Equality Health: At Your Side in the New Year
Now that 2020 has passed, the good news is you made it through one of the most difficult years in the nation’s recent history. Though the start of 2021 brings renewed hope with an opportunity to improve your life by achieving goals and attaining new heights, this new year comes with its own new challenges and obstacles. But you don’t have to face any of them alone. Equality Health’s extensive network of medical professionals and community resources remain available when you need them.
Help is on the way for many in the form of a second federal stimulus check. Generally, U.S. citizens and resident aliens who are not eligible to be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s income tax return may receive this second payment. Eligible individuals with an adjusted gross income for 2019 of $75,000 or less will automatically receive an Economic Impact Payment of up to $600. Married couples that file income tax jointly (or surviving spouses) with an adjusted gross income for 2019 of $150,000 or less will receive $1,200. If you have children under 17 years old, you will receive $600 for each child.
The IRS advised that there is no action required by eligible individuals to receive this second payment, and many have already received a direct deposit payment. If you have not and are eligible, you can check the status of both the first and second stimulus payments by using the Get My Payment tool, available in English and Spanish only on IRS.gov.
“To receive the CARES Economic Impact Payment,” explained Lauriane Hanson, Community Platform Resource Sr. Manager for Equality Health, “taxpayers needed to have filed a tax return in 2019. Unfortunately, many low-income families do not file a return as they think they don’t need to, and many families may not have received the first direct payment. If an individual thinks they should have received a 2020 Economic Impact Payment but did not, they may be able to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit when they file their tax return in 2021.
“There are free resources to help families file their return,” Hanson added. “The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) offers free tax help for people who generally make $56,000 or less, persons with disabilities and limited English-speaking taxpayers. The Arizona Department of Revenue provides additional information on the VITA program and VITA sites. Most cities will provide this service to their residents during the tax filing season. Other organizations providing VITA include Valley of the Sun United Way, Mesa United Way, A New Leaf, United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona.”
If you are unemployed and have signed up for benefits, the federal government will provide an extra $300 to your weekly payment until the week ending on March 14. This is half of what was offered during the first stimulus effort, but the State of Arizona, which calculates the benefits, has already started including the extra federal money.
Problems with Pay Services
If you have difficulties paying utility services, check the website of the county or city you live in to find out if they have assigned funds to assist and how to receive these benefits. For example, the City of Phoenix approved an additional $2 million to the Project Assist program, which is an initiative that offers financial support to residents with overdue bills for city services during this COVID-19 pandemic.
If you need additional assistance, as well as help with rent, mortgage and public services, can visit housing.az.gov/general-public/rental-assistance-resources-eviction-prevention for eviction prevention resources and des.az.gov/services/basic-needs/shelter-housing/utility-assistance for utility assistance.
The electric companies (APS and SRP) have implemented payment plans for customers with an outstanding balance. It is important for you to communicate directly with the utility companies to reach an agreement for the amount you must pay. You can find their phone numbers and contact information on their respective websites.
More Help from LINQAZ
LINQAZ, Equality Health’s community resources network, is an alliance of culturally competent community-based organizations that offer services to improve the health and well-being of individuals and communities. These organizations provide social services, clinical services and links to educational and employment resources.
Through LINQAZ, you can receive or be directed to an important variety of services and resources in the community that you and your family may need during this public health and economic crisis. Associates from this vast community network are capable to attend to your needs in both English and Spanish.
To learn more about LINQAZ, visit the website www.linqaz.com where you can find a description of services that are available in our Arizona community.
Pay Attention to Mental Health
The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic crisis have caused great personal stress for many people. The fear and anxiety resulting from this new virus and the threat of overwhelming family expenses can generate strong emotions in every member of the family. Now, more than ever, it’s crucial to take care of your mental health. Remember, you are not alone and there is nothing wrong in asking for professional help.
Getting help for your mental health does not mean you are “crazy.” It is not only a necessity for your well-being, but your family’s and the community as a whole. Mental health affects the way you think, feel and act, which affects the way you handle stress, your relationships and your ability to make sound decisions during an emergency.
Call your medical provider if you feel that stress interferes with your daily activities. Free, confidential resources to get in touch with a medical professional can be very useful for you and your loved ones.
If you do not have a primary doctor or feel that your mental health requires attention, you can call the Equality Health Care Center at (602) 889-9401. The center can assist you in selecting a professional that can attend to you through in-person or virtual consultation.
When all is said and done, always remember that any moment is a good moment to get up, smile, take a breath of fresh air and continue on your path. At the end of the day, that’s what life is all about.
Published in Prensa Arizona, 1/14/2021