AARP OUTREACH: AARP Maine spotlights importance of older voters

by Lori Parham, AARP Maine State Director

You may recollect that AARP Maine recently launched “Protect Voters 50+,” a non-partisan voter engagement campaign to support and protect Mainers 50+ as they vote in the November election. In addition to providing information about safe voting options, AARP is tracking key races and candidates’ positions on issues that matter to older voters such as protecting Social Security and Medicare, bringing down healthcare costs and strengthening the economy. These issues can affect the entire family and we hope you know that you can count on AARP here in Maine and across the country to fight on behalf of our members on these critical matters.

Last week, AARP Maine released new polling results as part of an effort to deliver non-partisan election resources to Maine voters. The polling data focused on the US Senate, Presidential and second Congressional District races. There is no doubt that voters 50+ carry a lot of weight in the upcoming elections! In fact, our surveys of Maine and other battleground states show voters 65+ could very well decide the election. Despite deep partisan division, older voters are united when it comes to health and financial security concerns.

First of all, AARP’s polling results show that:

• Maine’s U.S. Senate race is a statistical dead heat among voters age 50+.
• Former Vice President Joe Biden has a double-digit lead over President Donald Trump.
• Incumbent Democratic Congressman Jared Golden leads Republican challenger, Dale
Crafts, by 13-points in Maine’s Second Congressional District. Interestingly, Golden’s lead is due to his 24-point margin among voters 50+.

Just this week AARP Maine released additional data, this time highlighting issues of concern to Maine voters 50-plus and their families. It is clear that Social Security and Medicare are incredibly important to older Mainers, with at least 80% listing each issue as extremely or very important to deciding their vote for U.S. Senate. Also, overwhelming majorities would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports protecting Medicare, allowing Medicare to negotiate Rx prices, and protecting Social Security from cuts.

While we can all likely agree that the 2020 election promises to be like no other, one thing is clear: Candidates who want to win in 2020 must talk about the issues that matter to voters 50+. They must also talk about how Mainers can vote safely from home or in-person. According to the AARP Maine survey, a majority of Maine voters 50+ plan on voting on Election Day in person, but a significant share will vote by absentee ballot. This is especially true among voters aged 65+ who are significantly more likely to vote absentee this year due to the coronavirus. You can view the full results of the survey at www.aarp.org/me.

AARP Maine is dedicated to making sure you and your family have all the information you need to vote safely on November 3. That is an integral part of “Protect Voters 50+.” Whether you’re planning to vote in person or by absentee ballot here in Maine, we want to make sure your ballot arrives on time and that you feel safe if you choose to go to your local polling place. Please visit www.aarp.org/mainevotes to make your plan and be ready for Election Day.

Remember: It’s your voice, and that’s what counts.

AARP OUTREACH – Vote safely at the polls or from home: AARP program enhances local outreach

by Patricia Pinto
AARP Maine Volunteer, State President

As you may recall from my previous column in The Town Line, AARP Maine is laser-focused on the protection of Social Security this election season. This remarkable program just celebrated its 85th year and we like to remind all Mainers that in good times and in bad, for each one of those 85 years, Social Security has never missed a payment. AARP will always fight to protect and strengthen Social Security. These are hard-earned benefits for over 240,000 retired Mainers and we believe it’s a promise that must be kept.

You may also be aware that AARP Maine recently launched “Protect Voters 50+,” a non-partisan voter engagement campaign to support and protect Mainers 50+ as they vote in the November election. We’re tracking key races and candidates’ positions on issues that matter to older voters such as protecting Social Security and Medicare, bringing down healthcare costs and strengthening the economy. These are issues that affect whole families and you can count on AARP here in Maine and across the country to augment the voices of our members on these critical matters.

Another crucial aspect of our “Protect Voters 50+” campaign centers on providing information about safe voting options. Working together, AARP Maine, the Maine Secretary of State, and election officials are reminding voters that while your local polling place will be open, you can also vote in the November election by absentee ballot. Please visit www.aarp.org/mainevotes for more information about voting safely this election season.

In addition, AARP Maine volunteers are bringing “Protect Voters 50+” right into local communities through our unique, non-partisan “Adopt-a-Clerk” program. This wonderful initiative matches volunteers with their town clerks to inform voters about safe voting options for the 2020 election. One clerk had this to say upon being contacted by two local AARP volunteers: “Being ‘adopted’ is the best thing that will happen this election! What a great program.”

Volunteers support town clerks and their staff in any way they can, making sure election information, voting deadlines and dates, necessary forms, and other helpful details are easily accessible to voters. This is one way our AARP Maine office can do its part to ensure that municipalities are ready for their voters whether they choose to vote absentee or come to the polls on Election Day. If you are interested in learning more about the “Adopt-a-Clerk” program, please send an email to me@aarp.org today.

The state of Maine needs every voter to participate in this election! Let’s vote safely, whether at the polls or from home.

AARP Maine to mobilize older voter campaign

Recently, AARP Maine launched “Protect Voters 50+,” a comprehensive voter engagement campaign to support and protect Mainers age 50 and older as they vote in the November election. The campaign, part of AARP’s nationwide voter engagement efforts, will provide information on where candidates stand on issues that matter to Mainers 50-plus and help them cast their votes safely from home or in person.

A centerpiece of the campaign will focus on providing information about voting options in Maine this fall at www.aarp.org/mainevotes, and through the AARP Bulletin, direct mail, digital communications and paid media.

“AARP is demanding action to make sure that Americans 50-plus – whether they are working parents, family caregivers, or seniors in nursing homes – can vote safely and make their voices heard,” said Lori Parham, AARP Maine State Director. “Politicians need to protect the health and financial security of voters 50+, especially during this pandemic.”
The “Protect Voters 50+” campaign will provide Mainers with the information they need about this year’s elections, including:

  • Information on how to vote absentee;
  • Questions to ask your municipal clerk to ensure you can vote safely in person;
  • Video voters’ guides;
  • Polling;
  • Issue briefings;
  • Direct mail, text messaging, social media and paid media.

“Now, more than ever, Mainers want to hear how the candidates will address key issues like protecting Social Security, bringing down health care costs, and strengthening the economy in this uncertain time,” said Parham. AARP Maine will track key races, sponsor debates, and host tele-townhall events. Election information will be provided through a full-scale digital effort, including, the aarp.org/election2020 hub, AARP Now app, social media, and news alerts.

In addition, AARP is working again with TurboVote this election; a joint effort by America’s biggest brands and organizations coming together in a nonpartisan, long-term commitment to increase voter participation. With the launch of Protect Voters 50-plus, AARP’s TurboVote tool is now live at votingtool.aarp.org, where voters can sign up to receive election reminders, updates on voting procedures and more.

AARP has a proud 34-year history of non-partisan voter engagement and does not endorse or oppose candidates, nor does AARP make contributions to political campaigns or candidates.

We encourage all Mainers to ask their municipal clerk about voting absentee, or should they choose to vote in person, how they can do so safely. In addition, AARP Maine encourages voters to ask questions of the candidates so they know where they stand on important issues, and can make informed decisions on Election Day.

AARP OUTREACH: Celebrating 85 years of social security with a question: How will the candidates protect this vital program?

by Patricia Pinto
AARP Maine Volunteer, State President

On August 14, Social Security turns 85 years old. This critical program has remained strong over its 85-year history largely because of its dedicated funding, vigorous support from the American people and the commitment of elected officials to work together in order to make the changes needed to secure its financial future.

Currently, 45 million retired workers and 3.1 million dependents receive Social Security benefits. Social Security also covers about 6 million survivors of deceased workers and 10 million employees with disabilities and their dependents. On average, one out of every 4 households rely on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income.

In Maine, approximately 260,000 individuals age 65-plus receive Social Security checks each month. It is estimated that one-third of these beneficiaries have no other source of income. The importance of strengthening Social Security now and for future generations cannot be overstated.

This election season, AARP Maine is committed to protecting voters 50-plus and ensuring that all Mainers can vote safely and make their voices heard on the issues that matter. If candidates want to win in November, they must address key issues such as preventing cuts to Social Security. Congress and the White House must take action to ensure full Social Security benefits can continue to be paid after 2035, when the program is expected to run a funding shortfall.

As we celebrate the 85th anniversary of Social Security, AARP Maine encourages all Maine voters to take action this election season and ask the candidates how they intend to protect this program which has become a vital safety net for so many Americans, young and old. We can all hold candidates accountable for addressing Social Security’s future and planning for its continued solvency, equity, and longevity.

For more information on AARP’s commitment to voters 50-plus this election season, go to aarp.org/election2020. If you are interested in working with AARP Maine to advocate for Social Security’s future and for other important issues, please contact us at me@aarp.org, visit our Facebook page, or call our toll-free number (866) 554-5380. We look forward to hearing from you!

AARP OUTREACH: Three out of four Mainers vote for high speed internet access for all

by Japhet Els

“We cannot compete if we are not connected.” Jim Fisher was right: how can Maine expect to compete, to grow and expand, without being better connected to more customers, clients, consumers, and the rest of the world?

The simple answer is, we can’t. And Mr. Fisher’s experience as Town Manager of Deer Isle showed him this.

We’ve been through this before. The onset of the telephone at the turn of the century was a debate about being connected. Landlines were being laid and everybody, no matter where you lived, had the opportunity to get connected. Today’s internet access is similar to telephone access one hundred years ago. The only difference is there are far more underserved, unserved, communities when it comes to affordable high-speed internet access.

The good news is on July 14 more than 75 percent of Maine voters voted for a better internet where we need it most. They are the Deer Isles, Abbots, Pattens, and Port Clydes, where affordable high-speed internet is rare and usually impossible. They are the communities where an affordable high-speed internet connection is far from guaranteed and more than likely costs an arm and leg. They are communities where everyone works two jobs to make ends meet, maybe three or four. They are communities that will capitalize on an affordable, accessible high-speed internet connection to create jobs, connect to more customers, and support families. All we have to do is get it to them.

Question 1 on the ballot jumpstarted this effort.

More than 75 percent of Maine voters demanded that high-speed internet be affordable and accessible no matter where you may live in Maine. Supporting question one set Maine up to connect our most rural, underserved communities to a high-speed connection. And when was the last time more 75 percent of us supported one idea? It’s rare in today’s partisan world, yet Mainers chose not to be divided, instead finding common ground around investing in our collective and connected future.

When you’re talking about high-speed internet, you’re talking about small businesses plugging into a competitive market. You’re talking about Mainers connecting with their doctors via video conference from their kitchen tables instead of driving many miles for a simple check-up. You’re talking about our kids connecting to their assignments and class resources right from their bedrooms, not from a Wal-Mart parking lot. You’re talking about connecting families and making sure, even during a pandemic, we can reach the ones we love through a modern high-speed internet connection.

Mr. Fisher reminds us that information is important to everyone these days, even fisherman. “Over 15 percent of the workforce is in lobstering, fishing – that’s a tremendously important export industry for us and they rely on the internet for pricing information, communication, particularly now,” Fisher says. “It’s been said that when a business wants to expand in Deer Isle it usually means they’re leaving…and those that stay end up going to extraordinary lengths to acquire a high-speed connection.”

There are many Jim Fishers in Maine and lobstering isn’t the only business impacted by a modern internet connection. Our rural communities require high-speed internet today and passing question one on July 14 allowed Maine to take the first step to a more connected future.

This is only the first-step. We’re on the right road, no doubt. But we have more steps to take to get more of Maine connected. To all of those who support Question One on the ballot, thank you. We have more work to do we look forward to getting to it with your help.

Born in Waterville, camp in Kents Hill, and family in Bath, Japhet Els is Outreach Director for AARP Maine working on the issues impacting the 50+ community and their families including access to affordable high-speed internet.

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide suspends service through 2020

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide, the nation’s largest free, volunteer-based tax preparation and assistance service, has announced that State of Maine AARP Foundation Tax-Aide sites will not re-open in 2020.

In mid-March, due to COVID-19, the national AARP Foundation Tax-Aide office suspended tax preparation at all tax preparation locations throughout the country. Shortly thereafter, also because of COVID-19, the IRS extended the tax filing deadline from April 15 to July 15.

With the extended deadline, Tax-Aide volunteers in Maine worked together to try to find a way to safely reopen at least some of its tax preparation sites. However, with COVID-19 complications posing a risk to both older taxpayer clients and Tax-Aide volunteers, it has been decided that AARP Tax-Aide sites in Maine will not reopen in 2020.

The program will return in 2021, having had time to make all the modifications deemed necessary to ensure as much as possible the health and safety of both taxpayers and volunteers.

In the meantime, AARP Foundation Tax-Aide offers online options to assist taxpayers affected by the suspension of in-person services:

  • A self-prep option, providing taxpayers with free access to software so they can prepare taxes on they own, is available at aarpfoundation.org/preparing-your-taxes-online/
  • If taxpayers have a computer and printer and would like help completing their own taxes, they can request the assistance of a volunteer to coach them through the process via phone or computer screen-sharing. Taxpayers should visit org/forms/tax-prep-assistance-request.html to submit a request.

Although the ‘deadline’ for filing tax returns is usually April 15, taxpayers actually have up to three years to file their federal and state tax returns. As long as there is a refund or no tax due, there are no penalties for filing anytime within the three year period. The failure to file and failure to pay penalties are applied only when a return is filed late and money is owed.

AARP OUTREACH: Primary balloting – Be safe, vote from home

by Japhet Els

I followed my mother up the town hall steps, into the large meeting room wondering why this didn’t feel like “just another errand.” I was at the age where everything was “up” – everyone was taller, countertops might as well have been rooflines, ceilings were skies of sorts, and the floor was comfortably close at all times. As we entered the hall, I recall organizing the world by all the different lower body apparel jostling about – jeans, khakis, skirts, leggings, and a few brave souls in shorts. Perhaps we all have that distant memory of grabbing the wrong pair of legs in a crowd and looking up in terror at an unfamiliar face. Being four years old has many benefits but height is not one of them.

We waited in line among our fellow neighbors until a woman who wore her gray hair in a tight bun, whose glasses dangled dangerously close to the end of her nose, ushered us to an open booth. My mother led me inside. I suddenly felt like something special was about to unfold. It was as though we were entering confession only there was no priest on the other side. She pulled a large lever from left to right in front of her and suddenly a curtain pulled shut directly behind us. Ta-dah! We were ready to punch our ballot for the 1984 general election. To my four-year old brain it wasn’t just special, it was magic.

I vote on my own now but it still feels like magic even at the worst of times. I’ve learned how important this duty is within a strong, engaged, community. But it’s not easy to feel inspired these days. Often elections have boring issues, terrible candidates, and zero motivating factors. But, as my grandfather reminded me once, “the boring ones are the most important ones,” so we can’t afford to ignore them. Indeed, the act of voting is not about how inspired you may feel. Instead, it’s about how much inspiration you can bring to Election Day.

Going to the polls isn’t in the cards for me on July 14. That’s our next primary election here in Maine where we’ll decide on congressional candidates, important local issues, and ballot measures that I hope Mainers won’t ignore. Even if you’re not affiliated with either party, you have a ballot, and community, that needs your voice. Instead of going to the polls on July 14 I’ll be casting my ballot from home, absentee. Why? Well, I guess I’d rather be cautious and wise today than risk being a fool tomorrow. We aren’t any less free filling our ballots out at home. We aren’t any less patriotic mailing them into our town clerks. Indeed, I’d argue we’re even freer, more patriotic, by carrying out our duty safely and securely from home during a questionable public health moment.

There are many unknowns in this strange new world we’re all adjusting to. I don’t feel I can address all of them and perhaps you feel the same. So, I end up taking it one day at a time. When it comes to July 14 and carrying out our duty as Maine citizens, it’s not a hard choice: Vote safe. Vote from home. Getting your absentee ballot is simple. Call your town clerk or the Secretary of State’s office and request your absentee ballot today so you’ll have it securely in your mailbox around June 15 with plenty of time to fill it out and mail it back in. We’re asking more and more Mainers who don’t feel the need to take the risk of voting in person to “Vote safe, vote from home.”

Will I miss piling into my local elementary school gym to vote alongside my friends and neighbors? Sure. But do I want to put others, myself, or the volunteers handing out ballots, at risk? Not really. Especially if voting absentee is an easy and established option.

I hope you’ll join me, and thousands of other Mainers on July 14 in voting absentee. We can carry out our duty wisely from home. It won’t take away from the magic built into an American tradition but it will help stamp out this pandemic, and that’s something we all can get behind no matter your age (or height).

If you’d like to request your absentee ballot you can go to https://bit.ly/ME_AbsenteeRequest and fill out the request form on the Secretary of State’s website. Or, simply call your Town Clerk’s office and request an absentee ballot directly.

Japhet Els is Outreach Director for AARP Maine.

AARP OUTREACH: Financial planning for the future

by Japhet Els

Three glass Ball jars were arranged on the kitchen table. From my perspective as a nine-year old, they seemed large. One jar was labeled, “College Fund.” Another, “Short-Term Savings.” And the last jar, “Long-Term Savings.” My mother was pretty straight-forward and the labels reflected her simplicity in teaching the basics of money.

“With each dollar you earn, you’ll have to put at least 25 cents into the college jar. And another 25 cents into the long-term saving jar. After that, it’s up to you.” I didn’t realize it then, but my mother was teaching me the habit of how to save money. Three jars. Three goals. Three ways to build some security for the future.

I was lucky. Not everyone is taught these lessons early on, but it’s never too late to learn.

Maine is facing a retirement savings crisis that could put us on the financial mat in the near future. One-third of Mainers 65-plus rely entirely on their Social Security check which averages just $1,100 a month. The average working Maine household has just $2,500 in retirement savings. That’s not a nest egg. It’s barely an emergency fund. Shockingly, 46 percent of all private sector workers in our state don’t have access to a retirement savings program through their workplace, often because they work for a small business that doesn’t have the time or money to shoulder that burden.

The coming wave of financial insecurity will not only stress Maine families, but important programs like Social Security and Medicare, too.

Retirement savings participation hasn’t changed much in more than 40 years. Despite education campaigns and awareness efforts, there’s been only a slight increase in the number of workers putting money away in a retirement account since the 1970s.

So what can be done? It’s not just about educating younger workers, or giving them a “kick in the pants” to do the right thing. We know what works when it comes to saving for the future. U.S. workers are 15 times more likely to save for retirement when we can do so through our own paycheck. We’re 20 times more likely to do so if that savings is automatic.

The good news is there’s a solution and it is building momentum. LD 594 is a bill currently working its way through the Maine State House. It would establish a public-private partnership allowing any Mainer not currently offered a retirement program through their workplace to start saving for their future. Here are the key parts of the bill that we think make it a “no brainer:”

  • No requirements or burdens on the small business owner including no liability and no matching requirement.
  • Smart government opens up new markets, enabling businesses to connect with underserved consumers. LD 594 would finally allow small business employees the chance to save with approved financial institutions who are currently out of reach for the typical Maine worker.
  • Portable: The employee retirement account follows the employee from job to job making it easier to save for seasonal workers and part-time workers.
  • Education: Each employee who participates will learn the value of saving for the future, even if at first the savings are small.

Helping more Mainers save for retirement is a rising tide that lifts all boats. This isn’t just a personal finance issue, it’s a state and community finance issue. Maine spent $28 million on vital social services for older Mainers in 2016. This number will only go up as more and more Mainers age with fewer and fewer dollars saved for retirement. If we can make it easier for more working Mainers to save for the future, it will mean more savings for taxpayers in the future.

The bottom line is we can either pay a little today or a lot tomorrow. We can either work on smart policy to modernize retirement savings in the nation’s oldest state, or we can point the finger at educators and parents while doing nothing to address the problem.

We (and you, dear Reader) can do something. Call and email your local state legislator and urge them to support LD 594. It’s common sense legislation for Maine workers, and common sense savings for Maine’s future.

We may be the oldest state, but we’re primed to lead the way on the most important issues facing our multi-generational communities. We owe it to those who’ve helped shape the Maine of today through hard work and grit, to continue to develop and build the Maine of tomorrow.

Japhet Els is Outreach Director for AARP Maine.

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide suspends service until further notice

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide, the nation’s largest free, volunteer-based tax preparation and assistance service, has announced that it will suspend tax preparation services at all sites effective Monday, March 16, until further notice. The action is due to concerns about the spread of coronavirus. The program’s website, www.aarpfoundation.org/taxaide and toll-free number 1-888-227-7669, are the best resources for information and updates regarding changes in service availability.

“Tax-Aide is prioritizing the health of taxpayers, our volunteers, and the communities we serve by suspending service until further notice,” said Lisa Marsh Ryerson, President, AARP Foundation.

Tax-Aide will continue to assess whether some or all sites can re-open during this tax season as regularly scheduled, or during a longer tax season if it is extended.

While Tax-Aide provides free tax preparation and filing services to all taxpayers, many of its clients are over 60, a group considered by health experts at higher risk for COVID-19.

AARP Tax-Aide program offered

Free federal and state income tax preparation offered to qualifying individuals

The AARP Tax-Aide program provides free federal and state income tax preparation and electronic filing to low- and moderate-income individuals. Returns are prepared by IRS-certified volunteers. The program is funded by the AARP Foundation, a tax-exempt charitable organization, and the IRS.

Counselors will help individuals navigate the many changes on the 2018 federal and state income tax returns. You do not need to be an AARP member to use this service. Assistance is available by appointment only at the following sites from February 1st to April 15th.

AUGUSTA: Buker Community Center, 22 Armory St.: 8:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. Mondays and Fridays. Call 582-3053 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. ONLY to make an appointment.

HALLOWELL: Cohen Community Center, 22 Town Farm Road: 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays. Call 626-7777 Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to make an appointment.

FAIRFIELD: Fairfield Community Center, 61 Water St.: 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Call 643-2559 Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ONLY to make an appointment.

MADISON: Crossroads Bible Church, 705 White Schoolhouse Road: 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Mondays and Saturdays. Call 643-2559 Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ONLY to make an appointment.