Michael R. Knapik
2nd Hampden & Hampshire District
Serving Blandford, Chester, Chicopee, Easthampton, Granville, Holyoke, Montgomery, Russell, Southampton, Southwick, Tolland & WestfieldDistrict Office: (413) 562-6454
WINTER ENERGY ISSUES
I want to take a few minutes to talk with you about the current heating season. We all face increased costs for heating this year, and I am particularly interested in safety. I have participated in meetings with fellow legislators around the state as I study the issue and look for solutions. None of this information is new, but it all bears repeating. Natural gas and electricity are regulated and cannot be shut off during the heating season. They may not get terminated, but the bills pile up and must be paid. Oil customers are of the greatest concern, but these suggestions can be used by everyone.
1. Make certain your burner is serviced and in good condition – including your chimney/venting system
2. Talk to your supplier about a 12-month billing plan-budget payment plan
3. If you will need it, apply for fuel assistance with your local community action council before the funds run dry.*
4. Take the time to winter proof your residence, remembering you must have some fresh air flow
5. Consider changing your routine – one efficient method is to install a programmable thermostat, but if you haven’t done so, consider,
a. Turn your heat down during the night while you are sleeping
b. Turn the heat down when you are out of the house
6. Places where seniors gather can be considered warming places. Councils on Aging, etc. are good places to come in out of the cold.
7. Go to the Mall. Start a walking club at the Mall and get your exercise. There are also plenty of places to sit and people watch, or talk with friends.
8. The use of space heaters is of concern. If you use them, make sure they are three feet away in all directions from anything that will burn. Space heaters are not to be used to heat a whole house. They should never be left on overnight.
9. All forms of heating can cause carbon monoxide, and thus poisoning. Be certain to have adequate ventilation. Know what the signs are of non-working heating units.
10. Never leave candles in any room burning unattended.
*To apply for Fuel Assistance if you live in Hampden County, call Valley Opportunity Council, 1-413-554-1554 x 4. If they cannot help you, they will direct you to the Community Action Council that can. If you live in Hampshire County, call 1-800-370-0940 for an appointment with the Community Action Council in Northampton.
Other benefits: When you become eligible for Fuel Assistance, you may also become eligible for additional help. There may be discounts on some electric and gas utility rates, and a discount on your telephone bill (depending on your type of service). There are also programs for weatherization, and/or heating system repairs or emergency replacement for homeowners.
REGISTRY OF MOTOR VEHICLES – NEW INSPECTION LAWS
For most Massachusetts motorists, it will be business as usual, but there are some new inspection laws to be aware of before you take your care for the inspection. In addition to all the laws on the books that we have become familiar with for car inspection, additional laws take place October 1, 2008.
1) All faded license plates will be replaced. All license plates carry a reflector coating so they can be read at 60 feet by the police. Any plate deemed to be faded will be replaced at no charge. The green single plates are gradually being retired, replaced with red ones for the front and back of the vehicle. You get to learn a new number!
2) License plate trim packages (i.e. Boston Red Sox or anything else) must not cover the word MASSACHUSETTS, or any other identifying marks on the place.
3) All windows must be intact. No plastic substitutes. No cracks, no holes.
4) All wipers must be operable. If the manufacturer provided three speeds, all three speeds must be working.
5) The airbag must be in place and working. The airbag light must NOT be on.
6) The ABS (antilock brake) light must not be on.
7) Dash board lights, i.e., service engine soon, lead to automatic rejection.
8) All mirrors that were on the car at manufacture must be intact, or it is a failure.
Economic Stimulus Payment Notice
It is not too late to file for the Economic Stimulus Payment. If your income for 2007 was over $3,000, and you have not filed a tax return, please check in with your local Council on Aging for assistance in filing for this benefit. October 15, 2008 is the deadline for filing.
Cell Phone Information Calls
Cell phone companies are charging $1.00 to $1.75 or more for 411 information calls. Since no one carries a telephone directory in their vehicle, they get away with it. When you need to use the 411 information option, simply dial 1 (800) FREE 411, or 1 (800) 373-3411; you will incur no charge. You will need to listen to a commercial to get this free service, but in our test call, it was free, and the numbers given were accurate.
MassMedLine is suggesting CAUTION with any medicine program that advertises itself as being FREE….especially if you are asked to provide any banking information or account numbers. The Medicine Foundation charges a $10 fee to investigate the patient assistance programs for each medication, and requires an applicant to log in all their bank account information (routing and account numbers). I have serious concerns about the safety of this type of program. MassMedLine is a free, confidential service. This public service project is a collaboration between the Executive Office of Elder Affairs and the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. Call toll-free 1-866-633-1617.
How to contact Age Info
New voice mail prompts for 1-800-age-info (1-800-243-4636)
The voice prompts on the 800ageinfo telephone line have been changed and are now the following:
1) Local Elder Service Provider or Caregiver Program
2) Prescription Advantage
4) To Report Elder Abuse
5) For Complaints or t speak with an Information Specialist
There is an initial greeting that explains that the options have changed and to please listen carefully to the new option.
Senator Michael R.Knapik
District Office State House Office
(413) 562-6454 (617) 722-1415