07-12-18 Columns

Help protect family members from scam artists If you have older family members whose cognitive functions or decision-making abilities have declined, or who are lonely or recently widowed, you might need to help protect them against financial scams. What steps should you take? First of all, try to gain a good sense of their overall financial activity. Look for red flags, such as a reluctance to discuss money matters, consistently unpaid bills, unexplained withdrawals, mysterious wire transfers or a sudden need to purchase large quantities of gift cards. And watch out for new “best friends” or caretakers who show an unusual interest in your loved one’s finances. Whether or not you’ve observed any of these activities, you can help your elderly family members by making these moves: Have checks (such as Social Security payments) directly deposited. You can help your family members avoid a lot of potential trouble by having their checks deposited directly into their bank accounts. Seek permission to become a joint account owner. By becoming a joint account owner on your elderly family members’ checking and savings accounts, you can review statements for suspicious activity. Of course, your loved ones may be initially reluctant to add your name, but if you have a good relationship with them, you should be able to explain the benefits. Shred bank statements, credit card offers and notices of lottery or sweepstakes winnings. One of the most useful gifts you can give to your elderly family members may be a shredder. Encourage them to use it to shred old bank statements, credit card offers and other financial documents. Get on a “do not call” list. Telephone scammers are persistent and devious. By registering your family members’ house and cell phones at www.donotcall.gov, you may be able to reduce their exposure to unwanted calls. Obtain power of attorney. By creating a power of attorney, your loved ones can designate you or another trusted relative or friend to assist with their finances now – for day-to-day assistance and protection from scammers – and later, should they become incapacitated. Again, you will need to employ some sensitivity when discussing this issue. Check references of caretakers. As mentioned above, some caretakers are, unfortunately, dishonest. Before you hire one, check out this person’s references. And even when you do, be careful – scam artists have been known to use accomplices as references, so you will need to be thorough in your research and questions. Get to know your family members’ financial advisors. If possible, become acquainted with your older family members’ financial advisors. Any reputable advisor will welcome a connection with their clients’ loved ones. And if you are involved in any estate plans, this multi-generational relationship will prove beneficial for everyone. Ask to meet any new “friends” they have met online. When someone is lonely, they become vulnerable to online friendships. Sometimes, these new friends make promises of meeting, but never show – and then they suddenly need money for one reason or another. It can be challenging to guard against all threats posed by the scammers of the world. But by staying alert and taking the appropriate preventive actions, you may be able to help safeguard your loved ones’ financial security. This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

Local revenue sharing increases In Michigan, local revenue sharing is the distribution of part of the state’s sales tax revenue to eligible counties, cities, townships and villages to help support local services like police protection and firefighting. It helps improve the stability of the tax structure and provide local tax relief. The recently signed state budget boosts local revenue sharing by more than $22.5 million in fiscal year 2019, which starts Oct. 1. This builds on our continued efforts to boost support for our local units of government. This revenue sharing increase means that communities in the 21st Senate District will receive nearly $10 million more than they did 10 years ago. Over the past 10 budget years, revenue sharing in Berrien, Cass and St. Joseph counties has increased by 44 percent.

According to the nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency, from fiscal year 2010 to the new FY 2019 budget, revenue sharing has increased by 48.6 percent in Berrien County, 58.6 percent in Cass County and 22.9 percent in St. Joseph County. This includes the combined revenue sharing for each county government and the eligible city, village and township governments in each county. Our local governments do tremendous work every day providing critical services to area residents and keeping our communities safe. My family and I appreciate everything our local government workers do for our community. From protecting public safety and public health to maintaining local roads and parks, our local governments make a huge impact in our daily lives and deserve continued increased support. As always, I look forward to hearing your comments and feedback on the important issues facing Michigan. You can contact me at 517-373-6960.

Adding skills to classrooms As a teacher, I’m aware of the day-to-day challenges in our classrooms. Regardless of subject, our instructors have to focus on specific content while also seeking to cover as much subject matter as possible to help students grow and prepare for their next educational step. Current curriculum standards are inflexible, emphasizing reporting and test scores over student growth. It practically ignores skilled trades, reinforcing the outdated idea of a four-year college degree or bust. That’s why I supported a four-bill bipartisan plan, recently signed into law, to expand age-appropriate skilled trade-oriented instruction in K-12 classrooms, while continuing to open pathways to career and technical education. Today’s children need to know about the professions and the tradespeople who are already doing the work that is rebuilding and redefining Michigan as a destination state. Not all students have the same interests, so we must give them more options to explore well-paying careers, help schools enhance their program offerings, and address increasing demand in skilled trade professions. We’re not placing another mandate on our teachers or local schools. It’s an opportunity to diversify education without adding courses. By incorporating career-learning themes at each grade level through core instruction, we will increase awareness of career opportunities while helping students decide on their future after high school. By allowing our current teachers to get professional development credit for working with area job providers, we are adding opportunities for more localized and hands-on applications for classroom work. And by expanding the scope for skilled trade instructors, we’ll get more licensed and experienced professionals in our classrooms to help give our children more educational options. These new laws will benefit Michigan today and in the future, giving our teachers added tools for instruction. Most importantly, we’re supplying students with more opportunities beyond the classroom.

The power of positive parenting Every family is different, yet families all over the world face problems that are surprisingly similar; toddler tantrums, fighting at home or at school, the child who won’t go to bed or never seems to listen. The issues you deal with in your home affect families everywhere. That’s where Triple P can help! The Berrien County Health Department’s Triple P program – a Positive Parenting Program – can help you: Raise happy, confident kids; manage kids’ behavior so everyone enjoys life more; set family routines and rules that everyone respects and follows; get along with your kids and argue less; balance work and family without constant stress and worry; use everyday situations to help children learn. The great thing is that Triple P is not a “one-size-fits-all”. You choose how much positive parenting help you need and how you get it. With Triple P, you can do as much, or as little, as you like. At the Berrien County Health Department, parents can find the support they need that is right for their family: One-on-One consultations about specific parenting concerns such as disobedience, fighting with siblings, whining, or tantrums; seminars or group discussions that offer solutions to common parenting issues like encouraging good behavior, developing good bedtime routines, setting realistic expectations, and managing misbehavior; group classes that meet multiple times to help parents tackle on-going issues, set goals for change, and improve parent-child relationships. To find the Triple P program that’s right for you, call 269-926-7121 or email triplep@bchdmi.org.

Three bipartisan bills Recently, I announced co-sponsorship of three pieces of bipartisan legislation I wanted to highlight for you below. H.R. 6183, the Family Reunification Act, is bipartisan legislation that would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), to use all means necessary to ensure children separated from families at the border are reunited. This is a common-sense, bipartisan solution to this heartbreaking problem. The bill would simply ensure the federal government reunites separated children with their families as fast as possible. These kids cannot slip through the cracks. They must be reunited with their families. H.R. 5385, the Children’s Hospital GME Support Reauthorization Act of 2018, is bipartisan legislation that would reauthorize the Children’s Graduate Medical Education (CHGME) program for five years. This policy has always been a priority for me as it truly is the pediatric training engine for Michigan and the country. It’s critical to providing care and will help train countless pediatric specialists to better care for children here in Southwest Michigan and across the country. H.R. 6014, to reauthorize the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act, is bipartisan legislation that would provide the primary source of federal funding to support emergency shelter and related assistance for victims of domestic violence and their families. Too many Americans suffer from domestic violence but this bipartisan effort will help those in need by providing community-driven solutions and a network of programs dedicated to responding to domestic violence. To learn more about these three bipartisan bills, and other important legislative issues, please visit my website: upton.house.gov or call my office in St. Joe / BH (269-982-1986).