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In these challenging economic times, many of us have family members or friends who have been laid off or who have had their hours at work reduced, or perhaps you are in the midst of one of these situations. Making ends meet when your world's been turned upside-down can be a daunting task, but there is help available, and it is right at your fingertips.
While they won't help you replace a steady paycheck, the following online resources can help you find some valuable assistance, and perhaps a little extra cash, to help you or someone you know through tough times.
The Ohio Benefit Bank is a collaboration of the office of Governor Ted Strickland and more than 900 faith-based, non-profit, governmental and private-sector partners that can connect low- and moderate-income Ohioans with access to supports such as tax preparation assistance and tax credits. The web-based Benefit Bank will determine your eligibility to receive help with child care subsidies, food purchases, health care coverage and home energy assistance. Benefit Bank also helps eligible users get a Golden Buckeye card and access job training assistance through the Senior Community Service Employment Program, which offers paid job training and work experience for low-income, older adults. There are hundreds of Benefit Bank sites around the state, where trained counselors can help you answer the eligibility questions.
The National Council on Aging, a non-profit advocacy organization, has a similar web-based computer program called BenefitsCheckUp. Its self-service, confidential, online questionnaire can help you determine your eligibility for federal, state and private assistance with housing, in-home care services, prescription drugs and transportation, among others. A personalized report summarizes your potential benefits and gets you started on collecting them.
Benefits are nice, but you may actually have money owed to you. At the state of Ohio's online treasure hunt, you can find out if you have any unclaimed funds. These funds come from accounts at financial institutions and companies that have had no contact with the owner for usually three to five years and include money from savings accounts, certificate of deposits, stocks and bonds and credit balances. If you are lucky enough to find money that is yours, you can access it by completing the online claim form.
The tough economic climate also has affected many people's dreams of home ownership. Save the Dream, the state of Ohio's foreclosure prevention effort, provides information on the foreclosure process, local supports, mortgage services and tips for avoiding "rescue" scams. The site also provides information regarding legal assistance and mediation. If you can prevent home foreclosure, you can minimize the impact on your credit report, as well as help protect the property values in your neighborhood.
The benefits you'll find at the resources above can help you and your family, but accessing them also can benefit your community. Economic recovery depends on consumer activity. With the benefits listed above, you'll be able to take advantage of funds available and, more importantly, get them into local businesses and agencies.