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A Flush of Protections for Veterans and Native Americans

Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2020 (HR 6168) – Introduced by Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) on March 10, this bill increases Vet compensation benefits by 1.3 percent (the same as for Social Security recipients). The increase impacts veteran disability compensation, compensation for dependents, the clothing allowance for certain disabled veterans, and dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children. This bill passed in the House in May and the Senate in September, and was signed into law by the president on Oct. 20. Veterans’ Care Quality Transparency Act (HR 2372) – Designed to improve mental health care for veterans and reduce suicide rates, this bill was introduced by… Read More

Will StarLink be the Next Disruption to the Telecommunication Industry?

With every new project comes expectations, uncertainties, questions, opposition, and more. Elon Musk’s StarLink internet is one such project. Just last month, on Nov. 24, SpaceX launched 60 StarLink internet satellites – making a total of more than 900 of its flat-panel satellites already on low earth orbit (LEO). This also marked the company’s 23rd space launch since the start of 2020. But just what is StarLink; why is it a big deal; and will it replace existing internet infrastructure? Follow along for information already in the public domain that will help answer some of these questions. What is StarLink? StarLink is an initiative by SpaceX that aims to provide… Read More

COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout: Where We Are So Far

While the pandemic is not over, we do have some good news. There are vaccines and they will be available soon. Here’s where we are in terms of an overall plan and where states are with distributing the vaccines. Operation Warp Speed The current administration has already purchased hundreds of millions of doses of several vaccine candidates. Two of them are from Moderna and Pfizer and they’ve shown significant efficacy in Phase 3 clinical trials. The incoming Biden administration will take on distribution and has established a COVID-19 Task Force. A limited number of doses may become available as early as December. The Interim Playbook This document from the Center… Read More

Last Minute Financial Moves for Year’s End

There are certain year-end financial transactions that must clear by Dec. 31 to be reported on the 2020 tax return. It’s important to take a good look at your financial portfolio in light of the plethora of unusual events that occurred this year. Now is a good time to see if you have fallen off track and reposition your portfolio for better opportunities in 2021. Investment Portfolio Despite the dramatic stock market drop that accompanied the outbreak of COVID-19 on our shores, markets have recovered remarkably well. This means the traditional strategy of harvesting gains and losses at year-end could be appropriate for many investors. When your capital losses are… Read More

How Will the Biden Administration Influence the Federal Reserve?

With the nation on the precipice of a transition of administrations on Jan. 20, 2021, there will need to be many roles filled both in and out of the White House. With the potential for Janet Yellen to replace Steven Mnuchin as the next treasury secretary, there is much speculation about how the Federal Reserve will be shaped by the Biden administration. Predicting Changes to the Federal Reserve When 2022 arrives, Chair of the Federal Reserve Jerome Powell’s term will expire. While presidents have historically given another term to first-term chairs who were appointed by the outgoing administration, there is no indication that Powell will stay on for another year.… Read More

How Businesses Can Adapt, Grow During COVID-19

In order to survive – and even thrive – during these unprecedented times, small businesses have had to find new ways to make money. The UPS Store’s Small Biz Buzz survey found that 41 percent of small businesses in the United States took steps to modify their businesses in hopes of survival. Fifteen percent provided customers with curbside delivery options, 28 percent moved to online sales as their primary source of sales, and 65 percent made a concerted effort to grow their e-commerce capabilities. More than 50 percent of those polled by a U.S. Census Bureau Small Business Pulse Survey said it would be at least half a year before… Read More

2021 Social Security Tax and Benefit Increases Announced

The Social Security Administration recently announced 2021 increases to both benefits and the taxable wage base for FICA taxes. Increases Announced for 2021 Workers are facing a 3.7 percent increase in the taxable wage base subject to Social Security taxes, increasing the amount from $137,700 up to $142,800. This means high earners who make as much as or more than the taxable wage base will pay $8,853.60 of the employee withholding portion or $17,707.20 in total for the self-employed – who pay both employee and employer portions of the tax. Retirees receiving benefits will only garner a 1.3 percent cost-of-living (COLA) raise in 2021, resulting in a raise of $20 per… Read More

Dial 9-8-8 for a Mental Health Crisis; Enforcement Against Violence in the Native American Community; and Enhanced Protections for Veterans and Wildlife

National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020 (S 2661) – Introduced by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) on Oct. 22, 2019, this bill requires the Federal Communications Commission to designate 988 as the universal telephone number for a national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline. It also directs the Department of Health and Human Services to provide access to competent, specialized services for high-risk populations such as LGBTQ youth; minorities; and people who live in rural areas. The Act was passed in the Senate in May, the House in September, and was signed into law on Oct. 17. Savanna’s Act (S 227) – Named in memory of Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a… Read More

Exploring Brain Computer Interface: Tech That Connects to Your Brain

Imagine using your mind to control machines, or your employer reading how you feel in real time from a dashboard? This is the future of BCI technology. Do we really need this technology? What are the potential benefits and possible implications of this emerging field? What is BCI? Brain Computer Interface (BCI) is also referred to as Brain Machine Interface or Neural Interface. Wikipedia defines BCI as a direct communication pathway between an enhanced or wired brain and an external device. The brain is said to process billions of bits of information per second and runs on electrical signals that could control electronics, and BCI attempts to create this connection.… Read More

Why Gratitude is Important During a Pandemic

We’re living in unprecedented, challenging times. If you’re feeling stressed and scared, you’re not alone. However, there is a way to navigate through all of this uncertainty: gratitude. Studies have shown that keeping in mind the things you’re grateful for on a regular basis not only helps you mentally, but also physically, which is something we all need these days. Gratitude Improves Your Immune System According to Lisa Aspinwall, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Utah, there’s data to back this up. In one study, researchers compared the immune systems of healthy, first-year law students who were under stress and characterized themselves as optimistic to their more pessimistic… Read More