|Beware Scammers Posing as IRS
Several constituents recently contacted our district office to let us know scammers are calling people in our area and telling them they owe money to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This appears to be a new instance of an old scam that has been around for years.
I encourage you to read this 2015 news release from the Office of the Attorney General detailing some of the variations of the scam and providing ways for you to protect yourself.
I’d like to thank the constituents who brought this edition of the scam to the attention of my office so that we could alert others. We hope this email will help residents protect themselves against these scammers.
REAL ID Update: Get Your Docs Early
PennDOT launched a public awareness campaign outlining the steps for residents who wish to get a REAL ID-compliant driver license.
Although the REAL ID products will not be available until 2019, PennDOT encourages residents who want them to obtain any required documents in plenty of time.
Those documents include birth certificates with the raised seal, Social Security card, proof of all legal name changes and two proofs of current Pennsylvania address. My office can help with obtaining copies of the birth certificates, which can take up to four to six months. (Contact information is at the end of this email.)
The federal government has extended the deadline for REAL ID compliance in Pennsylvania to Oct. 10, 2018, so current driver licenses and identifications are still accepted for domestic air travel and entry into certain federal facilities.
More information about REAL ID is available here and more information about birth certificates is available here.
Forcing Unemployment Compensation System Improvements
As a way to force accountability in the unemployment compensation (UC) system while ensuring that it efficiently serves its customers, legislation passed the House this week to ensure the completion of long-awaited computer system updates and an end to state supplemental funding.
House Bill 1915, which is now with the Senate, would propose a four-year exit strategy to provide the money necessary to complete the computer upgrades and then bring an end to the funding.
In total, the legislation would provide about $115.2 million in additional funding for the Department of Labor and Industry to implement a modern, efficient UC system and transition to a budget that can be covered by federal funding totaling approximately $130 million per year to operate the UC program.
From 2012 to 2016, federal funding has decreased by 24 percent, but initial claims processed by the Pennsylvania UC program actually decreased by 31 percent. With fewer claims to process, fewer employees are needed, especially once an updated computer system is in place.
VA Announces New Veterans ID Card
Recently, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced the application process for the national Veterans Identification Card (VIC) is available for veterans with honorable service. This includes veterans who served in the armed forces and the reserve components, and who have a discharge of honorable or general (under honorable conditions).
This card may be accepted by retailers in lieu of the standard DD-214 form to obtain promotional discounts and other services where offered to veterans. It is considered to be a safer, more convenient and effective way for most veterans to show proof of service.
To request a VIC, veterans must visit vets.gov, click on “Apply for Printed Veteran ID Card” on the bottom left of the page and sign in or create an account. Veterans who apply for a card should receive it within 60 days and can check delivery status of their cards at vets.gov. A digital version of the VIC will be available online by mid-December.
No Welfare for Dead People
To help prevent fraudulent use of state benefits, the House recently passed legislation to require more coordination between state agencies.
Currently, state departments share contact information of recipients for state programs and may send letters about other state programs or benefits for which they may be eligible. Unfortunately, that contact information may not be up-to-date and may contain information for people who are deceased.
House Bill 1588 would require the Department of Aging to cross reference its list of beneficiaries with death records maintained by the Department of Health on a monthly basis. This would help enhance the system and increase efficiencies by more promptly removing deceased persons from their database.
The bill now goes to the state Senate for review.
Protecting Ag Products from Invasive Species
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is warning residents about an invasive species of insect that can do substantial harm to the state’s agriculture and hardwoods industries – the Spotted Lanternfly.
Currently, several counties – Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia and Schuylkill – are under a quarantine, meaning that residents should take caution to “look before you leave” to avoid spreading this bad bug.
The species was first discovered in Berks County in 2014, and to date, the insect has been found in the eastern and southeastern portions of the state.
Early detection of the insect, including adults or egg masses, is key to help stop the spread of this pest. Businesses that ship products in and out of the quarantine area must take steps to ensure they are not accidentally transporting adults or egg masses on their products.
Reports of the insect can be made by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the Invasive Species Report Line at 866-253-7189. Additional details can be found here.