Archive for the ‘Maine Businesses’ Category

Mainers Encouraged to Document and Report Wind Storm 2017 Damage

PRESS RELEASE

November 3, 2017
Maine Emergency Management Agency

 

AUGUSTA, MAINE — As the state-wide response and recovery effort continues in Maine following a devastating wind storm that caused power outages to nearly a half million electricity customers as well as tree damage, flooding and property damage, many are asking how to report those damages.

Individuals

  • Report damages to 2-1-1 Maine. This information will be used to assess damages and will be provided to the individual’s town to enable them to learn who has storm-related damages. Callers will be asked a series of questions. By reporting this damage, callers are not applying for assistance, and should continue to pursue the steps and resources below.
  • Callers should keep their documentation of the damage and cost of items damaged or spoiled as well as receipts for any repairs in a safe place (receipts, photos and other documents).
  • File a claim with homeowner’s or auto insurance.
  • Those who cannot afford to fix damage from the storm should contact their municipal General Assistance Officer for assistance that may be available under 22 M.R.S.A. � 430.
  • Check with local food pantries if you lost food.
  • Community Action Programs may be able to provide some assistance to those who meet certain income guidelines.
  • Current SNAP benefit recipients may be able to obtain a voucher to replace lost food. Contact the Office of Family Independence at 855-797-4357.
  • Individuals can also contact 2-1-1 Maine for referrals for assistance.

Farmers

  • Farmers who experience losses and need assistance should contact USDA Farm Service Agency at 207-990-9140.

Businesses

  • Businesses should report losses to their local Economic Development Corporation.

For additional preparedness, shelter, resource and safety information, please visit MainePrepares.com, or visit MEMA on Facebook or Twitter.

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(Maine) Law Allows 14 and 15 Year Olds To Be Hired in New Occupations Immediately

Teens can work in movie theaters, bowling alleys, permanent amusement parks and in certain places in bakeries and hotels

PRESS RELEASE

July 10, 2017
Contact: Julie Rabinowitz, 207-621-5009

AUGUSTA—The Department of Labor’s bill to modernize the regulations governing youth employment, LD 1564, which was amended by the Senate to include an emergency preamble, is now law and effective immediately.

“There is no better preparation for the responsibilities of adulthood than working when you are a teenager,” stated Governor LePage. “My administration has placed a high priority on opening up more opportunities for young people to work, and on our fourth attempt in five years at passing these much needed reforms, the Legislature responded. There is more we can do, so we must continue to help young people gain the experience, skills, and knowledge about their own career interests that can only come from holding a job.”

LD 1564, sponsored by Senator Brian Langley of Hancock County, encourages minors to develop work skills earlier by removing some of the barriers to employment that existed in statute and brings certain provisions into compliance with federal law to ensure that young people are protected from hazardous conditions. It amends laws relating to minors 14 and 15 years of age to allow them to work in bowling alleys, movie theaters and permanent amusement parks, and to clarify their employment in bakeries, hotels and rooming houses—opening more occupations and broadening the things they can do.

“Employers in these industries can immediately begin making job offers to 14 and 15 year olds for the newly expanded occupations,” advised Commissioner of Labor John Butera. “Maine’s employers need these workers to help in this tight labor market, and we’ve seen a surge in permits this year. Our team is working hard to turn around approved permits as soon as possible.”

The work-permit application can be downloaded and printed directly from the department’s website: http://www.maine.gov/labor/laborlaws/publications/mainework_permit.pdf . The approval process has three steps: the employer makes the job offer and helps complete the application, the parent or guardian signs the application and brings it to the superintendent’s office. The school system sends the form to the department. Be sure the application form includes proof of age, the parent’s or guardian’s signature, the actual business name, and the specific job duties (e.g., “dishwasher”) for faster turn-around.

The bill also allows for the modernization of the work permit process, clarifies that graduates of vocational programs who are under 18 years of age can work in the occupations for which they were trained, grants the department, not just superintendents, the ability to revoke a permit and allows the department to make rules governing employment. Included as well are restrictions in employment relating to legalized marijuana.

A copy of the Guide to Maine Laws Governing the Employment of Minors and permit is posted on the Maine Department of Labor website at http://www.maine.gov/labor/bls/index.shtml .
Businesses with questions about employing minors can call the customer service line at (207) 623-7900 or email their request to mdol@maine.gov .

 

Class Action Over The Meaning Of ‘Sale’ Means Harbor Freight Customers Get Refunds

The Consumerist

March 24, 20174:26 pm EDT
By Laura Northrup@lnorthrup

Self-checkouts are prime targets for skimmer scammers

CONSUMER FORUM

Posted July 11, 2016, at 6:04 a.m.

In the previous column on cloning of credit and debit cards at pay-at-the-pump sites, one piece of advice was key. If one card-reading device does not look like the others, it’s probably wise to avoid it.

“An illegal, fraudulent skimmer (the data-stealing device) is big and bulky and should stand out,” David Leach, principal examiner at Maine’s Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection or BCCP, said. Leach advised consumer to be “situationally aware.” If something doesn’t look or feel right, trust your instincts and keep your card in your wallet.

As in the case of gas pump scams, other businesses that use self-checkout machines are susceptible.

Crooks design a skimmer to look almost exactly like the real machine; a thief can slide on the phony device in seconds and return later to collect the information from the cards of anyone who uses it in the meantime. They usually use the data to buy gift cards or transfer the data to blank cards.

“Skimmer scammers,” as one internet security wonk termed the criminals, have targeted automated teller machines or ATMs for years. ATM skimming grew more than 500 percent from 2014 to 2015 by some estimates.

Just last month, police investigated the discovery of skimmers at bank ATMs in Kennebunk and Wells.

Chris Pinkham, executive director of the Maine Bankers Association, was quoted in one news report as saying it’s “a sign of the times.” Just as none of us is immune to fraud attempts by phone or over the internet, we’re all potential targets of skimmer crooks.

The illegal devices have been found at self-checkout stands at Wal-Mart and Safeway, and no retailer is exempt from skimming attempts. Security experts say the roll-out of chip-embedded cards should slow the rate of skimming offenses; however, many consumers don’t have cards with chips, and many terminals are not yet chip compatible.

Even with chip technology in place, consumers should not be complacent. Thieves won’t give up being thieves because chip-and-PIN or chip-and-signature technologies apply another layer of security; they’ll look for ways to get around any protections that card issuers use.

They’ll also be focusing on the magnetic strips that are still a part of the cards. Those strips still contain sensitive material that thieves want. And the thieves will double down on data stolen earlier. With the spread of chip technology, security experts predict more sales among crooks of data obtained through breaches of retailers’ websites.

Consumers can buy radio frequency ID, or RFID wallets which purport to safeguard card carriers from hacking by passers-by. Some security experts claim aluminum foil works as well. Whatever safety measures you adopt, resolve to be less trusting when a credit or debit card leaves your hand.

Instead of giving that card to a restaurant worker you’ve never seen before — and having that person disappear for several minutes — seriously consider paying cash for your meal.

“Most restaurant owners are pleased to see cash, because it means they don’t have to split their profits [with major credit card companies],” BCCP’s David Leach said.

As always, monitor your financial statements closely — not using public Wi-Fi — and check your credit reports regularly. Before using an ATM, look for signs of tampering: things that don’t line up, mismatched colors or materials and graphics that seem “off.”

See if any parts wobble or rattle; those machines are sturdy, so you should not hear sounds indicating that anything is loose.

When entering a PIN, cover the keypad as best you can. Watch for hidden cameras that may be recording your every move. Be aware.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer, ME 04412, visit https://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

Old Town caterer outsmarts scammer

CONSUMER FORUM

Posted July 27, 2014, at 3:56 p.m.

Let’s start this column with a set of assumptions. Let’s agree we’re all in this marketplace together; that means that we give and take, treat others as we want to be treated and learn from our mistakes and those of others.

Link to WABI video

I think Jane Thibodeau believes in that set of assumptions. A short time ago, the owner of Jane’s Catering in Old Town responded to an email offer she had received seeking her services. The email claimed to be from a man named Leroy Martin, who said he was planning to bring his family to eastern Maine for the summer.

“There were several weeks of very nice emails,” Jane told me last week. The first inquiry asked if he could hire Jane as a full-time chef; she would prepare meals for the man, his wife and three children during their stay. Since that’s the reason she is in business, Jane readily agreed.

Martin said he would be sending a check as a deposit for her services, so Jane opened a checking account specifically for her new client. She began to suspect that Martin was a scammer, rather than a mechanical engineer as he claimed, when he made a few other requests.

He needed a chauffeur … not just any chauffer, but one who spoke Spanish, the first language of Martin’s wife. He needed a housekeeper, and both of those positions required a deposit. Would Jane be so kind as to use part of the funds from his overly large check (more than $4,000) he had sent her to wire funds to those two people?

The red flags were really flying now, so Jane visited her banker. They determined the whole thing was a scam, and they closed the checking account. Jane did not lose any money, but she learned to put more faith in her instincts than her hopes.

“It was all a lie,” she said.

During their phone calls, Jane asked how he had picked her name from all of the chefs and caterers available; he wouldn’t answer. Her banker mentioned hearing of other scam attempts targeting people in Jane’s business.

“It would have been a dream job,” she said, “but I caught them, so, whatever.”

Jane urged others not to be taken in by offers — of work, prizes or other rewards — that involve an advance check and then wiring money to unknown parties.

Readers should know that the scammer’s email included a phone number that began “044.” That’s one of dozens of numbers used by advance fee scammers. The United Kingdom-based Internet Fraud Advisory Group says a handful of companies provide the numbers, splitting fees paid by unsuspecting callers with the caller’s network. The criminals apparently get the numbers free.

Jane’s sharing of her story is important. It sends the message that con artists do prey on honest people and that there is no shame in admitting it. When those honest people avoid being taken in, it’s cause for celebration and sharing the details to help educate us all.

The Federal Trade Commission has a neighbor-to-neighbor campaign called “Pass It On.” It’s based on the trust that each of us has in people we know, and their knowledge can save us money and other losses. Visit www.ftc.gov and search “pass it on” for details.

Watch Video from FTC

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, visit https://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

Despite high national ranking, Maine still must work to help working mothers

CONSUMER FORUM

Posted May 11, 2014, at 12:02 p.m.
With Mother’s Day just behind us, it seems a good time to take note of a recent report on working mothers.

WalletHub, a personal finance social network, issued a report last week on the status of working mothers. Maine ranked fourth best overall in the study, which looked at factors such as wage disparity, parental leave policies, child care, and a half dozen others.

Women who read this column will be quick to point out that, while they make up about half the workforce, their pay overall is roughly two-thirds that of their male co-workers. In addition to their relative lack of buying power as consumers, many women find themselves penalized when they take time off to care for a sick family member.

The authors of the WalletHub study recognize the inequalities and pose a couple of hard questions: “Should women have to choose between their career and their family? And, even more importantly, are we prepared to accept the societal consequences of these under-the-gun decisions?”

Those authors offer no quick solutions. Rather, they list the states in terms of their dealing with the challenges of working and having a family. The nine factors in the rating of states were child-care quality, child-care costs, access to pediatric services, public school quality, gender pay gap, ratio of female to male executives, parental leave policy, length of average woman’s workday and average commute time.

While ranked fourth overall, Maine finished 12th among states in what WalletHub termed Professional Opportunities Rank (gender pay gap and female/male executive ratio). Maine’s rank for child care (the first four categories) was 18th. Our work-life balance rank (workday length and commute time) was fourth, the same as the state’s overall ranking.

It’s no surprise that the Maine Women’s Lobby says, despite Maine’s relatively high ranking, there’s room for improvement. Danna Hayes, the group’s director of public policy, said items needing attention include equal pay, leave time, access to child care and raising the minimum wage.

“Until we take action on these fair workplace policies, working moms in the United States — whether it’s here in Maine or across the country in Alaska — will continue to lag behind the rest of the world in terms of equality in the workplace,” Hayes said.

Sharon Barker, director of the Women’s Resource Center at the University of Maine, said many women who are trying to further their education face even bigger challenges.

“Some of the most hardworking and determined students I see are those who are trying to pull themselves out of poverty. They have all kinds of demands on their lives plus the demands of going back to school,” Barker said.

The WalletHub report ( http://wallethub.com/edu/best-states-for-working-moms/3565/) may raise more questions than it answers. They’re questions that deserve serious consideration.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer, ME 04412, visit https://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

Waste is not a terrible thing to mind: Learn how to get the most out of compost

CONSUMER FORUM

By Russ Van Arsdale, executive director Northeast CONTACT
Posted May 04, 2014, at 12:08 p.m.

Responsible consumers think about what they throw away, as well as what they buy. Because each of us discards more than half a ton of stuff every year, it’s worth considering ways to cut down the size of that trash pile.

The half-ton figure — specifically, 1,074 pounds — comes from a University of Maine study a couple of years back. The same study found that a bit more than 38 percent of all municipal solid waste could be composted. That means it could be turned into a nutritional supplement for our gardens instead of adding to the growing mountains of trash in our landfills.

The economic benefits are clear. We’d contribute less to the waste stream, saving money on fuel to haul it away and fees the facilities charge to dispose of it. We would get free fertilizer for our gardens. For gardeners looking to minimize application of chemicals, it’s a no-brainer.

Backyard composting has long been a practice by those of us with heavy clay in our garden soil. Now the state of Maine is looking to spread the word about composting and other waste food diversion efforts through a series of workshops.

The Department of Environmental Protection is running sessions across the state, beginning May 6 in Auburn (for a full schedule, see http://maine.gov/dep/training/). The workshops are designed for leaders of business and institutions, as well as private citizens. Participants will learn about ways food waste can be recycled into a usable product.

The short lesson might be summed up this way:

— You cannot compost anything that came from an animal (meat, bones, etc.) since these things could be dug up out of your compost by other critters.

— You can compost virtually anything that grew in the ground (peelings, stems, stalks and other uneaten parts of plants). Making compost means “earth to earth” in the most literal sense.

Each of the eight free workshops will include an introduction to Maine’s Food Scrap Recovery Program; techniques to divert, collect and process food scraps; regulations covering food scrap recovery and use; and lessons learned from current and past collection efforts. Full-day sessions also will include a tour of an organics processing facility.

Several diversion efforts already are underway. Miles Memorial Hospital in Damariscotta just received an award from the DEP for its food diversion effort.

In the Portland area, a business called Garbage to Garden ( www.garbagetogarden.org) offers plastic containers to people to hold their food waste. For a small fee, the company picks up the container and leaves a clean one behind. Participants can get a bucket of finished compost; after the first month, if they volunteer some time, they can get free pickups.

The people who are running the DEP workshops are hoping more reuse efforts will start across the state. Mark King of the DEP says communities can save a lot by diverting potentially beneficial products from the waste stream.

“Nutrients that are generated in a community should be recycled in that community,” King told me.

Organics can be challenging to recycle. They may be available sporadically, be wet or require extra attention because of odors. The workshops will offer tips to deal with those problems. The state is also looking at other techniques to deal with food waste, such as processing in anaerobic digesters.

The workshops are focused on the first goal in the Maine Materials Management Plan. Other goals include reducing the amount and toxicity of waste at its source, reuse and recycling of noncompostable waste, and processing of waste (including incineration) to reduce the amount of waste needing to be landfilled.

 

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer, ME 04412, visit https://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

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