Today Is National 2-1-1 Day

With every passing year, new partnerships are made between NJ 2-1-1 and government and community organizations. These partnerships establish clear pathways for people to follow when help is needed. In celebration of national 2-1-1 Day, we celebrate how 2-1-1 makes help happen in New Jersey.

In 2016 NJ 2-1-1 connected 363,627 people with services they might otherwise have missed. NJ 2-1-1 community resource specialists answered 155,737 calls for assistance. Another 5,835 calls were forwarded directly to state hotlines. Our website received 202,055 visitors.

Our partnerships with United Ways across New Jersey, as well as state and local government help connect people in-need with existing services and programs. In 2016 our partnerships and special initiatives took us above and beyond traditional information and referral and enabled us to make help happen. See our Year in Review.

Since 2005 NJ 2-1-1 has been providing residents of our state with connections to essential resources that often move callers in crisis from despair to hope. “While many of the calls we receive come from families who are looking for solutions to the most basic of needs like utility assistance, food and affordable housing,” states NJ 2-1-1 board president Gina Plotino, “we answer calls for many
other things too, such as mental health counseling, childcare or transportation. Call 9-1-1 for emergencies. Call 2-1-1 for everything else.” With a resource database of nearly 3,000 agencies and more than 10,000 programs and services, NJ 2-1-1 is the easiest place to start to find a solution to any problem relating to health and human service needs.

Source: A February 10, 2017 email titled, “The Easiest Place to Start” from the Executive Director of the NJ 2-1-1 Partnership.

EITC Awareness Day

Once a year at the end of January the Internal Revenue Services and its partners do a one day media event to advertise the Earned Income Tax Credit program, a tax program that has been around since the Nixon Administration. Today, January 27, 2017, is another EITC Awareness Day.

The good points about EITC are that it provides tax relief for low and moderate income working families. The IRS even encourages people to take advantage of it. They partner with software companies to make tax filing free to many households. Checkout Free File. EITC tax refunds lift millions out of poverty and make life a little easier.

The bad news is that one out of five households do not take advantage by claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit. In New Jersey, an estimated 197,000 taxpayers are losing out of an average EITC refund totaling approximately $2350. Do the math – unclaimed tax refunds equal to $462 million. To make matters worse, New Jersey once was recognized as a leader of EITC but now has sunk to near bottom, 45th among 50 states, in the EITC participation rate ranking. See https://www.eitc.irs.gov/EITC-Central/Participation-Rate.

Here are a few tips. To find a free tax preparation site (generally if you make $54,000 a year or less) visit either NJ 2-1-1 Partnership’s NJ VITA Sites or IRS Get Free Tax Prep Help Page or the AARP Tax-Aide Locator.

To first find out if you qualify, visit the EITC Assistant. By answering all the questions you can find out if you are eligible for EITC. The tool also provides an estimate of the amount of your credit.

Employers have a responsibility to let their workers know about this program. They should be distributing a notice titled, “Have You Told Your Employees About the Earned Income Credit (EIC)?” Ask your employer to runoff copies and attach it to W-2 statements.

There are a number of web sites useful to IRS partners, employers, government agencies/offices and nonprofits. These website provide outreach material, flyers and other social media tools. They include: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Get It Back Campaign and EITC Central. County welfare agencies and One Stop Career Centers distribute the Division of Family Development’s 2016 EITC Fact Sheet.

EITC Awareness Day – can you afford to do without it?

Other useful tax preparation assistance information is available at the NJ Community Resources website.

LIHEAP Emergency Assistance Extended

There are additional opportunities to request energy assistance under LIHEAP’s emergency assistance program in New Jersey. Please share the information below with friends, family, partners or networks. A few points of clarification.

1) Eligible LIHEAP households can request Emergency Assistance until May 31, 2016. The state received a second allocation from the Department of Health and Human Services in the amount of $12.6M in April.
2) Newly granted SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) households who did NOT receive a May 1 LIHEAP benefit have until May 31 to contact their local LIHEAP/USF agency to apply or correct wrong information. Cases will be re-evaluated if they are currently in “pending status”.
3) Although the LIHEAP season is ending, keep in mind that applications for USF (Universal Service Fund) are available year-round.

A listing of the local LIHEAP/USF agencies is available online at www.nj.gov/dca/divisions/dhcr/offices/agencydirectorylist.html.

Additional information on LIHEAP and other energy assistance programs is available on the NJ Community Resources NJ Energy Assistance Programs webpage.

The 2-1-1 Partnership can provide information on LIHEAP emergency assistance procedures by calling 2-1-1 or 800-510-3102.

The extension of the emergency period in New Jersey follows the release by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) of an additional $335million in April of which New Jersey received $12,666,956. A press release appears on the LIHEAP Clearinghouse website.