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PRESS ROOM: Jan. 15 is Final Deadline to Get Health Insurance With Financial Help Through Covered California

LOS ANGELES SENTINEL — The best way to ring in 2019 is by getting the peace of mind that comes with having health insurance for you and your family.

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By Sentinel News Service

The best way to ring in 2019 is by getting the peace of mind that comes with having health insurance for you and your family.

Open enrollment for Covered California runs through Jan. 15, for coverage that begins on Feb. 1. As California’s health insurance marketplace, Covered California continues to deliver on the promises of the national Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Affordable Care Act), with 11 insurers serving Covered California consumers all over the state — 96 percent of whom can to choose from two insurers or more, while 82 percent of have three or more choices.

Covered California is the only place you can go to find out if you are eligible for financial help that lowers the price of your health coverage. The average member pays $5 a day for health insurance, with many paying much less. Go to CoveredCA.com to see if you qualify for financial help. It’s easy: Just click on the button that reads “Shop and Compare” and enter your ZIP code, your household income, the number of people who need insurance and their ages.

“There has been so much noise — and at times, plain disinformation — around the Affordable Care Act in the past year, but the important thing for consumers to know is that Covered California’s open enrollment will go through Jan. 15,” Executive Director Peter V. Lee said. “You still have time to sign up and get quality and affordable health coverage throughout 2019.”

If you’ve previously checked whether you qualified for Covered California’s financial help, check again. It only takes a few minutes, and you could end up discovering that you qualify for financial help assisting consumers in saving an average of 80 percent off their monthly health care costs. This health coverage has helped save people’s lives and protected consumers from financial devastation from medical bills that can reach tens of thousands of dollars, and in some cases, millions of dollars. We all know people who have lived without insurance or gone without adequate health care for too long. It doesn’t have to be that way. Help is out there, and now is the time to sign up for life-changing care.

You can get free and confidential enrollment assistance by visiting www.coveredca.com/find-help/ and searching among 700 storefronts statewide and the more than 16,000 certified enrollers who can assist consumers in multiple languages. In addition, consumers can also get help to enroll by calling the Covered California service center toll-free at (800) 300-1506.

This article originally appeared in the Los Angeles Sentinel

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Business

Gov. Newsom Signs Package of Laws Supporting Restaurants, Bars

California Gov. Gavin Newsom approved a COVID-19 recovery package Friday supporting small hospitality establishments around the state, including restaurants and bars.

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Oakland, CA, USA February 21, 2011 Folks enjoy a sunny day with al fresco dining at the historic Last Chance Saloon, made famous by author Jack London, in Oakland, California/ iStock

California Gov. Gavin Newsom approved a COVID-19 recovery package Friday supporting small hospitality establishments around the state, including restaurants and bars. 

Signed at a restaurant in Oakland, the legislative package includes Assembly Bill (AB) 61, Senate Bill (SB) 314 and SB 389 – bills that, among other provisions, extend COVID-19 special permissions like outdoor dining and to-go licenses for alcoholic beverages. 

Funding for the package will come out of the governor’s California Comeback Plan which allots $10.2 billion in small business support. So far, the state has spent $4 billion on an emergency grant program and $6.2 billion in tax relief for small businesses. 

“These innovative strategies have been a lifeline for hard-hit restaurants during the pandemic and today, we’re keeping the entrepreneurial spirit going so that businesses can continue to create exciting new opportunities and support vibrant neighborhoods across the state,” said Newsom. 

The state support comes at a time when many Black-owned small businesses in California, including restaurants, are struggling to recover after being hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies (IGS) research, 13 % of Black-owned businesses have had to close down due to the pandemic, compared to 8% of White-owned ones. For Latino-owned businesses that number is even higher at 18 %. 

Due to the pandemic, Black businesses have experienced higher revenue loss, more layoffs of employees and less success in getting government funded relief like assistance from the federal Paycheck Protection Program. 

“We have all seen the fallout from the pandemic and recession and the effect on BIPOC people and BIPOC small businesses owners has been devastating,” said Tara Lynn Gray, Director of the California Office of the Small Business Advocate. She was speaking at an IGS event last week titled “Diversity and Entrepreneurship in California: An Undergraduate Research Symposium.”

“These are problems that have to be addressed. Access to capital continues to be a challenge,” Gray continued. “We are seeing bankers like Wells Fargo, Citi and JP Morgan Chase making significant investments in BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color) small businesses, communities and individuals. That is a trend I would like to continue to see.”

Gray pointed out there are a number of state programs like the Small Business COVID-19 relief funds that prioritize providing relief funding to underserved businesses in the state. 

Authored by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-Encino) and Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) respectively, AB 61 and SB 314 establish a one-year regulatory grace period for businesses operating under temporary COVID-19 licenses to get permanent expanded licenses, such as outdoor dining authorization.

The one-year grace period will begin once the pandemic emergency declaration has expired. 

“Outdoor dining has been a critical lifeline that has helped these establishments keep their doors open during these challenging times,” said Gabriel.

 “AB 61 provides important flexibility so that restaurants can safely expand outdoor dining and continue to serve the communities they call home. I applaud Governor Newsom for his thoughtful leadership in protecting both public health and small businesses as we continue to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Gabriel continued.

Wiener also stressed the importance of pandemic protocols for small businesses in California.

“SB 314 ensures the public can continue to enjoy outdoor dining with alcohol and that our small neighborhood businesses can continue to benefit from this change. The hospitality industry has been hit hard by the pandemic, and it’s important we make changes to modernize our entertainment and hospitality laws to allow them more flexibility and more ways to safely serve customers,” he said.  

SB 389 allows restaurants, breweries, wineries and bars that sell food to continue to sell to-go alcoholic beverages through Dec. 31, 2026.

“This is an important step toward helping our restaurants, which have been hit hard by the pandemic,” said Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa), SB 389’s author. 

“It will ensure their recovery, protecting jobs and our economy. I thank Gov. Newsom for supporting this new law,” he continued.

 

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Community

Social Security Benefits Will See Largest Jump in Nearly Forty Years

An average couple’s benefits would increase by $154 to $2,753 per month in 2022.

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Social Security Card Template

Millions of retirees on Social Security will see a 5.9% jump in their benefits next year, the largest cost-of-living adjustment 9 (COLA) in the last 39 years.

The increase comes in the wake of deepening inflation as the economy continues to be impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The increase will mean about $92 a month for an average retiree, according to estimates by the Social Security Administration.  Increases over the 10 years averaged t 1.65% a year.

An average couple’s benefits would increase by $154 to $2,753 per month in 2022.

This Social Security adjustment will affect 1 in 5 Americans., a total of nearly 70 million people.

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Business

City Must Pay Contractors, Businesses, Non-Profits Promptly

By restoring the Prompt Payment Ordinance, local organizations working for Oaklanders will be compensated in a timely manner and can do more work for Oakland as a result.

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Sheng Thao

I have introduced legislation to restore the City of Oakland’s Prompt Payment Ordinance and it will be heard at 1:30 p.m. by the City Council on October 19 because local contractors and local businesses need to be compensated in a timely manner for work they do on behalf of the City.

It’s unacceptable that the city is using the COVID-19 pandemic to delay payment to these local non-profit organizations.  By restoring the Prompt Payment Ordinance, local organizations working for Oaklanders will be compensated in a timely manner and can do more work for Oakland as a result.

In March 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, then-Interim City Administrator, Steven Falk issued an Emergency Order suspending parts of the City’s codes to give the City the flexibility to navigate the uncertain times.  Few would have guessed then that the world would still be navigating the COVID-19 Pandemic nearly 18 months later. One of the ordinances suspended by the Emergency Order was the Prompt Payment Ordinance.

Oakland’s Prompt Payment Ordinance requires the City to compensate local businesses and contractors executing City grants or contracts within 20 days of receiving an invoice.  This allows local organizations providing services on behalf of the City of Oakland to be compensated in a timely manner and builds trust between these organizations and the city.  Local contractors and businesses provide a diverse set of services to the City, covering areas ranging from trash removal and paving to public safety.

Almost 18 months since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Oakland’s Prompt Payment Ordinance is still suspended.  Even as City staff have adjusted to working remotely and the City has adjusted to operating during the pandemic, there is no requirement that the City compensate its contractors or local businesses in a timely manner.

Oaklanders can comment at the meeting by joining the Zoom meeting via this link https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88527652491 or calling 1-669-900-6833 and using the Meeting ID 885 2765 2491 and raising their hand during the public comment period at the beginning of the Council meeting.

 

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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