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Financial aid | News updates for 14 February

Tax season 2022 is here and brings with it many new issues, related to pandemic support direct payments, IRS tax refund delays and other forms of financial aid.


IRS will stop issuing automated notices indicating tax balances, unfiled returns, etc while it works through a returns backlog

- Biden targets new-look Build Back Better bill, but what have the Democrats proposed?

- Consumer Price Index rose by 0.6% in January

- Some States have been unable to provide economic relief to residents after suffering budget shortfalls

- Little desire in Congress to push for a fourth stimulus check: why is there no support?

- What is the $8,000 Child and Dependent Care Credit and who is eligible?

- Certain states are still offering pandemic financial support to residents

- How much did inflation rise by across 2021?

Helpful news and links

Medicare and Social Security

- Humana and United Healthcare are the largest providers of Medicare Advantage: Which other companies offer policies?

- Social Security VS Supplemental Security Income: What are the differences?

- Can Medicaremembers get access to free at-home covid-19 tests.


- Does Amazon accept WIC?

- Do any meal delivery kitsaccept SNAP?

Read more from AS USA


VP Harris speaks to how the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill will help increase access to the internet

People everywhere use high-speed Internet to stream movies
for family movie night — Llulisa talked about that; to video chat with friends that are far away; to view a tutorial on how to fix that leaky faucet; to read the news, check the weather, or plan a trip.

For so many of us, we use of the Internet as an essential and integrated part of our daily lives, and we take it for granted. 

And yet, today, more than 42 million people in our country — 42 million people — do not have access to high-speed Internet, which obviously means students are sitting in fast food restaurant parking lots to do their homework over public Wi-Fi because that is the only place that they have Internet access.

Seniors are taking their telemedicine visits not at home in the privacy of their home, but in local libraries with little or no privacy.

There are many reasons why it is so difficult for people in our nation to access reliable high-speed Internet.

Kamala Harris, US Vice President

Senator Bernie Sanders calls attention to high prescription drug costs in the US

For decades, decades, members of both political parties have come to the floor of the Senate and the House, bemoaning the high cost of prescription drugs in this country and promising the American people that they would lower those outrageous prices. They have given speech after speech and spent millions on 30 second campaign ads telling their constituents all that they were going to do to take on the pharmaceutical industry.

“And for decades they have failed to deliver.

“They have failed to deliver under Democratic leadership and they have failed to deliver under Republican leadership.

“They have failed to deliver because of the greed of the pharmaceutical industry – which today may well be the most powerful corporate interest in America and is certainly the dominant political force here in Washington, DC.

“My fellow Americans: Do you want to know why you’re paying the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, sometimes 10 times more for the same exact drug that is sold in Canada and other countries?

“Do you want to know why 1 out of 4 Americans are unable to afford the prescription drugs their doctors prescribe?

“Do you want to know why thousands of Americans die every year because they can’t afford their medicine?

“Do you know why millions of diabetic Americans actually ration their insulin?

“I will tell you why. During the past 20 years, the pharmaceutical industry has spent over $4.5 billion on lobbying and hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign contributions.

“These are campaign contributions which go to Republicans. These are campaign contributions that go to Democrats. And I’m talking about hundreds of members of the House and Senate.

Bernie Sanders, US Senator from Vermont
When can 401(k) be withdrawn? How does a 401(k) work with retirement?

Americans have several options they can take advantage of when saving for retirement. One such is 401(k) plan through their employer which depending on the type could come with upfront tax benefits or tax-free distributions when you retire.

However, if you need to withdraw money from your 401(k) plan before you turn 59½ you could incur a hefty penalty. There are some cases where you can draw down on your 401(k)-retirement nest egg after you’ve turned 55 without being punished. Read me.

What are the 401k contribution limits 2022?

In January, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 149,629,000 non-farm workers were employed in the United States. This is up from a historic low of around 130,000,000 million in April 2020 when the pandemic led to major shutdowns and layoffs around the country. As businesses try to attract workers back into the labor force, many have had to increase pay and benefits.

2022 Contribution Caps

To prevent tax evasion, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) puts a cap on the amount of money that can be contributed to a 401(k) each year. The IRS increased the contribution limit by $1,000 to $20,500 for 2022.Read more.


Consumers optimistic about long-term inflation outlook

The Federal Reserve conducted three surveys since last summer of consumer expectations of inflation. Despite the extensive coverage of prices rising on just about everything, consumers don't view it as long lasting. As of the last survey in January, respondents have remained stable in their expectation of 3 percent inflation rate five years into the future.


Moms ask senators "where is the love?" and urge them to pass Build Back Better

For Valentine’s Day, MomsRising.org is calling on senators to "help heal our hearts and economic woes" by passing the Build Back Better plan. Democrats have been negotiating the care infrastructure bill in the upper chamber since passing the House in November. 

"This bill would pass life-saving measures for families like extending the Child Tax Credit payments, solving the child care and Pre-K crisis, guaranteeing paid family and medical leave when your family needs it, making home- and community-based services for the elderly and those with disabilities more affordable, lowering the cost of insulin and other prescription drugs, and more," they wrote. 

How can I make an appointment at the Social Security office?

The Social Security Administration in March 2020 stopped face-to-face service with the public at the more than 1,200 field offices nationwide except in “limited, critical situations” due to the covid-19 pandemic. Until offices reopen, which may be finally happening after two years, beneficiaries can conduct business with the agency online, via fax or by phone including critical services.

The Social Security Administration considers the following situations as limited and critical: When a person lacks food or shelter, including utilities or in the event they do not have medical care or coverage and they are looking to reinstate or apply for benefits. Likewise, beneficiaries that cannot receive their benefits payment electronically and are in urgent need of one to cover food, shelter, or medical treatment expenses.

Full details


2022 Super Bowl dubbed "Crypto Bowl"

Comapnies that want to reach a large audience have no better opportunity than the Super Bowl. But those ads will set them back a pretty penny. This year set a new record with NBCUniversal reportedly charging $7million for 30-second spots.

Beyond the traditional companies that forked out wads of cash to sell their wares there were a commercials persuading viewers to seriously consider activities that come with a lot of financial risk. The prevelance of cryptocurrency investment and sports betting spots, two activities that are sometimes considered one and the same, caused some to dub the 2022 Super Bowl the "Crypto Bowl."

Child and Dependent Care Credit: An $8,000 tax credit parents should know about

Families with children should file a 2021 tax return this year if they want to receive any money they are eligible for from the enhanced Child Tax Credit. When you are filing though, you will want to check out other tax credits that were beefed up under the American Rescue Plan.

One may be of particular interest to families that have older dependents as well as children they claim on their tax filing. Although the Child Tax Credit gives taxpayers up to $3,600 per child, the Child and Dependent Care Credit could be worth up to $8,000 for a family with two or more children or dependents. Half that amount if they have just one.

Full details


Expect delays on your tax refund, IRS warns

This year Americans are expected to receive more money in the form of tax refunds than is normal, with one-off payments from the Child Tax Credit and missing stimulus checks on their way after filing. But the IRS is still contending with a huge backlog of tax returns from previous years and accountancy advisors TurboTax claim thatthe refunds may take up 120 days after the submission of a tax return. 

Which stores accept WIC and EBT food stamps? Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid

Low-income households can receive financial support from two federal programs designed to provide nutritional resources for families. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and the EBT food stamps, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) both provide nutritional suppport but are used in different way. 

If you're eligible for these programs where can you use your EBT card?

Read more


IRS chief called for additional support back in November

“The Administration estimates $400 billion in additional revenue can be generated over the next decade from enforcement efforts focused on higher-end incomes, shrinking the tax gap. This figure is no surprise: If given the resources we need, we will be able to make a sizable dent in noncompliance over several years. A properly funded and trained workforce will also have a significant deterrent effect on cheating”.

“We desperately need sufficient resources to be able to appropriately serve and support you and our country. The funding proposal offers a historic opportunity to help the IRS help others. Congress must act”.

Charles Rettig, IRS Commissioner

Are you eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit?

This year individuals eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) could be entitled to up a one-time payment worth up to $1,500 per person, three times what the maximum amount was in 2020. As Americans continue to struggling with the economic consequences of the pandemic the government is offering additional support for low-income groups. 

Despite no additional stimulus checks, which states keep giving money?

For a second year in a row, states have seen large budget surpluses from better-than-expected tax revenues and their balance sheets padded with federal covid-relief funds, some of which are obligated by law to give some of that surplus back to residents.

Additional support programmes have been introduced throughout the pandemic to provide financial relief for struggling Americans; here's what could be on offer for ou...

Read more


When will I get my tax refund?

The IRS has warned for months that tax season 2022 could be beset by disruption once again, as the agency looks to work through a backklog of some six million unprocessed tax returns from recent years. IRS chief Charles Rettig has advised that filers utilise the online filing options to speed up the process and highlighted the importance of making sure that there are no factural errors in your submission. 


You might be entitled to more Child Tax Credit support

Last year the IRS sent out advanced monthly payments of the 2022 Child Tax Credit, entitling parents to up to $300 per child in monthly support. However those payments were only half of the 12-month programme's funding and eligible families will be able to claim the remaining money as a single tax credit when they file their taxes this season. Remember, even if you are not normally required to do so you will need to file a tax return this year the trigger your payment. 


Sanders wants change on extortionate medicine costs

“Do you know why millions of diabetic Americans actually ration their insulin?

“I will tell you why. During the past 20 years, the pharmaceutical industry has spent over $4.5 billion on lobbying and hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign contributions.

“These are campaign contributions which go to Republicans. These are campaign contributions that go to Democrats. And I’m talking about hundreds of members of the House and Senate.

“Further, the pharmaceutical industry has, over the years, mounted an unprecedented lobbying effort in Washington and in states all over this country."

Sen. Bernie Sanders, Remarks on the pharmaceutical industry

WH looks to build support for Child Tax Credit payments

In recent days the White House has been on a charm offensive, looking to build support for the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax, two programmes that President Biden hopes can be transformative for the nation's struggling families. Some low-income families have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic and associated disruption and Biden is eager to offer some financial respite. 


How to speed up your IRS tax refund

Even before tax season 2022 had begun the IRS was working through a backlog of unfiled tax returns from previous years which was thought to total more than six million filings. This enormous backlog threatens the IRS' ability to process this year's filings efficiently and there are fears that many will have to waiting longer than usual to receive their tax refund from the agency. Here's how you can reduce that delay and hopefully receive your tax refund more promptly. 

What financial aid options are available for parents in 2022?

High inflation and a slow recovery from the pandemic has left millions of households across the country in a tricky spot financially, and families in particular hae felt the cost of rising prices. But while the expanded Child Tax Credit elapsed at the end of 2021 there are still plenty of options for families looking to supplement their income with federal relief programmes. 

Read more


IRS ditches face recognition software

The IRS was desperate to reduce waiting times this tax season and has encouraged filers to utilise e-filing options to avoid the delays associated with physical paperwork. It also introduced facial recognition software this year, which was designed to speed up the identity verification process. However that option has now bee removed after bipartisan backlash in Congress. 

How can I apply for Supplemental Security Income?

Are you eligible to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI)? The federal relief programme provides financial aid for disabled adults and children with limited income and resources and is funded directly by the US Treasury. If you think you may be entitled to an SSI payment, here's everything you need to know to initiate your claim...

Read more


VP Harris pushes for Child Tax Credit return

The Biden administration has been trying to build support in Congress and across the country for an extension to the Child Tax Credit monthly payments, which expired at the end of 2021. President Biden had hoped to ensure an extension with the Build Back Better bill but failed to secure enough votes in the Senate, Vice President Harris led a White House press conference last week to extoll the virtues of the programme.


Spread out paychecks to boost your savings

New finance technology apps are allowing people to access their wages with ever greater frequency. Those who work for Uber have the option to get paid five times a day, but this may not be condusive to good financial habits. This type of payment structure is typically aimed towards low-income people as a way to avoid overdraft and late payment fees. However, research shows that receiving a salary on a daily basis encourages people to spend their earnings more than if they were paid less frequently.


Welcome to AS USA!

Hello, good morning, and welcome to the AS USA dedicated financial news live feed for Monday 14 February. Tax season 2022 is well underway and the IRS has reported huge numbers of American submitted their filings early, following advice form the agency to avoid long tax refund delays. 

We'll also bring you all the latest on talks of a new Child Tax Credit expansion, as well as various other financial relief programmes.