Inland Valley News on March 7, 2013
By Noel Austin
Riverside, CA – “Interestingly enough, and sad to say, people don’t know the health care and financial services available to them. This is a good way to empower people with all the knowledge they need at one location,” said Edith Hernandez, a volunteer for last week’s WE Connect Health Care Enrollment and Resource Fair.
Empowerment became a commonly used word at the event hosted by WE Connect and their partners: Inuit Financial Freedom Foundation, Inland Empire Health Plan and other local organizations. Not only did families across the Inland Empire learn about additional benefits available through the new Affordable Care Act (ACA), but free assistance with health care enrollment, tax preparation, health screenings and other programs and resources were available.
“It has been great to see such a diverse group of people here. We all need to be informed and insured,” said director of Young Invincibles, Tamika Butler. “My organization is here to clear confusion about health care options for young adults 18 to 34. Many know they need insurance, but they can’t afford it. Others just don’t know where to start.”
The WEb Connector tool, also available online at WE Connect, provided the perfect starting place for everyone in search of answers and solutions. The tool provided participants with the knowledge and resources needed to easily understand their eligibility for various health and financial programs.
“We are here to help qualifying families become more financially secure,” said the coordinator of California Free Tax Events, Roxana Damas. “We do this by teaching them how to self-prep their own taxes. I’ve found that many people don’t know enough about their finances. We diligently work to inform our customers about tax credits in which they are eligible. The word taxes has become somewhat of a taboo. We want to help people let go of that fear.”
When asked what she thought about the fair, Lisa Lee, 46, said, “The fair was very helpful and well organized. I initially came to hear about housing programs available. I’m excited to say there were many options I did not know about. After using the WEb Connector, I found that there are even health care programs available for my family and children, of which I was not previously aware. ” Expressing her concerns for the community and advocacy for the ACA, Lee said, “I encourage people to get the word out about available health care. There are a lot of changes coming about in the next few years. We need to help as many people as we can.”
Helping and informing key audiences is exactly what the WE Connect events set out to do. When the new ACA is fully implemented, around 5.9 million non-elderly Californians will become eligible for health insurance in 2014. Last week’s event marked the second of six health care enrollment fairs planned for 2013.
How will the ACA help you and your family? What did people in your financial situation say about the resource fair? Find out next week. This article is part one of a two part series.