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DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa (WHP) — Real stories from real people here in Central PA-living in poverty. CBS 21 News is taking a closer look at what some of our neighbors are dealing with.

January is National Poverty Awareness Month and CBS 21's Hallie Jacobs talked with families who know what it's like to work several jobs, while raising kids and ultimately just trying to stay afloat.

The reality is, more than 12% of people in Pennsylvania live in poverty. That's according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In Dauphin County, more than 32,000 people are living in poverty and in York County, the number jumps to over 38,000.

In This Issue: Chocolate Chip Snowball Cookies; Intergenerational University Connections; Farewell to Colleen Maurer; Welcome, New Volunteers; Tips for Staying Warm, Mardi Gras; Let's Have Brunch.

Ombudsman services are provided by MidPenn Legal Services under a contract with the Schuylkill County Office of Senior Services. The program is
monitored by the Pennsylvania Department of Aging.

There are plenty of ways you can continue to volunteer your time and efforts to make the world a better place—even from the comfort of your home or inside the warmth of an organization! Check out these eight opportunities to give back during the winter.

Reading — 107 Berks County residents attended and received assistance at Thursday evenings expungement and pardon clinic. The event took place at the DoubleTree in Reading and was hosted by Magisterial District Judges Tonya Butler and Carissa Johnson. The event was sponsored by state Sen. Judy Schwank, Berks Connections/Pretrial Services, MidPenn Legal Services, and the Berks County Bar Association.

Butler said the event came about when she learned that individuals who either had charges dismissed or were found not guilty didn’t automatically have those charges removed from their records.

“We can dismiss a charge, but what we didn’t know was that the charge was still going to be on their record,” Butler said. “We were blown away in regards to that.”

Johnson added that securing an expungement or pardon clears barriers to employment and allows individuals to return to society and become productive members of their community. “I think what people fail to realize is that once a person goes to jail, they don’t stay there forever,” Johnson said. “You always have to ask yourself if you want that person to be better than they left, the same as they left, or worse.”

“I’m very proud of what we were able to accomplish tonight,” Schwank said following the event. “I had a chance to speak with so many of my constituents and hear firsthand about the support they received and how it’s going to allow them to move forward. My hat is off to all the folks who volunteered their time and helped make this happen.” Secretary of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons Celeste Trusty and Berks County District Attorney John Adams were at the event and answered questions from attendees. Also in attendance at the event were state Rep. Johanny Cepeda-Freytiz, state Rep. Manny Guzman, Berks County Commissioner Michael Rivera, and Berks County COO Kevin Barnhardt.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. helped make the world a better place and advocated for equal rights for everyone. Use MLK Day as a time to honor his legacy by giving back or doing something good for somebody else.

Pennlive.com - Pennsylvanians should be cautious of a new scam targeting the personal information of residents receiving food assistance, state officials said Wednesday.

Residents, regardless of whether they receive food assistance, have been receiving text messages saying their electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards are about to expire, that there is a pending benefit transfer for their EBT card with a reference number attached, according to the Department of Human Services.

Once the recipient responds, the scammer will ask them for person information, DHS Secretary Meg Snead said.

“DHS will never ask for information about an EBT card, SNAP, or any other public assistance programs via unsolicited or random calls or texts,” Snead said.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — January is recognized as Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Thursday, state officials asked for the public’s help to spread awareness and to put an end to human trafficking.

Human trafficking is the exploitation of people using force, fraud, or coercion for the purposes of commercial sex, forced labor, domestic servitude, and others.
According to the International Labor Organization, there are approximately 28 million victims of human trafficking, globally. State officials shared some potential warning signs:

Lack of knowledge of a person’s community or whereabouts;
Restricted or controlled communication where people cannot speak for themselves;
People not in control of their own identification documents; or
Signs of branding or tattooing of a trafficker’s name (often on the neck).
PA Officials Seek Public's Help During Human Trafficking Awareness Month
Officials say if you see something, say something. Reporting trafficking is easier than ever before and Pennsylvanians can play a major role in fighting it. According to the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP), the commonwealth’s geographic location and interstate system makes it a hot-spot for traffickers.

Social Security Matter - 12/12/2022 - Are you eligible for Social Security retirement benefits or already receiving them? Did you know that you can also receive healthy meals and other nutrition services through the national Senior Nutrition Program? Local meal programs in communities across the country are waiting to serve you.

As we age, we have different needs, different ways we take care of our health, and different nutrients we need to get from our food. But we don’t always have enough healthy food or the desire to prepare or eat a meal. Whether you need more food, healthier food, someone to share a meal with, or just want to learn about good eating habits, a meal program can help.

Every day, senior nutrition programs serve almost one million meals to people age 60 and older. With home-delivered and group meal options, you can get the food you need in a way that works best for you. It can help you avoid missed meals – and save you time and money with less shopping and cooking.

Local programs serve up more than food — they offer opportunities to connect and socialize. We know this improves both your mental and physical health.

Human rights should be protected at all costs. You can get involved this Universal Human Rights Month and continue to spread the word year-round

Law360 (December 8, 2022, 1:27 PM EST) -- The COVID-19 pandemic had civil legal aid organizations scrambling to help low-income Americans in 2021, especially in the area of housing.

That's according to a report released Wednesday by the Legal Services Corp., an independent nonprofit established by Congress to provide financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans.

The report, which quantifies the work done by 132 legal aid organizations funded by the nonprofit around the country last year, showed that housing cases increased by nearly 26% from the previous year.

The cases closed by grantees in 2021 included 252,436 housing law cases and more than 208,479 family law cases, compared with about 200,398 housing law cases and 204,611 family law cases in 2020.

Historically, family cases had been the most common type of cases closed by grantees.

"An almost [26%] increase is pretty remarkable," Ron Flagg, president of the nonprofit, told Law360 Pulse Wednesday in an interview. "It just really reflects the dynamics of the pandemic — enormous unemployment and estimates of 30 million households being at risk for eviction."

As we continue to honor and celebrate veterans, scammers increase efforts around holidays — like Veteran’s Day — to try to take advantage. Right now, a banking scam is tricking veterans (and current servicemembers) into sharing sensitive personal or financial information. Find out how.

Imposters are contacting veterans, servicemembers, and their families. They pretend to be representatives of USAA Bank, Navy Federal Credit Union, and other banks. They’re asking for information — like your Social Security, bank account, or credit or debit card number, or your password. They’re saying that your debit card has been blocked, they’ve detected fraudulent activity, or some other urgent excuse. (These, by the way, are all lies.)

You may get one of these unexpected calls or voicemails from your bank, or even a surprise text or email with a link that includes an official-looking logo (also all fake). These are from scammers who want your information to get into your accounts or steal your identity. And if you click on the fake link, they could install malware on your phone or computer, which could give them complete access to your device and information.

Here’s how to protect yourself:

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps families living on low incomes pay their heating bills in the form of a cash grant. Households in immediate danger of being without heat can also qualify for crisis grants. The cash grant is a one-time payment sent directly to the utility company/fuel provider to be credited on your bill. These grants range from $300 to $1,000 based on household size, income, and fuel type. Remember: This is a grant and does not have to be repaid.

YORK, Pa. — The Pardon Project of York County held its first legal clinic on Oct. 24 to help people with certain criminal convictions apply for pardons and expungements.

Dozens attended the clinic, where lawyers from the York County Bar Association and MidPenn Legal Services offered their services pro bono.

A criminal record can be a significant barrier to getting a job, renting an apartment, getting a loan and more. “I haven’t been able to get certain jobs,” said Tavon Parker, a York resident who received two nonviolent convictions six years ago and now does motivational speaking. “What I do with motivational speaking, there are certain boards that frown upon my history and my record. Really being able to have something that still holds you back mentally and physically is something that I’m looking forward to getting off.”

Parker learned he is eligible to request a pardon, but the process is long. It involves collecting and submitting documents, being interviewed by a parole officer, speaking before the state Board of Pardons, and finally, having the governor sign the pardon.

In the meantime, Parker is using his experience to mentor others. The Advantage Program exposes York area youth to experiences in entrepreneurship, financial literacy, civil engagement, culinary arts, athletics and business principles.

“[Having to apply for a pardon] is a part of the process that I hope our kids don’t have to go through,” he said.

To guide participants through the process, the Pardon Project assigns each person a “Pardon Fellow.”

The very first Pardon Fellow, DeShawn Harrison, said he wants to help other people move on with their lives, even as he has his own felony convictions that won’t be eligible to be pardoned for another two years.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — (September 30, 2022) McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC attorney James P. DeAngelo was recognized for his deep commitment to access to justice by MidPenn Legal Services at its Access to Justice event.

DeAngelo, commercial litigation attorney and McNees' associate general counsel, received the Donald F. Smith, Jr. MidPenn Pro Bono Award for his many years of tackling cases referred to him by MidPenn on behalf of low-income residents, his financial support of the organization and his years of service on its board.

MidPenn, a nonprofit law firm that provides free civil legal services to residents of 18 counties in central Pennsylvania, bestows this award annually to an attorney who provides his skill and expertise on a volunteer basis to support the provision of civil legal services to low-income residents.

"At MidPenn, we are all grateful for Jim's many years of support and friendship and express gratitude for his willingness to support the work we do as we strive to serve some of the most vulnerable citizens in our community," Rhodia D. Thomas, executive director of MidPenn Legal Services, said.

Wading through your health insurance options and plans can be complex, overwhelming, and confusing. Dishonest companies and scammers know this and use it to their advantage. Instead of getting the health insurance coverage you and your family need, you could end up with a so-called “health plan” that covers few if any medical expenses. And it could leave you on the hook for major medical bills. Medicare and health insurance scams are common. Scammers are always looking for new ways to steal your money and your personal information, but they use familiar techniques.

Here are five signs you’re dealing with a health insurance scam:

1. Scammers say they’re from the government and need money or your personal information. Government agencies don’t call people out of the blue to ask them for money or personal information. No one from the government will ask you to verify your Social Security, bank account, or credit card number, and they won’t ask you to wire money or pay by gift card or cryptocurrency.

If you have a question about Medicare or the Health Insurance Marketplace®, contact the government directly:

Medicare: Medicare.gov or 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227)
Health Insurance Marketplace®: HealthCare.gov or 1-800-318-2596

Harrisburg, PA. On September 22, MidPenn Legal Services will hold its annual Access to Justice Event at the Hershey Vineyards and Gardens from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
The “Access to Justice” event will recognize local justice heroes, who have supported the organization’s mission of providing high quality free legal representation for those who need it the most. We are excited to recognize some of our unsung heroes – volunteers, volunteer attorneys, and partner Law Firms – who have assisted MidPenn in improving the lives of low-income residents in our region.
At the event, we will also launch our Justice and Equity Center co-funded by the GIANT Company. As MidPenn Executive Director, Rhodia Thomas explained, “We are excited to partner with the Giant Company to advance this important initiative which will build our organization’s capacity for advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion across our region.”
“The GIANT Company is proud to be the founding partner of Mid Penn’s Justice and Equity Center as we work to cultivate a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive community,” said Jennifer Heinzen Krueger, vice president of team experience, The GIANT Company. “Guided by our purpose of connecting families for a better future, we’re passionate about doing all that we can to strengthen the communities we live, work, and play in, to create a better tomorrow for all.”
MidPenn is a nonprofit law firm that provides free legal representation, advice and education for low-income residents and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in the following 18 counties in Central PA: Adams, Bedford, Berks, Blair, Centre, Clearfield, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Fulton, Huntington, Juniata, Lancaster, Lebanon, Mifflin, Perry, Schuylkill and York.
For additional information, please contact Eliz Nestorov, at 717-234-0492, ext. 2215.

Harrisburg, PA -. In July, the Lancaster County Community Foundation awarded $25,000 to MidPenn Legal Services to enable the organization to build its organizational capacity for advancing diversity, equity and inclusion. The Lancaster County Community Foundation’s Equity and Inclusion grant will enable MidPenn to train its staff on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion as they continue to work to provide high quality civil legal services on behalf of vulnerable and marginalized populations.

Since 1924, the Lancaster County Community Foundation has worked with people to support various socially relevant causes across Lancaster County. Today, the Foundation stewards more than $200 million dollars in community assets that help support Lancaster each year through grant programs, including initiatives, that respond to emerging community needs.

MidPenn is the largest civil legal aid organization in Central Pennsylvania that provides free legal representation in civil cases, annually serving more than 21,000 low-income residents and survivors of violence. The organization specializes in poverty-related issues, and the attorneys and advocates have developed expertise in the substantive areas of landlord/tenant law, mortgage foreclosure, Social Security, income maintenance, consumer, domestic violence, family law, elder law, and other issues affecting vulnerable and marginalized populations.

For additional information, please contact Eliz Nestorov, at 717-234-0492, ext. 2215.

NPR - The Biden administration announced last Wednesday that it would be forgiving up to $20,000 in undergraduate student loans.

Some borrowers have already seen their accounts updated, but others will have to apply for the benefit in October.

That amount may not clear the accounts for all, though, and scammers may be on the prowl promising to help eliminate any remaining debt.

Do not pay any up-front fees

It is illegal for student debt relief companies to charge you before administering a service, the Federal Trade Commission says.

Will student loan forgiveness make college tuition go up?
Don't sign up for quick loan forgiveness

Anyone who guarantees your eligibility for student loan forgiveness or promises they can get your loans forgiven faster than the timeline the Department of Education has laid out is a scammer.

Don't always trust a Department of Education logo

Scammers may use logos, names and seals to persuade you of their legitimacy. But if you have questions about your federal loans, visit the Department of Education's official financial website at https://studentaid.gov/.

Don't be rushed into a decision

Scammers will often make requests that are supposedly time-sensitive — such as missing a deadline to qualify for repayment plans, loan forgiveness programs or federal loan consolidations — in an effort to make you act quickly.

Survey Finds Rising Evictions in HUD-Assisted Housing
July 13, 2022
A survey released today of legal aid attorneys around the country finds that, despite $46.5 billion in federal emergency rental assistance and a federal law protecting tenants from hasty evictions, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) continues to allow public housing authorities and voucher landlords to evict tenants from their homes at high rates, even for not paying rent due to pandemic-related hardship.

In Spring 2022, the National Housing Law Project (NHLP) surveyed 148 legal aid and civil rights attorneys in 39 states, DC, and Puerto Rico, to assess how tenants are faring in HUD-assisted housing, specifically HUD’s public housing and Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8) programs at this point in the pandemic.

Top findings include:
HUD evictions are returning to pre-pandemic levels or higher. 83% of attorneys reported rising eviction cases across HUD-assisted housing to be the same or higher compared to pre-pandemic levels. An increase in HUD evictions for non-payment of rent means that families with the lowest incomes – primarily seniors, people with disabilities, and Black and Latino families – are the most at risk of losing affordable housing in the midst of a market with skyrocketing rents.

Centre Daily Times - About 16 months after Centre County began its Emergency Rental Assistance Program, applications for rental and utility assistance continue to pour in. Without pause, the Centre County Office of Adult Services receives between 50-100 applications every week. Through ERAP, renters can get up to 18 months of assistance as long as they continue to be eligible and funding is available.

Eligibility includes households with a gross annual or monthly income that doesn’t exceed 80% of Centre County’s Area Median Income, that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and that are at risk or homelessness or housing instability. It is for renters only. Money in ERAP 1, the first half of the program, expires Sept. 30. As of May 30, there’s about $1.4 million of $11 million remaining, Faith Ryan, director of adult services, said.

Read more at: https://www.centredaily.com/news/local/article262938733.html#storylink=cpy

Women’s Law Project, a state-based public interest legal organization focused on gender justice with offices in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, announces a new program to help pregnant and lactating people in Pennsylvania navigate workplace and school-based discrimination.

The WLP Legal Navigator Program is focused on early intervention, education, and assistance to ensure more pregnant and lactating workers and students across Pennsylvania can protect their health and economic security with minimal disruption to work or school. Our goal is to ensure job security and reasonable, temporary accommodations before someone loses their job or is otherwise harmed.

The Legal Navigator Program represents an expansion of work that began in our Philadelphia office several years ago. We are launching this work in western Pennsylvania in response to an urgent need for assistance in that part of the state.

NPR-"Housing is getting less affordable for everyone at every level," says Daryl Fairweather, the chief economist for Redfin. She says after the last housing crash we didn't build enough homes for a decade. And that lack of supply is the biggest force pushing up home prices and making it harder for people like Drotar to afford to buy a home.

Have you faced a bidding war trying to rent an apartment?
NATIONAL
Have you faced a bidding war trying to rent an apartment?
Fairweather says homebuilders built fewer homes in the decade starting in 2010 than in any 10-year period since the 1960's. "So I think it's going to take at least another decade to dig ourselves out of this hole. " She says states changing zoning laws to allow for smaller, more affordable homes built closer together would help.

Meanwhile, more people stuck renting when they would rather own a home helps keep demand and prices up in the rental market, too.

The implementation of the Physical HealthChoices procurement, which will bring about major changes to the Medicaid physical health plans available across the state, was pushed back to September 1, 2022.

Between June 22 and July 7, mailings explaining the new plan choices will go out to consumers, including both those who are impacted and must change plans because their current plan is going away, and those who are not impacted but can make a plan change if they wish. The mailing will contain a letter explaining the upcoming changes as well as a plan comparison chart.

Approximately 460,000 Medicaid consumers will need to choose a new managed care plan or be auto-assigned into one. The remaining 2.3 million consumers in the HealthChoices program will have the option to choose a new plan and will have new plan options available. More information, including a table highlighting the plan changes, is available from the Pennsylvania Health Law Project at the link below.

More Information

Federal Trade Commission - Financial Literacy Month is a good time to talk about earning, managing, and saving your money. Are you searching for a new job, investment, or business opportunity to boost your financial well-being? Learn how to avoid scammers’ sham offers that will cost — not earn — you money.

Here are some common job and money-making scams:

Job scams. Scammers post fake job ads for mystery shoppers, personal assistants, or caregivers. If you apply, they might send you a check, tell you to deposit or cash it, keep some, and send the rest to someone else. The check is fake, and by the time the bank realizes it, the scammer has your money, and the bank will want you to repay the money you withdrew.

Harrisburg, PA - MidPenn's 2022 Spring Newsletter has been issued. This issue contains a message from MidPenn's Executive Director, Rhodia D. Thomas, Esq., Veteran's Multi-Service Center and Opportunity House collaboration, Housing Advocacy, Ombudsman Program, MidPenn's 2021 Volunteer of the Year and more.

Spotlight PA - Roughly 25,000 fewer children in Pennsylvania are benefiting from a program that helps low-income families find affordable child care compared with before the coronavirus pandemic, fueling concerns about the loss of vital support systems for parents.

Enrollment has reached a record low during the past two years, according to the Wolf administration. And while it’s unclear where those tens of thousands of kids are now receiving care, the decline suggests low-income parents — and particularly women — continue to face the painful choice between earning a paycheck or looking after a child.

“There’s no reason to think it’s down because all of a sudden everyone’s doing just fine and doesn’t need any help finding child care or affording child care,” said Elliot Haspel, a child care policy expert with the Robins Foundation in Virginia. “Then that means that there are more families whose situations are more fraught than there were before.”

For parents like Gioia Maynor, a single mother who lives outside Pittsburgh, the state’s Child Care Works program has been “a blessing.”

Child care costs often approach or exceed $1,000 a month. The program allowed Maynor to lower the bill for her 2-year-old son’s care by hundreds of dollars a month.

bctv.org - Impact Grants were awarded to seven nonprofit recipients to expand programming and capacity to serve Berks County’s most vulnerable residents, including: Berks County Mediation Prevention Project, program of MidPenn Legal; Berks Latino Workforce Development Corporation; Helping Harvest; Street Medicine Program, a program of the Reading Hospital; Strong Program, managed by Mary’s Shelter; PA 211 East; and Second Street Learning Center.

Federal Trade Commission - Taking steps to protect your personal information can help you minimize the risks of identity theft. But what if a thief gets your information anyway? Here are some of the ways thieves might use your stolen information and signs you can look out for.

An identity thief could use your information to get credit or service in your name.

How to spot it: Get your free credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com. Review it for accounts you didn’t open or inquiries you don’t recognize. A new credit card, a personal loan, or a car loan will appear as a new account. A new cell phone plan or utility service — like water, gas, or electric — will show up as an inquiry.

Use this as a reminder to commit acts of service to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Even after the holiday passes, his spirit can carry on. Explore new ways you can give back to your community, involve your family and friends and set attainable goals for yourself.

Public News Service - As the Omicron variant surges in Pennsylvania and affects people's health and economic security, a new assistance program aims to help residents of the Commonwealth pay their water bills.

This week, Pennsylvania launched the Low Income Household Water Assistance Program, a federally funded service to help households struggling to pay their water bills on time. The state received $43.2 million through the American Rescue Plan for the program.

Meg Snead, acting secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, said access to clean drinking water and wastewater services is key to helping families live healthy lives.

"This program is for those who have past due water bills, had their service terminated or received a notice that their service will be terminated in the next 60 days," she said. "Grants are issued directly to water-service providers, and families must meet income requirements."

Federal Trade Commission - Automakers are producing fewer new cars right now due to a computer chip shortage, and many people are looking at used cars instead. If you’re shopping for a used car and feeling rushed to buy a car before you can fully check it out — stop! Some used cars may have flood damage.

After a hurricane or flood, storm-damaged cars are sometimes cleaned up and taken out of state for sale. You may not know a car is damaged until you look at it closely. Here are some steps to take when you shop:

Check for signs and smells of flood damage. Is there mud or sand under the seats or dashboard? Is there rust around the doors? Is the carpet loose, stained, or mismatched? Do you smell mold or decay — or an odor of strong cleaning products — in the car or trunk?

Check for a history of flood damage. The National Insurance Crime Bureau’s (NCIB) free database will show if a car was flood-damaged, stolen but not recovered, or otherwise declared as salvaged — but only if the car was insured when it was damaged.

Governor Tom Wolf today announced that the federal government has granted his request for a one-month extension for individuals in the eight counties eligible for Individual Assistance to apply for federal aid.

Survivors of the remnants of Hurricane Ida in the following counties have until Jan. 10, 2022 to apply: Bedford, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia and York.

“As time goes on, some survivors are taking a look at their own insurance coverage and their damages and realizing that they need more help in their recovery,” Governor Wolf said. “This extension provides them with the time they need to make sure they take advantage of the resources available to them.”

Impacted residents of Bedford, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia and York counties should register with FEMA online at disasterassistance.gov, through the FEMA app, or by calling the FEMA Helpline at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362), or TTY 1-800-462-7585. Helpline services are available seven days a week from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. ET.

The Internal Revenue Service today encouraged taxpayers to take important actions this month to help them file their federal tax returns in 2022, including special steps related to Economic Impact Payments and advance Child Tax Credit payments.

This is the second in a series of reminders to help taxpayers get ready for the upcoming tax filing season. A special page, updated and available on IRS.gov, outlines steps taxpayers can take now to make tax filing easier in 2022.

Here are some key items for taxpayers to consider before they file next year.

Check on advance Child Tax Credit payments
Families who received advance payments will need to compare the advance Child Tax Credit payments that they received in 2021 with the amount of the Child Tax Credit that they can properly claim on their 2021 tax return.

Taxpayers who received less than the amount for which they're eligible will claim a credit for the remaining amount of Child Tax Credit on their 2021 tax return. Taxpayers who received more than the amount for which they're eligible may need to repay some or all of the excess payment when they file.

October 7, 2021 – A toll-free legal aid helpline is now available for victims of Hurricane Ida and the resultant damage in Pennsylvania. The service, which allows callers to request the assistance of a lawyer, is a partnership between Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania, MidPenn Legal Services, Inc, North Penn Legal Services, Inc., Philadelphia Legal Assistance Center, the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Low-income survivors facing legal issues may call 877-429-5994, the assistance helpline activated by Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania. The helpline will be available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and messages can be left 24/7. Callers should identify that they are seeking storm-related legal assistance, and should identify the county in which they are located and their legal problems. Callers will then be routed to the correct legal aid organization based on their location. Survivors who qualify for assistance will be matched with Pennsylvania lawyers who have volunteered to provide free legal help.

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.”

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