Questions and Answers about Taxes

Q.  Where can I get my taxes done free-of-charge?

A.  If you are computer savvy and made less than $64,000 in 2016, you can file your taxes online at  This free and safe service includes live tax support, via email, chat or phone, to answer any questions you have.  If you made less than $54,000 in 2016 and need assistance in preparing your tax return, there are several places where trained volunteers will prepare basic federal and state tax returns, as well as homestead property tax credit and home heating credit, for low-income individuals, seniors, and persons with disabilities.  Complex tax returns and those involving business pursuits need to be completed through a tax preparation service. 

Several friends expressed excitement about approaching retirement dates. It’s exciting to shift from lifestyle fused into a heavy work schedule to one of deserved rest and change. The answer as to what’s planned after retirement was a common one - nothing for awhile. 

The thought of life without pressure is so unique for persons coming out of decades of work, many want simply to let themselves float a bit to see what it feels like. Understandable.

I’m not ignoring you. I just didn’t hear you say hello.

If you catch me looking at your mouth when you speak, I’m not checking for spinach in your teeth. I’m watching your lips to help be sure I hear you correctly, or at least better guess what you’re saying.

Like most adults, it’s been decades since I last had my hearing checked by a health professional.  But I know I’ve been failing important everyday hearing tests for years.

We’ve all read and heard a lot lately about the difficulties and uncertain future of several of our Benton Harbor schools. It’s a complex issue. The fallout of a decision to close any of those schools is unimaginable. I don’t have the answers, but my heart breaks at the thought of the upheaval in the lives of those families and neighborhoods. Students are worried, parents are anxious, and there’s another part of the population that’s deeply invested in the lives of those families – and very concerned for their futures.

It’s hard to work if you struggle to breathe.

It’s hard to buy medicine to help you breathe if you can’t work.

That was Rhonda’s quandary.

Rhonda is 64 years old and was raising two grandchildren while trying to keep her job at a local small business. She has multiple chronic illnesses and she could not afford the medicine that would help her to breathe making it difficult to work.

Rhonda says she finally had to retire early because she “just couldn’t breathe."

Questions and Answers about Medicaid and Long-Term Care

Q:  I always hear that you have to “spend down” all your assets in order to get help paying for a nursing home.  What does that really mean?

A:  For individuals on Medicare, there can be some coverage for days of nursing home care after an approved hospital stay, but for extended or permanent stays in a skilled nursing facility, the cost is the responsibility of the individual.  Some people have long term care insurance that helps pay, and some people have extensive financial resources to help pay, but most people cannot sustain the out-of-pocket cost of nursing home care for very long. 

Glaciers have always fascinated me. The idea of a river of ice that flowed so slow that movement would be measured in inches per year was hard to comprehend as a child. During college years, when I worked by Glacier National Park, the few glaciers still there were mere remnants, difficult at times to distinguish from snow fields.

It wasn’t until visiting Alaska for the first time that the reality of a glacier cleared in my brain. Entire mountain valleys were filled with ice; twisting their way downward towards water. When two valleys of ice came together, rock debris from each edge formed a thick black line down the center of the resulting merged glacier and could be seen clearly from the air. Viewed at water’s edge, the glacier’s mammoth ice face rose hundreds of feet above the water.