Category: Opinion

Consumer Counselor – September 23, 2020

How to support small businesses this holiday season
The holiday season is an important one for small businesses every year, and it figures to take on heightened importance in 2020. The outbreak of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 in late 2019 and early 2020 hit small businesses especially hard, with many being forced to close their facilities to customers in an effort to prevent the virus from spreading. Estimates regarding the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak on small businesses varied, but many small business owners were forced to let go employees as they confronted steep declines in revenue. A ZenBusiness survey of more than 1,000 small business founders, senior managers and decision makers found that 37 percent of small businesses that employ between 11 and 25 people were considering laying off more than one-fifth of their workforce.
As small businesses face difficult challenges, it’s no surprise that many consumers want to support locally owned small businesses this holiday season. Such support not only can help small businesses, but also can help to revitalize local communities.
Shop online. Online shopping has traditionally been dominated by big box retailers. However, many small businesses increased their e-commerce capabilities to generate revenue. Shoppers concerned about shopping in person this holiday season should explore the delivery and curbside pickup options available at locally owned small businesses. Even businesses that have not traditionally been allowed to deliver, such as breweries and wineries, have been able to do so during the outbreak, giving consumers unlimited online shopping options.
Purchase gift cards. Gift cards take the guesswork out of holiday shopping, and such cards are easily shipped or even emailed to loved ones. That’s a significant benefit during the 2020 holiday season, when delivery times are expected to be lengthy. Gift cards to local businesses simplify holiday shopping, support small businesses and help shoppers avoid potential delivery delays.
Share your experience. Word-of-mouth is vital to small businesses at any time, and can be especially valuable as these companies try to overcome the challenges posed by the COVID-19 outbreak. Holiday shoppers can share their experiences with local businesses via social media. Share information about the lengths local small businesses have gone to in regard to safety measures, order fulfillment and their delivery and pickup efforts. Such sharing may compel neighbors and friends to follow your lead and provide vital support to local businesses in need this holiday season.
Small businesses are the backbone of many communities, and the holiday season provides a great opportunity to support such firms as they look to recover from a difficult year.

Letter to the Editor – National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

To the Editor:
Every day in America, millions of parents and caregivers travel with children in their vehicles. While some children are buckled in properly in the correct car seats for their ages and sizes, many are not, if they are buckled up at all. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly half (46%) of car seats are misused.
To help combat this issue, NHTSA is sponsoring Child Passenger Safety Week from September 20-26, 2020, a campaign dedicated to helping parents and caregivers make sure their children ride as safely as possible — every trip, every time.
“Every 32 seconds in 2018, a child under 13 was involved in a passenger vehicle crash. Using car seats that are age- and size-appropriate is the best way to keep your children safe,” said Regional Administrator, Susan DeCourcy. “In 2017, there were 312 children under the age of 5 saved because they were using car seats. Car seats matter and having the right car seat installed and used the right way is critical.”
Too often, parents move their children to the front seat before they should, which increases the risk of injury and death, even if they’re buckled up. The safest place for all kids under 13 is in the back seat. In 2015, about 25.8% of children 4 to 7 who should have been riding in booster seats were moved too early to seat belts, and 11.6% were unbuckled altogether.
“As parents and caregivers, we have a long list of things we do for our children to show our love. One of the simplest and most important things on the list should be to make sure our kids are in the right car seat for their age and size,” DeCourcy said. “Get your car seats checked. Make sure they’re installed correctly, and that your kids are in the right seats and are buckled in correctly. Get your car seat checked with a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician, so you can be sure that your child is the safest while traveling.”
Remember to register your car seat or booster seat with the seat manufacturer to get notifications in the event of a recall. Parents and caregivers can view more information on car seat safety and locate a certified technician at
U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Consumer Counselor – September 16, 2020

How to monitor your money when relying on cashless spending
Cashless spending has long been a convenient way to make purchases, and that convenience became even more evident in 2020. The outbreak of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 in the winter of 2019-20 forced people across the globe to change how they live, and those changes even affected how items are paid for. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, touching or handling certain items, including cash, could expose people to the COVID-19 virus. That led many people to rely more heavily on cashless payments, including traditional options like credit or debit cards, but also relatively new cashless options, including apps such as Venmo. While these options can be very convenient, cashless payments can make it more difficult for people unaccustomed to making purchases without cash to monitor their spending.
The following are some tips to make it easier for consumers to monitor their spending when they’re not using cash.
Use an app to track spending. If you’re using an app like Venmo to make purchases, you can just as easily use an app to track that spending. Mint is a free app that automatically updates and categorizes how your money is spent. Users can see how they’re spending their money in real time, making it easy to know where they stand with their finances.
Recognize the temptation associated with cashless spending. Studies have shown that cashless spending tempts people to spend more than buying with cash. A recent study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology asked business students to bid on basketball tickets. Some participants were told they would eventually have to pay with cash, while others were told they would need to use a card. Those who paid by card spent more than twice as much as those who were told they had to pay with cash, which illustrates just how easy it is to spend more on transactions that do not involve cash. By recognizing that temptation in advance, consumers can better prepare themselves to remain disciplined when using cashless payments like credit cards or mobile apps like Venmo.
Pay off your balance each month. If your preferred mode of cashless spending is credit cards, then make sure you pay off your balances each month. This not only saves you from potentially hefty interest charges, but the knowledge that you will need to pay off your purchases at the end of each month can help you stay more disciplined with your spending.
Cashless payments have made it easier to purchase goods during the COVID-19 outbreak. But it’s imperative that consumers take steps to control their spending when going cashless.

Simply Put – September 23, 2020

Eighteen years ago when we purchased The Progress Review, we brought with us a strong desire to make a positive difference in our community and four years of the best journalism instruction taught by Jan Rutledge and Art Saldaña at Linn-Mar High School. Even so, with the challenge of operating a community newspaper before us, we knew we needed help. With that in mind, the first call we made was to Mary Bauer. It was the best decision we’ve ever made at The Progress Review.
Initially, Mary was hired as an office manager, someone who could answer the phones and greet and serve walk-in customers. But that was just the beginning. Over the years, as the needs of the newspaper changed, the best person we ever could have hired took it upon herself to do whatever she could to support the business. In the early days, it was Mary who rounded up the support of Rachael, Lauren and Rick to help with especially labor-intensive print jobs like school calendars. Need a photographer? Mary was there with her camera to take award-winning photographs of the local landscape and Union High School sports. Need someone to layout the newspaper, design signs, greeting cards and other printed products? There was Mary, taking it upon herself to learn advanced skills using sophisticated software to produce high quality finished products that really wowed the customers. And on the days when we were out of town, Mary was the first one to volunteer to come in on her day off to make sure that the newspapers were safely secured and ready for processing.
Simply put, for eighteen years Mary Bauer has been the very essence of the kind of service we hoped to devote to our community. She is a Renaissance woman, someone who does so many different things, all of them well. And the sum of her talents and skills are exceeded only by the size of her heart. In Mary Bauer, we were blessed to have someone who cared just as much about our business and serving the people of La Porte City as we did. All business owners should be as lucky to have such a loyal and special friend working in their shops.
I write these words because they are true, knowing however, that like any good photographer, Mary prefers to be behind the camera, not in front of it. Before our run as publishers of The Progress Review comes to a close with the September 30, 2020 edition, though, it is important to acknowledge that any success we have had along the way is due, in large part, to Mary’s efforts.
To thank her for her years of service to the community, we will host an open house on Friday, September 25 from 1-4 PM. I invite our readers to take the opportunity to stop by and offer their best wishes to Mary as our nearly two decades of producing news, features and entertainment for the LPC community comes to an end. Refreshments will be served and free copies of a reproduction of the very first front page of The Progress Review will be available as souvenirs. For those not able to attend, we’ll make sure that any cards sent to Mary at The Progress Review (213 Main Street, La Porte City, IA 50651) get forwarded to the guest of honor.
Thank you, Mary, for eighteen wonderful years and all you have done for the community we love.

ViewPoint: Let’s “show up” for our schools, students this falL

By Sam Miller, Chief Administrator, Cedar Rivers AEA
To all the students, parents, and educators we serve, welcome back! Having students “back” in school (whether virtually or in person) provides some of the normalcy and structure we all need right now. The teachers and school administrators I talk with have truly missed having kids in their buildings and are working hard to do everything they can to keep students safe and engaged in learning.
Let’s agree that it’s going to be a “heavy lift” for students and schools to succeed this fall. Most of us know that the odds are stacked against them with a pandemic still in full swing. The level of support our schools need from us now is different – it’s deeper and more immediate. Personally, I think we are up to the challenge. Whether it’s a pandemic or a derecho, Iowans always show up for each other when it matters.
So in the spirit of “showing up” for your child’s school this fall, here are some ideas to consider:
Idea #1: This year will be an armchair quarterback’s dream. If you are someone who enjoys a good critique, there will be lots of opportunities to have your say. What if we all backed away from social media and talked directly with each other when we have concerns about how the school year is going? Our students are watching and learning how to handle conflict directly from us as the adults. If we can do it in healthy ways, they will, too. And in the process they will gain life skills that they need to be successful in their professional and personal lives.
Idea #2: How about if we put our political differences aside when it comes to topics like face mask use and sports? What makes our country great is the freedom to choose what we believe and advocate for it. While I’m not suggesting that anyone abandon their beliefs, I am suggesting that all of us take a breath and consider our tone and words in the presence of our kids when discussing them. Things have gotten pretty heated in our country these days – and some would argue rightly so. But let’s consider whether we are advocating from anger or purpose. Anger seeks division. Purpose seeks win-win solutions. Let’s show kids the best of us.
Idea #3: Take time for yourself. Parents of school-aged children haven’t received the credit they deserve for juggling work, childcare, constant schedule disruptions, and the economic challenges brought on by the pandemic. You are entitled to some rest and time to regroup and recharge! Doing so will help you be a better parent and partner to your child’s school because you’ll be better equipped to handle the challenges that come your way this year.
Our kids are watching, counting on us, and desperately needing some level of normalcy this fall. Let’s show up together not just for our schools, but most importantly for them.
Sam Miller is the Chief Administrator with Central Rivers Area Education Agency (AEA), based in Cedar Falls. He can be reached at Central Rivers AEA serves over 65,000 students in 18 counties of Iowa.


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