Category: Opinion

Consumer Counselor – July 1, 2020

Simple ways to save after being laid off or furloughed
The outbreak of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 had a dramatic effect on the global economy. Businesses were shuttered seemingly overnight as public health organizations across the globe embraced social distancing as a means to preventing the spread of the potentially deadly virus.
Few, if any, businesses proved immune to the economic effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, which forced many employers to lay off or furlough employees. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the week ending April 18 marked the fifth consecutive week that more than three million Americans filed initial unemployment claims.
During that period, which for many areas of the United States coincided with the first five weeks of social distancing guidelines going into effect, roughly 26.5 million workers had filed jobless claims. The picture was not any rosier in other parts of the globe.
Many workers were furloughed in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, and while furloughs differ from layoffs, each situation left people looking for ways to save money. The following are some simple ways to save that can help furloughed or laid off employees make it through the financial uncertainty associated with the COVID-19 outbreak.
Contact your lenders immediately. Many lenders, including Bank of America and Chase, announced breaks for homeowners and other borrowers in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. Lenders may vary regarding the extent of the breaks they offer as well their eligibility guidelines, but borrowers may be able to defer mortgage and auto loan payments for several months. Consumer advocacy groups warn borrowers to learn what the long-term effects of deferring payments may be. In addition, borrowers should know that they must contact their lenders before ceasing monthly home or auto loan payments.
Consider cutting the cord. Cutting the cord refers to forgoing traditional cable television service in favor of less expensive streaming options like Netflix and Amazon Prime. The cut the cord mantra seemed to resonate in the immediate aftermath of the implementation of social distancing, as Netflix reported adding nearly 16 million subscribers in the first quarter of 2020. But before cutting the cord, consumers are urged to see if doing so would actually save them money. Customers who currently bundle their cable with internet and/or phone service may end up paying the same amount of money, if not more, even after canceling their cable subscriptions. You may end up saving more by maintaining your cable but removing premium channels and downgrading to basic packages.
Develop a new budget. Budgeting is an essential component of responsible money management at all times, and especially so in the wake of a layoff or furlough. Do not hesitate to develop a new monthly budget, examining all monthly expenses to determine where costs can be trimmed. The longer you wait, the less you may save during a layoff or furlough.
Saving money in the wake of a lay off or furlough can be simpler than people think.

Consumer Counselor – June 17, 2020

Different ways to treat Dad for Father’s Day
The month of June is filled with many different celebrations. Once summer arrives in June, schools shut down for a few month’s worth of vacation and most recreational attractions, such as amusement parks and boardwalks, begin operating at full capacity. June also is the month to show dads how much they are loved and appreciated.
This year Father’s Day takes place on Sunday, June 21, and marks the 110th anniversary of this day for dads. Even though Father’s Day began as a regional event in the state of Washington, nearly 60 years later it would be recognized as a national holiday across the United States. Father’s Day also is commemorated elsewhere in the world at various times of the year.
According to the most recent census data and statistics, there are 8.6 million fathers and father figures in Canada and 72 million in the United States. The following are some ways to treat dads this Father’s Day.
Participate in his hobby. Dad likely has some favorite hobbies, such as playing a favorite sport, boating, hunting, woodworking, or restoring a classic car. Asking to join in to learn the ropes of his favorite hobby can be an ideal way to spend time with Dad and show you care.
Tackle his chores. Provide Dad a weekend off from his normal tasks around the house if they are within your skill set. Volunteer to mow the lawn, weed the garden, run for groceries, or get the car washed. You also may want to help him finish a project he started but hasn’t yet completed.
Take in a show or a game. Maybe Dad has a favorite team he follows or a comedian he loves to watch. Purchase tickets so you can go in person. If that’s not possible, make home viewing a special event by clearing a few hours of your schedule and setting up a comfortable viewing area. Make some special snacks and stream his favorite programming right at home.
Give him “his” space. Dads often make sacrifices for their families, and this could mean compromising on his comfort and pleasure to ensure everyone else has what they need. Create a spot that is entirely his own. This may involve renovating the basement or garage for hobbies or hanging out. Even a free-standing shed in the backyard can be billed as a “Dad Zone,” giving your father a place to which he can retreat for some peace and quiet.
Start thinking of special ways to show Dad he deserves top billing.

District 72 Update – June 17, 2020

By Representative Dean Fisher
On June 3, we passed Senate File 2261 which provides enabling legislation to allow mental health services in our schools via Telehealth. The purpose of this is to allow children that need mental health services to receive them at the school, eliminating the need for an adult to take the child out of school and drive them to a mental health provider and back in the middle of the school day, taking up precious class time and embarrassment for the child. These mental health services are not provided by the school, and are only done with the parent’s full involvement and permission.

Another significant bill we passed was a bill dealing with Emergency Medical Services, Senate File 2283. This bill was amended to give county supervisors the option of voting to create a county wide EMS service, including taxing authority, with a vote to accept afterwards by the citizens of the county. This ensures that if a county moves forward with EMS services and residents approve, long-term investments can be made in the program. This option exists currently but requires a referendum by the voters of the county first and only last for a couple of years, thus making it a difficult for counties to shoulder the up-front costs for something that may go away shortly after approval. By allowing the county supervisors to initiate the action and make those investments, we hope to increase the opportunity for counties to provide more comprehensive EMS.

This week the Senate passed two significant bills that were passed in the House before the legislature suspended the session. House File 2502 makes numerous updates to our firearms laws that improves shooting range protections, prevents judicial overreach of weapons bans in courthouses, and strengthens prohibitions on local weapons ordinances. Senate File 2363 was also passed by the Senate with changes made in the House. This bill makes important updates to the Medical Cannabidiol program, most significantly by placing a limit on the total amount of THC a patient can purchase in a 90 day period. Previously the law allowed any amount of THC as long as it did not exceed 3% of the medication. This bill limits it to a specific amount of 4.5 grams per 90 days, an amount consistent with medicinal use. Both bills now go to the governor for action.gislators only.
I hope that you can visit at a future time. Stay safe!

Consumer Counselor – June 10, 2020

How to use protective masks and gloves the right way
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is well-known and utilized often within the health care community and various other industries. It only is in recent months that personal protective equipment has became something the general population learned more about as the COVID-19 outbreak took hold in the western hemisphere.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, PPE is equipment worn to minimize exposure to hazards that cause serious workplace injuries and illnesses. PPE can include gloves, safety glasses, masks, earplugs, hard hats, respirators, or coveralls. In the medical community, PPE generally extends to gowns/aprons, respirators, face shields, and more.
Even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were only advocating for the use of masks primarily for COVID-19 patients and the health care workers tending to them, many people began to use gloves and masks of their own accord to safeguard themselves against contraction of the virus. Gloves and masks are only effective if they are used in the proper manner. The following are some guidelines for proper PPE use.
Gloves: The CDC says that gloves should fit the users’ hands comfortably. Gloves can only prevent the spread of pathogens if hand hygiene is performed before and after wear, states the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology.
To remove gloves properly, pinch the outside of one glove at the wrist without touching bare skin. Peel the glove away from the body, pulling it inside out. Hold the glove just removed in the other gloved hand and dispose of it. For the remaining glove, slide your fingers inside the glove at the top of the wrist, being careful not to touch the outside of the glove. Again, turn the second glove inside out while pulling it away from the body. Dispose of the glove properly.
Masks: Masks, sometimes referred to as respirators, also need to fit to be effective. Masks should be tight-fitting to the face. Clean hands and put on the mask, molding the mask over the bridge of the nose and sealing it around the face. One strap should be high on the head, the other low around the base of the neck.
To remove the mask, tilt your head forward and pull the bottom strap over the back of the head, followed by the top strap without touching the front of the mask, says APIC. Keep straps tight during the removal process.
Don’t snap the straps or touch the front of the mask, as this can spread germs. (Directions provided are for N95 respirators. Other mask designs should be removed according to manufacturer recommendations).
PPE has become a household term. Proper usage is necessary to stay safe if and when masks and gloves are utilized.

Consumer Counselor – June 3, 2020

Three perennial gardening pointers
Gardening is an engaging hobby that can provide a host of benefits, some of which may surprise even the most devoted gardeners. For example, the Harvard Medical School notes that just 30 minutes of gardening activities burns 135 calories, making gardening a fun and simple way to incorporate more exercise into your daily routine. In addition, scientists have long proven that gardening releases the hormones serotonin and dopamine in the brain, each of which are associated with improved mood.
Perennial gardens can be especially attractive to seasoned gardeners and novices. Perennials are plants that come back year after year, and committing to a perennial garden can ensure people stick with gardening for the long haul, reaping all of the rewards that come with making such a commitment.
Before planting a perennial garden, those new to gardening may want to consider these three tips.
1. Make a plan. A perennial garden comes back year after year, which means any mistakes you make when planting are likely to haunt you year after year as well. Factors like space and location must be considered before planting. Many gardeners utilize garden planning applications like GrowVeg to make the process of planning a garden simpler and more organized. Such applications can be especially useful for novices.
2. Consider aesthetics. Gardens can be awe-inspiring, especially when gardeners consider aesthetics prior to planting. The DIY Network advises gardeners to consider scale before choosing which perennials to plant. Tall plants and wide beds tend to look best outside large homes, while short plants in small beds tend to look better outside small homes.
3. Work with a professional. Local garden centers can be excellent resources when planning perennial gardens. Representatives at such businesses can offer tips on native plants, which will be more likely to thrive year after year than non-natives. Such representatives also can help you choose the right plants based on the amount of sunlight the plants will likely get after being planted.
Each of these factors can be easily overlooked by people without much gardening experience. Perennial gardens can provide years of joy and inspiration, especially when gardeners give ample attention to certain details prior to planting.


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