Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Food Stamps make a Difference

Did you know that only about two thirds of Allegheny County residents who are eligible for food stamps actually receive them? Since August, Just Harvest has been working on our Food Stamps Make a Difference Campaign in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare to increase participation in the National Food Stamp Program. With roughly 148,000 (about one in eight) people living in poverty, we know we’ve got plenty work cut out for us.

But don’t think that you’re not eligible if you have a job, you’re a student, or if you own your own home or car. For a single person under 65, the income guidelines are clear: if you have less than $2,000 in resources (i.e. checking and savings accounts) and make less than $1,107 a month before taxes, you can probably receive food stamps. More people in your family? Just add $377 to that $1,107 ($1,484 for two, $1,861 for three, and so on) to find out if you qualify. If you’re over 65 or disabled, the resource limit goes up to $3,000 and your eligibility is calculated based on your net income (starting at $851 per month after expenses for a single person, add $290 for each additional).

For a more detailed description of food stamp eligibility, check out the USDA's web site.

Think you might be eligible? Give Just Harvest’s Food Stamp Specialist, Eugenia Mosby, a call at (412) 431-8963. When you talk with her, she can do a screening with you to determine an estimate of how much you might be eligible for and complete an application for Food Stamps with you over the phone using the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare’s online COMPASS system. According to the Department’s guidelines, you should have a decision on your application within 30 days!

And if you run into trouble in the process, we can advocate on your behalf to make sure your caseworker makes a fair decision. Remember, food stamps are an entitlement! Plus, you receive them on a debit card – you don’t get actual paper “stamps” – so they’re easy and convenient to use at almost any grocery store!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

$600K and Counting!

Last week, refunds received by Just Harvest's clients hit the $600,000 mark! This is a tremendous benefit to Allegheny County's low- and moderate-income workers, and a terrific economic boost to the Pittsburgh area! Thanks again to all our hard-working tax preparers and volunteers. On Monday, Feb. 11, we'll finally be able to beging submitting returns with education credits (anyone who had to fill out a 1099E) to the IRS (they were delayed by Congress's late December decisions on the Alternative Minimum Tax). Visit Just Harvest's Give Paychecks a Boost page for more information.