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Lose Your Job? Furloughed? For Many, Time’s Running Out to Get COBRA Health Insurance

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People who have lost a job have a 60-day deadline to get health insurance through COBRA, a period that is soon coming to an end for many of the laid-off, says Access Health CT, the state’s agency set up to help residents get health insurance. Losing health insurance coverage either from a furlough or a layoff is considered a ‘Qualifying Life Event,’ triggering a Special Enrollment Period through the federal COBRA benefits law. Access Health CT recommends comparing options with COBRA coverage. Workers who lose health insurance as a result of job loss may not know they have options, but Access Health CT says it may offer a better, less expensive choice, and is the only place where people can qualify for financial help to lower their costs. Here’s an announcement from the state agency:

Losing insurance either from a furlough or a layoff is considered a ‘Qualifying Life Event,’ triggering a Special Enrollment Period for that individual and possibly their household.

Gov Lamont Reminds CT Residents of June 1 Deadline to Apply for Home Heating Assistance

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Gov. Ned Lamont is reminding Connecticut residents who need help paying last winter’s home heating bills that there is still time to apply to the Connecticut Energy Assistance Program (CEAP). An extended application deadline of Monday, June 1, 2020, gives eligible families and individuals — including those impacted by the COVID-19 public health emergency — more time to apply for this vital assistance. — an announcement from the Governor’s Office

“Even though we are well into spring, we want to remind everyone that there’s still time to apply for assistance to pay for your home heating bills for the last winter season,” Lamont said. “I want to thank the Department of Social Services and the dedicated staff of Connecticut’s community action agencies and partners for their work on behalf of so many children, families, older and other adults who need assistance.”

“CEAP is an important public-private partnership that safeguards tens of thousands of vulnerable Connecticut households from the cold each year,” Social Services Commissioner Deidre S. Gifford said. “It also helps residents who are behind on their utility heating bills and may be at risk of a shutoff at some point.”

Connecticut residents are welcome to apply, regardless of whether their home is heated through electricity, natural gas, or a deliverable fuel.

Stop and Shop logo Stop & Shop logo

Identity Theft Device Found Attached to One Darien Stop and Shop Self-Checkout Scanner

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Darien Stop & Shop customers who used one of the self-checkout scanners may be the victims of identity theft, the grocery company has announced. Someone illegally installed a skimming device (or “skimmer”) at that register at the Stop & Shop in the Goodwives Shopping Center at 25 Old Kings Hwy. North. The skimmer was attached for five days at the end of last month — from April 26 to 30 at the Darien store, according to the company. If you may have opted for self-checkout at the Darien supermarket from April 26 to 30, you may want to check the account of any card you may have used to see if there are suspicious transactions, the Stop & Shop announcement said.

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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.