09-24-2020 Letters and Commentary

See your lifetime earnings with “my Social Security” Did you know you can see your work history online all the way back to your first job? Your earnings history is a record of your progress toward your Social Security benefits. We keep track of your earnings so we can pay you the benefits you’ve earned over your lifetime. This is why reviewing your Social Security earnings record is so important. If an employer didn’t properly report just one year of your earnings to us, your future benefit payments could be less than they should be. Over the course of a lifetime, that could cost you tens of thousands of dollars in retirement or other benefits to which you are entitled. It’s important to identify reporting problems as soon as possible. As time passes, you may no longer have easy access to past tax documents, and some employers may no longer exist or be able to provide past payroll information. While it’s your employer’s responsibility to provide accurate earnings information to us, you should still review and inform us of any errors or omissions so you get credit for the contributions you’ve made through payroll taxes. You’re the only person who can look at your lifetime earnings record and verify that it’s complete and correct. The easiest way to verify your earnings record is to visit www.ssa.gov/myaccount and set up or sign in to your personal “my Social Security” account. You should review each year of listed earnings carefully and confirm them using your own records, such as W-2s and tax returns. Keep in mind that earnings from this year and last year may not be listed yet. You can find detailed instructions on how to correct your Social Security earnings record at www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10081.pdf. Let your friends and family know they can access important information like this any time at www.ssa.gov and do much of their business with us online. Vonda Van Til is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan. You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at vonda.vantil@ssa.gov

War of the ages When H.G. Wells wrote his science fiction novel, “The War of the Worlds” in 1898, little did he know that another “Wells”, Orson Welles, would dramatize his story in a radio drama that freaked out the world again forty years later. He might also be surprised that a movie by that name came out in 2005. We are bent on invading aliens! But there’s another war of the worlds that has been raging since before our times began. It’s the war that’s continued through the ages between God and Satan. We have hints of this ongoing engagement throughout the Bible. Ezekiel 28:11-17a and Isaiah 14:12-15 seem to describe the origins of the fray. Prophetic detail of the whole engagement can also be found in areas of Daniel, Zechariah, Matthew, and Revelation, among others. Bottom line, no truce, God wins. The Bible explains that we need not be casualties in this age-old, inherited battle. We actually have certain powers ourselves to overcome the enemy of our souls. These powers are powers of resistance and persistence. James says: “Resist the Devil and he will flee from you; draw near to God and He will draw near to you,” – defensive and offensive tactics. Reconnaissance intel is explained in Ephesians 6:12-18 where the enemy’s true identity is revealed, we are given tactics, and we are encouraged to avoid collateral damage in our operations. Revelation 12:8 reviews the results of persistent commitment to faith in Jesus Christ: “They overcame him (Satan) because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony.” – victory through solid faith in Jesus Christ and His shed blood at Calvary, and through outspoken witness to the truth as opposed to Satan’s abundant lies. It adds, “and they didn’t love their life even to the death.” They remained loyal no matter what. May we, by faith, fare well in the battle.

Expanding access to childcare As we work together to rebuild a healthy state and a healthy economy, I want you to know that I’m doing everything I can to ensure that every member of our community is brought along in the recovery. As Berrien County families begin to resume their lives safely and sensibly, I’m working in our state capitol to remove barriers and slash red tape so hardworking families have more resources available to them. Access to childcare was among the most important issues facing working families in Michigan before the pandemic, and it certainly is now. As some schools choose to go virtual, and traditional after-school activities are canceled or go digital, families shouldn’t have to choose between caring for their child or their career. In 2018, a Center for American Progress survey found women were 40-percent more likely than men to make job decisions – be it leave the workforce or cut down their hours – to care for their child than pursue their own careers. In 2016 alone, more than 2 million parents across the country made career sacrifices due to problems with childcare. We’re at a crossroads where we as a state can do the right thing and bring cost-effective change to Michigan’s childcare system, or we can continue down a path that is going to force more and more working parents – a disproportionate number of women – out of their careers. I don’t know about you, but I am not letting that happen on my watch. My legislation is simple and is a common-sense step we can all take together. My bill states that, upon approval from LARA, a family childcare home could care for two additional unrelated school-age children during before- or after-school care hours, or a group childcare home could care for four additional unrelated school-age children during those hours. My bill passed out of committee with bipartisan support and is now before the House Ways and Means Committee. In the coming days and weeks, I’ll continue my efforts to expand this desperately needed service in Michigan. Working together, we’re taking necessary steps to make our community and state a better place to live, work, and raise a family. If I can ever be of assistance to you, you can reach me via email at PaulineWendzel@house.mi.gov or by phone at 517-373-1403. You can also visit my website at www.RepWendzel.com.

STOP! When you come into the Tri-City Record office… please observe the sign on the front door. “STOP! Do not enter. For your own safety you must wear a face mask.” When reading stories of the fantastic numbers of people worldwide infected with the novel coronavirus and those dying of the same, I’m astonished our country has done such an abysmal job to contain COVID-19 in its spread and in killing so many of its citizens. On average, according to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), 40,000 Americans are diagnosed with COVID-19 every day and more than 1,900 are dying daily. All the medical bigwigs say the single most important protection from catching the coronavirus, with or without a vaccine, is to WEAR A FACE MASK.

GORGEOUS SUNSETS… For the past couple weeks we’ve been treated to daily colorful sunsets and dawns. The beautiful views come at a price; the orange color comes from the widespread forest fires on the west coast, California to Seattle. Each recent fire season, seems to get worse. Then as the ashes cooled the rains came creating mud slides that washed away roads and homes. I think the flood and fire seasons along the “best” coast significantly squelched any discussion of climate change as “fake news” is finally over.

As fall hunting seasons approach, safety course available online Hunting in Michigan is a rite of passage handed down generation after generation and is part of our state’s great outdoor heritage. As thousands prepare to go on their first hunt this fall, whether it’s small or large game, upland birds or vermin — whatever your hunt of choice — in order to go hunting you need to have successfully completed a hunter safety course. According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), hunter safety classes teach new hunters responsibility, ethics, firearm safety, wildlife conservation and identification, game care, survival and first aid. The department indicates a typical hunter education course consists of a total class time of 10-12 hours. For a list of hunting safety tips and other information, check out the DNR’s hunting safety information page at https://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-350-79119_79147_91682—-,00.html. Importantly and conveniently, in this era of coronavirus, the DNR offers the hunter safety course online. Prospective hunters who complete the online course will be required to attend a field day skills course and take a written exam to be eligible to receive a hunter safety certificate. Officials indicate that those wishing to take the online course must first preregister for a field day skills portion before beginning the online class. Visit www.hunter-ed.com/Michigan for more information about the online hunter safety class. Traditional in-person classes are also held throughout the year at various locations county by county and typically cost a nominal fee. For a list, visit the DNR’s Recreational Safety Education Class website and select the hunter class type and preferred county from the drop-down lists. This is also the website to use to arrange for the field day skills portion if you were to take the online class. Hunting is a wonderful family tradition and an ideal way to enjoy Michigan’s great outdoors that is made even better when done safely. For the betterment of all who enjoy hunting, make sure you and yours are properly trained and prepared for the upcoming season. As always, residents can contact my office with any state or local issues by emailing senklasata@senate.mi chigan.gov or calling 517-373-6960.

Congress should not leave Washington until we have a deal Last week – amid stalled negotiations on Capitol Hill – my colleagues in the Problem Solvers Caucus and I introduced our “March to Common Ground” proposal that would provide real relief to American families, workers, and small businesses. In particular, this bipartisan COVID package would fund another round of the Paycheck Protection Program, more testing for our schools, additional resources for front-line healthcare workers, federal dollars for food programs, and a number of other priorities. However, while it’s clear that millions of Americans are still facing enormous challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic and need urgent relief to weather this storm, far too many in Washington are preparing to pack their bags and head home leaving D.C. with the nation’s work undone. This is simply unacceptable, and that’s why I’ve signed onto a letter to House leadership urging Congress to stay in Washington until a bipartisan deal is reached and passed in the House. The American people deserve nothing less as we fight to defeat this virus, and it’s our duty as legislators to ensure that folks receive the urgent relief they so desperately need as quickly as possible. As your representative in Congress, this is my promise to Southwest Michigan and our country. To learn more about important legislative issues, follow me on Twitter at @RepFredUpton or by visiting my website: upton.house.gov. You can also call my offices in Kalamazoo (269-385-0039), St. Joseph/ Benton Harbor (269-982-1986), or Washington, D.C. (202-225-3761).

TCR & Roy Davis fan

Dear Karl & Amy,

Thank you for a wonderful paper! Better than the Palladium.

Marie Hartline

P.S. Thank you for reprinting Roy Davis’ column – miss him – but never met him.

This election is a matter of life and death

Editor,

Donald Trump has been, and continues to be, an extremely dishonest and incompetent president. This is especially true in the area of public health.

Trump’s deliberate efforts to downplay the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic and his failure to mobilize a national response to control the spread of the virus have led to many thousands of preventable deaths.

As a result of Trump’s dishonesty and incompetence, the U.S. has the largest number of COVID-19 cases and the largest number of deaths in the world. Our country has 4% of the world’s population and more than 20% of the world’s COVID-19 deaths.

As of Sept. 20, more than 200,000 Americans have died from this virus. Many thousands more are predicted to die in the coming months. A large number of these deaths were entirely preventable.

In addition to his failure to control the spread of COVID-19, Trump is attempting to undermine the health of Americans by eliminating the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The ACA protects everyone with a pre-existing condition from being denied health insurance coverage. It also provides affordable coverage for millions of individuals. Donald Trump wants to abolish the ACA, thereby endangering people with pre-existing conditions and removing health insurance from millions of Americans – while we’re in the midst of a pandemic.

Joe Biden has presented detailed plans to control the spread of COVID-19 and to preserve and expand the ACA. His plans will increase the number of people who are eligible for ACA coverage, create a public option that will lower the cost of health insurance, and institute measures to lower the cost of prescription drugs.

Biden will protect the health of our nation. He is the right choice to become president of our country.

Please vote, either by mail or in person. This election really is a matter of life and death.

Dr. Larry Feldman, Lakeside

Back on Track

To the Coloma Schools Community,

On a beautiful summer day in late August, Coloma Community Schools welcomed students back to our buildings with a phased-in approach. This approach allowed each school building to bring in one class level of students at a time to orient and train on new safety protocols. The first week went very well and allowed us to test many of our new protocols on a small scale so that we could make adjustments, if needed, before having all of our students back in our buildings. As a result of our efforts, we received many compliments from all of our stakeholders.

Thus far, our first month has been a return to “normal,” or at least as normal as can be for 2020, and things have remained steady since the start of the school year. Our staff continues to push forward, working to get our students back on track and towards our educational goals while also doing their part to ensure the safety and well-being of our school community.

I anticipate the rest of the year will look more normal as it progresses. To that end, athletics are resuming but with a few changes, including limited public attendance, participants and fans wearing masks, and no concessions. All of the implemented steps are included in the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s guidelines. We will continue to assess our students and move forward with the belief that we will remain in face-to-face learning for the rest of the school year. Should this change, we have a backup plan ready to roll-out if we have to move our students to remote learning. Through it all, we will be vigilant in our communications to our parents and community as we partner for a successful 2020-21 school year.

While our primary focus over the past several months has been in successfully welcoming our students back to school, we have also made preparations to support our students as we have in years past. One example is in our commitment to reducing, if not eliminating bullying. As many of our community members may know, October is bullying awareness month.

At Coloma Community Schools, we are committed to teaching our students to be responsible citizens. First and foremost, we cultivate a collaborative community through the Second Step Program for our K-8 students. We also offer a socio-emotional curriculum for our K-5 students, to ensure they receive the help they need to maximize their academic and personal growth. Additionally, we are fortunate to have amazing counselors and social workers in our schools. All of this has helped develop a warm and engaging learning environment for our students.

Despite the many challenges we face, I am extremely optimistic that this year will be a great one for our students. We will continue to embrace the 2020-21 school year with a positive mindset and consider the challenges before us as learning opportunities. By working together as a community, I am confident we will stronger than we were before the pandemic.

For critical information involving the school district, please follow Coloma Community Schools on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as well as checking out our freshly updated website at ccs.coloma.org. Go Comets!

Superintendent David Ehlers

Coloma Community Schools

Scammers using fake letters in collections scam

(Press Release) Michigan taxpayers with past-due tax debts should be aware of an aggressive scam that’s making the rounds through the U.S. Postal Service, according to the Michigan Department of Treasury (Treasury).

In the scheme, taxpayers receive a letter about an overdue tax bill, asking individuals to immediately contact a toll-free number to resolve an outstanding state tax debt. The letter aggressively threatens to seize a taxpayer’s assets, including property and Social Security benefits, if the debt is not settled.

“This is a tricky scam that has been reported throughout the state,” said Deputy State Treasurer Ann Good, who oversees Treasury’s Financial and Administrative Services programs. “Taxpayers have rights. If you have questions about an outstanding state tax debt, please contact us through a verified number so we can talk about options.”

The piece of correspondence appears credible to the taxpayer because it uses specific personal facts that are pulled directly from publicly available information.

The scammer’s letter attempts to lure the taxpayer into a situation where they could make a payment to a criminal.

The state Treasury Department corresponds with taxpayers through official letters sent through the U.S. Postal Service, providing several options to resolve an outstanding debt and information outlining taxpayer rights.

Taxpayers who receive a letter from a scammer or have questions about their state debts should call Treasury’s Collections Service Center at 517-636-5265. A customer service representative can log the scam, verify outstanding state debts and provide flexible payment options.

To learn more about Michigan’s taxes and the collections process, go to www.michigan.gov/taxes or follow the state Treasury Department on Twitter at

@MITreasury.

Consumers should watch for phishing scams following Blackbaud security breach

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel issued a consumer alert telling Michigan residents, particularly college and other nonprofit donors, to beware of fraudulent emails and phone calls seeking personal information or suspicious donation requests.

The alert follows a ransomware attack on Blackbaud, a major provider of software services used by nonprofits in fundraising that resulted in the acquisition of donor information by a cybercriminal. Blackbaud customers include colleges, hospitals, churches and various other types of nonprofits throughout the U.S., including in Michigan. Some Michigan entities include Michigan State University, Lansing Community College, the Catholic Diocese of Gaylord, John Ball Zoo and others.

The breach was reported by Blackbaud in mid-July. Its impacts on nonprofits and consumers vary. Social Security numbers, credit card and bank account information were not accessed, according to Blackbaud. Accessed information generally included names, titles, telephone numbers, email addresses, mailing addresses, dates of birth and, more importantly, donor information such as donation dates, donation amounts, giving capacity, philanthropic interests and other donor profile information.

Blackbaud claims that it has “no reason to believe that any data went beyond the cybercriminal, was or will be misused; or will be disseminated or otherwise made available publicly” but, to date, has not announced any concrete substantiation of this claim.

“Donor information can be a roadmap identifying people willing and able to contribute to worthy causes and institutions. In the wrong hands, it can target individuals for exploitation and scammers,” said Nessel. “Anyone who receives a notification letter regarding the Blackbaud data breach should not dismiss the letter, and should not only take the recommended steps in the notice, but also remain vigilant for suspicious emails, texts or phone calls asking for personal information, donations or other payments.”

Nessel urges every Michigan resident who gets a text, email or call that is supposedly from an organization or business asking for login credentials, credit card, bank account or any other personal information to hang up and not respond.

Consumers are encouraged to file consumer complaints with the Michigan Department of Attorney General online or by calling 1-877-765-8388.