Governor Says Businesses Will Reopen May 4 With Some Restrictions


Tuesday, April 28th, 2020

Missouri Governor Mike Parson announced that all Missouri businesses will be able to re-open on May 4 after many were closed due to COVID-19 Stay At Home rules. The Stay At Home statewide orders expire on Sunday night, May 3, however, many local governments will continue to have local rules in place that will require additional health and safety precautions be taken.

The new rules are expected to apply to all businesses, even if those businesses were not considered to be “essential” businesses under earlier rules. This will include beauty and barber shops, restaurants and general retail stores. Nursing homes and assisted living centers will continue to limit visitations by family members and friends, and appropriate social distancing measures will continue to be required.

For instance, while church services and funerals may once again occur, there will be limits on the numbers of people who may congregate at any one time, and seating arrangements will be more expansive than in the past. Similarly, not every table in restaurants may be filled and many restaurants will opt for single use condiments such as ketchup and mustard rather than featuring multi-use bottles and shakers on tabletops.

Every consumer should consider their own safety when visiting any business and should take care to protect themselves through appropriate distancing and the use of masks or antibacterial wipes. People over 60 who may be more susceptible to the COVID-19 virus should consider taking additional safety precautions or limit visits outside the home.

Always check with local officials for special regulations that may be in effect in your city or county.

TO READ THE ENTIRE STORY FROM THE COLUMBIA MISSOURIAN, FOLLOW THIS LINK.

South Central Pension Rights Project Helps Missourians


Tuesday, April 28th, 2020

The South Central Pension Rights Project is a service designed to help individuals understand and exercise their pension rights. They provide services free of charge to workers and retirees or their family members who currently live or work in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. ​

These services are free of charge, regardless of age, income, or the amount of the benefit sought. Attorneys and paralegals provide services over the telephone and through the mail.

The South Central Pension Rights Project (SCPRP) is overseen by Texas Legal Services with assistance from the Missouri Area Agencies on Aging. Since teaming with Missouri Area Agencies on Aging in 2010, SCPRP has recovered more than $4.3 million in benefits for Missourians and has assisted more than 550 Missourians with retirement benefit issues. SCPRP is funded by the U.S. Administration on Aging to assist individuals who have any kind of issue with their retirement benefits.  It operates in cooperation with Legal Services of Eastern Missouri. SCPRP provides attorneys and legal assistants that offer basic advice about pension laws and rights, help people locate their pension plan’s administrator, advocate for people who believe they have been unjustly denied their benefits, and provide referrals to other services as needed.  SCPRP helps all individuals regardless of age or income, and all of SCPRP’s services are completely free.

To contact SCPRP call: 800-443-2528.

Social Security Recipients Eligible For Economic Stimulus Payments


Monday, April 13th, 2020

In response to the COVID-19 virus emergency, the federal government announced that they will send $1,200 Economic Stimulus Payments to all adults in the United States who earn less than $75,000 annually. This includes Social Security recipients.

If you receive Social Security retirement, survivors, or disability beneficiaries and do not have qualifying children under age 17 whom you claim as dependents, you do not need to take any action with the IRS.  You will automatically receive your $1,200 economic impact payment directly from the IRS as long as you received an SSA-1099 for 2019.

If you DO have children under 17 who may qualify for an additional payment, you should visit the IRS’s Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info page at www.irs.gov/coronavirus/economic-impact-payments and provide information about yourself and your qualifying children.

Additionally, any new beneficiaries since January 1, 2020, of either Social Security or SSI benefits, who did not file a tax return for 2018 or 2019, will also need to go to the IRS’s Non-Filers website to enter their information.

Please note that the IRS will NOT consider Economic Impact Payments as income for SSI recipients, and the payments are excluded from resources for 12 months.

The eligibility requirements and other information about the Economic Impact Payments can be found here: www.irs.gov/coronavirus/economic-impact-payment-information-center.  In addition, please continue to visit the IRS at www.irs.gov/coronavirus for the latest information.

Navigators Can Help Unemployed With ACA Health Insurance Options


Friday, April 10th, 2020

Right now, jobless claims in the United States are as high as they have been since the Great Recession of 2008. It is estimated that in addition to losing a job, as many as 25 million people could also lose the health care insurance they receive through their employers due to layoffs. If you find yourself in that situation, you may be able to qualify for Healthcare Marketplace health insurance for you and your family under a Special Enrollment Period.

Ordinarily, enrollment in an ACA plan is limited to an Open Enrollment period that occurs in late fall. However, if you have a major life-changing event – like losing your job – you may be able to enroll in a new plan immediately. To do so, you will need to follow a few special guidelines, answer a few questions, and provide documentation that you are subject to losing your existing health insurance plan.

Most importantly, if you do lose your job and want to take advantage of the ACA health insurance option, you must do so within 60 days of the time you lose your job or the date you expect that your job and health care coverage will officially end. If you apply, you will be asked about your particular circumstances.

You will have to pay the premium for this insurance yourself, but depending on your income, there are subsidies that help offset the cost. There are also different levels of coverage with different price points, so you should be able to find a plan that can give you the health care protection you need within a reasonable.

This is not a time to gamble with your health care options. And, if you need help, the Area Agencies on Aging offer an entire team of consultants known as Navigators that can help you work through the process and your options. They don’t sell insurance – they just help explain your options and the rules.

If you would like to talk with a Navigator about your ACA health insurance options, click on the following link to find help near you:

LINK TO STATEWIDE NAVIGATOR NETWORK

If you would like to establish an account on your own or just need additional information, visit the national website at this link:

WWW.HEALTHCARE.GOV

CLICK ON MAP FOR NAVIGATOR CONTACT INFORMATION

Grocery Store Delivery Might Be Convenient – But It Might Cost More


Tuesday, April 7th, 2020

While everyone in the United States is dealing with the outbreak of COVID-19, many of us have been forced to reconsider how we shop for food and groceries. In most communities, it’s still OK to go to the grocery store yourself, and some grocery stores even offer special hours for the “over-60 crowd” to do their business. But, it’s difficult to maintain appropriate levels of social distancing in a crowded store, and with so many people in one place at one time, the risk of virus exposure goes up.

For people who are in higher risk categories (over 60, other underlying health and respiratory problems, mobility issues) grocery delivery has become an increasingly popular option. It works well for many people, but there’s one important thing you should remember if you opt for that service: it’s likely to cost you more than a regular trip to the store.

Here’s why. Delivery services that are offered by grocery chains and third party “shopper” services are just that – services. And when you use that service, somebody deserves to be paid for the service they provide when they shop and deliver your groceries for you. How much you pay and how it works varies among the various services.

In some cases, you sign up as a member of a shopping service for a set fee. (One service charges $99 per year or $9.99 per month). That entitles you to use the service all year long with no additional service fee. However, some shopping and delivery services use a different price list than the store you are buying from. For instance, if you would ordinarily pay $1.49 for a dozen eggs, the delivery service may have a price list that shows the same eggs at a price of $1.65. Not all services inflate all prices on all items, but some do, so be sure to check first. That’s one place where your cost may go up.

Also, even if you pay the minimal delivery charge (or no delivery charge at all) it is customary to tip your delivery person when they bring your order straight to your door. This can be done electronically by paying online or by leaving an envelope with a cash tip for your delivery driver. Typical tips run between 105 – 20%. So, if your total grocery order was $50, you might be expected to leave a tip of somewhere between $5 to $10. You don’t HAVE to tip that high, but if you don’t, your service may not be as good on future orders.

The bottom line is, if you use a grocery shopping and delivery service, your convenience factor will be high and you can avoid trips to the store during the Coronavirus outbreak, but you might be paying 15% to 20% more when you add in service fees, tips and higher pricing on some goods.

Some stores prohibit delivery drivers from accepting tips, and some don’t charge service fees for the service. You need to check with your individual store or shopping service to determine how it works in your area.

If you are fairly mobile, many stores offer you a different option called curbside pick-up. In this scenario, you order ahead from a grocery store of your choice; they go through the store, find your groceries and put them in bags; then you drive up to the store and they bring them out to the curb and put them in your car for you. This option is usually cheaper than the home delivery option – but it does require you to make a trip to the store, even if you don’t have to go inside.

In either case, you should still take precautions after you receive your groceries. Some people wipe their bags and boxes with a disinfecting towel before bringing them in the house – then throw away the bags they came in. You should wash your hands after handling your packages, and if you have deliveries made right to your front porch, encourage the drivers to leave the parcels outside to avoid the additional personal contact.

There is no current evidence that COVID-19 is easily spread through packaged or prepared foods, but it never hurts to take a few extra precautions, even if you are relatively healthy.

To find out if delivery or curbside grocery shopping is available in your area, call your favorite grocery store; go on line and look for grocery delivery services like InstaCart, Door Dash, Uber Eats or others; or call your local Wal-Mart if there is one in your community. They usually provide some level of service such as this for groceries and other merchandise.

In the meantime, stay healthy, watch your budget, and monitor the news so you can make the best decisions for you and your family in these unusual times.

It’s National Census Day


Wednesday, April 1st, 2020

Every ten years, the Federal government conducts a census of every man, woman and child currently living in the United States.

The census takes place once every ten years and is used by the government to determine total population and distribute important funding and grants to states and communities throughout the United States. In fact, it is estimated that more than $16 billion is allocated based on census counts, and each person NOT counted results in a loss of approximately $1,300 to the locality where a person is NOT counted.

Although the official Census Day is April 1, official census forms are already in the mail and online census response capability began on March 12. Despite the fact that you can respond by mail, online, or answer questions from door-to-door census takers, the goal of the census is to count everyone once, only once and in the right place.

The easiest way to complete the census is to have one person in each household fill out the census form that is mailed to each known residential address. This is true for traditional families and roommates who share an apartment. The person who completes the form needs to know the complete name and some statistical information about each member of the household. No Social Security numbers are required, and the questions are fairly simple in nature. People should also be assured that individual information from the forms is not shared with other government agencies like the IRS or Immigration Service. You can mail in the completed form, or alternatively, can complete an identical form online. But you only do it once – and only one form should be submitted per household or per apartment. Alternative versions in different languages are also available.

The form does ask for a phone number (but not an email address). Here’s why. Remember that the goal is to count every person – but only once. If two people from the same address decide to fill out the form without telling the other people in the house, the Census Bureau will call you and ask you to clarify that there is only one person named John Doe at that address. They will also send out a reminder, and sometimes people fill it out twice without knowing that a form has already been filed on their behalf.

For people who live in a nursing home or assisted living facility, different rules may apply and your administrator can provide you with full details.

If NO census form is returned from an address, the Census Bureau may send a representative to the home to conduct an in-person interview.

For more information about the U.S. Census you can visit the national website at: www.2020census.gov.

IRS Extends Tax Filing Deadline


Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service have announced that the federal income tax filing due date is automatically extended from April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020.

Taxpayers can also defer federal income tax payments due on April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020, without penalties and interest, regardless of the amount owed. This deferment applies to all taxpayers, including individuals, trusts and estates, corporations and other non-corporate tax filers as well as those who pay self-employment tax.

Taxpayers do not need to file any additional forms or call the IRS to qualify for this automatic federal tax filing and payment relief. Individual taxpayers who need additional time to file beyond the July 15 deadline, can request a filing extension by filing Form 4868 through their tax professional, tax software or using the Free File link on IRS.gov. Businesses who need additional time must file Form 7004.

The IRS urges taxpayers who are due a refund to file as soon as possible. Most tax refunds are still being issued within 21 days.

“Even with the filing deadline extended, we urge taxpayers who are owed refunds to file as soon as possible and file electronically,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “Filing electronically with direct deposit is the quickest way to get refunds. Although we are curtailing some operations during this period, the IRS is continuing with mission-critical operations to support the nation, and that includes accepting tax returns and sending refunds. As a federal agency vital to the overall operations of our country, we ask for your personal support, your understanding – and your patience. I’m incredibly proud of our employees as we navigate through numerous different challenges in this very rapidly changing environment.”

The IRS will continue to monitor issues related to the COVID-19 virus, and updated information will be posted on a special coronavirus page on IRS.gov.

Watch Out For Stimulus Check Scams


Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

Recently, Congress passed legislation that will help individuals and businesses weather the storm created by the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. One key provision of the new legislation is that the federal government will be sending checks for $1,200 to most adult citizens, even those who currently receive Social Security checks.

Unfortunately, scammers are already trying to get their hands on some of this money. Reports have already surfaced that citizens have been receiving calls and emails asking for personal information in order to “process” the government checks. DON’T GIVE OUT YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION. THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT WILL NOT CALL YOU TO VERIFY YOUR TAX STATUS AND WILL NOT ASK FOR PERSONAL INFORMATION OVER THE PHONE.

Most payments will be directly deposited in bank accounts of people who receive their tax refunds or Social Security payments electronically. For people who are not set up that way, paper checks will be sent. You do not need to apply for this one-time payment. It will be sent automatically – and no company or individual can speed up the process.

If you are contacted by someone posing as an IRS employee or other “help” service, hang up. Do not engage with scammers and do not reply to emails about the stimulus checks even if they sound legitimate. They are not. They are scammers trying to get sensitive financial information to you to try and cheat you out of money.

During these unusual times, stay safe; ask for help when you need it; and avoid getting scammed by people who do NOT have your best interests in mind.

For other questions or help regarding services such as food and nutrition, health care and other senior-related issues, feel free to reach out to your local Area Agency on Aging. A list of contacts is provided at the following link.

FIND YOUR AREA AGENCY ON AGING HERE.

President, Governor Declare Emergency. MA4 Supports Protection For Seniors


Monday, March 23rd, 2020

Both the President and Missouri Governor Parson have issued Declarations of Emergency effectively immediately. The declarations limit the congregation of people to 10 or fewer people and restrict the general operation of non-essential services in an effort to protect the general public health.

Included in the emergency are strict limitations on hospital and nursing home visits by family members and friends and limitations on gatherings of more than 10 people including church services, funerals and restaurant dining rooms. Although these are uncomfortable and inconvenient to all of us, the measures are designed to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The emergency declarations also allow the federal and state governments to disburse government funds to support both individuals and institutions who may be most impacted by the current situation. This includes funds that are earmarked for senior services and individuals who are faced with significant financial impacts.

To protect Missouri’s seniors, a population that is most vulnerable during the COVID-19 virus outbreak, MA4 supports these efforts and encourages all seniors to take appropriate precautions; ask for help if they are challenged in accessing food or medical care; and provide help to younger people who have not faced such a challenge before. Staying in contact with other people you trust – even if remotely – will help you get through this challenging time.

The Missouri Depart of Health and Senior Services has established hotline for questions relating to the current emergency. If you have questions, feel free to call .

24 hour hotline: 877-435-8411

To link directly to the Missouri DHSS website, please follow this link:
DHSS COVID-19 WEB LINK

UPDATE: Coronavirus – COVID 19 – DHSS Sets Up Hotline


Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020

COVID-19 is a more technical term for the Coronavirus that has recently been detected in countries throughout the world, including the United States. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has established a hotline for people who have questions about this health situation.

24 hour hotline: 877-435-8411

DHSS and the CDC are responding to an outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that was first detected in China and which has now been detected in almost 70 locations internationally, including in the United States. The virus has been named “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”).

While there is still much to learn about how the disease is contracted and spread, there are some important things you can do individually to help protect you and the people you live with.

To link directly to the Missouri DHSS website, please follow this link:
DHSS COVID-19 WEB LINK

Here are a few tips from the Centers For Disease Control to help you stay ahead of a possible outbreak of the virus in your community.

Create a household plan of action

Talk with the people who need to be included in your plan. Meet with household members, other relatives, and friends to discuss what to do if a COVID-19 outbreak occurs in your community and what the needs of each person will be.check icon

Plan ways to care for those who might be at greater risk for serious complications. There is limited information about who may be at risk for severe complications from COVID-19 illness. From the data that are available for COVID-19 patients, and from data for related coronaviruses such as SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, it is possible that older adults and persons who have underlying chronic medical conditions may be at risk for more serious complications. Early data suggest older people are more likely to have serious COVID-19 illness. If you or your household members are at increased risk for COVID-19 complications, please consult with your health care provider for more information about monitoring your health for symptoms suggestive of COVID-19. CDC will recommend actions to help keep people at high risk for complications healthy if a COVID-19 outbreak occurs in your community.check icon

Get to know your neighbors. Talk with your neighbors about emergency planning. If your neighborhood has a website or social media page, consider joining it to maintain access to neighbors, information, and resources.check icon

Identify aid organizations in your community. Create a list of local organizations that you and your household can contact in the event you need access to information, health care services, support, and resources. Consider including organizations that provide mental health or counseling services, food, and other supplies.check icon

Create an emergency contact list. Ensure your household has a current list of emergency contacts for family, friends, neighbors, carpool drivers, health care providers, teachers, employers, the local public health department, and other community resources.

Practice good personal health habits and plan for home-based actions

Practice everyday preventive actions now. Remind everyone in your household of the importance of practicing everyday preventive actions that can help prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue.
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects daily (e.g., tables, countertops, light switches, doorknobs, and cabinet handles) using a regular household detergent and water.
    • If surfaces are dirty, they should be cleaned using a detergent and water prior to disinfection. For disinfection, a list of products with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved emerging viral pathogens claims, maintained by the American Chemistry Council Center for Biocide Chemistries (CBC), is available at Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Fighting Productspdf iconexternal icon. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Always wash your hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.

Choose a room in your home that can be used to separate sick household members from those who are healthy. Identify a separate bathroom for the sick person to use, if possible. Plan to clean these rooms, as needed, when someone is sick. Learn how to care for someone with COVID-19 at home.

FOR MORE COMPLETE INFORMATION ON AN ONGOING BASIS, VISIT THE NATIONAL CDC WEBSITE AT THIS LINK (CLICK HERE)