MAR News

MAR NEWS UPDATED: 3/20/2024

PLEASE LET MAR KNOW IF YOU HAVE HAD AN ADDRESS OR EMAIL CHANGE.

 

ANNUAL MEETING

MAR’s Annual Meeting will be held on Wednesday, May 22, 2024 from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm at the Augusta Civic Center.  Please mark this date on your calendar to join us for an informative and enjoyable time.  MAR’s spring newsletter will provide detailed information on the agenda and registration process.

 

REMINDER:  MAR HAS MOVED:

The Maine Association of Retirees (MAR) has officially moved to 157 Capitol Street, Augusta, ME.   We hope this provides improved access and enhanced services for public service retirees.

Due to the this move, MAR will be closed this week.  February 12th through Tuesday, February 20, 2024 at our new location.  We will reopen on Tuesday.

NOTE: The light gray/white building is located going up Capitol Street on the right hand side just beyond the Maine Public Employees Retirement System (MainePERS).  MAR’s phone numbers 207-582-1960;  1-800-535-6555; and fax number 207-707-1722 are not changing.

We invite you to stop by MAR’s new location where there is plenty of parking space.   Meet the staff and personally access multiple benefits as a MAR member.

 

FREE TAX PREPARATION SERVICES

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide offers free federal and state income tax preparation to qualifying individuals.  Returns are prepared by Internal Revenue Service-certified volunteers.  Tax-Aide Counselors will help individuals navigate the 2023 U.S. federal and Maine income tax returns. You do not need to be an AARP member to use this service.

Assistance is available by appointment only at locations throughout the State of Maine.  Most Tax-Aide sites will be open between February 1 and April 15, 2024.

AARP Foundation’s Tax-Aide Site Locator Tool can help you find a site near you.   Click the link below to access the tool:

https://www.aarp.org/money/taxes/aarp_taxaide/locations.html

To use the site locator, enter your zip code and a distance (in miles) from that zip code.  The locator will provide a list of Tax-Aide sites, and includes each site’s days and hours of operation, as well as information to make an appointment.

 

CA$H MAINE

Another organization offering free tax preparation is CA$H Maine.  This is a statewide collaboration for households with a combined income of less than $64,000.  They have volunteers who are trained to prepare and file your federal and state taxes for free.  To contact CA$H Maine go to:    https://www.cashmaine.org/free-tax-prep/

 

AARP 

The Greater Augusta AARP Chapter #511 is an affiliate of AARP and was incorporated in 1970.  Members of the Chapter serve the Augusta area communities through volunteerism and raising funds for senior citizens and other non-profit programs in the area. The Chapter welcomes new members. Annual dues are $7.  Monthly membership meetings take place at 10:00 am on the 4th Wednesday of the months March through October and the 2nd Wednesday of November and December at the Cohen Community Center, 22 Town Farm Road, Hallowell, ME. Meetings include a speaker on a topic of interest to seniors. After each meeting, a luncheon is provided by the Cohen Community Center for $5.00.

 

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE       

If you would like to show support for any of the LD’s, please contact your legislator.  Following is the link to testify in person at the hearing or submit written testimony:

https://www.mainelegislature.org/testimony/

If you would like to know what MAR has been doing with regard to Legislation that would effect Public Service retirees. Following is the link:

https://maineretirees.org/legislation-policy/

For further information contact Diane Bailey, Executive Director, Maine Association of Retirees, 157 Capitol Street, Suite #4, Augusta, ME 04330

207-582-1960 Ext. 208       

Email: dbailey@maineretirees.org

 

MAINE STATE LEGISLATURE

The Second Regular Session of the 131st Maine Legislature is in “full swing.”  MAR’s focus is on carryover bills from last spring.

MAR members continue to express concern in legislation regarding retirement benefits. We  seek to restore the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) provisions in Maine law to what they were prior to the 2011 benefit cuts.  LD 70, An Act to Raise the Cap on Retirement Benefits for State Employees and Teachers to Which a Cost-of-living  Adjustment is Made and LD 1096, An Act to Help Retired Teachers and State Employees Keep Pace with Inflation by Matching the Cost-of-living Adjustment for Social Security Benefits are carry over bills sponsored by Representative Dodge of Belfast.  The bills are very expensive and are required to follow Article IX, Section 18-A of the Maine Constitution.  This constitutional provision prohibits the  creation of new unfunded actuarial liabilities for the Maine  Public Employees Retirement System (MainePERS) except those arising from experience losses.  This means any additions to retirement benefits needs to be fully funded when enacted, not only for the current year but for future years as well.  No action has been taken this year on LDs 70 or 1096 and discussions are ongoing.

In early January, MAR urged members through an email blast to write to Governor Mills and their local legislators to support LD 70.  A big thank you to members who did so.

Following last year’s sunset of the Property Tax Stabilization Act, matters are relatively quiet regarding property tax laws relating to senior citizens.  The one bill making some progress is LD 1345, An Act to Permit Municipalities to Establish by Ordinance a  Program for  Partial Deferral of Property Taxes for Seniors. This bill is sponsored by Representative Moriarty of  Cumberland and would allow local municipalities to establish their own  property tax stabilization programs for residents.  LD 1345 is currently before the Taxation Committee and has received a preliminary majority vote of Ought to Pass as Amended, pending review of final language of a technical amendment.

One result of the former Property Tax Stabilization Act  was its cost to the State during the one year of operation. The Act promised municipalities would receive State reimbursement for 100% of the property taxes not paid by senior citizens, previously allocated funds only allowed for reimbursement of 56%.  Allocation of additional funds to address the shortfall to municipalities is being considered in this year’s budget.

 

DENTAL OPEN ENROLLMENT HAS ENDED

MAR’s Cigna Group Dental Plan year is from February 1, 2024 through January 31, 2025.  This means that our annual dental open enrollment ended January 31st.  If you already had Cigna dental insurance, you were automatically re-enrolled in the same plan starting February 1st unless you notified MAR of a change.

Open enrollment was a success.  There are now over 5,000 subscribers and dependents enrolled in one of MAR’s three different option plans.

NOTE: During the new dental plan year, you may make a change if you have a qualifying event such as change in employment status, marriage, divorce, death, expiration of COBRA, or other dental insurance coverage.

 

MEDICARE PART B-LEGISLATION-PLEASE READ

It has come to MAR’s attention there are legislative hearings starting on Monday, February 26th on the Governor’s 2024 Supplemental Budget.  Part NN of the Supplemental Budget does not change the eligibility income limits for the Medicare Savings Program (MSP) to pay for Medicare Part B premiums.  In 2023, the Legislature directed the State to implement new income levels for March 1, 2024 which is not in the Supplemental Budget.  Increasing the income limits would have ensured that thousands of seniors, including public service retirees, could have received assistance with paying their Part B premiums.

MAR asks that you talk to your legislators and ask them to reject the Governor’s proposal to cut income eligibility for MSP and ask them to require the State to implement the new eligibility levels for 2024.  You may go to https://legislature.maine.gov/ to get a complete legislative listing and find specific legislative committee information.  Governor Mills may be contacted at the “Share Your Opinion” button within this link:  https://www.maine.gov/governor/mills/contact 

 

MEDICARE SAVINGS PROGRAM

If you are age 65+ and have medical insurance, you are required to have Medicare Part B.  The present cost of Part B is $174.90 monthly or $2,098 annual.  If you are eligible for Social Security, then the monthly Part B premium is deducted from your Social Security amount.  If you do not receive Social Security, then you are billed (usually quarterly) for Part B. This is an additional cost that many retirees did not realize they would incur.

The Medicare Savings Program (MSP) helps to cover Medicare costs including paying for Part B premiums and due to recently passed legislation there are significant changes to this Program.

  • As of January 2024, assets are no longer counted towards determining eligibility for the MSP. Examples include savings account, additional property other than your home, stocks/and bonds, etc.
  • There is no estate recovery associated with MSP. No claim will be made if the only benefit you get is MSP.
  • In 2024, the monthly income limits are changing which means that people who previously did not qualify may now be eligible to receive benefits from this Program. Look for more information on income changes in MAR’s next newsletter.

MSP has three tiers with different levels of coverage.

  • Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB)
  • Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB)
  • Qualifying Individual (QI)

Following are the present monthly income limits which will be raised in 2024:

Single Couple
QMB $1,883 $2,555
SLMB $2,134 $2,896
QI $2,322 $3,152

NOTE:  If you qualify for any one of the three tiers, MSP will pay for your Medicare Part B premium.

To get an online application go to:                        https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/ofi/applications-forms and click on MaineCare applications or you may create an account at www.mymaineconnection.gov .

Call 1-855-797-4357 or visit your local Office for Family Independence.  Office locations can be found at https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/about/contact/offices

If you need assistance completing the application or have questions, you may contact  Consumers for Affordable Health Care, Maine’s Consumer Assistance Program at 1-800-965-7476.

 

MAR JOIN’S MAINE COUNCIL ON AGING

In December MAR became a member of the Maine Council on Aging (MCOA), a broad, multi-disciplinary network of more than 135 organizations, businesses, municipalities, and older Mainers.

MCOA was established with a vision of creating an age-positive Maine where we can all live healthy, engaged, and secure lives with choices and opportunities as we age in our homes and communities.  We provide a strong network with opportunities for shaping aging policy and shared knowledge. MCOA is a cohesive voice for advocacy on initiatives on aging and shared learning that are moving Maine forward toward this vision with a goal of achieving an age-positive culture by 2034.

There are many ways for MAR Members to take advantage of our work and offerings!

Join one of our free webinars hosted by our education arm, the Tri-State Learning Collaborative on Aging (TSLCA).  The TSLCA is designed to build collaborative, community networks that address the needs of older adults aging in their communities through free educational programming and networking. Check it out at www.agefriendly.community

Join our weekly Legislative calls on Monday mornings during the legislative session to keep track of what’s happening in Augusta!  Contact Jena Jones at jjones@mainecouncilonaging.org to sign up and learn how you could help us at the State House!

Our Power in Aging Project engages audiences from different sectors in direct conversations about age-bias, the impacts of ageism, and the benefits of living and working in an age-positive culture.  We would be pleased to offer a free session at an affinity group or community gathering. Contact Maureen O’Connor at moconnor@mainecouncilonaging.org  We are also   always looking for facilitators of these conversations if you’re interested in joining in the work!

The Leadership Exchange on Ageism (LEA) helps executive, business, policy, and community leaders see their role in ending ageism and provides tools to implement changes.  This program is offered to Community Leaders as well – so if you’re leading a community effort or serving on a town council and want to participate contact Jess Maurer at: jmaurer@mainecouncilonaging.org.

The Equity + Healthy Aging Initiative helps aging services providers and community volunteer organizations understand the social health needs of diverse older people in Maine, the barriers diverse older people face in meeting these needs, and to integrate these needs into MCOA’s network of advocacy efforts.  We also support a BIPOC Elders group and partner closely with LGBTQ Leaders on efforts to give voice to LGBTQ elders.  Contact Kathy Vezina at:           kvezina@mainecouncilonaging.org

For more information about MCOA visit: www.mainecouncilonaging.org.

 

MAR NEWSLETTER WINTER-2024

Click the following link and find our Winter-2024 Newsletter:

Note: https://maineretirees.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Winter-2024-2.pdf

 

ANNUAL MEMBERSHIP DRIVE             

WITH INCENTIVE!

MEMBERSHIP INCENTIVES HAVE ENDED 3/1/2024.

MAR is reaching out to our members to help us increase  total membership by 10% before March 1, 2024.  MAR currently has over 12,000 members.

MAR’s Member Referral Program will give you a $50 Hannaford gift card for referring 5 public service retirees who become new members.  Again, the goal is to add new members by March 1st.

Let colleagues know if they join MAR for one year, prior to March 1, 2024, they will receive the first 6 months membership free.

MAR is an active legislative advocate; publishes quarterly newsletters; offers group dental insurance; free IT services; many other statewide discounted benefits and answers questions on health and pension benefits and/or connects you to appropriate sources.

You can join by, email mar@maineretirees.org, call (207) 582-1960 or go online at.  MAR’s membership fee is $3 monthly www.maineretirees.org automatically deducted by the Maine Public Employees Retirement System from retirees’ pensions.

MAR invites new retirees to join an organization established in 1980 whose Mission is to protect and  enhance the benefits of public service retirees.

 

MAINE STATE RETIREMENT SYSTEM 

Access now available from MainePERS Website

MainePERS members and retirees may now register for and access the new online Member Portal directly from the MainePERS website. Since the phased launch that began in October more than 11,000 individuals have accessed their portal account. With the phased portion of the launch completed, information about the portal and how to register is now available on the Member Portal webpage:          www.mainepers.org/memberportal.

For those who are already registered easy access to the Member Portal Login is now provided at the top of the MainePERS homepage www.mainepers.org.

Not yet registered? Member Portal registration instructions are available to help at www.mainepers.org/memberportal and additional assistance is available at 207-512-3100.

While participation in the portal is optional, registering provides secure and convenient access to MainePERS account information, including access to download and print tax documentation such as your 1099R and review beneficiary selections. It is also a convenient way to update contact information, which has been one of the most popular features.

Providing secure access to member information is important, so multifactor authentication (MFA) is required for user registration and login. As part of that authentication process, access to a cellular or land-line telephone and/or email address is required to receive a unique verification code that will be entered online for a successful authentication and secure log in to the  portal. Visit www.mainepers.org/memberportal for more information.

Members and retirees have asked for online account access in member satisfaction surveys and MainePERS is excited to offer this new service!

 

FROM THE MAR I.T. OFFICE – ENSURING PRIVACY

Have you ever had an ad for something that seemed way too specific or tailored for you? It is very easy to shop online and carry out your daily activities on your phone, tablet, or PC. But did you know almost every website is tracking what you do, where you visit, and what you are looking for on their website? This data is shared with mutual advertisers, sometimes with data you might not want shared!

There are several steps you can take to protect yourself from online tracking and protect your privacy:

The first is a VPN. A VPN hides your actual location from websites. A VPN also ensures an encrypted communication channel, this means your internet  provider cannot even see what you are doing! A great VPN to consider is NordVPN, which is available for smartphones and computers.

The next is to get an ‘anti-tracking’ privacy program, such as uBlock Origin. This program can be added for free on all your web browsers and blocks all hidden trackers, ads, and even malicious sites! To find NordVPN or uBlock Origin, just search with your browser.

Lastly, a privacy-centered browser and search engine should be used such as Firefox, or Brave, and DuckDuckGo for the search engine. A combination of these tips will ensure your online safety and privacy guaranteed.

If you are ever unsure about a message or email you received, please either call or send me an email at bwadleigh@maineretirees.org. Stay safe MAR members!

 

VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES

AARP FOUNDATION TAX-AIDE VOLUNTEER

Help Those in Need Get Their Taxes Done for Free

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide is in need of Volunteers.  AARP offers free tax assistance to those who need it most: people 50 years of age and older; community members who may have disabilities; and individuals and families generally earning $60,000 or less.

AARP is looking for friendly individuals to join them for the upcoming tax season to work as volunteers at Tax-Aide sites in communities across Maine.  AARP provides training, and schedules are flexible.  You do not need to be an AARP member to volunteer.

Hear from some Tax-Aide volunteers about their experience:       https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXukPUQOmEw

Volunteer positions needed are:

  • Client Facilitators: Greet taxpayer and help organize their paperwork.
  • Tax Counselors: Prepare and file taxpayers’ returns online to reduce the burden and stress of their doing their own taxes. We provide training, computers, and software.
  • Other roles: Schedule appointments, or help with training and technology.

To learn more and apply for a Tax-Aide volunteer position, visit https://www.aarp.org/volunteer/programs/tax-aide/ to complete and submit an interest form. A Maine Tax-Aide leader will contact you to discuss volunteer opportunities in your community.

More questions? Send an email to: patw.taxaide.me@gmail.com.

 

MEALS ON WHEELS

Meals on Wheels primarily provides nutritious meals, a quick safety check and much-needed human connection to homebound seniors age 60 and over.  Meals on Wheels is supplied to communities throughout Kennebec, Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc, Somerset, and Waldo Counties, plus the towns of Harpswell and Brunswick in Cumberland County. Volunteer drivers are always needed for this essential service. If interested, call Stacey Forkey at 207-620-1684 or email:      volunteer@spectrumgenerations.org

 

FOOD ASSISTANCE PROGAM (TEFAP)

The link below is from Maine State Government, Department of Agriculture. This link lists all the Food Banks in Maine and their locations. If you or someone you know are struggling with the cost of food and need to supplement your groceries and fill your freezer or cupboards, please do not hesitate to go to one of these Food Banks and get what you need. Remember the Banks sole purpose is to give food to those in need. They welcome everyone with a warm smile and are happy to serve you. It is a non-judgmental zone. The amount of food they receive is plenty and they do not want to waste any food left at the Bank.

Please feel free to forward this link to anyone that may need assistance.

Maine Department of Agriculture: TEFAP https://www.maine.gov/dacf/ard/tefap/index.shtml
MAINE.GOV https://www.maine.gov/portal/index.html
DACF Home → Bureaus & Programs → Bureau of Agriculture → Agricultural Resource Development Division → Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) → Search Food Programs → Programs By Town. https://www.maine.gov/dafs/

 

JOIN SOLAR

Join Solar is a leader in community solar development in
Maine and we are proud to partner with the
Maine Association of Retirees.  Our membership is open to all renters and home owners who are serviced by CMP & Versant – offering these benefits:

• Free and simple to join
• Save money on your energy bill
• Support clean, local energy
• Offsite solar array, nothing on your roof

Community solar offers local residents an opportunity to
participate in clean energy production – with guaranteed savings
and no risk involved. Your community solar membership
supports the environment while lowering your utility bills. Click
this link https://enroll.joinsolar.org/community-partner to
learn more and become a member of Join Solar. If you would like
to speak with a Join Solar representative, please contact Michael
Borrell at (651)-364-7185 or michel.borrell@joinsolar.org

*Use referral code ‘MAOR-0250’ upon registration and Join Solar will donate $50 to the Maine Association of Retirees*

 

EDUCATION-SENIOR COLLEGE

Senior College (UMASC): Jewel of a Resource

“I like the diversity of courses and faculty of the UMASC. It is a jewel of a resource. Thank you for this program.”  UMASC student feedback, ‘23

UMA Senior College offers exciting, intellectually   stimulating non-credit courses and provides a range of exciting learning opportunities for adults over 50. No grades, no tests, no stress!  And all classes are free with UMASC the annual membership fee of $25.

Over 20 classes are offered every spring and fall semester in subjects that include history, art, geology, classic films, intuition and metaphysics, languages, and architecture. Just to name a few!

A typical course will be held once a week for 8 weeks. UMASC also offers a variety of shorter courses. Class formats include in-person, Zoom, and hybrid options.

Registration for the 2024 spring classes will open on Monday, March 4th at noon. Check the UMASC website for a complete listing of classes: UMASC.org

 

SENIORHOMES ORGANIZATION

Looking for senior living can be overwhelming, emotional, and time-consuming.

Staff here at MAR have connected with the Seniorhomes organization and thought their services and information would be extremely helpful in the journey to find the right match for your needs or the needs of a loved one.

This is a nationwide organization that provides a family advisor as a free resource to help you find the right match at your local level.

Along with an Advisor, Seniorhomes has hundreds of articles available to you to help educate you throughout the process.

Seniorhomes helped more than 400,000 seniors since 2009. Their web site provides information on how to determine the level of care you need. They help you explore your financial options and will even schedule a tour with the home that you may be interested in visiting.

Their articles cover subjects such as: Independent Living; Assisted Living; Continuing Care; Memory Care; Retirement
Communities; along with Aging in Place.

Take a moment and click on the link below and explore the information and services they provide.

Here is their link:   https://www.seniorhomes.com/