1. MICHIGAN POLICE DEPARTMENTS IN FRENZY TO FIND AMMO AMID NATIONWIDE SHORTAGE:
Police departments across Michigan are struggling to find ammunition during a national shortage, forcing some officials to cut back on training and shell out nearly triple the previous price for handgun and rifle rounds.
The shortage was created by last year’s record number of gun sales, combined with ammunition factories shutting down or limiting production because of the COVID-19 pandemic, experts say.
“It’s just a combination of things -- you got millions of new gun owners buying up ammo right when COVID hit,” said Grant Allen, the owner of Firing Line, an indoor firing range and gun shop in Westland. “Companies shut down because of COVID, and when they started back up, they were only at a quarter-staff. And the orders kept coming in.”
And the demand persists despite rising costs, said Allen, who was a Westland police officer for 30 years.
While all ammunition is scarce, experts say it’s particularly hard to find 9mm rounds -- long the most popular for consumers, and the caliber many police departments recently adopted for their handguns, after years using more expensive .40 caliber rounds.
“For 9mm ammo, it used to be $15 for a box of 50 rounds; now, on the cheap side, it’s $42 per box,” Allen said.
But police are scrambling to find rounds of all calibers. The problem is so acute, Paw Paw Police Chief Eric Marshall said he plans to make the 330-mile roundtrip drive across the state to Firing Line to pick up 250 rounds of .40 caliber cartridges.
Allen is offering the rounds to Marshall and other cops at cost -- which for .40 caliber cartridges is about $1 per round, up from about 30 cents prior to the shortage. Some sellers are asking about $2 per round for .40 caliber cartridges that as recently as last year sold for 50-70 cents per round.
“Many departments do tactical training with live ammo, but there’s not enough ammo to do that now,” said Marshall, who added he’s waiting for two rifles he ordered from Allen to come in before trekking across the state.
He acknowledged it’s a long drive for a mere 250 rounds -- 25 each for his force of 10 officers -- but he said he’s desperate.
“You’ve got to get it wherever you can,” he said. “When I found out I could get my hands on some ammo, I jumped on it.”
Law enforcement experts say several events coalesced to cause the ammunition shortage.
Early in the COVID pandemic, there was a record spike in gun sales, driven by concerns that criminals would take advantage of relaxed police enforcement and that people would become violent if forcibly quarantined.
Firearm sales again surged in the fall following months of protests, some of which ended in riots, calls for disbanding police, and fears that a Joe Biden presidency would result in tighter gun restrictions.
The FBI also processed 39.7 million firearm background checks in 2020 -- the most by far of any year since the agency began keeping track in 1998. The previous record was 14.9 million checks in 2016. In Michigan, the FBI processed a record 1.07 million background checks in 2020, more than doubling the 492,000 checks in 2019. The previous record was set in 2016, when 579,000 checks were conducted.
If the lack of ammunition causes police departments to curb firearms training for too long, it could have dire consequences, said Robert Stevenson, director of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police.
“Firearms proficiency is a perishable skill; if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it,” Stevenson said. “Most officers never have to fire their weapon -- but when we do, it goes without saying that we don’t want to miss what we’re firing at.”
Taylor Police Chief John Blair said his department doesn’t have enough ammunition stockpiled to conduct the biannual handgun qualification training in May and September.
“There’s not much we can do because that’s not enough ammo to do the qualification, and we can’t find it anywhere,” he said. “We’re struggling; we’ve been calling all over the country.”
Blair said his department also has cut back on officers’ department range time.
“We’ll have open range a couple times a month where we’ll open for four hours, and the officers can come in and shoot,” he said. “But we had to cut back because we don’t have the ammo. It’s a huge concern.
“We just got brand new rifles, and we can’t find the ammo to qualify officers with them and get those weapons on the street. We have some (of the new rifles deployed) already, but we’re trying to expand that, and it’s just not happening.”
Timothy Bourgeois, director of the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards, or MCOLES, which sets training requirements for police departments statewide, said his agency isn’t planning immediate changes.
“From our perspective, our main focus is recruit training, and we’ve been in close contact with the academies, and shared information about the availability of ammunition, so there are no plans to change any of our requirements,” he said.
MCOLES requires all officers to go through an annual basic qualification course that consists of firing 30 rounds at targets set at various distances.
“Other than that, in-service training programs are designed by the individual departments,” Bourgeois said.
Police departments have dealt with previous ammunition shortages, most recently in 2007, when U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan were firing a billion rounds each year and needed private companies to supplement the ammunition manufactured in the military’s dedicated plant in Missouri.
But law enforcement officials say the current crunch is the worst in memory, prompting advocates to lobby for police to get first crack at ammunition, Stevenson said.
“I brought up the problem to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and they made contact with (the U.S. Department of) Homeland Security, to see if we can somehow get an order that would give preference for police departments to get training ammo above the general public,” he said.
“There was no luck there, so they were going to try other avenues. Something has to be done; you can’t have police departments without ammunition.”
Blair agreed police should get first dibs.
“Obviously, we don’t think we’re more important than other people, but we are tasked with protecting the public,” he said. “People count on us, and when it comes to firearm proficiency, that’s a skill that, boy, you don’t want to dissipate.”
Officials in some departments, including Detroit and Livonia, say they’re not yet feeling the pinch, although Livonia Police Chief Curtis Caid said he’s been told to plan ahead because the fallout from the shortage is expected to be felt for years.
“We typically order our ammo years in advance, so we haven’t seen a problem yet this year,” Caid said. “But when we started to order for 2022, we were told, ‘you’d better place an order for 2023, too, because of the backlog.'”
Southfield Police Chief Elvin Barren said his department has enough ammunition for now but said he’s planning for the possibility of a shortage.
“We’ve taken steps if need be to modify some of our training to ensure the training continues, and we have enough ammo in the event of a critical incident,” he said.
“We have an 18-month plan based on when we placed our orders. Right now, we’re fine. But let’s say in August (manufacturers) aren’t able to supply us, at that point, we’ll go into some of our modifications.” George Hunter, The Detroit News, www.detnews.com , March 29, 2021.
2. VERMONT LAWMAKERS SEEK PENSION REFORMS TO STEM FUNDING SHORTFALLS:
Vermont lawmakers are pushing a plan to reduce a widening shortfall in the state's retirement systems by asking teachers and state employees to pay more into their pension plans and work more years.
During a March 24 meeting, the Vermont House Government Operations Committee proposed teachers base contribution rates be raised by 1.25% to 2.25% and that most state employees be increased by 1.1%, according to a proposal posted on the Vermont General Assembly website .
The proposal also bumps up the age at which most workers can qualify for retirement benefits, requiring them to reach full Social Security retirement age, which is currently 66 or 67. Some groups of teachers and state employees can now retire as early as 62 or with 30 years of service.
In addition, employees will receive a lower overall benefit as it would be based on the average of their seven highest consecutive years of salary rather than the three highest as is now the case, according to the proposal.
The Vermont House Government Operations Committee estimated that the $2.3 billion Vermont State Teachers' Retirement System had an unfunded liability of $1.93 billion as of June, the close of its fiscal year, while the $2.2 billion Vermont State Employees' Retirement System had an unfunded liability of $1.04 billion. The funded ratios for the teachers' and state employees' pension plans were 51.3% and 66.4%, respectively, according to projections in the proposal.
Neither VSTRS spokesman Joe Mackey nor VSERS spokesman Robert Hooper immediately responded to a request for comment.
The unfunded liability amounts as well as employer contributions defined in the proposal as "actuarial determined employer contributions," or ADEC, are projected to increase significantly for both retirement systems, the lawmakers warned in the proposal.
The unfunded liability and ADEC payment for the Vermont State Employees' Retirement System is expected to increase by $225 million and $36 million, respectively, in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2022. For the Vermont State Teachers' Retirement System, the unfunded liability would rise by $379 million and the ADCE by $60.6 million, according to the proposal.
"The costs for dealing with pension liabilities are likely to escalate further in future years and create increasing pressure on budgets," the committee said in the proposal. "The time to make the necessary changes to put the state on a stronger path toward resolving these issues in future years is now."
The proposal would not apply to existing retirees and active employees who are within five years of current normal retirement eligibility.
In addition, the lawmakers in a separate proposal called for the overhaul of the Vermont Pension Investment Committee, a seven-member committee that makes and manages investments for three separate pension systems for teachers, state employees and municipal workers collectively known as the $5.3 billion Vermont State Retirement Systems . The proposal would replace VPIC with a new 15 member Vermont Retirement Commission, which would include the State Treasurer, the Commissioner of Finance and Management and two gubernatorial appointees with investment, financial or actuarial experience.
VPIC Chief Investment Officer Eric Henry said the committee has not yet formed an opinion on the governance change proposal.
One of the objectives of the proposed governance changes is to "increase the level of professional expertise and range of perspectives represented at the decision-making table," the lawmakers said in the proposal. Margarida Correia, Pension and Investments, March 29, 2021.
3. 77% OF AMERICANS SUPPORT PENSIONS FOR ALL WORKERS:
A new national survey finds that 77 percent of Americans agree that all workers, not just those working for state and local government, should have a pension. And even though the nation is deeply divided on many other issues, support for pensions is consistent across party lines. Eighty percent of Democrats, 75 percent of Republicans and 78 percent of Independents agree that all workers should have access to a pension.
These findings are contained in a new issue brief from the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS ), Americans’ Views of State and Local Employee Retirement Plans. Download the research here .
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a light on the critical role that qualified, experienced state and local workers play in our lives,” said Dan Doonan , NIRS executive director and report co-author. “From healthcare workers to first responders to teachers, these employees have worked tirelessly and taken immense risks this past year.”
“Our research shows that Americans understand that pensions offer more than retirement security – they are a key workforce tool to help attract and retain employees. State and local governments typically offer lower salaries than the private sector, so retirement and healthcare benefits act as employee magnets,” Doonan explained. “We also found interesting that nearly half of Americans say that public sector retirement benefits are about right (46 percent), while about one-third (31 percent) say the benefits are too low.”
While the majority of Americans are not on track for a secure retirement, one retirement bright spot is the benefits provided to state and local employees. Most public employees pay into a pension plan that is their primary retirement benefit, which often is supplemented by individual savings and Social Security. Workers with these three sources of retirement income are best positioned to have a secure retirement.
This research finds that:
- More than three-fourths of Americans say all workers, not just state and local employees, should have access to a pension. Some 77 percent say all workers, not just state and local workers, should have a pension. This holds true across party lines. Eighty percent of Democrats, 75 percent of Republicans and 78 percent of Independents agree that all workers should have a pension.
- The vast majority of respondents agree that providing pensions to state and local employees is a good way to recruit and retain these employees. Some 75 percent of Americans agree that pensions are a good way to recruit and retain qualified teachers. With regard to public safety employees, 76 percent agree that pensions are an important recruitment and retention tool of these workers.
- Most Americans agree that public employees should receive pensions because workers contribute to the cost and these benefits help compensate for lower pay and risks of some jobs. Nearly three-fourths (72 percent) agree that state and local employees should receive pensions because they help finance part of the cost by contributing money from each paycheck. Sixty-nine percent say public school teachers deserve a pension to compensate for their lower pay. Similarly, Americans say high risk jobs are another reason that public employees should receive a pension, with 76 percent in agreement.
State and local pensions are funded from three sources: employer contributions, employee contributions and investment earnings. Between 1993 and 2018, about 25 percent of public pension fund receipts came from employer contributions, 11 percent from employee contributions, and about 64 percent from investment earnings. This means that earnings on investments historically have made up the bulk of pension fund receipts, even during two market downturns, and taxpayers are funding only a portion of these benefits.
The vast majority of state and local pensions are well-managed and positioned to weather economic downturns. The 2008 global market crash reduced public pension fund asset values from $3.15 trillion in 2007 to $2.17 trillion in 2009. But since then, nearly every state has enacted meaningful reforms to their pension plans to ensure their long-term sustainability, including benefit reforms and increased employee contributions. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, financial markets have been resilient and most plans remain on a financially sound course . As of the third quarter of 2020, public pension assets were $4.78 trillion, doubling their asset values since 2009.
Pensions are economically efficient and also provide a sizable economic impact across the U.S. Retiree spending of public and private sector pension benefits in 2018 generated $1.3 trillion in total economic output, supporting nearly seven million jobs across the nation. Pension spending also added nearly $192 billion to government coffers at the federal, state and local levels.
Conducted by Greenwald Research, information for this study was collected from interviews conducted between December 4–10, 2020, of 1,203 individuals aged 25 and older. The final data were weighted by age, gender, and income to reflect the demographics of Americans aged 25 and older. Tabulations in some of the charts may not add up to 100 due to rounding. National Institute on Retirement Security, www.nirsonline.org , March 18, 2021.
4. OHIO RETIREES TAKE VICTORY LAP AFTER PENSION FIX IS INCLUDED IN AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN:
After eight years of fighting to restore pension benefits for roughly 1.3 million workers and retirees who faced cuts of as much as 70 percent, Mike Walden of Cuyahoga Falls was finally able to take a victory lap after President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan into law.
Democratic U.S. Sen Sherrod Brown put language in the bill that set up a new Treasury Department agency called the “Pension Rehabilitation Administration.” It will issue low-rate bonds and loan the proceeds to beleaguered multi-employer pension plans that ran into trouble when their investments took a nosedive as retirements swelled and the number of active workers paying into the plans decreased. Some of the companies that paid into the plans also went bankrupt, which increased the amount surviving companies had to pay. Coronavirus worsened the pension plans’ financial picture as more money-losing companies stopped contributing.
An estimated 60,000 Ohioans including Walden participate in affected pension systems that cover pools of union members who work for different companies in industries like trucking, mining and construction. They include the Teamsters Central States Fund, and others for ironworkers, carpenters, bakers and confectioners.
On Friday, Brown joined Walden and others who sought a pension fix to recall the years they spent meeting with members of Congress, writing letters, holding rallies, and testifying before congressional committees. Brown described how Republicans in the Senate unsuccessfully tried to strip the provision from the bill in a party line vote and how the overall legislation passed by one vote in the Senate. Republicans supported a different fix for the pension problem, and argued too many unrelated provisions were crammed into a bill that was supposed to provide coronavirus relief.
Brown called the pension rescue “one of the biggest victories for working families and union members in my career.” He said workers covered by the affected pension plans gave up dollars at the bargaining table in exchange for a secure retirement, and were not seeking a “bailout.”
“You never gave up,” Brown told the retirees. “I know that from time to time, some of you thought we were going to have to settle for something less and that there’d be 20, 30, 40 percent cuts.”
Walden said it was sometimes difficult to remain optimistic as members of Congress, union members covered by the pension and their employers disagreed over how to save their pensions and efforts were repeatedly sidelined.
“We had a lot of obstacles to start with and, as time went on, there were many more obstacles placed in front of us,” the retired Teamster said. “Power and greed are the key to failure in my opinion. I couldn’t display any kind of pessimism. I had to be optimistic. I had to display optimistic ways no matter how I felt.”
Dana Vargo of Massillon said those covered by the pension plans “didn’t retire with these big corporate umbrellas that covered them,” and many were living solely on minimal Social Security income and their pensions. She said the cuts would have forced retirees in their group to choose between paying for medicine or paying for food. Another retiree told her his son lost his job and moved back into the retiree’s house with his children because he couldn’t pay for food. Without his pension income, the retiree wouldn’t have been abele to help.
“We’re just ordinary people, we don’t make millions of dollars so every bit of this money counts,” said Vargo. “As we often say, we spend it, we don’t have the luxury of putting it away. Now we can go buy a car, we can do repairs to our houses. We’re not going to do extravagant things, but at least we can live and support our families and our and our local economies as well.”
Brown said about 10 million Americans participate in multiemployer pension plans and more than a million of them are in plans that are quickly running out of money. The rescue will cost an estimated $86 billion over 10 years, but Brown said doing nothing would cost $250 billion in that period by increasing costs for social welfare programs retirees will have to use if their pensions are cut. He said the fix will put the pension plans on solid footing for 30 years and ensure they can meet their obligations to current retirees and workers.
“I know how hard so many of you worked on this and how you fought and fought,” Brown told the retirees. “All these things you did is what activism is about, is what trade unionism is about.”
Brown says he is still trying to secure help for a group of Delphi retirees whose pensions benefits were slashed when General Motors declared bankruptcy. Less than a month before last year’s presidential election, former President Donald Trump issued a memo that denounced the treatment of the Delphi retirees and ordered his department heads to review the matter and recommend actions to remedy their lost pension benefits. Nothing came of Trump’s effort, which Brown denounced as as “vapid and empty and meaningless” because he didn’t help the retirees when his party controlled Congress and the White House.
“I want to help the hundreds and hundreds of Delphi families too, but again, we need we need Republican support to get this over the finish line,” Brown told reporters earlier this month. “And I’m hopeful we can.” Sabrina Eaton, cleveland.com , March 26, 2021.
5. HOW TO MAKE THE FLORIDA RETIREMENT SYSTEM INVESTMENT PLAN AN EFFECTIVE RETIREMENT PLAN:
While defined contribution retirement savings plans have been effective retirement tools for many decades, not all defined contribution plans are designed in a way that meets the needs of both employers and employees. There are a number of straightforward plan design principles , such as benefit portability and adequate contribution requirements, that when carefully incorporated into defined contribution (DC) plans, serve to create a sound retirement plan option.
The Florida Retirement System’s (FRS) defined contribution option--the FRS Investment Plan (IP)--meets many of the design principles defining a sound DC retirement plan. But a couple of critical factors are not met, however, and these factors need addressing for the Florida Retirement System’s Investment Plan to be an effective and adequate primary retirement vehicle for Florida’s state employees.
Certain best-practice principles are met by the FRS IP in its current form, including having a comprehensive communication and education plan for employees and retirees, automatically enrolling new employees into the plan, and recognizing the mobility needs of the modern workforce by providing for benefit portability.
While the investment menu--the established investment options that allow those less versed to select a basic strategy that works for them--in the FRS IP is low cost and diversified, it could be improved. The plan could also better address lifetime income needs for participants through annuity options and long-term disability provisions could be improved by the addition of a low-cost insured provision.
One major shortcoming of the FRS IP is common among many retirement plans . The objective of the plan, simply what it is striving to accomplish for its various stakeholders, is undefined. It is hard to design a retirement plan and then measure its effectiveness if its very objective is unclear. For the sake of this analysis, the objective of the FRS IP should be to provide for meeting employer workplace needs in the recruiting and retention of qualified workers, and for the maintenance of an employee’s standard of living, in combination with social security and personal savings, following a full career of employment. The objectives should further include that this benefit is provided in a cost-efficient way, and without the creation of unfunded liabilities, or debt. Ideally, the actual statement of objectives would be even more comprehensive and detailed than this, including specific income replacement goals and cost targets.
The biggest shortcoming of the FRS IP is the contribution rate. With a total contribution rate of just 6.3 percent (3 percent employee; 3.3 percent employer), the rate is, at best, no more than half of what is generally recognized to be an adequate contribution rate in a defined contribution retirement plan.
A total contribution rate of between 12 percent and 15 percent is accepted as necessary to reasonably meet lifetime income replacement goals when combined with Social Security and personal savings. Any retirement plan with a total contribution rate of just 6.3 percent will fail in achieving its primary goal-- to provide a sufficient post-employment benefit.
If the FRS IP is to be successful as the primary retirement plan for Florida’s public employees, the first and most important change the state should consider must be an increase in the total contribution rate to bring it into the 12-15 percent range. This could be done by simply increasing the employee and the employer rate by 3 percent each, or by any combination getting to that necessary range. Other changes should be considered, but if the plan is to meet employer workplace needs and employee retirement needs, the contribution rate must be increased immediately.
Overall, the Florida Retirement System Investment Plan has a good foundation upon which to build a sound and effective modern retirement plan. A few changes, most notably to the contribution rate, would enable it to align with industry best practices and serve as an effective retirement vehicle for state employees. Richard Hiller, www.reason.org , March 26, 2021.
6. 2020 IRA CONTRIBUTION DEADLINE EXTENDED TO MAY 17:
Good news for retirement savers! There is more time to make your 2020 IRA contribution. On March 17, 2020, the IRS extended the 2020 federal income tax-filing deadline to May 17, 2021. The extension also extends the deadline until May 17 to make a 2020 prior year contribution to a traditional or Roth IRA. If you have an extension to file your taxes beyond May 17, your IRA contribution deadline is not extended. You must make your IRA contribution by May 17. If you live in Oklahoma, Louisiana, or Texas, the federal tax filing deadline had already been extended to June 15. As such, the IRA contribution deadline in those states is also June 15.
If you are a sole proprietor, the due date for making a 2020 employer contribution to either a SEP or SIMPLE IRA is different. That deadline is the federal tax-filing deadline, plus any extension you might have. If you have an extension to October 15, 2021, you can make your SEP or SIMPLE contribution until that date. If you don’t have an extension, your deadline would be May 17, 2021 (unless you live in one of the states mentioned above).
Example: Jose is a sole proprietor. His business did well in 2020 and he would like to make both a SEP IRA and a Roth IRA contribution for 2020. He has an extension to file his federal income taxes until October 15, 2021. He must make his 2020 Roth IRA contribution by May 17, 2021. However, he has until October 15, 2021 to make his SEP contribution.
An IRA contribution will be considered “timely” as long as it is postmarked by May 17. This is true even if the contribution gets “held up in the mail” and does not arrive to the IRA custodian until weeks later.
Be careful! Any contribution made for the prior year should be clearly marked as such to avoid any confusion. If it not marked for the prior year, the custodian may report it as being for the current year.
The tax-filing deadline is a hard deadline for IRA contributions. If missed, there is no relief available, and the IRA custodian will report the contribution for the current year. Sarah Brenner, JD, Director of Retirement Education, www.irahelp.com , March 29, 2021.
7. SHOULD YOU SPEND YOUR STIMULUS ON A VACATION?:
Need a getaway? Your stimulus may buy you one, but is that the right way to spend that money?
A lot of us have spent the past 12 months cooped up indoors or otherwise staying close to home. And if you're the type of person who likes to travel, that's a tough spot to be in.
You may have canceled your travel plans this past year for various reasons, from coronavirus concerns to a lack of funds. But if you're now sitting on a $1,400 stimulus check , you may be tempted to use that money to buy yourself the vacation you've been longing to take. The question is whether that's the right move, or should you use your direct payment for something else?
It's all about priorities
Tempting as it may be to spend your stimulus funds on a vacation, you'll first need to ask yourself two questions:
- Do I have a fully loaded emergency fund ?
- Am I carrying unhealthy debt (like a credit card balance)?
If your answer to the first question is no and the answer to the second is yes, you may need to put your vacation plans on pause.
At a time like this, it's especially important to have enough money in savings to cover unplanned bills or a period of unemployment. That's why you should aim to have an emergency fund with enough money to pay for three to six months of living expenses. If you only have, say, a month's worth of living costs in the bank (or, worse yet, if you have no savings whatsoever), then you probably can't afford to spend your stimulus on a vacation. Rather, that money should go straight into the bank.
Now, let's talk debt. If you're carrying a mortgage or auto loan, there's no need to rush to pay it off. That type of debt is meant to be repaid over a longer period of time. But if you're carrying a credit card balance, you should absolutely use your stimulus funds to eliminate it -- or whittle it down as much as possible. The longer you hang on to that balance, the more interest you'll rack up, and the more damage your credit score might take, depending on how much debt you have.
Similarly, if you owe money on a personal loan , it pays to use your stimulus to chip away at it. Even though it isn't quite as bad as credit card debt, it's still better not to owe money toward a personal loan debt.
Now, if you don't have unhealthy debt and are doing well on emergency savings, there's nothing wrong with using your stimulus check to book a getaway. That said, be mindful of potential pandemic travel restrictions and risks. If you haven't yet been vaccinated and are looking to travel very soon, you may want to stick to a destination you can drive to rather than fly. And you may want to rent someone's private home rather than book a room at a resort or hotel.
It's been a tough year for a lot of people. Even if you didn't get sick or lose your job, you may be struggling mentally with the impact of the pandemic. And if a vacation is what it takes to help your outlook improve, so be it. But before you book one using your stimulus cash, make sure you don't have a more pressing use for that money. Nice as it is to get away, you're better off using your extra funds for financial security if you're low on savings or grappling with debt. You can save your travel plans for later once your finances improve. Maurie Backman, www.fool.com , March 25, 2021.
8. BEHIND ON YOUR RENT AND WORRIED ABOUT EVICTION?
Lots of people are having difficulty paying their rent due to the pandemic. But today, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released an eviction moratorium order . It protects people from being evicted for not paying their rent if they complete a declaration form and give it to their landlord. This protection lasts until June 30, 2021.
If you qualify for this help, fill out and sign a declaration form (available in both English and Spanish ) and give it to your landlord. If you need help understanding whether you qualify, the Housing and Urban Development has a list of housing counselors in your area who can answer your questions. And whether or not you qualify, it might be worth finding out more about rental assistance programs . There may be local programs that offer rental assistance and other help.
If landlords violate the CDC’s order, they can be subject to fines and even criminal penalties. So if things aren’t going the way you think they should with your landlord, you may be able to get legal help . Check for state or local protections for renters. And if you’re worried about being evicted, even with this moratorium in place, tell your state’s attorney general . Get more information about what to do if your finances have been affected by the pandemic. Sana Chriss, Attorney, Division of Consumer & Business Education, FTC, www.ftc.gov , March 29, 2021.
9. FACE MASKS AND OTHER PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT TO PREVENT THE SPREAD OF COVID-19 ARE TAX DEDUCTIBLE:
The Internal Revenue Service issued Announcement 2021-7 PDF clarifying that the purchase of personal protective equipment, such as masks, hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes, for the primary purpose of preventing the spread of coronavirus are deductible medical expenses.
The amounts paid for personal protective equipment are also eligible to be paid or reimbursed under health flexible spending arrangements (health FSAs), Archer medical savings accounts (Archer MSAs), health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs), or health savings accounts (HSAs).
For more information on determining what is deductible, see Can I Deduct My Medical and Dental Expenses? and Publication 502, Medical and Dental Expenses . IRS News Release IR-2021-66, www.irs.gov , March 26, 2021.
10. FOR THOSE WHO LOVE WORDS:
Do you know the difference between 'Elude' and 'Allude'? Find out here.
11. QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
“April 1. This is the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four.” – Mark Twain
12. TODAY IN HISTORY:
On this day in 1970, US President Richard Nixon signs bill limiting cigarette advertisements from 1st Jan 1971.
13. REMEMBER, YOU CAN NEVER OUTLIVE YOUR DEFINED RETIREMENT BENEFIT.