News From Our Blog

How to Prepare for Hurricane Season

The Atlantic hurricane season begins each year on June 1 and ends on November 30.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, more than 35 million people live in areas that can be affected by hurricanes.

The strong winds, heavy rains and flooding that go along with hurricanes can cause serious damage to property and endanger lives. Being informed about what to do before, during and after a hurricane can help you and your family stay safe and prevent property damage.

Before and during the storm

  • Be aware of any emergency alert signals issued by authorities
  • Get to know the evacuation routes and emergency procedures of the places you and your family frequent, such as school or your office building
  • Identify the most secure places in your home, which can be a room with few windows, a hallway or a basement
  • Find evacuation and emergency shelters for your neighborhood
  • Put together an emergency supply kit
  • Use shutters to cover your house’s windows
  • Make sure blinds and windows are closed

In case of an evacuation

  • Tune your radio to NOAA’s National Weather Service to know what to do and where to go
  • If you are away from your family, make a plan where to meet once the hurricane passes
  • Shut windows and doors and unplug any electrical appliances before leaving the house
  • Pack a bag with clothes, medicine, important documents, cash and your emergency kit
  • Drive only on roads that have been approved by officials and avoid taking shortcuts that could be hazardous

Returning home

  • Return home only when authorities say the danger has passed
  • Don’t walk or drive in flooded areas or unstable structures, such as bridges or alternate routes
  • Check the area outside your house before going in, as there could be loose power lines or other dangerous objects that aren’t immediately visible
  • Do not go inside if you smell gas or if there are signs of any flooding or fire as the home’s structure may be weakened
  • Take photos of any damaged areas to use when filing a claim with your insurance company

Resources

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Great Natural Areas to Explore With Family

A good way to connect with your family is to leave behind the work and school routines. If your family has days off or a free weekend, consider planning a road trip to explore new places.

All throughout the United States there are recreation areas that offer a wide variety of activities for everyone. Below you will find some ideal places for enjoying what nature has to offer:

Boulder Creek, California

Location: This spot is in the northern Sierra Nevada Mountains, northeast of San Francisco.

Features: It has everything nature lovers would want, such as beautiful lakes, streams and mountains, as well as prairies surrounded by plants and animals.

Activities: It is a place where you can swim, fish, ride a boat or kayak, mountain bike and camp.

Alley Creek Camp, Texas

Location: On the edge of Lake O ‘the Pines, east of Dallas and near the towns of Jefferson and Marshall.

Features: There’s a magnificent lake surrounded by pine trees and the region’s native flora and fauna. The lake is a result of the construction of a dam, but now it’s considered an oasis of outdoor recreation.

Activities: Families can enjoy camping, swimming, hunting, fishing, boat rides, or hiking along trails and exploring nature.

Buck Lake, Florida

Location: This recreational area is located in Ocala National Forest.

Features: The Buck Lake area has the second longest forest in the state of Florida, and more than 600 lakes, rivers and springs that are popular tourist attractions.

Activities: This site offers a variety of ways to enjoy the open air, including fishing, boat rides, camping, picnics, hiking and more.

Camp Gateway, New York

Location: Situated at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, this park is a great natural space within the urban environment of New York City.

Features: The area’s meadows, trees, sand dunes, lagoons and beaches attract many tourists year-round.

Activities: You can choose among hiking, fishing, biking or camping. There are also guided tours and other programs available.

Apache Trout Campground, Arizona

Location: This spot is east of Phoenix, near the New Mexico border.

Features: Wide open spaces, pine forests, mountain scenery and Big Lake are all ideal for relaxation.

Activities: This is a good spot for outdoor activities like trout fishing, hiking, mountain biking, picnics and camping.

Note: The activities at these recreation parks vary depending on the time of year and season.

Use the search guide in Recreation.gov to find other activities and recreational areas.

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Motherhood Begins Before Pregnancy

Being a mother involves major responsibilities and love. That’s why it’s important to take steps before, during and after pregnancy.

If you’re thinking about becoming pregnant, consider the following:

1. Plan your pregnancy

  • If you have doubts about pregnancy and motherhood, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a section titled My Reproductive Life Plan that provides a series of tips to help you.

  • Discuss your plans with your primary care doctor and get a referral to an obstetrician, gynecologist or midwife.

  • Keep a copy of your medical history. That way any doctor will have a record of any health issue that may affect your pregnancy.

  • Be sure to maintain a healthy lifestyle to contribute to your baby’s health 

2. Take care of yourself during pregnancy

  • Perform all the necessary prenatal tests that your doctor orders. This is the best way to prevent complications during and after childbirth.

  • During the third trimester the visits to the doctor will be more frequent. Tell your doctor about any issues or complications related to your pregnancy.

  • Choose where you want to give birth. You can have your baby in a traditional hospital or in a maternity clinic, or even have a home birth where legally allowed. Check what options are available to you under your health insurance.

3. After giving birth

  • Know the benefits of breastfeeding, like health advantages for mom and baby, saving money, and losing weight gained during pregnancy. Breast milk is also easier to digest and provides your baby with your body’s natural defenses.

  • Be sure to rest. After giving birth, make it a point to rest so that your body can heal and your mind can adjust to all the changes. Limit the number of visitors during the first few days after childbirth. Use this time to strengthen the bond with your newborn.

  • Be prepared for changes. Some women could have physical changes after childbirth. Your doctor can provide a safe exercise routine to get you back into shape.

  • Ask your doctor how much recovery time your body needs before you can have intimate relations with your partner.

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Government Benefits for People With Disabilities

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in five people are affected by disabilities. Some of those disabilities happen at birth, while others are the result of injury, illness, or aging.

Despite the limitations these conditions may cause, there are government programs that provide assistance to people with disabilities.

Social Security benefits
The Social Security Administration offers two programs to help people with disabilities and, often, the benefits can last for over a year. The programs are:

To apply for these benefits, contact the Social Security offices at 1-800-772-1213 or at 1-800-325-0778 (TTY for the hearing impaired).

Help for military personnel
There is also help for veterans who become disabled or injured while performing military service. Some of these benefits include:

  • Concurrent Retirement Disability Pay. This benefit is for retired veterans who are 50 to 90 percent disabled. The amount of payment is determined by the person’s degree of disability. Veterans who are completely disabled receive the full benefit.
  • Combat-Related Special Compensation. Retired veterans who were injured during military combat receive tax-free monthly payments.

Disabled military personnel and veterans can also receive financial help to buy a car that accommodates their needs, get dental care, a clothing allowance, and more. You can read more about benefits for disabled veterans (PDF).

You can apply for these programs by calling 1-800-827-1000 or by visiting the Department of Veterans Affairs website.

It’s worth noting that some veterans may also receive disability benefits from Social Security.

Help for special education
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act provides free education services to children with special needs, to help them develop, learn, and succeed in school.

Those who meet the requirements receive an Individualized Education Program (IEP), a plan that contains individualized learning goals as well as the services the child needs.

If your child has a disability, talk to the school staff to find out how to receive these special education benefits.

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Secure your child’s education with a 529 Plan

When they’re young, children dream about becoming doctors, artists, teachers, veterinarians, and many other things. But in order for those dreams to come true and for kids to actually become professionals, it’s important for them to attend and finish college.

A good college education can lead to that dream career. Though it’s a major investment, there are flexible payment plans that can help.

529 Plans

Known as the “College Savings Plan,” 529 Plans let you start investing early for your children’s future college career. These plans are generally sponsored by the state, state agencies or educational institutions.

There are two types of 529 Plans:

1. Prepaid tuition plans. Also called “guaranteed savings plans” in some states, this plan locks in future tuition rates at public institutions. Some private universities also offer similar plans.

2. College savings plan. This one is similar to a 401K retirement account, but the money you invest is only used to pay for your child’s education. You can choose the amount (free of taxes) to be deducted from each paycheck. The amount saved will be used to pay for college when the time comes, or it can be used for related expenses, such as housing, books or school supplies. 

To open a 529 Plan, contact your state’s program administrator.

Benefits

Depending on your choice, your 529 Plan will let you:

  • Select a plan regardless of your income or age of your children.
  • Transfer your plan from one state to another. You can use this online tool to compare state plans.
  • Have control of your money and manage it the way you want.
  • Allow anyone to contribute to the savings plan, whether it’s a family member or friend.
  • Transfer your plan to help someone else pay for school.

529 Plans are tax-free, as long as the money is used to pay for college. If, for any reason, you decide to use the savings for something else, you can withdraw the money as long as you pay the taxes due.

Resources

Use the College Savings Calculator to figure out the amount you must invest each month to cover all your child’s educational costs. The budget calculator will help you compare school expenses against your income and financial aid.

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