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Online Learning Programs for Unemployed Expanded in Connecticut

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The statewide expansion of a program that will make free online learning licenses available to recipients of unemployment insurance, including those who have been impacted by the economic fallout of the COVID-19 public health crisis, was announced Monday by Gov. Ned Lamont. The SkillUp CT program will expand access to comprehensive online course work from a leading global provider for thousands of Connecticut residents. — an announcement from the Governor’s Office

Originally launched in eastern Connecticut, a sustained rollout of the program across the state over the coming weeks will enable recently laid-off workers to upgrade their skills and earn industry-recognized certifications even while the doors to most brick-and mortar education and training providers remain closed. Based on a successful model implemented by the Eastern Connecticut Workforce Investment Board, it is being offered through Connecticut’s five regional workforce development boards. Eligible Connecticut residents will receive email instructions on obtaining a Metrix Learning license that provides them access to about 5,000 online Skillsoft courses in areas such as information technology, business analysis, customer service, project management, and digital literacy, among others.

Mortgage Payment Relief Plan Announced by Governor, Participating Banks, Credit Unions

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Governor Ned Lamont today announced that his administration has reached an agreement with over 50 credit unions and banks in Connecticut to offer mortgage relief to the state’s residents and businesses who continue to face hardship caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic. — an announcement from the Governor’s Office

Under the agreement, the following relief policies are being offered by participating financial institutions:

90-day grace period for all mortgage payments: Participating financial institutions are now offering mortgage-payment forbearances of up to 90 days, which will allow homeowners to reduce or delay monthly mortgage payments. In addition, the institutions will:

Provide a streamlined process for requesting forbearance for COVID-19-related reasons, supported with available documentation;
Confirm approval and terms of forbearance program; and
Provide the opportunity to extend forbearance agreements if faced with continued hardship resulting from COVID-19. Relief from fees and charges for 90 days: For at least 90 days, participating financial institutions will waive or refund mortgage-related late fees and other fees including early CD withdrawals. No new foreclosures for 60 days: Financial institutions will not start any foreclosure sales or evictions.

If Your Car Isn’t Going Anywhere During the Pandemic: Some Maintenance Tips

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Just because you’re not putting miles on your car now as you routinely do, doesn’t mean you should ignore simple maintenance during a time when many of us are working from home, says AAA Northeast. — an announcement from AAA Northeast

Like most of us nowadays, your car probably isn’t moving as much; and depending upon how long your vehicle sits, things can happen: dead batteries, stale fuel, rusty brakes, even critters nesting in vehicle nooks and crannies, says Fran Mayko, AAA Northeast spokeswoman. “For those of us who have time to catch up on things we’ve overlooked or ignored in the past, now is a good time to get ‘cranking’ on car maintenance,” said Mayko. AAA Northeast offers these simple tips to keep your vehicle running properly during extended off-road periods:

Fill your tank and add a gasoline stabilizer to help extend the life of fuel and prevent the buildup of condensation. Inflate the tires to manufacturer recommendation to prevent flat spots.

Tax-Aide AARP Tax Help Tax Preparation Tax Assistance

AARP’s Busiest Free Tax Preparation Help Site in CT Is at Darien Library — Starts Jan 27

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IRS-certified volunteer tax aides, trained by the American Association of Retired Persons, will be available Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays from Jan. 27 through April 15  in Darien Library. Taxpayers of all ages and incomes are invited to make appointments or just walk in. There is no charge for the service. Now’s the time to start gathering the financial documents you’ll need for filing.

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‘Going Out of Business’ Sales Can Trick Shoppers in Several Ways

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Going out of business sales may seem like golden opportunities to grab great deals. But before you head to one, here are a few things to keep in mind. — This article originally was posted on the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information blog. Colleen Tressler is a consumer education specialist at the FTC. How can you tell if you’re getting a good deal?

Enoch Lenge Eversource energy efficiency spokesman

New Kitchen Appliances Can Save You Time, Money, Energy, Water and Reduce Stress, Eversource Says

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Whether your holiday menu includes a family recipe passed down for generations or a new dish from the latest Tasty video, food is typically the main attraction at festive gatherings. — This article by Enoch Lenge, Eversource’s energy efficiency spokesman, is from his blog on the utility’s website. To reduce the stress of cooking this holiday season, here is an essential appliance guide that can help you save time, money, and energy while also reducing your impact on the environment:

Refrigerators – Preparing a variety of dishes the night before and storing them in an ENERGY STAR certified refrigerator will make it easier to keep everything cool and enjoy time with friends and family instead of minding the stove. It will also save you time, energy, and more than $300 over five years. If an energy-efficient refrigerator arrives in time for holiday celebrations, you can dispose of your current refrigerator responsibly.

Gift Cards Jan Mayen Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:D%C3%A1rkov%C3%A9_karty.jpg

How to Avoid Problems With Buying Gift Cards: Tips From the FTC

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Gift cards are one quick way to get through your last-minute holiday shopping list. But before you give (and get) gift cards, here are a few things you need to know. — This article is from the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information blog. Cristina Miranda works in the FTC Division of Consumer and Business Education. Inspect gift cards before you buy. A gift card should have all its protective stickers in place.

Winter driving photo from AAA

Don’t Let a Cold Snap Make You a Non-Starter: Do Car Maintenance for the Winter Soon

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Cars, like humans, need seasonal checkups; in cold winter weather such as this week’s anticipated cold snap, it’s important to maximize fuel efficiency, maintain safety, and ensure your vehicle can start for the worst winter has in store for us. — an announcement from AAA Northeast
So now is the time to get cranking on car maintenance, says AAA Northeast. “No one wants to be stranded in the cold,” said Fran Mayko, AAA Northeast spokeswoman. “So properly preparing your vehicle for cold weather is essential – before your vehicle breaks down. You’ll save time, money and aggravation when the mercury dives into the teens or single digits.”
To prepare, AAA Northeast offers drivers these cold weather car tips:
Batteries: If your battery is more than three years old, have it and the charging system tested.  Even a good battery can lose up to 50% of its capacity when temperatures drop to zero.  At 32 degrees, it takes up to 30% more power to start a cold engine.

Turkey driving Thanksgiving

AAA: Don’t Let a Cold Snap Make You a Non-Starter — Prepare Your Car for Winter

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Cars, like humans, need seasonal checkups; in cold winter weather such as this week’s anticipated cold snap, it’s important to maximize fuel efficiency, maintain safety, and ensure your vehicle can start for the worst winter has in store for us. So now is the time to get cranking on car maintenance, says AAA Northeast. — an announcement from AAA Northeast
“No one wants to be stranded in the cold,” said Fran Mayko, AAA Northeast spokeswoman. “So properly preparing your vehicle for cold weather is essential – before your vehicle breaks down. You’ll save time, money and aggravation when the mercury dives into the teens or single digits.”
To prepare, AAA Northeast offers drivers these cold weather car tips:
 Batteries: If your battery is more than three years old, have it and the charging system tested.  Even a good battery can lose up to 50% of its capacity when temperatures drop to zero.  At 32 degrees, it takes up to 30% more power to start a cold engine.

Family Emergency Scams

How to Protect the Elderly from Scams: Tips from the Federal Trade Commission

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The FTC just sent a report to Congress called Protecting Older Consumers 2018-2019. The report suggests steps to take to help protect older consumers from fraud. But the evidence also shows a thing or two everyone else can learn from them. Check out the sometimes surprising findings in this year’s report. — This article is from the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information blog.

A Cell Phone Mobile Phone Smartphone FTC Consumer Information Blog Oct 23 2019

Stealing Your ID by Stealing Your Phone’s Account: How to Avoid the SIM Swap Scam

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If your cell phone is your go-to device for checking your email, paying your bills, or posting to social media, you’re not alone. So imagine that your cell phone suddenly stops working: no data, no text messages, no phone calls. Then picture getting an unexpected notification from your cellular provider that your SIM card has been activated on a new device. What’s going on? These could be signs that a scammer has pulled a SIM card swap to hijack your cell phone number.

Hurricane Dorian

As Dorian Moves Closer, Hurricane Preparation Tips for Boat Owners from the Greenwich Harbormaster

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Greenwich Harbormaster Ian MacMillan said with communities along the South East coast are bracing for Dorian, which has rapidly intensified into a Category 4 hurricane, now is as good a time as any to remind local mariners to go over their preparations. — This article is adapted from one in GreenwichFreePress.com. Dorian may strike with life-threatening storm surge and destructive winds are expected. Dorian is also generating dangerous surf and rip currents, and (if it follows the general predictions for it’s path this week) a surge along the East Coast. “The most remarkable thing about this storm is how slowly it’s moving, because that builds a bigger surge,” MacMillan said on Labor Day.  “This is as good time as any for local mariners to go over their preparations.”

Hurricane Preparedness Steps
MacMillan offered the following steps to prepare vessels in the event of a storm, but said these actions should be practiced as a standard, since unnamed and unpredicted storms can also cause significant damage.

Protecting Your Boat in Hurricane Season: BoatUS Magazine Offers Free Guide

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What can you do to protect your boat during the 2019 hurricane season? The editors of BoatUS Magazine have teamed up with the experts at the BoatUS Catastrophe Response Team to create an up-to-date “Hurricane Preparation Guide.”

If you want to know how to best protect recreational boats from damage in a hurricane, ask the experts who’ve been tasked with cleaning up the mess for nearly 40 years. They’re the ones who’ve seen the evidence after the storm passes: a lack of preparation, poorly maintained docks, low seawalls, fallen boat lifts, and destroyed marinas. The new 2019 guide as well as other hurricane preparation information is available at BoatUS.com/Hurricanes. Available to all boaters at no cost, the updated BoatUS Hurricane Preparation Guide has articles on:

What to expect in terms of storm surge, wind, and waves;
Where to keep a boat — either ashore, in the water at floating or fixed docks, at anchor, or in a protected hurricane hole;
How to find and fix potential breaking points such as chafing gear and reducing windage; and
How to develop your own hurricane plan including hauling out, how to choose the most storm-safe location possible, and ensure that you have everything you need to implement your particular hurricane plan, long before any storm threatens your boat.

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College Students: Beware of These Types of Scams — Tips from the Better Business Bureau

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During the transition from high school to college many students and parents are faced with tuition payments, financial aid and scholarship applications, and often have to purchase a new laptop or tablet. These are all things that could lead to being scammed if not careful. According to the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust, consumers ages 18 to 24 are three times more likely than seniors to fall victim to a scam. According to 2018’s BBB’s ScamTracker Risk Report, 41.6% of students reported a loss when exposed to a scam as compared to 28.3% of non-students. With college students being the primary target for scams, Better Business Bureau Serving Connecticut (BBB) has some useful tips and warnings for college students and their families:

—Fake Credit Cards — It’s not a secret that deals which appear to be a quick and easy way to spend money are offered to college students to get them to apply for their first credit card.

Back to school

Connecticut Tax Free Sales Week Runs From Sunday, Aug 18 to Saturday, Aug 24

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You know school is starting soon when the state announces “Tax Free Week.”

Per statute the 19th annual Tax Free Sales Week, which begins on the third Sunday of each August, is right around the corner. This is a great opportunity for some back-to-school shopping and to prepare for the fall season. Certain clothing and footwear items under $100 will be exempt from the state’s sale tax during this time. This year the week runs from Sunday, Aug. 18 to  Saturday, Aug.