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Poetry is a cultural art form that combines both the beauty of literature and an artistic sense of musicality. Here are a few ways to get involved this National Poetry Month.

Lancaster Online - Christian Carlisle is among those who suddenly found themselves out of work in March as businesses were forced to shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since he lost his job at Brubaker Kitchens on Manheim Pike, the 29-year-old Lancaster city resident has applied for unemployment as he tries to find odd jobs to support his family, which includes his girlfriend, Amber, and their 2-month old baby Juliette.

Carlisle has been trying not to get too worried about the situation, but today is the first day of a new month, which means he owes $895 in rent that he knows he can’t afford.

New York Times - Its components include stimulus payments to individuals, expanded unemployment coverage, student loan changes, different retirement account rules and more. - It’s hard to quantify just how many more people are using the region’s food pantries as a result of the coronavirus, but anecdotally, Amy Hill is hearing the need has tripled when compared to this week last year.

“Some of our agencies have reported three times the number of clients they’re used to serving,” said Hill, who is the director of community engagement for the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank. “We are seeing increased demand.”

Pennsylvania sought and received approval from the Federal government to allow schools to distribute meals at no cost while closed due to COVID-19. Districts/schools that acted on this Federal approval applied and received approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Select a county on the map to access information on schools and districts distributing meals at no cost to children under age 18.

This map is updated daily and is not exhaustive. Contact your school or district for more information and to confirm the availability of food.

When bad things happen, how do we act individually, and how can we come together as a society? How can we be kind in times of darkness?

Given the statewide mitigation efforts in Pennsylvania to prevent spread and exposure to COVID-19, the PA Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Food Assistance offers the following guidance regarding how to access emergency food assistance if you are experiencing food insecurity for any reason related to COVID-19.

Harrisburg, PA - The Department of Human Services (DHS) is closing all county assistance offices (CAOs) statewide to the public beginning Tuesday, March 17 in coordination with Governor Wolf’s mitigation guidance regarding COVID-19. In-person business will resume no sooner than Wednesday, April 1. Pennsylvanians are encouraged to use DHS’ online applications and resources to apply for benefits or submit paperwork as necessary.

“Public assistance programs can be vital during a public health crisis, and our resources are still available to ensure eligible Pennsylvanians are connected to the programs they need,” said DHS Secretary Teresa Miller. “Clients should take advantage of online resources like COMPASS and the myCOMPASS PA mobile app as Pennsylvania seeks to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 throughout the commonwealth.”

Social Security Administration Press Release - All local Social Security offices will be closed to the public for in-person service starting Tuesday, March 17, 2020. This decision protects the population we serve—older Americans and people with underlying medical conditions—and our employees during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. However, we are still able to provide critical services. Our secure and convenient online services remain available at Local offices will also continue to provide critical services over the phone. We are working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state and local governments, and other experts to monitor COVID-19 and will let you know as soon as we can resume in-person service.

Altoona Mirror - Statistics compiled by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court show that in the nine years ending in 2018, Blair County had more protection-from-abuse cases filed per capita than the state overall or any of the surrounding counties, and that in the five years ending in 2018, Blair’s filings exceeded those of all but one of the state’s half-dozen fifth-class counties.

Morning Call - A run-of-the-mill family court case in Schuylkill County Court has attracted the attention of state and national civil rights activists after a father was found in contempt of court and jailed for not paying court-imposed fees.

Social Security phone scams are the number one type of fraud reported to the Federal Trade Commission. Callers claim that you have a problem with your Social Security number or benefits and demand immediate payment from you to avoid arrest or other legal action.

Harrisburg, PA - Matthew S. Rich, Esq., staff attorney and housing expert at MidPenn Legal Services is a recipient of 2020 Plan Excellence Award. The Excellence Awards recognizes legal aid attorneys, paralegals, support staff and friends of civil legal aid who advise and represent clients served by the civil legal programs that comprise the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network. The 2020 Excellence Award recipients will be honored at the Award Dinner on Tuesday, March 31, 2020, at the Hilton Harrisburg Hotel in Harrisburg, PA.

On one day every year, Centre County officials canvas the community to connect the area’s most vulnerable population with resources, creating what Director of Adult Services Faith Ryan calls “the census of homelessness.”

Centre Daily Times - Staff from the county’s Office of Adult Services and housing nonprofits counted 128 unsheltered or homeless individuals on the streets and in shelters. The data comes from the 2020 Point-in-Time count, a requirement from the federal office of Housing and Urban Development for all Continuum of Care programs nationwide with goals of ending homelessness. This year, the count occurred on Jan. 23, with volunteers asking where people slept the night before.

Centre Daily Times - For many of us January marks a time of reflection, a time when we turn the excesses of the holiday season to more sober things, including the necessity of filing a federal income tax return. That's right, income tax filing season is upon us.

CBS News - More than 1.5 million U.S. public school students experienced homelessness during the 2017-2018 school year, according to a National Center for Homeless Education report released in January. The number is the highest recorded in over ten years and represents a population larger than the estimated total population of Dallas.

The number of students experiencing homelessness spiked by 15% between 2015 and 2018, the three most recent school years covered in the report. In the 2015-2016 school year, 1,307,656 students were reported as homeless, compared to the 1,508,265 students in 2017-2018 year, according to the report.

IR-2020-22, January 28, 2020 - WASHINGTON − The Internal Revenue Service and its partners nationwide remind taxpayers about the Earned Income Tax Credit on January 31, "EITC Awareness Day." This is the 14th year of the EITC awareness campaign that alerts millions of workers to this significant tax credit.

"The EITC is a vital tax credit that helps millions of hard-working working families around the nation," said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. "It's critical that people review the credit to see if they qualify. Increasing awareness about the EITC is important, and the IRS is proud to support the ongoing efforts by partner groups across the country for sharing this critical information with taxpayers."

The Legal Intelligencer - Attorney Patrick M. Cicero joined the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network as its new executive director as part of the organization’s planned leadership transition.

Cicero will succeed the current executive director, Sam Milkes, who held the position since 2001 and is set to step down March 31.

Prior to joining PLAN as the organization’s seventh executive director, Cicero served as the executive director of the Pennsylvania Utility Law Project, a statewide legal aid program that is part of the PLAN network of civil legal aid programs.

Before that, he has clerked for U.S. District Judge Sylvia Rambo of Middle District of Pennsylvania, and he was a staff attorney with MidPenn Legal Services, the 18-county civil legal aid organizations serving residents of the central Pennsylvania.

Refinery29 - Domestic violence is an issue that is too often swept under the rug. When it is brought to light, the conversation often centers around physical violence, even though domestic abuse can manifest in many different forms.

"If you were to ask most people to visualize what a [domestic abuse] survivor looks like, they'll start talking about broken bones, black eyes, cuts, and bruises," says Kelly Coyne, vice president of domestic shelters for Safe Horizon. "And while that's definitely a reality of domestic violence, I'd say, more often than not, abusive relationships really start with power and control issues." And sadly, this type of abuse can be hard to spot, and even harder to get people to pay attention to.

Nearly all of your financial and medical records are connected to your Social Security number, which is why data thieves are constantly trying to nab it for use in fraud schemes or for selling it illicitly.

Robocall scammers use spoofing to deliberately falsify the caller ID that appears on your phone, disguising their identities in attempts to steal your Social Security number and other valuable personal information.

Often the scammers spoof a Social Security Administration phone number so you'll think it's the agency calling. The SSA recently posted a warning about this scam on its blog.

Kiplinger - Many scams are universal, from the IRS imposter who calls and threatens to arrest you if you don’t pay your taxes, to phishing emails that trick you into sending sensitive data or downloading malware onto your computer. But some types of fraud target older adults specifically or affect them disproportionately. Older adults may fall for certain scams because they are in the habit of answering calls from unknown callers, open junk mail rather than tossing it in the trash, or are not as practiced with the privacy settings on social media as younger generations.

LA Times - It’s the most wonderful time of the year. But for consumers, it’s also the most dangerous. From gift card rackets to online fraud, consumers are under near-constant assault amid what some analysts are calling the country’s first trillion-dollar holiday season. The Department of Homeland Security has urged shoppers “to be aware of potential holiday scams and malicious cyber-campaigns, particularly when browsing or shopping online.”

PEW - About 1 in 3 U.S. households faced housing, family, or debt issues that could result in an interaction with the civil legal system in 2018, according to a survey commissioned by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

The pervasive nature of such civil legal issues suggests that Americans would benefit from having more options for handling these cases and a broader range of assistance programs that extend beyond what private or legal aid attorneys can effectively provide.

With a little out-of-the-box thinking, you can give back in ways that meet the unique needs of your community and are fulfilling to everyone you encounter.

Dealing with debt collection issues can be challenging—especially when you’re not sure if the person you’re being contacted by is a legitimate debt collector or someone trying to scam you.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has released this new video which offers information on your rights relating to debt collectors and how to avoid scammers. - Veteran homelessness in Pennsylvania dropped by nearly 13% in 2019, according to the annual Homeless Assessment Report by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Those numbers mirror the national trend, which HUD officials say continues to decline.

Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program Kicks Off For 2019-2020 Season - Pennsylvania Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller this week announced the start of the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) application process for the 2019-2020 season.

Harrisburg, PA - Jay Alberstadt, Esq., the President of the Board of Directors of Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network (“PLAN”) is pleased to announce the appointment of Patrick Cicero, Esq., as PLAN’s new Executive Director, effective January 15, 2020. Patrick will succeed the current Executive Director, Sam Milkes, who has held that positon since 2001. - Anyone who has watched “Law & Order” or any police drama knows that someone accused of a crime is guaranteed representation by a lawyer, regardless of the ability to pay. That’s not true in civil cases. In certain cases, such as child custody issues or landlord-tenant disputes, the guidance of a lawyer is sorely needed. Nonetheless, legal help is available to those who need assistance. And too many people don’t realize it, attorneys say.

Patriot News - As advocates who interact with low-income individuals and families on a daily basis, legal services attorneys are uniquely positioned to tell the story of how poor, working families struggle everyday against seemingly insurmountable odds.

The Sentinel - To celebrate its anniversary of providing “Advocacy, Justice and Hope in Central Pennsylvania,” MidPenn will host a cocktail reception and silent auction at the Hershey Lodge in Hershey from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday.

Pennsylvania Capital Star - In the Capitol rotunda Monday, it took nearly seven minutes for lawmakers, officials, and advocates to read the names of the 123 Pennsylvanians who were killed in domestic violence incidents last year.

The event, organized by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, marked October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

West Reading, PA. – Reading Hospital and MidPenn Legal Services have joined forces to improve patients’ health in a way that reaches beyond the clinical setting into another important arena: legal services.

Be Well Berks, an initiative of the Community Wellness Department of Reading Hospital, has partnered with MidPenn Legal Services to create the Be Well Berks Medical Legal Partnership (MLP) program. Funded by the Be Well Berks Grant Program, the MLP provides free civil-legal advice and representation to low-income patients facing health-harming legal needs.

MSUToday - Women leaving abusive relationships suffer from more than the physical injuries and emotional shockwaves caused by their former partners. New research from Michigan State University uncovers the troubling financial situation women face due to “coerced debt” their partners place in their names, jeopardizing their chances of starting over and building a life of their own.

Daily Item - All across Pennsylvania, grandparents are stepping up to provide care for their grandchildren as a result of the devastating opioid crisis or other difficult circumstances. In fact, there are currently an estimated 89,000 households statewide where older Pennsylvanians are caring for approximately 100,000 grandchildren.

Reader's Digest - At this point, everyone has probably received a scam call (or a thousand). And by now, you’re probably savvy about more than a few of them. For example, someone impersonates your credit card company or the IRS in order to get your personal information, or an automated voice tries to get you to say “yes” so that word can be used as a voice signature for fraudulent activity. Unfortunately, scammers are only getting trickier and casting wider nets with newer scams.

Philadelphia Inquirer - The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, split along party lines, voted Thursday to dramatically expand low-income utility assistance programs, making them more forgiving and more affordable for hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians.

The PUC’s action could significantly lower energy costs for the poorest families — a household with a $10,000 annual income could see a $1,000 decrease in electric and gas bills.

Centre Daily Times - MidPenn Legal Services, a nonprofit, public interest law firm, was founded in 1969 to provide free civil legal aid to individuals and families who lack the financial resources to pay for such services.

Berks County, PA - Six programs to support treatment court initiatives and help crime victims will receive a total more than $800,000 from Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. $379,005 to MidPenn Legal Services, a nonprofit, public interest law firm, for its Legal Intervention for Victims and Empowerment (LIVE) Extended program.

Comedian Spike Milligan once joked that “And God said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light, but the Electricity Board said He would have to wait until Thursday to be connected.” Electricity, gas and water play a major role in everyday life. People rely on these utilities and going without them can be a great hardship and can even be life threatening. During these past summer months, many people turned up their air conditioners and fans as the heat index rose to over 100 degrees, which may have caused a corresponding surge in an electric bill that the consumer may not have the ability to pay. In order to address this problem and avoid utility shut-offs, there are programs and protections available to utility customers.

Cumberland County, PA - Information about estate planning will be presented during a free seminar hosted by Rep. Sheryl Delozier (R-Cumberland) on Thursday, Sept. 19. Scheduled from 9-10:30 a.m., the second of four planned Older and Wiser Seminars will be held in Mechanicsburg Place (the Mechanicsburg Senior Center) at 97 W. Portland St., Mechanicsburg. The topic of the seminar is “Protection through Powers of Attorney and Living Wills.” Information will be presented by representatives of MidPenn Legal Services.

State College - Honoring the 232nd anniversary of the U.S. Constitution, the annual Constitution Day Centre Celebration will offer entertainment, education, activities and more in a new location this year. Attorneys from the Centre County Bar Association and MidPenn Legal Services will answer questions related to the Fourth through Seventh Amendment regarding individual rights under the criminal justice system.

Parade - “Financial abuse can come in many forms,” certified financial planner Derek Hagen of Money Health Solutions tells Parade. “Money can be used to control people, by offering money with strings attached. This creates a financial dependency on the one receiving the money. It can create resentment and anger toward the giver. The flip side to this is if someone uses guilt and shame to get money from money.”

Reading - “(A place) where a homeless mother of three living in her car does not have to worry about safety tonight,” Williams said. “They can go to a triage center and find a safe parking lot. We can connect them with some food. We allow them to be safe. They won't be hassled or robbed or shuttled along, and in the morning we connect them with services.”

PBSNews Hour - Back in the late 1970s, the term “elder abuse” had not even been coined. Even though it clearly existed, it was rarely recognized until it was too late. Today, public health agencies, including the World Health Organization, have declared elder abuse to be a growing problem around the world and have detailed a long list of harmful activities, including physical, sexual, emotional and psychological forms of abuse and neglect, as well as the theft or withholding of financial assets needed to survive.

Cumberland - Who keeps calling me about saving money on my electric bill? How do I know if renewable energy suppliers are really using renewable energy?

When you get a letter from the IRS, do not panic. Begin by reading the letter carefully and in its entirety. Many times, all you need to do is respond. Typically, the notice will be about a specific issue regarding your federal tax return. For example, it may explain that you owe a tax and will state the amount you owe.

The Sentinel - The United Way is more than the community’s fundraiser; it also is the driving force behind many programs such as the U-Turn and Taking It To The Streets, which we are appreciative to be a part of. We are beyond thankful for their continued support of our services, as well as working together to assist those most in need in our community. - Domestic violence does not discriminate. It victimizes both young and old, rich and poor, and people of all races, religions and sexual orientations. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, approximately 20 people per minute are physically abused by a partner in the United States — an astounding 10 million women and men annually.

Observer-Reporter - The number of women living below the poverty line in Washington County from 2013 to 2017 was almost double the number of men. That isn’t just a trend seen just in Washington, but also Greene, Allegheny, Fayette, Beaver and Westmoreland counties, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It’s also seen across Pennsylvania.

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