Voting By Mail: A New Option For 2020


Tuesday, September 15th, 2020

Governor Parson signed Senate Bill 631 into law on June 4, 2020, which authorizes mail-in ballots for the August 4, 2020 primary election and the November 3, 2020 general election to avoid the risk of contracting or transmitting severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (COVID-19).

Registered Missouri voters can request mail-in ballots from their local election authority in person or by mail. Relatives within the second degree (spouse, parents and children) may complete a mail-in ballot application, in person, on behalf of the voter who wishes to vote using a mail-in ballot. DO NOT SEND MAIL-IN BALLOT APPLICATIONS TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE’S OFFICE. MAIL-IN BALLOT APPLICATIONS MUST BE SENT TO THE APPROPRIATE LOCAL ELECTION AUTHORITY BY THE DEADLINE IN ORDER TO BE VALID. Contact information for local election authorities and a mail-in ballot application form may be found at the links below.

Mail-in ballot requests that are sent by mail must be received by the election authority no later than 5:00 p.m. on the second Wednesday prior to any election. Voters requesting a mail-in ballot by mail who have registered by mail and have not voted in person are required to submit a copy of their personal identification unless they provided a copy with their registration application. Examples of acceptable identification are:

  1. Identification issued by the state of Missouri, an agency of the state, or a local election authority of the state;
  2. Identification issued by the United States government or agency thereof;
  3. Identification issued by an institution of higher education, including a university, college, vocational and technical school, located within the state of Missouri;
  4. A copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or other government document that contains the name and address of the voter; or
  5. Other identification approved by the secretary of state under rules promulgated pursuant to Missouri law.

Mail-in ballots must be returned by mail in the provided envelope, with the statement on the envelope signed and witnessed by a notary. In order to be counted, mail-in ballots must be received by the election authority at or before the time fixed by law for the closing of the polls on Election Day (7:00 p.m.).

Military and overseas voters should consult the section entitled Military and Overseas Voters for information on obtaining and submitting their ballots.

Parson Calls Special Session


Monday, July 27th, 2020

Earlier this month, Governor Mike Parson announced that he would call a special session of the Missouri Legislature, dedicated only to legislation dealing with violent crime in Missouri.

That special session was called to order on July 27, and after introducing 25 separate bills for possible consideration, the Missouri House adjourned and will reconvene on August 7 for a technical session and to begin debate on the various proposals.

Because this is a special session, no legislation unrelated to violent crime and public safety may be introduced or modified at this time.

For a list of current bills filed, please follow this link:

LINK TO MISSOURI HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Governor Changes State Standards For COVID-19 Pandemic


Saturday, June 20th, 2020

Republican Gov. Mike Parson lifted statewide restrictions related to COVID-19 as of June 16, even as the number of cases in the state continued to increase. However, Parson also extended his executive order declaring a statewide “state of emergency” through the end of year. The order was slated to end on June 16. The extension is primarily to allow the state to continue receiving federal disaster aid. It also allows Parson to continue to have the power to waive certain state laws and regulations.

Despite touting Missouri as “fully reopen,” Parson still encouraged Missourians to maintain practices to limit the spread of COVID-19, even though the state no longer requires them to do so.

As of June 17, there had been 16,625 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Missouri and 909 confirmed deaths.

“We must remember COVID-19 is not gone,” Parson said in a June 11 news release announcing the easing of restrictions. “It is still extremely important for everyone to continue social distancing. Be proactive. Avoid large crowds, and if you can’t social distance, take extra precautions to protect yourself and those around you.”

You can read more about the governor’s decisions from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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

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.

MA4 Legislative Priorities Help Seniors Focus On Key Issues


Monday, February 24th, 2020

Each year, the Missouri Association of Area Agencies identifies key legislative priorities for the year. The range in topic from tax credits and funding for meals programs to elder abuse laws and nursing home security. The one thing they all have, however, is that each priority is focused on the well-being of Missouri seniors. This year, MA4 will be advocating for positive outcomes in the following six categories:

  • Cameras in Skilled Care Facilities
  • Circuit Breaker
  • Elder Abuse/Nursing Home Abuse
  • Funding for MORx
  • Intranet Sales Tax
  • Maintain/Increase AAA appropriations

Here’s a quick recap of each issue including some of the proposals currently being considered by the Missouri Legislature.

Cameras In Skilled Care Facilities
(Information pending)

Circuit Breaker Renter Income Program – MA4 Supports
HB 2452 Modifies provisions relating to “circuit breaker” tax credits. Currently, certain senior citizens and disabled individuals are eligible to apply for a tax credit on real estate taxes or rent they have paid. Renters may claim a credit of up to $750 provided their income is equal to or less than $27,500. Homeowners may claim a credit of up to $1,100 provided their income is equal to or less than $30,000. This bill changes the amount of the credit for renters from $750 to $1,000 and the income threshold from up to $27,500 to $34,500. Additionally, this bill changes the amount of the credit for homeowners from $1,100 to $1,500 and the income threshold from $30,000 to $40,000.

Elder Abuse/Nursing Home Abuse
(Information pending)

Funding for MORx – MA4 Supports
MA4 supports continuation of the MORx prescription drug program for low income Missouri seniors.

Internet Sales Tax
HB 1967 is known as the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement. Basically, it creates the ability for the state to collect sales tax revenues from online Internet sellers.

Appropriations for Area Agency on Aging ProgramsMA4 Supports Increases
HB 10 is the General Appropriations bill that deals with funds to be expended by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. MA4 supports increasing support for senior programs to levels which match or exceed those previously granted by the Missouri Legislature in terms of meal program funding and other AAA programs. MA4 also supports full funding for the Senior Services Growth Fund which was created by the Legislature last year.

After Iowa – Missouri Will Hold Presidential Primary March 10


Saturday, February 8th, 2020

Recent news reports have highlighted the problems encountered as Iowa kicked off the national process of selecting presidential candidates in 2020. Missouri will hold a Presidential Primary of its own on March 10, 2020, but the rules and procedures for this election are significantly different, and in many ways easier, than those in Iowa.

Missouri has a regular primary on March 10, then choose individual people to serve as delegates to the national political conventions later in the year through a caucus or local meeting process. If you are a registered Missouri voter, you are entitled to participate, and you may have more choices than you think.

In Missouri, voters are not registered to vote by party, but will be required to select the ballot of one party when they cast their presidential preference votes. Voters may choose a ballot from any one of the following political parties: Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, Green and Constitution.

Although it is surprising to many people, a total of 33 people have filed to appear on the Presidential Primary ballot in Missouri. Any candidate who wanted to appear on the Missouri Presidential ballot was required to pay a $1,000 filing fee in advance – or submit a petition containing 5,000 qualified Missouri voter signatures along with a statement indicating that they couldn’t afford the $1,000 filing fee. There will be 5 Republicans; 22 Democrats; 1 Libertarian; 3 Green; and 2 Constitution Party candidates on this year’s ballot (Including the names of some people who have officially suspended their campaigns, but didn’t have time to pull their names from the official ballot.

If you have questions about your eligibility to vote; rules regarding absentee or accessible voting; or to see a complete list of candidates who will appear on the March 10 ballot, click on the following link. And remember, your vote is your voice.

TO READ A MORE COMPREHENSIVE REPORT ON THE MISSOURI PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY, FOLLOW THIS LINK

Governor Proposes New State Budget


Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020

Governor Parson unveiled his Executive Budget and delivered his State of the State address last week, and several hearings on Medicaid, the State Budget and Tax Issues were held last week and/or are scheduled for this week. Here are a few items of interest:

Medicaid Expansion – In his State of the State address, the Governor claimed that Medicaid expansion would cost Missouri taxpayers.

However, numerous studies have shown that expansion can actually result in savings to state general revenue funds. For example, a recent examination of the actual state budget impacts in five states that expanded Medicaid showed that “expanding Medicaid has either been a positive for the state’s general fund revenues or has not resulted in any additional cost to the state.”

Calls to expand Medicaid have increased this year due to the fact that since January 2018, 125,000 children and parents have lost Medicaid coverage in Missouri.

Budget EstimateGovernor Parson released his Executive Budget earlier this week, following the State of the State address. While the Executive Budget assumes 1.9% growth in FY2021, the House Budget Committee reportedly plans to develop its budget using a substantially lower estimate of state revenue growth.

In either case, the development of next year’s budget comes at a time of continued uncertainty and instability for Missouri. The growth shown in recent revenue collections may be misleading because they’re relative to a time of very weak collections.

In fact, when reviewed over just two years, MO collections didn’t even keep pace with inflation. That is, our state didn’t collect enough to pay for services at the same level they were two years ago, not accounting for an aging population that may need additional health, nutrition or caregiver services, or a larger number of kids in school.

The comparison to other states is even more glaring. Average revenue growth across the country was much higher than in Missouri, so those states were able to increase teacher pay, invest in workforce development, and save for a rainy day.

Legislators Begin Pre-Filing Bills For 2020 Session


Wednesday, December 4th, 2019

Missouri legislators have begun pre-filing bills that will be considered during the upcoming session of the Missouri Legislature. The first day for filing such legislation was December 1, and more than 250 bills have already been submitted for consideration.

Some bills of interest to Missouri seniors include: HB1560 that provides that the City of St. Louis senior citizens’ services fund budget does not need to be approved by the city government; HB 1580 that requires the Department of Health and Senior Services to promulgate regulations consistent with CDC guidelines for prescribing opioids for chronic pain; HB1388 which modifies provisions relating to long-term care facilities; HB1451 that modifies the offense of abuse of an elderly person, a person with disability, or a vulnerable person and the offense of financial exploitation of an elderly person or person with a disability; HJR61 that introduces constitutional provisions relating to a tax exemption for certain senior citizen property owners; and SB580 relating to long-term care savings accounts.

More legislation is expected to be pre-filed before the General Assembly convenes in January.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW OF LIST OF NEWLY FILED LEGISLATION