May 6, 2020
We at Champaign County Health Care Consumers (CCHCC) know that times are tough for many of our community members – especially those who have lost jobs and/or income during the coronavirus pandemic.
We want to let you know about some resources and benefits that are available, and that have been expanded to help meet the need of individuals and families during these difficult and uncertain times.
Please see below for information on how to get help with utility bills, how to get new or expanded SNAP (food stamps) benefits – especially for families with children – how to get health insurance if you’ve lost it or can no longer afford it, and how to get your Stimulus payment if you do not file federal taxes. You can help CCHCC by sharing this information with everyone in your network. And, if you are able to do so, you can also donate to CCHCC to help us help our community.
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
LIHEAP is a federal program that helps low income households pay for heating or cooling their homes. LIHEAP will help pay a portion of your heating and cooling bills. For most households in our community, this means that LIHEAP will help pay your Ameren bill.
LIHEAP offers assistance with heating and cooling bills to income-eligible households. Those eligible to make appointments to apply for LIHEAP include:
– Low-income seniors (60+) and persons with permanent disabilities
– Those with pending disability status with Social Security (must provide documentation)
– Low-income households that contain a child age 5 or under
– Disconnected or imminent disconnection households
– Households that applied already and have a high outstanding balance may apply and may receive – additional assistance at this time.
– Households with income up to 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines: A single-person household can qualify with a monthly income for up to $1,561, a two-person household up to $2,114, a three-person household up to $2,666, and a family of four up to $3,219.
Benefits are paid directly to utilities or energy vendors on behalf of eligible households. The exception is households whose heating costs are included in their rent.
In Champaign County, you can apply for LIHEAP through the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission (RPC).
To apply for LIHEAP through the RPC, you can call RPC at 217-384-1226 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday to schedule an intake appointment. Or you can go online and use a form on the RPC website to schedule your appointment.
For more information, visit RPC’s announcement here.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as “food stamps”)
In Illinois, SNAP has been expanded to help meet the needs of more individuals and families. Many who are already getting SNAP benefits will see a temporary increase in their monthly benefits. You do not need to do anything to get this increased benefit, if you already receive SNAP.
For those who are not familiar with SNAP, you apply through the State’s Department of Human Services (DHS). If approved, you will receive an Illinois Link Card – an electronic card with a certain dollar amount on it that you can use to purchase groceries. The Link Card is accepted at most grocery stores. The card is “recharged” every month on a particular date, which is based on the date that you applied and were approved for SNAP.
Fortunately, Illinois has expanded SNAP benefits to help individuals and families during the coronavirus pandemic. The new expanded SNAP is called Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) SNAP, and it is specifically designed to meet the needs of families who have children who would normally be getting free or reduced lunches at school.
If your household already receives SNAP benefits, this added benefit will be automatically included in your SNAP allotment. However, if you do not currently receive SNAP or would not have otherwise qualified, you can contact us at CCHCC to help you apply. You can call CCHCC at 217-352-6533 and leave a message, and we will call you back. Or you can email CCHCC at email@example.com.
If you want to apply on your own, you can apply on abe.illinois.gov or complete a paper application and either mail to Central Scan Unit, PO Box 19138, Springfield, IL 62763, or email to DHS.FCS.PEBT@illinois.gov. The only requirement for the PEBT SNAP is that your household includes a child or children that would have gotten free or reduced meals while in school.
Besides the PEBT SNAP, low-income individuals and households who have not previously had SNAP benefits, can also apply. CCHCC is happy to help with these applications!
Have you lost your health insurance? CCHCC can help!
People who have lost their workplace health insurance during the coronavirus outbreak might qualify for private health insurance coverage – and subsidies to help make the insurance affordable – through the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) Marketplace, or possibly for the Medicaid program.
In Illinois, thanks to our expanded Medicaid program under the ACA, many low-income and no-income Illinois residents will qualify for free (no monthly premiums or deductibles) health insurance coverage through the Medicaid program.
CCHCC’s certified Community Health Workers can help you figure out which insurance program you will qualify for, and can help you with the application process. We are here to help! You can contact CCHCC by phone (please leave a voicemail message) at 217-352-6533, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Try to get help as soon as possible, so that you can protect your options for coverage. Please contact us as soon as you can after you have lost your health insurance. The Medicaid program has open enrollment year-round and people can apply at any time.
However, the Marketplace – which offers private health insurance plans and financial assistance – only allows 60 days for Special Enrollment Periods (SEPs). Eligibility for a Special Enrollment Period is triggered when you have had a change in your circumstances such as loss of job and insurance, significant change in income, the birth of a child, or a move.
It is best to seek help and apply for coverage as soon as possible in order to gather up your documentation and get help for the application process.
CARES Act Stimulus Payments for Low-Income people who do NOT file tax returns.
Many people have already begun to receive their CARES Act Stimulus payments through direct deposit from the IRS. The first group of people to receive the Stimulus payments were those who have already filed their tax returns for 2018 and/or 2019, and who have direct deposit information with the IRS, where they have received their tax returns.
The second group of people who have most recently begun to receive their Stimulus payments are those who receive Social Security payments in the form of direct deposit in their bank accounts.
However, not everyone makes enough money to file a tax return. They might be low-income, or receive SSI or VA benefits, and not have to file taxes. In that case, the IRS will probably not have banking information on file for these individuals, and therefore cannot easily make a direct deposit payment in these individuals’ bank accounts. And some people may not have bank accounts at all, and will have to receive payment in the form of a paper check.
If you are a non-filer (you do not file tax returns with the federal government), you need to contact the IRS and let them know how to get the Stimulus payment to you. You can do that by going on to the IRS website and using a portal for Non-Filers, where you can enter your information.
For more information, and to enter your information as a Non-Filer with the IRS, visit the IRS here.
Please help spread the word that help is available.
Please help spread the word that resources, benefits, and help are available! Help CCHCC reach as many people as possible by sharing our messages and information with your networks.
Also, if you are in a position to help support CCHCC financially, please consider making a donation to support our work so that we can help as many community members as possible during this challenging time.
Thank you for your support!
Champaign County Health Care Consumers