12-05-2019 Letters & Commentary

T’s Marines help to make Christmas brighter

Dear Editor, On November 10 marines old and young gathered at T’s Tap in Coloma to celebrate the birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps. Leigh Schultz, event organizer, said almost $400 was raised for the Toys for Tots program. T’s Marines along with the Coloma American Legion and a gift from the South Haven Meijer store were able to raise additional funds to purchase over $500 worth of toys at the Meijer store. The toys are to be dropped off at locations in southwest Michigan to be wrapped and distributed to brighten the lives of local needy children for the holidays. Pete Petruk Coloma American Legion Post 362

It’s not too late: Michiganders urged to get flu vaccine

The week of Dec. 1 is National Influenza Vaccination Week and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is reminding Michigan residents that it’s not too late to get vaccinated. “The flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and your families against flu,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health for MDHHS. “It is important to get vaccinated today to prevent yourself from getting sick this holiday season. National Influenza Vaccination Week serves as a great reminder to get a flu vaccine for those who have not done so yet this season.” Influenza is not the stomach flu but is a contagious respiratory disease caused by different strains of the virus and can result in mild to severe illness. Although thousands of flu-related hospitalizations and deaths are reported every year, only 46.1 percent of Michigan residents reported receiving a flu vaccine last season. Michigan ranks 38th in the nation for flu vaccination coverage and falls below the national average of 49.2 percent. Last season, CDC estimated that up to 42.9 million people became sick with influenza and up to 61,200 deaths occurred, 143 of which were children. In Michigan, four children died last season due to flu-related complications. Flu activity is steadily increasing in Michigan and positive flu cases have been reported in the central, southwest and southeast regions. However, other states in the south have reported high flu activity and four flu-associated pediatric deaths have been confirmed nationally for the 2019-2020 flu season so far. It takes about two weeks after the vaccine is administered before the body builds up enough immunity to prevent the flu. Michiganders should get their flu vaccine now to protect themselves before activity peaks in Michigan. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends annual influenza vaccination for all persons ages 6 months and older. There are many flu vaccine options available this season and residents should speak with a healthcare provider about which is best for them. There is ample supply of flu vaccines available at many locations throughout Michigan, including doctor’s offices, pharmacies, and local health departments. To find a location near you, visit Vaccinefinder.org. For more information about flu activity in Michigan check out the Michigan Flu Focus weekly newsletter or visit Michigan.gov/flu.

Need for blood doesn’t stop for holidays – donors needed

Receive Amazon.com gift card thru Dec. 18 for donating Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, more than 1 million units of blood could be transfused in the United States. Individuals are urged to give a lifesaving gift this holiday season by making an appointment to donate blood or platelets and help the American Red Cross ensure a sufficient supply is available for patients throughout the holiday season. Those with type O blood are especially needed. During the holiday season, set aside an hour to give blood and be the lifeline patients need. Make an appointment now by downloading the free Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device. In thanks for helping meet the urgent need, those who give blood or platelets now through Dec. 18 will receive a $5 Amazon.com Gift Card via email, courtesy of Suburban Propane. (Restrictions apply; see amazon.com/gc-legal. More information and details are available at RedCrossBlood.org/Thanks.) Upcoming blood donation opportunities Dec. 2-31: Wednesday, Dec. 18, 11 a.m. – 4:45 p.m., Caretel Inns of Lakeland, 3905 Lorraine Path, St. Joseph Thursday, Dec. 19, 12 p.m. – 5:45 p.m., Knights of Columbus, 7454 Paw Paw Avenue, Watervliet Thursday, Dec. 26, 12 p.m. – 5:15 p.m., St. Basil Catholic Church, 513 Monroe Boulevard, South Haven

Social Security expands public hours at offices nationwide

Starting on January 8, 2020, Social Security offices nationwide will be open to the public on Wednesday afternoons, Andrew Saul, Commissioner of Social Security, announced. This change restores Wednesday public service hours that were last in place in late 2012. “I don’t want someone to come to our office at 2:30 on a Wednesday only to find our doors closed,” Commissioner Saul said. In another move to improve service to the public, Commissioner Saul announced in his Open Letter to the Public at www.ssa.gov/agency/coss-message.html that the agency is hiring 1,100 front line employees to provide service on the agency’s National 800 Number and in its processing centers. The agency is currently bringing onboard 100 new processing center employees and approximately 500 new teleservice representatives for the 800 Number. An additional 500 hires for the 800 Number will occur later in 2020. “Improving service is my top priority. Increasing full public service hours at our nationwide network of more than 1,200 field offices is the right thing to do and will provide additional access,” Commissioner Saul said. “The hiring of a thousand new employees to provide service through our National 800 Number and an additional 100 hires to process people’s Social Security benefits at our processing centers around the country are steps in the right direction in our mission to greatly improve the service we provide.” Currently, a field office is generally open to the public from 9:00 a.m. to Noon on Wednesdays. Beginning on January 8, 2020, offices will remain open until 4:00 p.m. on Wednesdays, with typical field office hours from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. While the agency continues to improve both the access to and the experience with its services, it is important to note that most Social Security services do not require the public to take time to visit an office. People may create a “my Social Security” account, a personalized online service, at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. Through their personal “my Social Security” account, people can check personal information and conduct business with Social Security. If they already receive Social Security benefits, they can start or change direct deposit online, and if they need proof of their benefits, they can print or download a current Benefit Verification Letter from their account. People not yet receiving benefits can use their online account to get a personalized Social Security Statement, which provides earnings history information as well as estimates of future benefits. Currently, residents in 40 states and the District of Columbia may request a replacement Social Security card online if they meet certain requirements. The portal also includes a retirement calculator and links to information about other online services, such as applications for retirement, disability, and Medicare benefits. Many Social Security services are also conveniently available by dialing toll-free, 1-800-772-1213. People who are deaf or hard of hearing may call Social Security’s TTY number, 1-800-325-0778.

Making the most of the 2018 Farm Bill commodity provisions

Michigan State University Extension is partnering with local USDA Farm Service Agencies (FSA) to provide Farm Bill educational sessions across Michigan. The 2018 Farm Bill provides a one-time opportunity for producers to update their yields based off 2013 through 2017 production and records, and producers should begin that process now. At these meetings, producers will: Hear highlights of the 2018 Farm Bill and assessments of today’s market compared to five years ago; learn about the process of updating their yields with FSA; work through case examples using the MSU Extension 2018 Farm Bill Calculator to help make better decisions on ARC versus PLC (Each crop and FSA farm number may result in a different choice.); discuss specific program details with local FSA staff. Meetings will be about two hours in length and times may vary depending on the location of the meeting. Additional dates will be added through the winter prior to FSA deadlines. 2020 dates include Monday, Jan. 6, in Berrien County at Berrien RESA, 10a.m.-12p.m. and in Van Buren County at VB Conference Center, 2-4 p.m. Please check the registration site for the latest class listing and specific addresses for each meeting. There is no cost to attend. MSU is an affirmative-action, equal-opportunity employer. For updated information on dates and times, and to register, visit: https://events.anr.msu.edu/farmbill. Pre-registration is requested but not required.

Simeon’s message

There are less-known players in the original Christmas that add much to the story. We usually think of the wise men and the shepherds, Joseph and Mary and maybe the angels as having important rolls, and they are important. But there are a couple of people we find in Luke 2 that give additional significance to the events of the time. One was Simeon; the other, Anna. Neither had an “official” role in Jerusalem’s religious landscape, they were just residents with a sincere interest in the future of their nation. They apparently believed wholeheartedly in the prophecies concerning the coming of a real, literal savior and redeemer. They apparently also had no problem with the “Anointed” one, the “Christ”, starting out as a child, and they both evidently enjoyed close communications with God. Simeon had been promised by the Holy Spirit that before he died he would see God’s Anointed one. We are not told Simeon was actually old. Perhaps he was young but terminally ill. Anyway, Simeon put his hope in the fulfillment of that promise, and he was overjoyed at the encounter with Jesus and His parents. Now he could die in peace. We learn some things from Simeon. We learn that we can depend on God being faithful to His word, both prophetically and personally. We learn that peace is possible, even when facing death, when we are sure we are in God’s care. We also learn that settling our hopes on God’s promises gives solid foundation for confident living. Now Simeon knew the Scriptures. He referenced Isaiah 9 when he spoke of the child, Jesus, being “light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” Being familiar with the Bible does indeed give a lamp to our footsteps and a light to our way” (Psalm 119:102). Thank you, Simeon, for being on target that day in Jerusalem.

Social Security benefits increase in 2020

Each year, we announce the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). By law, federal benefits increase when the cost of living rises, as measured by the Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). Usually, there is an increase in the benefit amount people will receive each month, starting the following January. Nearly 69 million Americans will see a 1.6 percent increase in their Social Security benefits and SSI payments in 2020. Other changes that will happen in January 2020 reflect the increase in the national average wage index. For example, the maximum amount of earnings subject to Social Security payroll tax will increase to $137,700 from $132,900. The earnings limit for workers who are younger than “full” retirement age (age 66 for people born in 1943 through 1954) will increase to $18,240. (We deduct $1 from benefits for each $2 earned over $18,240.) The earnings limit for people turning 66 in 2020 will increase to $48,600. (We deduct $1 from benefits for each $3 earned over $48,600 until the month the worker turns age 66.) In December 2019, we will post Social Security COLA notices online for retirement, survivors, and disability beneficiaries who have a “my Social Security” account. You will be able to view and save future COLA notices via the Message Center inside “my Social Security”. You can log in to or sign up for a “my Social Security” account today at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount to get more information about your new benefit amount. You can choose to receive an electronic notification by email, text, or both ways under Message Center Preferences. Our notification will let you know that a new message is waiting for you. We will not send any personal information in the notification. The Message Center also allows you to go paperless by opting out of receiving agency notices by mail that you can get online, including annual cost-of-living adjustments and the income-related monthly adjustment amount increases. The Message Center is a secure portal where you can conveniently receive sensitive communications that we don’t send through email or text. More information about the 2020 COLA is available at www.socialsecurity.gov/cola. Vonda VanTil 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.

GREAT HOLIDAY SHOPPING KICKOFF… Kudos to the Coloma and Watervliet DDAs and the Coloma Watervliet Chamber of Commerce for leading the way promoting the great opportunities of shopping in your hometown. Keep an eye on the upcoming issues of the Tri-City Record for more events that make living and shopping in the Tri-Cities such a value.

WELCOME BACK JOHN… There’s something new on this page, a comic strip called BEESWAX. Drawn by cartoonist John Martin, the “strip” is a humorous look at life through the eyes of a family of honeybees, led by “Beeswax”, his wife “Honeybee” and son “Stinger”. John’s handiwork has been on this page before as editorial cartoons.

CHILDLESS COUPLES ARE NOT THE ANSWER… Some years back, friends made the comment that they had no intention of having any children. They intended to travel and enjoy the pleasures of the freedom they enjoyed without kids. Not many years later I heard they had divorced. So, while browsing Facebook this past weekend, I read a conversation with interest and am sharing it with you. I’ve deleted the names of the folks that commented on the Facebook discussion, but have not edited any of their messages except mine for clarity. PLANS CHANGED A friend at brunch yesterday related ruefully that her son has decided to change his plan of children from a dozen to zero. The future of the earth is just too bleak. I had no platitudes to offer. NEXT GENERATION HOPE This next generation is our hope for the future — they are amazing! I have a current student that I swear will not surprise me if he cures cancer, and another that seems capable of solving climate change. They are just ridiculously impressive. I completely respect a person’s right to decide whether to have a child, but I for one am over the top grateful every day for mine. LESS PEOPLE IS BETTER The earth would do better with fewer people. RESPECT DECISION My son has made the same decision and I respect it. Accepted the fact of no grandchildren in my future, and I am okay with it. I cannot miss what I never had. NO REGRETS I don’t know… seems like people have been hesitant for a long time to bring children into this kind of “world”. I doubt that will ever change. For me, I have Faith and absolutely have no regrets about having kids. NO FAITH IN THE FUTURE “It is so sad some folks decide not to have kids because they have no faith in the future, theirs primarily and the world in general. I’ve done many things I’m proud of, but none exceed my pride and joy in my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren – most of them already making their own mark and the rest are showing promise. That’s the hope for the world… one child at a time.” Karl Bayer What do you think? Call me at 876-1327 or email record@tricityrecord.com.

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