HealthCare.gov has a tool that can help you find health insurance options to meet your medical needs, such as private insurance for individuals, families, and small businesses, or public programs. Find health insurance options.
In the United States, report your suspicions to law enforcement at 911, Department of Justice at 1-888-428-7581, and the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-3737-888. Victims, including undocumented individuals, are eligible for services and immigration assistance.
Be a conscientious consumer. Make socially responsible investments. Let your favorite retailers know that you support their efforts to maintain a slavery free supply chain. Encourage your company or your employer to take steps to investigate and eliminate human trafficking throughout its supply chain and to publish the information for consumer awareness. Refer to the Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor.
Hire trafficking survivors.
Volunteer your professional services to help an anti-trafficking organization that need help from lawyers, doctors, dentists, counselors, translators and interpreters, graphic designers, public relations and media professionals, event planners, and accountants.
Donate funds or needed items to an anti-trafficking organization.
Organize a fundraiser and donate the proceeds to an anti-trafficking organization.
Join or start a grassroots human trafficking coalition.
Encourage your local schools to include modern slavery in their curriculum. As a parent, educator, or school personnel, be aware of how traffickers target school-aged children.
Meet with and write to your local, state and federal government representatives to let them know that you care about combating human trafficking in your community.
Host an awareness event to watch and discuss a recent human trafficking documentary. On a larger scale, host a human trafficking film festival. Several noteworthy films and documentaries have been produced in the last several years that bring attention to the plight of victims worldwide.
Write a letter to the editor for your local paper about human trafficking in your community.
Incorporate human trafficking information into your professional associations’ conferences, trainings, manuals, and other materials as relevant.
STUDENTS: Join or establish a university club to raise awareness about human trafficking throughout the local community and identify victims. Request that human trafficking be an issue included in such university courses as health, migration, human rights, social work, and crime. Increase scholarship about human trafficking by publishing an article, teaching a class, or hosting a symposium.
COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS: ensure that your staff is able to identify and assist trafficked persons.
LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS: join or start a local human trafficking task force.
MENTAL HEALTH OR MEDICAL PROVIDERS: extend low-cost or free services to human trafficking victims assisted by nearby anti-trafficking organizations.
IMMIGRATION ATTORNEYS: learn about and offer to human trafficking victims the immigration benefits for which they are eligible.
EMPLOYMENT LAW ATTORNEYS: look for signs of human trafficking among your clients.
Avoid Foreclosure with Help from HUD-Approved Agencies
In recent years, many people have turned to individual agencies, housing counselors and various lenders to avoid foreclosing on their homes. Unfortunately, many families found themselves paying scammers who took their money and failed to protect them.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Any person at risk of losing his or her home due to foreclosure can receive free counseling from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) nationwide network of approved counseling agencies.
Counseling on ways to avoid foreclosing on your home
Help with refinancing through HUD’s various programs or with lender negotiations
HUD-approved agencies cannot charge for their foreclosure counseling services. However, they can charge a reasonable fee for other services, such as general housing education, pre and post-sale counseling, and other services.
Preparing for Your First Meeting
You don’t need to wait to be in foreclosure to seek counseling. If you think you may run into problems paying your mortgage, it is better to seek foreclosure counseling sooner, rather than later. Having the following financial information ready will make your first meeting with a counseling agency more productive:
Household monthly income and expenses
Current monthly mortgage payment amount
Latest mortgage account statement
Any relevant communication with your lender regarding late mortgage payments
It is also a good idea to have a sense of what you want to accomplish with the help of the approved counseling agency – keeping your home, selling it, refinancing, etc.
Working with a Non-Approved Agency
If you choose to work with a non-approved agency, consider taking certain steps to avoid falling victim to scams:
Avoid paying for foreclosure counseling services. HUD-approved agencies provide these services at no cost.
Resist any tactics that pressure you into signing documents without enough time to go over them carefully.
Do not sign over the deed of your house to any other person or organization.
Make your mortgage payments only to your lender or an institution approved by your lender.
We need public input on important questions about private student loans. Whether you have two sentences or two pages to tell us, we want to hear from you.
Among the questions we hope to answer:
What kind of non-federal financing do families rely on to pay for education? When families choose private loans before exhausting their federal loans, what prompts this choice?
What sources do families rely on for information about private student loan options? What sources and types of information do students consider about debt loads? How effective are private loan disclosures?
What can students tell us about loans offered directly by the schools they are attending or have attended? What can schools tell us about how they select students for aid and how they fund this aid?
What experiences have people had with repaying private student loans? Does it affect field of study or career choice? What resources or techniques have assisted students with avoiding default and understanding their rights as borrowers?
Anyone can comment: applicants for private student loans, students in school, people in repayment, lenders, etc. We need your help to make sure we have a diverse set of perspectives as we prepare this report.
This summer, the CFPB and Department of Education will submit a report on the private student loan market to Congress. As we prepare our report to Congress on the private student loan market, we will use the comments we receive here to guide us as we prepare an in-depth view of private student lending.
In addition, your comment will be published in the Federal Register. Other people who may share your experience will be able to read your comment.
Medicaid is health insurance that helps many people who can’t afford medical care. Eligibility is based on income and other circumstances.
The Medicaid eligibility rules are different for each state. Most states offer coverage for adults with children at some income level. Beginning in 2014, most adults under age 65 with individual incomes up to about $15,000 per year will qualify for Medicaid in every state.
Monday, January 16 is the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and national day of service, a time to re-commit ourselves to serving each other and our communities. On Monday, Americans across the country will honor Dr. King by helping their neighbors and communities.
Learn how you can get involved and find opportunities in your area.
This is a special post written in collaboration with David Bakke, a long-time contributor for Money Crashers, one of the leading personal finance blogs online.
With the holiday season behind us, the new year is at the forefront of most people’s minds. Now is a good time to put together a financial plan for the coming year.
There are a number of financial tips and strategies that will help you have a financially successful year:
1. Review Your Finances
Review the financial aspects of your life to see where you can trim and save.
Monthly Bills: Take a look at your monthly bills to see if there are services you don’t want or need. In particular, consider a cheaper cable TV package or a cheaper cell phone plan. If you are currently paying for home telephone service, consider eliminating your landline altogether. Reducing these bills by just a few dollars per month will really add up over the course of a year.
Insurance: Contact your auto insurance provider to see if you qualify for a cheaper auto insurance premium, and review the policy deductibles to see if you are eligible for any savings. If you are currently paying for private mortgage insurance and the balance on your loan is around 80% of your home’s value, contact your lender to see if you can avoid paying private mortgage insurance altogether. In general, look for ways to save on all insurance policies without sacrificing coverage.
Credit Reports: You can request credit reports up to three times per year for free—once from each of the three consumer credit reporting companies. It is very important to review your credit report on a timely basis to make sure it’s accurate and up to date. Check for old credit cards that you have closed that may still be on your report. And of course, check for any negative reports. If they don’t belong there, file a dispute and get them removed. AnnualCreditReport.com is the only authorized site to check your credit report for free.
2. Find One New Way to Save
There are endless ways to save in your everyday life. However, if you try to implement many of these all at once, you may be setting yourself up for failure. Rather, focus on one new way to save before moving on to the next strategy.
You can plan to focus on saving home energy costs. Set up a home energy audit through your power company, which is free, and follow their recommendations to reduce energy expenses. Other ways to consider saving money include eating out less, reducing clothing purchases, or saving money on groceries by learning how to extreme coupon.
3. Commit to Paying Down Your Credit Card Debt
If you are currently carrying credit card debt, now is a great time to commit to paying it down. The best way to start is to follow one simple rule: if you can’t afford to pay for something by the time the bill comes in, don’t buy it. After that, calculate how much money you can save in other aspects of your finances (after reviewing your finances and finding one new way to save) and earmark this money for your credit card bills.
If you carry debt on a high-interest credit card that you can’t immediately afford to pay down, see if you qualify to transfer that debt to a card with a lower interest rate. Even if you do qualify for a new low- interest credit card you will have to pay a balance transfer fee. Make sure the amount you’ll save in interest payments will make up for this fee.
If you haven’t started saving for retirement, now is the perfect time to start. If you have already started saving, review your portfolio. Analyze where your money is invested and re-balance it between stocks and bonds, if necessary. Or if a particular security or mutual fund you own has consistently underperformed its benchmark, get rid of it and purchase a more solid investment in the same category.
You may want to consider committing a larger portion of your income to retirement. Additionally, consider opening a Roth IRA to complement your employer’s 401k.
5. Set Financial Goals
Decide for yourself what you want to accomplish financially next year, write it down, and decide how you are going to reach your goals.
The Consumer Action Handbook can help you find more ways to save with tips about understanding credit, preventing identity theft, filing a consumer complaint, and many other financial and consumer protection topics to help you plan for a successful 2012.
If you have had a stellar financial year, congratulations! If you made some mistakes, simply set yourself up for success next year by following these tips. With a little planning and forethought, you can positively impact your finances in the coming year.
What suggestions do you have for improving your finances in the new year?
The Library of Congress is seeking nominations for the 2012 National Film Registry.
Under the National Film Preservation Act, the Librarian of Congress names 25 films to the National Film Registry every year. In order for a film to be eligible, it must be at least 10 years old and be culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant. Find out which films made the 2011 list.
Public nominations and input play a key role when the Librarian of Congress and National Film Board consider the final selections for the year.
Not a question, but thank you, whoever reads through this inbox. It means a lot that you really do answer questions, and you're so polite and decent about it even when the questions are hard to decipher. I have a job a little like yours, so I'm guessing you have to deal with some very frustrating people. So... I wanted to thank you; this is a really cool blog.
Thanks! We’re really glad you like our blog. By answering questions, we can highlight the government information and services that people need the most.
I collect the Presidential dollar coins but the banks say they have not received them. The release date was Nov. 21st. I was wondering when the banks will receive them. Thank you. Valerie Burns.
Banks can order Presidential $1 coins directly from the U.S. Mint. Unfortunately, we can’t say when they will receive the coins. You should call your bank to find out if have any available before you visit.
The rising value of gold has been advertised as a lucrative way to make money in a lean economy, either by investing in it or selling your gold jewelry as a way to get quick cash.
While investing in gold (and other precious metals) can be beneficial, there are risks. The value of gold can fluctuate dramatically and may not yield long-term returns you expected. However, if you research your options, it could be smart addition to your investment portfolio.
You can invest in gold by purchasing gold coins, shares in a mutual fund that contains gold, or shares of a gold mining company. However, most people normally think of buying gold bars or bullion coins. The U.S. Mint produces the American Eagle gold bullion coin, the only coins guaranteed by the United States government. Coins can be purchased from coin dealers, banks and private brokers. Before you buy, do your homework:
Research and understand the vocabulary associated with investing in gold, such as purity, grading and melt value.
Investigate the seller with your local consumer protection office or attorney general.
Avoid high pressure, “buy now” sales tactics.
Be cautious of endorsements claims that are too good to be true; remember that the U.S. Mint does not endorse any precious metal brokers.
Selling your gold
If you have jewelry you haven’t worn in a long time, you may be interested in selling it to put some extra money in your wallet. While it may seem easy to sell your jewelry, you should still do some research to make sure you don’t get cheated.
Before you approach any buyers, make sure that you know the purity (ex. 10K or 24K) of all your jewelry and keep different values separate to avoid confusion. You should weigh your jewelry yourself or have it evaluated by an independent appraiser so that you have a general idea of the value.
Get estimates from 3 different buyers. When researching potential buyers, ask them if their scales have been tested by your state’s department of weights and measures; there should be a seal to verify.
Don’t let the jewelry out of your sight, or let the buyer take it to another location to weigh; the buyer could switch out your jewelry with lower quality gold. You may also have heard offers to buy your jewelry if you mail it in. Beware of these offers; you have even less control over these types of transactions and run the risk of your jewelry being lost in transit.
stamp increase- does this mean if we use an OLD forever stamp we must add a .1cent stamp also? And can old unused "h" stamps still be used?
The cost of Forever stamps will increase by 1 cent on January 22, 2012. This means sending a First-Class letter will soon cost 45 cents.
Once purchased, Forever stamps can always be used to send a one ounce, First-Class letter, no matter how many times the price of the stamp changes in the future. You do not need to add an additional 1 cent stamp.
The H stamp was issued in 1998 and is worth 33 cents. The H rate make-up stamp is worth 1 cent. These stamps can still be used as postage, both domestically and internationally. Find the value of nondenominated stamps.
Does my minor son need a passport to enter into Canada?
All minors regardless of age, including newborns and infants, must have their own passport when traveling internationally by air. If traveling by land or sea, minors under the age of 16 may be able to present a U.S. birth certificate instead of a passport.
On December 28, 2011, the Librarian of Congress announced the 2011 additions to the National Film Registry.
Under the National Film Preservation Act, the Librarian of Congress names 25 films to the National Film Registry every year. In order for a film to be eligible, it must be at least 10 years old and be culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.
Films selected for the 2011 National Film Registry include:
Hate Crimes Remained Steady in 2010, According to FBI Report
The FBI’s 2010 Hate Crime Statistics report recorded 6,628 hate crimes, staying consistent with the numbers from the 2009 report. Traditional crimes become hate crimes when they are committed because of a person’s race, gender, religion or other targeted reason.
The 2010 report highlights the types of biases that motivate hate crimes, the nature of the offenses, information about the victims and offenders, as well as a break down of hate crimes by jurisdiction.
Some statistics from the report include:
Of the 6,628 hate crime incidents reported for 2010, nearly all (6,624) involved a single bias—47.3 percent of the single-bias incidents were motivated by race.
A reported 4,824 offenses were crimes against persons; intimidation accounted for 46.2 percent of these offenses; simple assault for 34.8 percent; and aggravated assault for 18.4 percent.
31.4 percent of reported hate crime incidents took place in or near homes.
The FBI considers the investigation of hate crimes their number one priority as part of their civil rights program. The report was compiled with the support of national and state criminal justice organizations and thousands of law enforcement agencies nationwide who report hate crimes.
More than one and a half million people file for bankruptcy every year. Many people fall behind on their bills because they’ve lost their jobs, suffered from a long-term illness, or because they were unable to manage their personal finances properly.
Fortunately, there are many resources out there that can help you put together a plan to pay off your debt, including credit counseling agencies.
Signs Your Finances Are in Trouble
You don’t have to be close to filing for bankruptcy to realize that you are in financial trouble. These are some signs that you might have too much debt:
You are frequently late on your payments
You are close to your credit limit on your credit cards
You use your credit cards to make payments on other cards
You find it difficult to save money
You’ve been denied credit recently
How to Get out of Debt
To get out of debt and set your finances straight, carefully analyze your income and expenses. Make sure you:
Make a budget and stay within its limits.
Figure out your total debt and also what you owe to each creditor, your monthly payments, interest and payment due dates.
Prioritize repayments, focusing first on things such as your mortgage, rent, and utilities.
Make a repayment plan for each creditor and determine how long it will take you to pay off the debt. Make sure to review your credit card statements, as they will include information about how long it will take to pay off your balance, per new credit card laws that went into effect in 2010.
Don’t incur any additional debt.
How to Choose a Credit Counseling Agency
Consider a credit counseling agency if your debt is too much to handle. These companies offer workshops on how to manage your money and advice on how to administer your debt. They can also help you create a budget and even negotiate your debt with creditors.
Many of these companies are nonprofit organizations, however be careful, as some charge excessive fees for their services and others might not even deliver what they promise. Consider these important suggestions before choosing a credit counseling agency:
Pick a counseling agency that offers several services. This will help you avoid organizations that promote only certain services.
Avoid credit counseling agencies that charge you for simply providing information, or agencies that demand a percentage of the amount that you are supposedly saving. Ideally, you should request the cost of their services in advance and in writing.
Stay away from agencies that ask you to stop making payments on your debt or ask you not to contact creditors.