with an extended family member, the trauma-informed care based STRONG program fills a vital need within the community.

A $100,000 grant to the Berks Latino Workforce Development Corporation to help purchase and renovate a facility located at 460 S. 6th Street Reading, which is established as Berks Tec Centro and providing occupational training and career services to increase and improve employment opportunities, neighborhood stabilization and the local economy.

Supporting the Berks County Mediation Prevention Project with a $332,400 grant to mitigate the increase in eviction cases. Prior to the pandemic, Berks County averaged 4,000 new eviction cases each year; research shows the need for help in 2020 was five times greater than the year before. The grant allows MidPenn Legal to assist with the expansion of a 2020 pilot program in Judge Butler’s Magisterial District Justice Court (MDJ) that provided collaboration with landlords, addressed related needs through referrals to other agencies and developed flexible solutions for involved parties.

HARRISBURG — Paul D. Edger, managing attorney of the Carlisle, Chambersburg and Gettysburg offices of MidPenn Legal Services, will become the chair of the Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) Young Lawyers Division (YLD) at the conclusion of the association’s May 21 House of Delegates meeting. He is currently completing his term as YLD chair-elect.

Edger has been involved in the PBA YLD for over a decade. He served for two years as the YLD treasurer, three years as a co-chair of the YLD’s Zone Three, and, on behalf of the YLD, two years in the PBA House of Delegates, which is the association’s policymaking body. Edger has been a juror, attorney advisor and presiding judge in the PBA Statewide High School Mock Trial Competition, which is coordinated by the YLD. He has offered free legal services as part of Wills for Heroes, a program co-sponsored by the YLD that provides free wills and estate planning documents to first responders and military veterans.

During the past year, he has served on the PBA Audit and Finance committees and has been a member of the Government Lawyers Committee. For the past seven years, Edger has been a voting delegate in the PBA House of Delegates. Since 2013, Edger has been a member of the PBA Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee, and, since 2015, Edger has been a member of the PBA Legal Services to the Public Committee.

Also active in his local organized bar, Edger served as the 2014-2016 chair of the Cumberland County Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, and currently serves on the Cumberland County Bar Association Board of Directors.

Edger worked for two years at the Law Office of Peter Russo in Mechanicsburg before joining MidPenn Legal Services as a staff attorney in early 2014. MidPenn is a nonprofit, public-interest law firm dedicated to providing equal access to justice and civil legal services to low-income residents and survivors of domestic violence in 18 counties in central Pennsylvania. In 2015, Edger became the managing attorney of the MidPenn’s Carlisle office, and, in July 2019, he also became the managing attorney of the Chambersburg and Gettysburg offices. He currently oversees all administrative duties associated with MidPenn services provided in Adams, Cumberland, Franklin and Fulton counties.

For nearly four years, Edger has been an adjunct professor at his alma mater, Widener University Commonwealth Law School.

In addition to his J.D. from Widener Law Commonwealth, Edger holds a B.A. in political philosophy and legal studies from Elizabethtown College.

Founded in 1895, the Pennsylvania Bar Association strives to promote justice, professional excellence and respect for the law; improve public understanding of the legal system; facilitate access of legal services; and serve the lawyer members of the state's largest organized bar association.

HARRISBURG (May 12, 2021) — The Pennsylvania Bar Foundation selected lawyers Donald F. Smith, a volunteer attorney at MidPenn Legal Services in Reading, and Diana K. Ingersoll, a staff attorney at MidPenn Legal Services in Altoona, as well as Ingersoll’s employer MidPenn Legal Services for 2021 Louis J. Goffman Awards.

The Goffman Award is named for a late Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) president and recognizes individuals and organizations committed to outstanding pro bono service.

Central Penn Business Journal - Central Penn Business Journal has selected 45 women for its 2021 Women of Influence awards.

The award honors high-achieving women for their career accomplishments. The honorees are selected based on their professional experience, community involvement, leadership and sustained commitment to mentoring.

Circle of Excellence honorees are women of longstanding, notable success in the community who are leading the way for other women.

CPBJ added a new category this year, “Women to Watch,” which honors women leaders 35 or younger who demonstrate outstanding professional accomplishments, community involvement and commitment to positive change.

To be eligible for the awards, candidates must live or work in the central Pennsylvania area, which includes Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry, and York counties.

“The 2021 Women of Influence honorees are extremely accomplished,” said Suzanne Fischer-Huettner, group publisher of Central Penn Business Journal. “They are innovators, creators and mentors who inspire others with service to their professions and to their communities. “They mentor and pave the way for future generations of women leaders. Central Penn Business Journal is pleased to honor them.”

Republican Herald - Ombudsman is a Swedish word which means “citizen representative,” a somewhat ambiguous title for an important role. According to the dictionary, an ombudsman is a person who investigates and attempts to resolve complaints and problems between those receiving a service and those providing it, among other things. We all know someone directly or indirectly who has received long-term care of some sort, such as in a nursing home, personal care home, assisted living facility or adult daycare. A long-term care ombudsman is a trained individual who advocates on behalf of people who receive long-term care services. The state Department of Aging states that the mission of the Ombudsman Program is to “advocate for those who can’t, support those who can and ensure all long-term care consumers live with dignity and respect.” The Ombudsman Program includes volunteers who visit long-term care facilities to keep an eye out for residents’ well-being and concerns.

What does an Ombudsman do?

• Provides information to residents and family about rights, procedures and additional resources within the facility or community.

• Investigates concerns and works to resolve issues that may involve a resident.

• Offers education programs and carries out training for facility staff.

• Assists in the development of resident and family councils.

During the pandemic, this program has been suspended for the well-being of long-term care residents and of volunteers. However, the program is gearing up to resume, and many volunteers are needed. Training is required and is offered free of charge and online.

If you are interested in learning more, call Eileen Barlow at MidPenn Legal Services, 570-622-3931, ext. 3304, or email ebarlow@midpenn.org.

Central Penn Business Journal - Here’s how the eviction process works

Matthew Rich, an attorney with MidPenn Legal Services, recently gave a presentation on the landlord/tenant mediation process along with Jordan Cunningham, an attorney who represents landlords. The presentation included these basics about the eviction process:

1. Eviction Notice/Notice to Quit: It is a 10-day notice for nonpayment of rent and a 15-day notice for other breaches of a lease or the end of the lease term.
2. A complaint is filed with the Magisterial District Judge, MDJ.
3. A hearing is held before the MDJ within seven to 15 days.
4. The tenant has the right to appeal the MDJ’s judgment to the Court of Common Pleas. The tenant has 10 days from the date of the judgment to appeal and stop eviction. The tenant has 30 days from the date of the judgment to appeal only the money portion, but that does not stop the eviction.
5. The landlord does not physically evict the tenant. The eviction is performed by a constable.
6. If there isn’t an appeal, the landlord requests an Order for Possession, OFP, from the MDJ, and that can happen on the 11th day after the judgment is entered.
7. The MDJ issues the OFP, which is served by a constable.
8. The constable schedules an eviction to take place on the 11thday after the date the OFP is served.
9. The MDJ will often say that a tenant has “21 days to be out,” which is the 10-day appeal period, plus the 10-day OFP notice period, with execution on day 21.

Pennsylvania’s Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC) is advising the public to stay vigilant against a recently reported phone scam.

The scam involves calls that “spoof” or mimic the AOPC’s telephone number. During the spoof call, those being targeted are told of alleged unpaid court fines and outstanding fees. Should the fees not be paid, the caller threatens to place the individual on the Pennsylvania sex offender registry.

The AOPC will never place calls or solicit payment by credit card, gift card, or any other means of electronic funds transfer for any reason.

Should you receive a phone call from a number or an individual claiming to be involved with or calling from the AOPC requesting money or payment of fines, fees or court costs, please do not provide any sensitive information or forms of payment of any kind.

Anyone receiving calls of this nature is encouraged to hang up immediately and contact state and/or local police as well as the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, Bureau of Consumer Protection at (800) 441-2555 or scams@attorneygeneral.gov.

During the pandemic, millions of Americans have filed for unemployment benefits due to job loss and reduced work hours. Unfortunately, scammers are taking advantage of the pandemic and fraudulently filing unemployment claims using stolen personal identity information.

If you receive a 1099-G tax form for unemployment benefits that you didn’t apply for or receive, you may be a victim of identity theft.

Federal Trade Commission - COVID-19 has thrown the economy into a tailspin. As people have been laid off, furloughed, or are working fewer hours, bills can pile up. This week, for Financial Literacy Month, we’re looking at ways to manage — and today, it’s all about dealing with debt. Here are some ideas to start regaining your financial footing when you have more month than money.

Gather your bills: Consider creating a budget so you get a picture of where your money comes from — and goes.
Ask for help: If you’re behind on payments, contact the companies and try to work out a new payment plan. Ask for lower payments or delayed due dates, and get changes in writing. Also, check for pandemic assistance programs.
Find out if your state or local government has programs that let you hold off on paying some bills right now.

WITF - Getting evicted can hurt you in a bunch of different ways. You don't have to tell that to 57-year-old Gregory Curry in Dothan, Ala. "I'll be honest with you, I was petrified by this situation," Curry says. "What I've had to go through over this last year."

Curry fell behind on rent after the furniture store where he was a salesman shut down due to COVID-19. His landlord filed an eviction case against him over the summer. Curry had nowhere to go. But there was no federal eviction moratorium in place at the time and the judge ordered him to leave. "They told me I had to be out," Curry says.

Curry's story is a window into what potentially millions more Americans may have to face if they can't catch up on back rent by the end of June — when the latest extension of a moratorium from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expires.

Harrisburg Magazine - For many, consulting a lawyer can be cost prohibitive, yet many people have common concerns without answers. To answer those kinds of questions, Dauphin County Library System, MidPenn Legal Services, and the Dauphin County Bar Association have partnered to present Lawyers in Libraries at 6 p.m. tomorrow (March 25).

It will be presented by Attorney Edward F. Spreha, Jr., a member of the pro bono program on “How To Restore Your Driver’s License” with a Q&A to follow. To register, go to the library’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/DCLS.PA/photos/a.388662564796/10159210933349797/.

Future topics and dates include: Custody Conflicts on April 29, and PA Unemployment Compensation on May 27. Sessions are recorded. Previous topics included eviction, in which listeners learned that an eviction in Pennsylvania can never be expunged from the record for landlords to see.

The series was born out of last summer’s Riverside Chats, a series of outreach programs about Covid-related legal issues, according to Sandy Ballard of the Pennsylvania Bar Association. “When we did that, we realized that local libraries were actually a key tool to facilitate the sharing of information with the public — our community service frontline.”

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The pandemic has had dangerous effects on domestic abuse. Victims were cut off from resources and calls for help dropped significantly. However, many counties do not know the full scale of domestic violence in their communities—and that is a problem. A FOX43 Reveals investigation into domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic and years prior found gaps in data and reporting, making it difficult to determine whether domestic abuse has increased or decreased over the years. Many law enforcement agencies do not keep record of crimes specifically related to domestic violence. Without this data, counties are not able to provide a clear picture of domestic abuse in their communities. Part of the problem, law enforcement officials tell FOX43 Reveals, is that the Pennsylvania Crimes Code does not have statutes that are specific to domestic violence.

NPR - The nation's homeless population grew last year for the fourth year in a row. On a single night in January 2020, there were more than 580,000 individuals who were homeless in the United States, a 2% increase from the year before.

The numbers, released by the Department of Housing and Urban Development Thursday, do not reflect the impact of the pandemic.

"And we know the pandemic has only made the homelessness crisis worse," HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge said in a video message accompanying the report. She called the numbers "devastating" and said the nation has a "moral responsibility to end homelessness."

Among the report's more sobering findings: homelessness among veterans and families did not improve for the first time in many years.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau - If you are one of the millions of people who have received stimulus payments or will soon receive another round of payments (also known as Economic Impact Payments or EIPs), there may be steps you can take to ensure you have the full benefit of those funds by protecting them from bank and credit union setoff if your account is overdrawn.

Background
Economic Impact Payments are meant to help individuals and families reduce the financial burden from the COVID-19 pandemic. You may get an EIP via direct deposit, check, or prepaid debit card. Banks and credit unions may employ a variety of methods to ensure their customers have access to the full value of their EIP funds, even if their accounts are overdrawn due to fees or purchases. Some states have even taken action to prohibit financial institutions from using EIPs to cover overdrawn account balances.

Let’s say you get an email about a charge to your credit card for something you aren’t expecting or don’t want. Your first instinct may be to immediately call the company or respond to the email and to stop the payment. Scammers know that, and are taking advantage of it in a new phishing scheme.

People tell us they’re getting emails that look like they’re from Norton, a company that sells antivirus and anti-malware software. (Tip: the emails are NOT from Norton.) The emails say you’ve been (or are about to be) charged for a Norton product — maybe an auto renewal or new order. If this is a mistake, the email says, you should call immediately. (Tip: don’t.)

In many abusive relationships the abuser controls the household’s money and finances. Although the survivor may have agreed to the filing of the tax return that the COVID relief payment was based upon, the abuser may have later refused to pay over the survivor’s share of the payment or the survivor cannot get the payment from the abuser without risking harm or abuse. In other situations, survivors may not have seen or signed the tax return that the COVID relief payment was based upon, or they were forced to sign the return under threats or duress. IRS procedures outline a path for relief for survivors who believe their COVID relief payments were issued based on a tax return that was fraudulent, forged, or signed by the survivor under duress. Unfortunately, the IRS has not created procedures for allowing a survivor to receive the Recovery Rebate Credit when both spouses agreed to file a married-filing-joint return, but the abusive spouse refused to pay over the survivor’s share of the COVID relief payment. Advocates for survivors of domestic violence have been working on this issue and continue to do so in an effort to find relief for survivors in this situation.

The Philadelphia Inquirer - Pennsylvania will allow utilities to resume normal service shutoffs for nonpaying customers after March 31, ending a coronavirus moratorium that utilities said had contributed to a massive growth of unpaid bills.

Citing the state’s improved economic outlook and the expected influx of aid under the $1.9 trillion federal stimulus package, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission on Thursday voted to allow the resumption of service terminations at the end of the month, though it added some protections for low-income customers.

Applications are now open for Centre County’s new Emergency Rental Assistance Program to provide financial assistance to local residents impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Statecollege.com - As of Monday, county residents can apply for the program through COMPASS, the online tool for Pennsylvania health and human services programs. The Office of Adult Services is in the process of making paper applications and application assistance hubs available throughout Centre County

Centre County has been approved for up to $10.6 million in federal funds allocated through the commonwealth.

HARRISBURG, DAUPHIN COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — The PA State Treasurer Stacy Garrity announced Tuesday that $552.7 million would be given to counties across PA for rental and utility assistance for residents impacted by COVID-19. Households with one or more members who qualified for unemployment, lost income, saw heavy costs or otherwise had some sort of hardship due to COVID-19, are eligible for assistance.

Households within a certain income range are also eligible. The treasury describes it as, “Pennsylvanians with incomes up to 80% of the area median income, for their household.”

Pennlive.com - The Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) on Thursday presented its County Bar Recognition Awards virtually to the Dauphin County Bar Association during the 55th Annual Seminar of the Conference of County Bar Leaders.

Recognized for its virtual pro bono clinics, RiverFront Chats and eviction mediation programs, the Dauphin County Bar Association is one of 20 local bar associations in Pennsylvania honored this year for sponsoring projects that improve the legal profession, justice system or community, according to a press release. The awards are presented annually by the PBA.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - A new report says student homelessness has increased in Pennsylvania in recent years, but evidence exists that the number of students experiencing homelessness in the state remains under-counted.

The report from Research for Action, a Philadelphia-based, nonprofit education research organization, also raised concerns that the COVID-19 pandemic will deepen the problem.

Anna Shaw-Amoah, a policy associate with RFA who authored the report, said state and local officials must act quickly to provide support to students experiencing homelessness.

“There’s already many years of evidence showing that students experiencing homelessness are not being identified and therefore are not receiving the services that would help them to have an equal educational experience to that of their peers,” Ms. Shaw-Amoah said. “Now in the midst of COVID, there is so much evidence showing that there are likely going to be more students and families in temporary housing.”

LANCASTER, Pa. — Pennsylvania had an unusual problem in 2020. It had $150 million in emergency funds for rent relief—and a whole lot of trouble spending it. FOX43 Reveals what happened to all of that money and how some county agencies are now creating their own programs for rental assistance. Boxes of paperwork and applications from the state’s previous rent relief program once flooded offices at the Lancaster County Housing and Redevelopment Authorities. Staff scrambled to get the money into tenants’ hands before a statewide deadline.

This time around, a countywide program will set the parameters for rental assistance in Lancaster County. It is one of 18 counties in Pennsylvania to receive direct federal funding for rent relief, giving them the ability to create their own locally-driven programs.

“We know our community the best. We know the needs in our community. We have the partnerships and relationships to be able to put this money out much more efficiently and effectively,” said County Commissioner Ray D’Agostino.

Lancaster County received $16.2 million dollars from the federal government for rent relief and is expecting more aid from the state. The program is on track to launch online applications March 1, pending guidelines from the U.S. Treasury Department. The program’s start date could be delayed if those guidelines are not released in about a week or two.

The Inspector General for the Social Security Administration (SSA), Gail S. Ennis, is designating Thursday, March 4, 2021 as the second annual National “Slam the Scam” Day, to raise public awareness of government imposter telephone scams, which continue to spread across the United States. This is part of National Consumer Protection Week, February 28 – March 6.

Last year, we received over 718,000 reports of Social Security-related telephone scams—with a total of $44.8 million reported lost. Victims who lost money reported an average loss of $5,800. On National “Slam the Scam” Day, we will work to spread the word far and wide about these scams—and encourage people to warn their friends and family to just Hang Up!

Think you make too little money to file a federal income tax return? Life circumstances changed in the last year? Every year taxpayers fail to claim all of their federal tax credits. Come learn about the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit and other ways to be a smart taxpayer.” This webinar will be conducted by MidPenn Attorney Evangeline Wright. Evangeline Wright is an attorney with MidPenn Legal Services’ Rural Tax Advocacy Project. She provides education and representation in federal tax matters to eligible individuals in central Pennsylvania.  This webinar is free and open to the public.  Registration is required. https://midpenn-org.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_eor5HyxWTsORFXVvI5TITA

York Daily Record - Before her 1-year-old son contracted the novel coronavirus, Brittany Rasnake was already behind on bills.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Rasnake said, she left her factory job to take care of him when his daycare closed. She went on unemployment. Eventually, she said, she was able to pay her rent for October and November.

With doctor’s orders to quarantine, that meant she’d have to miss time from her new job at a feed mill in East Berlin.

“I was basically playing catch-up on everything,” said Rasnake, 26, who also delivers groceries part-time on the side.

But after falling behind again on rent for December, her landlord at York Village Apartments in Penn Township filed for eviction.

LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — The CDC recently extended the federal eviction moratorium through the end of January, protecting tenants struggling to make housing payments due to COVID-19. However, tenants may still face housing challenges, and when the moratorium expires, they may face speedy eviction processes.

Brittany Mellinger, director of the Housing Equality & Equity Institute at Tabor/LHOP, explains that landlords are able to begin the eviction process during the moratorium. “So this means they can be much closer to the point of eviction, rather than having to start at step one” when it expires, she says.

Additionally, while the moratorium is in place, tenants can still be removed from housing for breeches of their lease, termination of their lease when the contract expires, or failing to meet all the criteria of the eviction moratorium.

Joining forces to stop income scams
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December 14, 2020
by Rosario Méndez
Attorney, Division of Consumer and Business Education, FTC
Today, the FTC joined forces with numerous federal, state, and local government partners in Operation Income Illusion, an effort to fight income scams and help people recognize and avoid them. With record unemployment and the ongoing financial impact of the pandemic, many people are looking to make ends meet — and scammers are pitching income scams with false promises of success and financial security.

In a typical pitch, scammers will say that you can make a lot of money, for example, working from home with little time and effort, or starting your own online business. But those promises of big money are all an income illusion. In fact, in the first nine months of 2020 alone, people reported to the FTC that they lost at least $150 million. The total amount of alleged injury for the FTC cases announced today is over $1 billion. Income scams hit people hard.

Harrisburg, PA - Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller today announced that DHS is altering payment schedules for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for the month of December to allow all benefits to be issued without risk of delay in case of a federal government shutdown. SNAP is a federally funded program and the federal government is currently funded through December 11, 2020.

“SNAP is a critical resource for the nearly 1.9 million Pennsylvanians who use it to purchase fresh food and groceries for themselves and their families. Particularly as Pennsylvania and our nation are in the midst of a growing public health crisis, we cannot risk a lapse in benefits that help meet this most basic, essential need,” said Secretary Miller. “Some SNAP recipients may receive their monthly benefit and emergency allotments earlier than usual, but we need Pennsylvanians to know that this is not in error or an additional payment. This is their normal December payment, and there will be no additional payment.”

Law 360 - The coronavirus pandemic and the economic downturn it caused sparked a massive spike in demand for legal aid services from America's most marginalized communities, leaving a field already under-resourced facing even greater strain in 2020.

On Giving Tuesday, every contribution counts, whether monetarily or otherwise. Check out these ways that you can participate in Giving Tuesday 2020 and beyond.

Veterans and imposter scams
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November 23, 2020
by Carol Kando-Pineda
Attorney, FTC, Division of Consumer & Business Education
During the past four years, the FTC logged more than 378,000 reports from veterans — and nearly 161,000 were fraud-related. More than 24,000 of those reported a loss (with total losses of $205 million). Veterans had a median loss of $755, compared to active duty servicemembers who reported a median loss of $500 over the same period.

For both veterans and active duty personnel, imposter scams were among the top five scams causing a loss. Imposters pretend to be someone you trust to try to convince you to send them money. These scammers use all kinds of angles to make their stories sound believable. Here are some tips (and a few videos) that talk about how to spot an imposter scam.

Spotlight PA - Despite a federal eviction ban, whether or not families get kicked out often comes down to where they live, and which judge happens to hear their case. Under an order issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tenants who qualify cannot be evicted if they sign a declaration form and send it to their landlord. But in Pennsylvania, a Spotlight PA investigation found an inconsistent system of justice across the 67 counties, leaving many vulnerable residents without the protections they were promised. All told, despite the federal order, whether or not families get kicked out of their homes often comes down to where they live, and which judge happens to hear their case.

Morning Call - Pennsylvania residents who apply for pandemic unemployment assistance will be asked to work with an outside company to verify their identity as part of an ongoing effort to combat fraud, state officials said Tuesday.

The state Department of Labor & Industry earlier this month announced it contracted with the security firm ID.me to develop a more stringent identity verification process for PUA applicants.

Labor & Industry Secretary Jerry Oleksiak said applicants for PUA will now receive a notification that they must contact ID.me to verify their identities before payments are made. After the verification process is complete, payments may be released.

Pennsylvania officials said they halted payments to new applicants Sept. 21 after flagging a surge in suspected fraudulent applications while they worked to beef up identification checks.

A group of housing rights advocates were distributing info to tenants facing an eviction hearing at Magisterial District Court 12-1-01 in Susquehanna Township on Wednesday.

Pennlive.com - The group, Greater Harrisburg Area Tenants United, was out to ensure that those tenants facing eviction know their rights – and that thanks to federal action they might be able to protect themselves from eviction if they have been struggling to make rent. “We’re here today to help keep tenants in their home this winter,” said Veronica Adams, a member of Greater Harrisburg Area Tenants United. “About 20 evictions are happening here at this court today, and we’re going to try to give them the CDC forms that allows them to stay in their homes until the end of December.”

On Sept. 1, the Center for Disease Control announced a temporary halt nationwide on evictions due to failure by the tenants to pay rent. The moratorium on such evictions was to last through the end of 2020 and was designed to protect those financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic from suddenly finding themselves homeless – and at even higher risk of catching and spreading COVID-19.

FTC - Nobody likes getting debt collection calls. But have you ever gotten one for a debt you already paid — or you know isn’t yours? Or have you been threatened and harassed by a debt collector until you paid up? If so, we want you to know how to protect yourself.

Today, in partnership with federal and state law enforcement partners, the FTC announces Operation Corrupt Collector, a federal-state law enforcement sweep against fake and abusive debt collectors. The operation includes five FTC actions, with two new cases announced today.

PITTSBURGH — The federal government announced a moratorium on evictions nationwide, but there is plenty of confusion over how it applies to Pennsylvania, if it even does at all. Pa.'s eviction moratorium ended Aug. 31, but the CDC announced it would extend a “nationwide” eviction ban through the end of the year. The new federal moratorium requires renters to make under $99,000 per year, have a loss of wages due to the pandemic and exhaust all other resources for assistance.

Social Security Administration - The most effective way to defeat scammers is to know how to identify scams. You should just hang up on any call you’re uncertain of and ignore suspicious emails. Scammers are always finding new ways to steal your money and personal information by exploiting your fears.

One common tactic scammers use is posing as federal agents and other law enforcement. They may claim your Social Security number is linked to a crime. They may even threaten to arrest you if you do not comply with their instructions. Just hang up.

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