12-12-19 Columns

Watervliet student athletes continue volunteer work

After “Impact Watervliet” early this fall, Watervliet athletes continue to give back. Just before Thanksgiving break over 50 athletes from the girls basketball, cheer, and wrestling teams volunteered as they partnered up with the Berrien Community Foundation, Heart of Cook Foundation, and Honor Credit Union for Giving Tuesday. A program that delivers winter care packages to senior citizens in Berrien County. This program also assists seniors in learning about on-line resources (HelpHer.org) which is an on-line service to help women, seniors and families search for the right services or programs for issues that come up in their daily lives, such as food, shelter, child care, counseling, senior services, and more. The athletes stuffed candy bags for almost 600 seniors, put together almost 2,000 information magnets, and moved boxes and other supplies for the event. GREAT WORK PANTHERS!!

WHS athletes stuffed candy bags for almost 600 seniors, put together almost 2,000 information magnets, and moved boxes and other supplies for Giving Tuesday event

Innovation is the answer to the challenges facing our environment

Earlier this week, the Energy and Commerce Committee hosted the Energy and Environment Innovation Showcase in Washington, D.C. The event highlighted some of the great, innovative work that folks from across the nation are doing to reduce emissions, tackle climate change, protect our environment, secure reliable and affordable energy, create American jobs, and strengthen our economy. Our planet is facing unique challenges, and we need bold ideas that address current and future risks while also maintaining reliable and affordable energy options for consumers. Innovation is the answer. With innovative work in all of the above strategies, we can protect our environment and address our energy challenges. To represent southwest Michigan, I invited Dr. Qingliu Wu, a Chemical Engineering professor at Western Michigan University, to present his research on renewable energy batteries. Dr. Wu is trying to apply cut-rate technologies in lithium-ion battery technology to further reduce energy consumption during manufacturing processes and thus also reduce the cost of battery products Lithium-ion batteries offer the advantage of storing significant amounts of energy from renewable sources, such as solar and wind power, making possible a fossil fuel-free society. I am so proud that this research and development takes place in our bustling southwest Michigan community. Dr. Wu’s research highlights the cutting-edge innovation in southwest Michigan that benefits the entire country. To learn more about important legislative issues, follow me on Twitter at @RepFredUpton or visit my website: upton.house.gov. You can also call my offices in St. Joseph/ Benton Harbor (269-982-1986) or Washington, D.C. (202-225-3761).

Restoring vital funding for Southwest Michigan

Earlier this fall the Michigan Legislature passed a plan that included record funding for education, additional money for roads, and continued aid to programs vital to ensuring a healthy Michigan. Nearly $1 billion of that legislature-approved funding was cut back in October in an attempt to force a 45-cent per gallon gas tax increase. Recently, I helped to pass a supplemental budget plan to reverse many of those harmful vetoes from Governor Whitmer, without raising taxes. Eliminating funding for school safety grants was one of the many dangerous vetoes that impacted our community. This year, the Van Buren ISD and Mattawan Schools were awarded school safety grants from the state to increase school safety through panic alert systems, secure doorways and locks, security cameras, shatter-resistant windows, radios, and more. Students and faculty should feel safe when going to school each day, and parents also should know their children are safe in the classroom. That is why I sponsored legislation that fought to reinstate this funding. Thankfully, school safety grants were one of the vetoes reinstated in the supplemental budget. Along with school safety, funding for the following programs was also restored: $4 million in county veteran services funds; $15 million in grants to protect communities from PFAS and other emerging contaminants; $13 million to fund secondary road patrols for Sherriff’s offices; Funding to reimburse county jails for housing inmates that would otherwise be housed at state correctional facilities; Jobs for Michigan Graduates, a program connecting Michigan students to careers in their community; over $1 million for autism services including programs such as Autism Navigator and Train the Trainer. Southwest Michigan deserves the peace of mind to know that important, state-funded programs will continue to function. I am proud to have voted yes.

Use year-end bonus (or gift) wisely

As 2019 draws to a close, you may be anticipating – or have already received – a year-end bonus from your employer. Or you might be receiving a substantial cash gift for the holidays. (If you’re really lucky, you might get both.) You can doubtlessly think of many ways to spend this money right now, but how can you use it to help yourself in the long run? Here are a few suggestions: Pay off some debts. Virtually all of us carry some type of debt, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. For example, your mortgage not only gives you a place to live and a chance to build equity in your home, but the interest payments are typically tax deductible. Other debts, though, such as those on consumer items, are not so positive – you generally can’t deduct the interest payments, and the items themselves probably won’t enhance your personal wealth. Plus, the bigger your monthly debt payments, the less you’ll have to invest for your future. So, you might want to use your bonus or monetary gift to pay off, or at least pay down, some of your less productive debts. Start an emergency fund. If you were to face a large, unexpected expense, such as the need for a new furnace or a major car repair, how would you pay for it? If you didn’t have the cash on hand, you might be forced to dip in to your long-term investments, such as your stocks and mutual funds. A much better option is to build an emergency fund, containing six to 12 months’ worth of living expenses, with the money kept in a liquid, low-risk account. It will take time to build such a fund, of course, but your year-end bonus or gift money could give you a good start. Contribute to your IRA. You can put in up to $6,000 to your IRA, or $7,000 if you’re 50 or older. And although you’ve got until April 15, 2020, to fully fund your IRA for the 2019 tax year, you still might want to put your “extra” money into your account right away. If you wait, you’ll probably find other uses for this money. And if you’re going to enjoy a comfortable retirement, you’ll need to maximize every possible resource – and your IRA is one of your best ones. Furthermore, the sooner you get the money into your IRA, the more potential it will have to grow over time. Feed your college fund. If you’re already contributing to a college fund for your young children or grandchildren, you can use your year-end bonus or monetary gift to add to the fund. If you haven’t already started such an account, you might want to use this money for that purpose. You could open a 529 plan, which provides possible tax benefits and gives you control of the funds until it’s time for them to be used for college or some type of vocational school. (Depending on where you live, you might also get tax benefits from your state if you use a 529 savings plan to pay for K-12 expenses.) To achieve all your financial goals, you’ll need to take advantage of your opportunities – and your year-end bonus or monetary gift can certainly be one of them. This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

Southwest Michigan a top-rated destination

Southwest Michigan residents don’t need a reminder about how beautiful our part of the world is, but it is nice when others give it the recognition it deserves. Condé Nast Traveler, a luxury and lifestyle travel magazine, recently published its “20 Best Places to Go in 2020” issue. Among places like Australia, Brazil, Morocco, Spain, and other exotic locales, the magazine ranked Southwest Michigan as a top destination for the coming year. In addition to our lakeshore offerings, the magazine made particular note of another of our region’s strengths — agriculture and, more specifically, agritourism. It wrote about the many farms, vineyards and orchards that are characteristic of the area that produces our favorite wines, ciders and microbrews, as well as award-winning restaurant options. Be sure to check out Condé Nast Traveler at your favorite newsstand or read online at https://www.cntraveler.com/ gallery/best-places-to-go-in-2020. With so much to offer, it’s no wonder tourism is such a vital part of our region’s and the state’s economies. According to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, in 2017, more than 5 million people visited Michigan for leisure and recreation, and these visitors spent a whopping $2.1 billion. Indeed, our welcome guests help our communities thrive. It’s always a good time to plan your family’s next adventure, and while you’re at it, why not consider a “staycation” right here in Southwest Michigan? Whether you’re a lifelong resident, new to the area, or want to show an out-of-state guest a good time, the Southwestern Michigan Tourist Council is a wonderful resource with all the information you’ll need to make your outing a great one. Visit SWMichigan.org to get started. Where is your favorite place to visit in Southwest Michigan? Stop by my Facebook page at facebook.com/SenKimLaSata to share and compare.

PV vaccination recommended for boys

Many people think the HPV vaccine only protects girls, but this vaccine protects boys against certain HPV-related cancers, too! Girls aren’t the only ones affected by HPV, also known as human papillomavirus. HPV is common in both males and females. Every year, over 9,000 males are affected by cancers caused by HPV infections that don’t go away. HPV can cause cancers of the anus, mouth/throat (oropharynx), and penis in males. Cases of anal cancer and cancers of the mouth/throat are on the rise. Many of the cancers caused by HPV infection could be prevented by HPV vaccination. HPV vaccination is recommended by doctors and other health experts for boys at ages 11-12. HPV vaccination of boys is also likely to benefit girls by reducing the spread of HPV infection. HPV vaccine is recommended at ages 11-12 for two reasons: The HPV vaccine must be given before exposure to virus for it to be effective in preventing cancers and other diseases caused by HPV and the vaccine produces a high immune response at this age. If you haven’t already vaccinated your preteens and teens, it’s not too late. Ask your child’s doctor at their next appointment about getting HPV vaccine. The series is three shots over six months’ time. Take advantage of any visit to the doctor—such as an annual health checkup or physicals for sports, camp, or college—to ask the doctor about what shots your preteens and teens need. Families who need help paying for vaccines should ask their doctor or other healthcare professional about Vaccines for Children (VFC). To learn more about the HPV vaccine for your teen boy or girl, visit www.bchdmi.org or call 269-926-7121.