Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Health Connector website, you gonna make me lose my mind...

You know, I was gonna come on here and write about how the new website on which I had to enter my family's income and everything to renew Masshealth was refreshingly easy, and how I wish DTA would get something similar going on that checks your income against your tax returns, instead of having you send in a big packet of paystubs, a buncha paper forms, and only going by most recent month's income...

But then I finished the process, and I got this:

"Congratulations! Based on your household's federal poverty level..."


I mean, I'm glad we're eligible, don't get me wrong. But. Um.

Oh well. Made me laugh at least

Monday, February 23, 2015

City Strings United program provides cello lessons for youth

This story is from a few months back, but I'm just now hearing of the organization. There's a Globe feature story worth checking out about the program, which provides free lessons and free instrument rentals. The website doesn't have a whole lot of details about logistics of joining, but invites people to e-mail them. I will be on the lookout for their performances as well, which I assume will be free (or if not, certainly affordable and a good cause).

Other local programs that provide free music lessons to youth include Revolution of Hope and Project STEP. If you know of other music opportunities, please post in comments!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Time exchange in JP allows all labor to be valued equally

I just came across a posting for a Jamaica Plain time exchange, which is hosting an open house to learn more. This time exchange appears to be open to people in any neighborhood. I unfortunately cannot attend, but I love the concept and it would be great if people want to attend and try and start them in other areas.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

MBTA misses opportunity to help workers economically impacted by storm

Universal Hub and several other sources are reporting that the MBTA is hiring individuals from the community to shovel tracks and other property, but requires that they be members of unions.

I have nothing against unions in theory, and workers being able to organize is a good thing, but if they're going to hire non-MBTA employees to do this, why on earth wouldn't they extend some generosity to hourly employees who have lost considerable wages due to jobs being closed or not being able to get to them? As far as I know, union workers generally have paid days off of some sort. The union workers shoveling snow may well be doing so on a paid day off, or might have taken a personal day to take on the shoveling job. Well hiring union workers seems on the face as a progressive and pro-human-rights thing to do, it seems like the plan wasn't fully thought out.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Another option for low-cost snow removal

The New England Center for Homeless Veterans has a lot of unemployed, able guys, who will shovel for cash. Ask for the supervisor on duty at the front desk when you call, 617-371-1700.

If you know of other options, please post in comments. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Snow closures mean lost wages and firings for many low-income workers

WBUR has done two great stories on this issue lately, here, and here. Both are very well-done human-interest stories that are worth the time to read.

Our family is dealing with this as well. We don't have sick time or vacation days, so we don't get paid if we can't come in due to illness, snow, transit being shut down, job being closed for the day, or needing to care for a child. We usually budget for this, but with all of the snow days lately, it's added up. There are no laws in Massachusetts or federally requiring jobs to pay workers in these situations. There is a law for certain types of hourly employees that they must be paid for three hours if they show up ready to work and then are told they are not needed, but this doesn't apply if they are given notice that the site is closed or they should not come in for whatever reason.

I guess the silver lining in this is that our food stamps will be reinstated, and at a generous amount at least for a few months, since we've made so little money the past few weeks. Oh, and that tax refunds are coming soon, so we'll be able to pay the bills this month, and then hopefully it will stop snowing. It's a little scary though knowing that even after the snow clears, there is still always the chance that some sort of natural disaster or home maintenance emergency or something can come up that causes us to need money and/or not be able to show up for work. And that the people who have the power to choose whether to be understanding about these things are always people with paid vacation days and healthy savings accounts.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Inexpensive soccer opportunity for kids ages 3.5 - 6.5

I've been noticing that most activities in Boston that aren't part of public schools (and even some that are) are ridiculously expensive. Especially with February break coming up, I'm getting a lot of e-mails for "camps" that run $300-$1000 just for the one week, and about half of these don't even run the normal hours of public school, let alone afterschool, so they wouldn't work for families who need childcare during that week. Who are these families who have the money for these programs and have flexible schedules that would allow them to drop off kids at 9 or 10 and pick them up at noon or 2? I don't doubt they exist, but it still shocks me that there are enough independently wealthy or executive types to fill all these camps and activities.

Anyway, this brings me to an activity I've been hearing about that's on the other extreme end of the price range. Jamaica Plain Children's Soccer is $25 for the season (spring or fall). No, that's not a typo. No equipment is required except for sturdy shoes and a ball if you have one. The families I know who've done it say it's fun, friendly, diverse, and intentionally and aggressively dissuades competitive-parenting types from joining. Check it out.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Seasonal couponing

$41.09 for $117.46 worth of stuff! Thanks, sporting event, for making there be coupon deals on pizza and nacho ingredients. 

The Purex deal at Stop and Shop right now is a good one -- they're $1.99 instead of $4.99, so you can get six detergents for $7 if you use the $5/$25 on SavingStar. If you have $1 Purex coupons from coupons.com last month you could actually get it down to $1 for all six (I only had two, but $5 for six detergents is still pretty amazing.)