Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Online Training and Benefits Eligibility Tool (OTBET)

The Online Training and Benefits Eligibility Tool (OTBET), an online tool available to all Pennsylvanians, can tell you if you qualify for certain public benefits and link you to important state programs.

The Self Sufficiency Standard for Pennsylvania (2010-2011) demonstrates that a single adult with one school-aged child needs to earn between $12.98 and $24.55 per hour to be economically self sufficient. For an adult with a child facing unemployment, this reality can be daunting. Work supports and public benefits can reduce this amount, and during periods of unemployment they can play a crucial role in helping a family maintain financial stability.

Using the Online Training and Benefits Eligibility Tool (OTBET), families now have the opportunity to determine what income they need to support themselves and what public benefits are available for their use. The OTBET is an easy to use tool that determines eligibility for multiple programs including food stamps (SNAP), child care assistance, and CHIP. Families can print out their eligibility information and use it when applying for services or tracking their income needs. Additionally, the OTBET provides links to the COMPASS system (where families can apply for benefits), CareerLink, and other important services.

Who can use the OTBET?

You can use the OTBET for yourself or as an advocate, service provider, client, employer, policy-maker, or researcher. Just follow the steps below:
  1. To begin, use the drop-down menus and boxes to show whether you are using the OTBET for yourself, a family member, a client, or as a researcher, the county you live in, and the name of the family. **PathWays PA does not save any data except the county and user-type chosen.**
  2. Continue by adding information about your family size, ages of family members, and employment data.
  3. Add additional income and expenses.
  4. Answer a few more questions about any services you may currently use.
  5. Click “Calculate Final Report” to get your results! If you would like to test eligibility for services, click on the button next to that service to learn more.
  6. You can now print your information, go back and recalculate information, or move on to see other links.

Job Searching Resource Guide

Searching for a job can be very overwhelming, not to mention time consuming. What with writing resumes and cover letters while sifting through job descriptions and seeking out the perfect opportunity, it is no wonder people lose motivation. With all of the work that is involved, it can be easy to lose track of the ultimate goal: obtaining a job which you find satisfying and which can support you and your family.

If you find yourself getting caught up in the woes of job searching, or know someone else who has, check out this helpful Job Searching Resource Guide. The guide breaks down the entire process into eight steps, which can help you to:

  • Identify your interests and evaluate your strengths and weaknesses
  • Prepare your resume
  • Develop a plan for job searching
  • Research the job market and determine what is available
  • Apply for positions and compose cover letters
  • Prepare and practice for the interview
  • Attend workshops and training sessions
  • Consider options such as internships and furthering your education/skills
Don't let the mere thought of job searching and resume writing get you down! Use this helpful guide to keep yourself organized and on track to achieving happy and gainful employment!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Summer Food Service Program Toolkit

The Summer Food Service Program feeds hungry children when school is out so they can get the nutritious meals they need. The Summer Food Service Program Toolkit has officially launched on the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) website to help sponsors and feeding sites create outreach materials for children and families, media, and community organizations, materials that assist in increasing awareness and participation in the program. Many of the items in the toolkit are customizable and may be downloaded and used by sponsors and feeding sites to assist in their outreach efforts. The toolkit is on the FNS Summer Food Service web page at www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/summer/library/toolkit.pdf.

Image courtesy of christmasstockimages.com / CC BY 3.0

Monday, June 7, 2010

Emergency Shelter Guide 2010

HOLMES – The latest Emergency Shelter Directory and Winter Survival Guide are now available for download at the following link: Emergency Shelter Directory.

Also, please find the Survival Guide to Homeless Services at the following link: Survival Guide to Homeless Services

These resources are compiled and published by the Homeless Services Coalition of Delaware County, by way of the Delaware County Office of Adult Services. Please see their contact information below:

20 South 69th Street, 4th Floor
Upper Darby, PA 19082

For further information, please call or write us at PathWays PA

PathWays PA
310 Amosland Rd
Holmes, PA 19043

Identity Theft: Prevention and Recovery

What is identity theft?

Identity theft is the crime of obtaining the personal or financial information of another person for the purpose of assuming that person’s name to make transactions or purchases. Identity theft is committed many different ways.
  • Some identity thieves sift through trash bins looking for bank account and credit card statements;
  • Others use more high-tech methods for accessing corporate databases to steal lists of customer information.
Once identity thieves have the information they are looking for, they can ruin a person’s credit rating and the standing of other personal information. Thieves steal and fraudulently use names, addresses, social security numbers, bank account information, credit card numbers and other types of private information.

The good news is that many types of identity theft can be prevented.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. In fact, you or someone you know may have experienced some form of identity theft. While there is no guaranteed way to avoid identity theft, you can minimize your risk and minimize the damage if a problem occurs. Here are some helpful tips:
  • Deter identity thieves by safeguarding your personal information.
  • Detect suspicious activity by always monitoring your financial accounts and billing statements.
  • Defend against identity (ID) theft as soon as you suspect a problem. Promptly deal with discrepancies on any personal documents.

How can I protect myself from identity theft?

The best way to prevent identity theft is to:

  • Be aware of how information is stolen
  • Be aware of how to protect your information,
  • Know how to monitor your personal information to uncover problems quickly, and
  • Know what to do when you suspect your identity has been stolen.

You can also help fight identity theft by educating your friends, family, and members of your community. The FTC has prepared a collection of easy-to-use materials to enable anyone regardless of existing knowledge about identity theft to inform others about this serious crime.

Be sure to check out our cheat sheet on how to beat ID Theft.

Banking 101 Slides

In this presentation, you'll find valuable information on banking basics, such as:

  • Why do I need a checking and/or savings account?

  • What's the difference between a bank and a check cashing store?

  • What are the advantages to banking with a credit union?

Find the answers to these questions and more, and determine if the PathWays PA publication, "Paths to Banking," would be a helpful tool for you.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

How to: Write a resume

Composing a resume can be a daunting task, especially if you don't already have a working draft in place. You have to think back over your work, education, volunteer, and extracurricular histories. For helpful hints and/or to get started from scratch, take a look at our simple guide to preparing a resume.

For more resume writing help, here are a couple of websites we've come across in our research that are worth looking at:

  • Visit www.resumania.com to view a collection of resume mistakes and read advice on how to avoid common errors.
  • If you need help formatting your resume, www.thebeehive.org/jobs can help. Set up a free account, and access the Resume Builder software. Follow the straightforward, step-by-step guide. You will be asked to enter education, career, and skills information, and then the website will build your professional resume in minutes.

Let us know if you know of any other useful resume writing resources on the web in the comments section!

How to: Compose a cover letter

When you apply for a job, most employers request a copy of your resume and a cover letter. A cover letter is a statement of introduction that accompanies, but does not summarize, your resume. A good cover letter addresses your interest in the position and explains why you think you'd be a good fit. It should be no longer than a page long.

Keep in mind that a cover letter is, more often than not, grounds for an employer's first impression of you. And we all know how important first impressions are! It's crucial that your cover letter is free of grammatical and spelling errors, and it should not be a generic letter that you send to all employers. Rather, it should be tailored to a specific employer and the position to which you are applying.

An effective cover letter engages the reader and encourages him or her to invite you in for an interview. Here are some general tips for writing cover letters:
  • Avoid overusing "I" throughout the letter.
  • Print your cover letter on nice paper that matches the resume (if possible)
  • Write a separate cover letter for each job you apply to.
  • Research the company before you begin writing, and be sure to include some key words from their mission statement, website, and/or job posting.
  • Use the spell check and grammar check!
  • Remember that these checks will not catch everything, so it's a good idea to re-read your cover letter over and over again, and have someone else take a look at it.
Now that we've covered the basics, let's get into the details. What should a cover letter look like?

Cover letters should follow standard business letter format. This includes: the sender's address and contact info, the recipient's address, and the date. In most word programs, there are templates for business letters that you can follow. After listing the contact info, begin your letter. If you know the contact's name, use it. If not, you can write, "Dear Sir or Madam," or "Dear Hiring Manager." Since it's better to address a specific person, you may want to make a phone call to the organization to see who your letter should be addressed to.

Next, skip a line and begin your introduction. Briefly tell the reader about yourself and mention the title of the position you're applying for. Skip another line and begin the body of your document. This section should highlight material in your resume (but in an exciting way!), explain why you are interested in the job, and show why you would be valuable to the employer. This section should also include your strongest, most relevant skills and experiences.

Skip a line and write your conclusion. Indicate the next step you will take. State that you look forward to hearing from the employer, and/or that you will contact the reader at a certain date.

After the closing paragraph, skip a line and sign your letter. You may want to sign it, "Sincerely," or "Best."

To get started, take a look at this cover letter template.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Still trying to figure out tax questions and problems? Come to an IRS Open House Saturday June 5th to get things straightened out!

What: The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will be hosting open house events throughout Pennsylvania to help taxpayers resolve any outstanding issues including what to do about IRS notices, payments that are still due, return preparation, audits, and a variety of other issues.

When: This Saturday, June 5, from 9am-2pm

Where: In PA, IRS offices in Erie, Harrisburg, Horsham, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Reading, Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, and York will have open house hours. For a complete listing of sites and specific locations, please see the following link: http://www.irs.gov/localcontacts/article/0,,id=220631,00.html

If you or someone you know needs tax assistance, don't miss this opportunity to meet directly with IRS staff to help resolve any problems or complications you may have encountered. They will be there to help you fill out forms and schedules, set up payment plans, and leave with solutions to your confusing tax problems.