Judicial Races in Philadelphia: A Panel Discussion

The following information is based on an email issued by the group, Open Wards Philly. Note, I am a member of the group.

With local judicial elections coming up, Open Wards Philly invites you to attend their next meeting on March 9 for a special panel discussion on how judicial races really work and the importance of Bar Association ratings when choosing a candidate to support.

  • Judicial Election Panelist include:
    Steph Davis, member of the Philadelphia Bar Association Judicial Commission
  • Tianna Kalogerakis, Vice Chair of the Campaign for Qualified Judges, former president of The Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia and member of Judicial Commission
  • Matt Monroe, former Common Pleas Court candidate

Meetings of Open Wards Philly are open to any and all committee people, or aspiring committee people, who are motivated to make the party ward system fairer and more democratic.

To attend, complete the Register to Attend link on the Open Wards Philly website.

Health Exchanges Extend Open Enrollment Until May 15

Both the Federal health exchange and New Jersey’s newly opened health insurance marketplace, Get Covered New Jersey, have extended their enrollment period until May 15, 2021 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Online enrollment is available at HealthCare.gov and for New Jersey residents at Get Covered New Jersey. New Jersey residents seeking enrollment assistance can call 888-654-3893. To get help choosing a plan go to the state’s Find Local Assistance page.

The following is a press release issued by the Office of the Governor January 28, 2021:

TRENTON – Following the Biden Administration’s health care action today, Governor Phil Murphy announced the State is extending the health insurance enrollment period for uninsured residents to sign up for coverage through Get Covered New Jersey, the state’s official health insurance marketplace, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Ensuring that our residents have access to quality, affordable health insurance has been a top priority of our administration since day one,” said Governor Murphy. “As we continue our work to save lives and protect New Jerseyans in response to the pandemic, this action will expand opportunities for residents to get the coverage they need to maintain their health and wellbeing. I want to thank President Biden for taking this necessary step at the federal level to further complement the relief efforts of his American Rescue Plan.”

“We want to ensure that New Jerseyans have the coverage they need to see a doctor when they are sick, but also to get the preventive care that is so vital to their long-term health,” said Department of Banking and Insurance Commissioner Marlene Caride. “Keeping open the enrollment window for those who are uninsured will give residents the chance to choose a plan now, instead of having to wait until next year to get covered. Especially during a public health emergency, this extension is crucial to protecting our residents’ health.”

Last year, Governor Murphy requested that the Trump Administration reopen the Affordable Care Act enrollment period in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the administration refused. Today, the Biden Administration announced that it would reopen health insurance enrollment in states that are utilizing the federal marketplace through a Special Enrollment Period.

The state of New Jersey transitioned from using the federally-facilitated marketplace, healthcare.gov, to its own marketplace last year, GetCovered.NJ.gov. The first Open Enrollment Period started November 1, 2020 and ends on January 31, 2021. Operating its own marketplace gives New Jersey more control over the health insurance market and the ability to better respond to the needs of the state, including setting its own Open Enrollment Period and establishing Special Enrollment Periods in response to the state’s needs.

New Jersey will extend the window for eligible uninsured residents to enroll in a health insurance plan through the marketplace or directly from carriers through a COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period through May 15, 2021.

The coverage effective dates will be as follows:

Enroll by February 28, coverage effective March 1;

Enroll by March 31, coverage effective April 1;

Enroll by April 30, coverage effective May 1;

Enroll by May 15, coverage effective June 1.

Residents shopping for health insurance through GetCovered.NJ.gov have access to a new state subsidy — called New Jersey Health Plan Savings – on top of premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions available to lower the cost of their health insurance. Eight in 10 consumers purchasing coverage on Get Covered New Jersey qualify for assistance. An individual with an annual income up to of $51,040 and a family of four with an annual income of $104,800 (up to 400% of the Federal Poverty Level) will qualify for savings. Because of the availability of state subsidies, the net premium for 2021 is the lowest since the implementation of Healthcare.gov and availability of federal tax credits for individuals receiving financial help. The currently average monthly net premium for those eligible for financial help is $121 a month, compared to $164 a month in 2020, and $148 a month in 2014.

All plans available through Get Covered New Jersey meet the stringent standards of the Affordable Care Act and offer free preventive care, free telehealth during the COVID-19 public health emergency and for 90 days thereafter, and coverage for emergency services, mental health and substance use services, and more. All plans available through Get Covered New Jersey are also required to cover COVID-19 diagnostic testing and COVID-19 vaccinations without out-of-pocket costs.

After January 31st, New Jerseyans can make updates to health plans or enroll in a new health plan for other reasons, including birth or adoption of a child and pregnancy. More information on Special Enrollment Periods will be available on GetCovered.NJ.gov, where residents can also shop and compare plans and see if they qualify for financial help.

The deadline for New Jersey’s COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period aligns with the enrollment window opened by the federal government under the Biden Administration in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

All New Jerseyans seeking health insurance are encouraged to sign up by January 31 in order to have coverage in effect on February 1, providing the maximum benefit of health coverage for 2021. To get free help choosing a plan from a trained, certified assister, go to Find Local Assistance on the Get Covered New Jersey website.

EITC Awareness Day

January 29, 2021 marks the 15th time the Internal Revenue Service has publicized EITC Awareness Day. It is a day when various organizations try to spread the word about a tax program of importance to working people.

Here are a few numbers worth thinking about.

78 percent of households claim the Earned Income Tax Credit when they file their federal taxes. EITC is a credit that increases your tax refund or reduces what you owe Uncle Sam. 78% also means that 22% don’t claim the EITC.

2300 dollars is a typical Federal EITC refund for families in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

58,000 young workers in New Jersey will be able to take advantage of the New Jersey EITC for the first time when filing their 2020 tax return. New Jersey expanded their program by lowering the age requirement from 25 years to 21.

65,000,000,000 dollars – $65 billion – is about the amount received by 25 million eligible workers and families in EITC, according to IRS statistics.

Millions did not receive a stimulus check in 2020. The 2020 tax form has been redesigned for those who missed out. People who did not get an Economic Impact Payment may be eligible for a Recovery Rebate Credit. For details, please read the article, “What do I do if I didn’t get my first or second stimulus checks?” by Christine Tran of the 2020 Get It Back Campaign. See the IRS page for more questions and answers about the Recovery Rebate Credit, especially for those who did not file a tax return last year.

Often overlooked are a number of programs available to help taxpayers file tax returns free. These programs include: MyFreeTaxes, a joint partnership of United Way and H&R Block; Free File through the IRS. (A word of caution, to use Free File at $0 cost go through the IRS portal, not at a tax preparation company’s website.) Be sure to check your household income and the free programs income requirements.

Free tax counseling and tax filing is available through the VITA or TCE programs, short for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly. This year, some VITA/TCE sites are not operating at full capacity and others are not opening. To locate an open site near you, use the VITA/TCE Locator Tool or the AARP Site Locator Tool.

Additional information is available on this website’s Earned Income Tax Credit page.