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Amazon Go: Lines form in Seattle to be among the first to try checkout-free shopping

Amazon Go: Lines form in Seattle to be among the first to try checkout-free shopping

USA TODAY SEATTLE — Amazon’s checkout line-free convenience store Amazon Go opened Monday morning in Seattle to crowds of press and the curious.
Amazon employees walked down the line of those waiting to hand out bright orange Amazon Go shopping bags. “This is the future of grocery shopping.
When his turn to shop came, Fleming walked in, grabbed a six pack of Elysian beer, a local Seattle brand, and a mug emblazoned with the tag line Just Walk Out shopping.
The Amazon Go convenience store and its proprietary technology, made up of hundreds of cameras and sensors, require that shoppers have an Amazon account and download a special Amazon Go app.
All the salads and sandwiches are prepackaged and sold in identical amounts, so each ham sandwich, for example, is the same price and can be seen by the store as interchangeable with every other ham sandwich.
That, he said, “would be a game-changer.” No food stamps One criticism of the Amazon Go store has been that it does not accept SNAP benefits.
However since the 1990s, SNAP recipients receive an electronic benefits transfer card similar to a bank card which allows them to make purchases with the benefit.
Grocery stores are not required to accept SNAP but many do, including convenience stores and Whole Foods, which Amazon purchased in 2017.
SNAP benefits cannot be used to purchase prepared foods such as salads and sandwiches, which makes up a large percentage of the items sold at Amazon Go.

Your 529 Plan May Not Follow New Tax Law
Social Security Disability

Your 529 Plan May Not Follow New Tax Law

The Tax Cuts & Jobs Act was signed into law just in time for the end of the year, and the result of the most significant tax reform in decades landed with less of a cheer and more of a thud.
Can 529s Be Used for K-12 Expenses?
The final tax bill language was much less dramatic than the first two iterations, and ended up having less impact on college savers than anticipated.
One big surprise, however, was the last-minute insertion of language by Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to make qualified up to $10,000 in 529 withdrawals for tuition to K-12 schools.
The account owner can now withdraw up to $10,000 for each beneficiary once per year.
Qualifying schools include public, private, and religious schools K-12 schools.
Earnings on qualified withdrawals for K-12 expenses are federal tax-free right now for everyone.
However, the withdrawals may or may not be state tax-free, and any tax benefits taken on deposits may be subject to recapture if you claimed a deduction, credit, or other benefit.
Each state has its own laws concerning 529 plans and, while every state has passed legislation making qualified withdrawals for higher education tax-free, the same is not necessarily true for K-12 expenses.
Not Every State Will Tow The Line According to Strategic Insight’s Director of College Savings Research Paul Curley, over 20 states plus the District of Columbia will treat K-12 expenses the same as federal law, as their legislation mirrors federal definitions.

Planned Parenthood: 45 Years After Roe v. Wade, Access to Abortion Is Facing Historic Threats

Planned Parenthood: 45 Years After Roe v. Wade, Access to Abortion Is Facing Historic Threats

It’s the 45th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, which finally recognized women’s inherent right to control their own bodies — making abortion legal across the country and taking a major step toward the recognition that if a woman’s body is not her own, she cannot truly be free or equal.
For 45 years this has been the law of the land — in theory.
The reality for women, especially women of color, has always been miles from the ruling.
In theory, we’re free to do all of that without the government interfering.
But under President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence’s administration, many of the rights we thought we had face historic threats.
One year ago, approximately 4 million people took to the streets across the country and around the world to participate in the Women’s March.
Our work now is to make our bodies our own not just in theory, but in reality.
The politicians behind these laws are the same people who are trying to roll back coverage for birth control, and the same people who are now in charge of the Department of Health and Human Services, overseeing birth control services they don’t actually support, for the entire country.
The women who marched one year ago, the women running for office, the women telling their stories of sexual assault and harassment and Planned Parenthood’s 11 million supporters are all fighting for our ability to control our own bodies and drive our own destinies.
On this 45th anniversary of Roe v. Wade let’s recognize that a future where women pursue their lives and work free from sexual assault and harassment, where all women are truly equal, can’t be a reality if Roe remains a theory — or worse.

Twist to Kentucky’s Medicaid Work Rule: Pass a Course Instead

Twist to Kentucky’s Medicaid Work Rule: Pass a Course Instead

The precise content of the courses is not yet worked out but may include instruction on household budgeting, how to open a checking account, weight management and chronic disease management, said Kristi Putnam, a manager with Kentucky Health, the state’s new Medicaid program that includes work requirements.
You have to be concerned about requirements like literacy tests, which states have a bad history of applying selectively and arbitrarily.” Ms. Putnam said that the courses were “intended to be a tool/support for people to improve both health and finances, and not a barrier in any way.” Her agency, she said, is looking into ways to provide help to people who might struggle with understanding the courses.
Ms. Putnam said Kentucky’s “pertains to learning about healthy habits, how to manage chronic conditions, effectively utilizing health care benefits and understanding commercial market insurance concepts.” However defined, health literacy is related to literacy and numeracy more generally.
One study found that 60 percent of Medicaid enrollees had only “basic” or “below basic” health literacy, meaning, for example, they could not recognize a medical appointment on a hospital appointment form (below basic) or would have trouble understanding why a specific test was recommended for someone with certain symptoms, even when given a clearly written and accurate explanation (basic).
But Medicaid enrollees are not the only ones.
Nearly the same proportion of Medicare enrollees also had basic or below basic health literacy.
Of those with diabetes — to whom blood glucose measurement and levels should be familiar given the importance to their condition — only 56 percent could identify out-of-range values.
It is likely that people in greater need of health care are also less likely to have high literacy skills in general.
Addressing these issues through financial literacy education improves financial outcomes.
So is the approach of targeting education during teachable moments, as when individuals are making financial decisions: taking out a loan, establishing a saving plan, and the like.

Giving military families a hand-up with MilitaryShare

Giving military families a hand-up with MilitaryShare

Wochit It is drilled into soldiers to care for others before yourself.
These two qualities that serve so well on the battlefield are the very barricades to an increased use of MilitaryShare, a food distribution program for active service members, veterans and their families that has been in Lebanon County since September.
MilitaryShare provides 50 to 60 pounds of food to military families free of charge each month, with a pick-up in Lebanon County at the Palmyra VFW the third Friday of every month.
The only requirement is proof of military service (DD214, Military ID or VA Medical Center card).
As an employee of the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, Stegall started MilitaryShare in December of 2015.
In all of 2016, MilitaryShare gave out 400,000 pounds of food to military families in the 27-county Central Pennsylvania region.
In 2017 that amount grew to 1 million pounds of food, and there’s more to give.
The 60 pounds of food includes 30 pounds of healthy staples, and fresh food (including produce, milk, eggs, cheese and meat) to help stretch the family food budget.
The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank estimates there are 2,250 veteran households in the 27 Pennsylvania counties it serves.
When it comes to receiving help, “Veterans are one of the last to show up.”

Preparing for a life after death: A guide for parents of adult children with special needs
Social Security Disability

Preparing for a life after death: A guide for parents of adult children with special needs

“The fear that we have as parents is that our loved one is going to outlive us,” says Brian N. Rubin president of the Special Needs Alliance, an organization of attorneys that specialize in disability and public benefits law.
Here is how to achieve that goal: Step 1: Consider the Financial Implications “When you plan for people with disabilities, everyone’s goal is the same — to provide security for their family member,” says John Nadworny, a partner with Special Needs Financial Planning, a specialty practice of Winchester, Mass.-based Shepherd Financial Partners.
Families can also supplement government resources with their own funds or purchase a life insurance policy to provide income for their child after they pass away.
Creating a financial plan also means making sure the parents have enough for retirement, says Michael Berry, head of the Advanced Planning Team for Voya Financial in Des Moines.
Depending on the state, that could cost the adult child hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, says Benjamin Rubin, an attorney and Mitchell’s brother.
The Rubins estimate that Mitchell receives approximately $90,000 per year for such services as his day program, job coaches and housing.
A special needs, or supplemental needs, trust is a legal vehicle that will hold the assets of a person with disabilities without costing them their government benefits.
“Those trusts will essentially protect any assets held for the benefit of the children,” Robert says.
First-party trusts have a payback provision, meaning that when the beneficiary dies, any money left in the trust will first be used to repay the states that paid out benefits on their behalf.
With the right financial resources and legal protections in place, an adult with special needs can thrive.

On Medicaid work requirements, who will judge the character judges?

On Medicaid work requirements, who will judge the character judges?

People with Medicaid coverage are far from the only beneficiaries of government generosity.
… Now I am able to work more.” And “I am finally getting everything that was wrong with me fixed so that I can go back to work.” They are all quoted in a 2014 study by the Ohio Department of Medicaid, and their comments are on my mind as the Trump administration encourages states to impose work requirements on people who use Medicaid.
More: If Democrats were in charge, I’d let people buy Medicaid coverage: Senator The administration and conservatives in general are very interested in making certain people (those without much money) prove they are worthy of receiving certain federal benefits (such as food stamps and Medicaid).
The Heritage Foundation articulated it this way: Americans who receive these kinds of government benefits should “engage in responsible and constructive behavior as a condition of receiving aid.” That is, they should work or be looking for work, and they should be drug-free.
He accepted $3.6 billion in federal farm subsidies from 1999 to 2016 (“other people’s money”).
Where are the drug tests for farmers, the good-citizen tests for corporations, the work requirements for rich beneficiaries of tax breaks and loopholes that drain massive amounts from the U.S. Treasury?
No doubt there are malingerers and cheaters on Medicaid, just like there are people and companies that “game the system” to get tax breaks, subsidies or government contracts.
Proof you’re working.
Proof you can’t work.
Proof you are a worthy person.

What Medicaid’s Work Requirement Means For Seniors, People With Disabilities, And Their Caregivers
Social Security Disability

What Medicaid’s Work Requirement Means For Seniors, People With Disabilities, And Their Caregivers

The Trump Administration announced last week that it will allow states to require Medicaid recipients to work, take job training, or do community service to stay eligible for the program, which provides both medical and long-term care services for people with low incomes.
What will the requirement mean for older adults, younger people with disabilities, or their family caregivers?
The Trump Administration would leave their Medicaid eligibility up to the states.
That’s not unusual: One-quarter of family caregivers say they spend 40 hours a week helping relatives.
Children qualify if they are under age 19, students under age 24, or if they are “permanently or totally disabled.” They must also live with their caregiver for at least half the year.
Who is a dependent?
In Kentucky, because her parents may not meet the definition of a dependent, she may be subject to the work requirement.
According to its proposal, “caregiving services for a non-dependent relative or other person with a disabling medical condition” satisfy the 80 hours per month work requirement.
But Kentucky’s caregiving exception may not apply in other states that impose work requirements.
Most who can work, already do.

Everything you need to know about the federal government shutdown

Everything you need to know about the federal government shutdown

A top Dem agreed yesterday to put that issue on the table to try to avoid a shutdown.
If you’re a government employee, expect to be furloughed.
More than 850,000, “non-essential” federal workers had to stay home during the last shutdown in 2013.
Here’s how every senator voted.
Yes, Social Security is considered an essential service, so the checks will continue to be issued during the shutdown.
Food stamps also will continue to be funded.
Another key sticking point of this debate is funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP.
You’ll able to visit the National Zoo, as well as Smithsonian museums, if you go this weekend.
Like we said earlier, somebody has to blink.
It’s worth noting: This is the first modern government shutdown with Congress and the White House controlled by the same party.

5 ways the government shutdown could be bad for your health

5 ways the government shutdown could be bad for your health

That means entire projects will stop and whole safety programs could go on hiatus.
This time, the plan is to furlough 61% of the staff.
The CDC said it would continue collecting data reported by states and hospitals and report “critical information” needed for authorities to track and treat the flu.
That meant scientists were making public health decisions based on “luck,” rather than actual information like the gold-standard CDC data the agency usually collects, former CDC director Dr. David Satcher wrote at the time.
If CDC workers are sent home that also means they are no longer going to be able to help state and local agencies track any other unusual outbreak, including problems that might impact the nation’s food supply.
It was so slim and there was so much work that the CDC had to call in 30 furloughed workers.
Four of the five Nobel prize-winning scientists who work for the federal government were furloughed during the 2013 government shutdown, according to an analysis from the OMB.
The EPA’s non-emergency inspections could also stop.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which recalls products that are unsafe, is allowed to finish its work only on products that are considered an imminent threat.
Routine inspections from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which help keep us safe at work, could also stop.