California Residents Can Get Help to Pay or Reduce Energy Costs

As the weather changes, you probably see your energy bill changing too. If you’re one of many low-income California households struggling to cover energy costs, you may be eligible for assistance.

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is funded by the Federal Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and provides energy assistance to qualified individuals. Eligible low-income persons can receive financial assistance to offset the costs of heating and/or cooling, and/or have their homes weatherized to make them more energy efficient. To qualify for this program, you must be a resident of the state of California, need financial assistance for home energy costs, and have an annual household income (before taxes) that is below 60 percent of the State Median Income.

To apply, call toll free 1-866-675-6623 or find the energy service provider in your community on the California Community Services & Development site – www.csd.ca.gov.

For more information about this program, visit www.csd.ca.gov/Pages/Assistance-PayingMyEnergyBills.aspx.

This article was previously published in our monthly newsletter, California Mobile Home News. If you would like access to more helpful information like this on a monthly basis, as well as additional resources for mobile home owners, contact us about becoming a MHET member!

Save Money by Shopping for the Best Medicare Coverage

Your current Medicare plan may not be the best for your needs. Each year, from January 1 to March 31, Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period allows you to select a different option for your annual coverage. To learn more about the different plan options, visit www.medicare.gov/plan-compare or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users call 1-877-486-2048.

This tip was previously published in our monthly newsletter, California Mobile Home News. If you would like access to more helpful information like this on a monthly basis, as well as additional resources for mobile home owners, contact us about becoming a MHET member!

Valentine’s in the Time of COVID

With Valentine’s Day coming, many of our thoughts turn to loved ones and how best to remind them we care. On top of the usual considerations this time of year, it seems like almost everyone could use an extra pick-me-up as we continue slogging through COVID precautions. Consider reaching out to all kinds of loved ones for Valentine’s Day, even with something as simple as call or a card. However you celebrate, know that you also have our heartfelt wishes for health, happiness, and love of all kinds in your life this year!

You May Be Eligible for Energy Assistance Based on Medical Needs

If you require electricity to power your medical equipment or have a medical condition that requires your home maintain a specific temperature, you may be eligible for assistance with your energy bill under the Medical Baseline program. Eligible medical conditions include a compromised immune system, Multiple Sclerosis, or paraplegia. Eligible medical equipment includes breather machines (IPPB), Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), motorized wheelchairs, and respirators. If you have any of the above conditions, require electronic medical equipment, or think you may have a similar condition or device requirements, check with your utility provider to find out if you qualify for their Medical Baseline program.

SCE customers can find more information at www.sce.com/residential/assistance/medical-baseline or by calling 1-800-655-4555.

For SDGE customers, check www.sdge.com/residential/pay-bill/get-payment-bill-assistance/health-senior-support/qualifiying-based-medical-need or call 1-866-463-0070.

This article was previously published in our monthly newsletter, California Mobile Home News. If you would like access to more helpful information like this on a monthly basis, as well as additional resources for mobile home owners, contact us about becoming a MHET member!

Happy Holidays from Our Family to Yours

During the holidays, love and compassion for others is what is always on our mind. It is a time to cherish family and to enjoy friends. It is when we share time together, whether it is around a family dinner table, over the phone via FaceTime, or on a meeting app to visit family and friends near and far.

As we enjoy another wonderful and loving holiday season, we are also facing spikes in COVID cases here at home and around the world. The frustration continues and there has never been a better time to show compassion by thinking of others as well as ourselves. That is why it is important to continue wearing a mask that covers our mouth and nose when we are around others in a public setting and practice regular sanitation of hands and surfaces.

We wish you a very safe, healthy, and wonderful holiday season! Happy New Year and here’s to a healthy future!

Constraints On Manufactured Housing Impact Production Numbers

In August 2020, data from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) showed a decline in production of HUD Code manufactured homes for the third year in a row. This year’s decrease is likely linked to COVID-19 health concerns and lockdowns. However, while other areas of the housing industry have shown a rebound, manufactured housing production faces challenges due to zoning restrictions and consumer financing constraints. Though September 2020 production reports did show an increase over those from September 2019, the cumulative production at the end of September 2020 is down 1% compared to the same period in 2019.

Thanksgiving Thoughts

As we move into Thanksgiving, many of us find ourselves contemplating the holiday in an entirely new way, reexamining our traditions in the light of COVID-19 restrictions and concerns. Numerous challenges over the past several months have helped highlight many things we took for granted in our day to day lives. The year’s trials and continuing struggles can make it difficult to feel gratitude in time for this day of Thanksgiving. With this in mind, we’ve selected some quotes to aid in contemplation of the meaning of the day. It is our hope that some of these quotes bring you more light and thoughtfulness, and maybe make this strange year feel a bit warmer and more hopeful. From our family to yours, we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!

“We can always find something to be thankful for, no matter what may be the burden of our wants, or the special subject of our petitions.” – Albert Barnes

“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” – Eckhart Tolle

“When asked if my cup is half-full or half-empty my only response is that I am thankful I have a cup.” – Sam Lefkowitz

“Drink and be thankful to the host! What seems insignificant when you have it, is important when you need it.” – Franz Grillparzer

“Gratitude is a powerful catalyst for happiness. It’s the spark that lights a fire of joy in your soul.” – Amy Collette

“Gratitude helps you to grow and expand; gratitude brings joy and laughter into your life and into the lives of all those around you.” – Eileen Caddy

“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” – Maya Angelou

“We must find the time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” – John F. Kennedy

“The more you practice the art of thankfulness, the more you have to be thankful for.” – Norman Vincent Peale

“Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other.” – Randy Pausch

“Forever on Thanksgiving Day, the heart will find the pathway home.” – Wilbur D. Nesbit

“Give thanks not just on Thanksgiving Day, but every day of your life. Appreciate and never take for granted all that you have.” – Catherine Pulsifer

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Spotting a Scam

Scammers are constantly finding new and innovative ways to steal money or trick you out of sensitive information. They frequently utilize technology both to contact you and to hide their lies, making it even more difficult for those who aren’t as technologically savvy to spot the deception. Below, we’ve compiled a list of some red flags to help you spot possible scams and some general tips to avoid them.

You have to make a decision immediately. Scammers will try to use stress and emotion against you, insisting that the issue is time sensitive and you have to make a choice NOW. Common examples include claiming that a family member has been injured or arrested, or that you will be arrested, unless you pay them immediately.

They ask for sensitive information in electronic communications. Financial institutions will never ask for sensitive information, like your Social Security Number, via email or text message. If you receive an unsolicited communication asking for sensitive, personal information, be wary.

Insisting on non-secure payment methods. Scammers regularly insist on non-secure payment methods which are difficult to track. Probably the most famous is via wire transfer, like Western Union, but they also use more unusual methods such as gift cards. Some may also ask you to cash a check for a large sum of money and keep a cut for yourself, rather than them paying you directly.

The deal seems too good to be true. This is common for online shopping or job hunting, especially on less regulated sites like Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. You see a listing for an item priced well under market value, or a job that pays extremely well for seemingly little effort. Likely when you contact the poster, you will be asked to provide money or personal information up front in order to move forward.

They use poor grammar and have spelling errors. Errors like this can be blatant, like a plain looking email that looks like the text was written using a bad translation service. They can also be more subtle, such as using graphics and logos that appear professional, but the company name is slightly misspelled. So, if you notice spelling issues or that the sentence structure just seems weird, it could be a scam.

The contact details don’t match up. Scammers often use emails and messaging that look legitimate, but might forget to fake their email address. If you get an official looking email from an email address that seems odd or out of place, it could be a scam. An example would be an email that appears to be from your bank, asking for you to verify your account information, but the sender’s email address is from a generic email service, like Yahoo, Gmail, or Hotmail.

They change the terms after you’ve expressed interest. This is a common method in classifieds, whether you’re shopping around on Craigslist or hunting for a new job. It might be that you’re looking at a used car marketed as being in your city for a great price, but when you reach out, they say the car is actually in another state and will have to be transported. Or you find a job listing for an office assistant, but upon contacting the employer, they say the position is no longer available, but they are looking for a personal assistant to pick-up and deliver mail and for cash payments. This scenario often goes hand in hand with the “too good to be true” deals and are a good indicator that the listing is fraudulent.

They use generic or stolen pictures. Because they don’t actually have the item they are trying to “sell”, scammers frequently use generic photos easily found online or stolen for other websites. Are they selling a used car, but posted a picture that looks straight out of a car commercial? Are they re-selling an item like clothing or collectibles, but only use the original product photos from the brand’s website and marketing? Those can be good indicators that the listing is a scam.

General Tips

Don’t rush. Even though scammers frequently use pressure and emotional manipulation to try and get you to make a decision, it is important to take time to think things through. Any deals or offers that are legitimate should still be valid the next day.

Research it. If anything feels suspicious or too good to be true, look into it. Use your own resources to verify information. Scammers may try to have you call a number or visit a website they have set up, so use a third-party option, like 411 or an online search, to confirm the validity of the claims.

Remember that it’s okay to say no. If you aren’t sure if you’ve gotten a legitimate request, you can always err on the side of caution and say no. You’re not obligated to share your personal information or follow the person’s instructions. Saying no allows you to take the time to think through the details of the situation and research it on your own to be sure it’s safe.

Report it. Many law enforcement agencies take fraud and scam reports and have officers available to answer non-emergency questions over the phone or in person. Call your local law enforcement non-emergency phone number for more information about options available to you locally.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also has a dedicated website for learning about and reporting fraud and scams. They use information submitted in reports to help stop scammers and keep people informed of current scams making the rounds. To report a scam to the FTC, visit FTC.gov/complaint or call 1-877-382-4357. You can also sign up to receive alerts about new scams by visiting https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam-alerts.

Practice your scam spotting skills. The Australian organization Scamwatch provides examples of scam texts, emails, and websites with explanations about why each example is suspicious and where to spot indicators of a scam. To test your knowledge, and maybe learn a few extra tips, visit their site here.

Raging Fires, Rising Concerns

With the return of deadly California wildfires, the devastating effects of fire have been on the forefront of many people’s minds. 2020 has already become the largest wildfire season in California’s recorded history, with over 4 million acres of land burned as of October 4th, and fires still raging. Given that fire is such a hot topic at the moment, let’s take some time to review some of the primary concerns specific to wildfires, broader fire concerns as they relate to living in a manufactured home, and some preparation and safety precautions you can take now and in the future.

Wildfire Concerns

Beyond the obvious safety issues of fires – physical danger, property damage, visibility concerns – fires also pose a public health risk. Particulate matter (tiny particles) in wildfire smoke can contain harmful substances, including those that cause cancer. Because the particles are so small, a fraction of the diameter of human hair, some can enter the lungs and even bloodstream. There is well-documented scientific evidence linking particulates to negative health effects for the heart and lung. Even brief periods of smoke exposure can put you at risk for future disease and aggravate existing conditions.

The amount of smoke and particulates near you can fluctuate on a daily basis, so it is good practice to monitor the Air Quality Index. You can get real time updates online from the U.S. Forest Service Wildland Fire Air Quality Response Program or the AirNow Fire and Smoke Map. For a mobile friendly version, check out California’s BreatheWell site. You can also check with your local air district for more information; contact information for California air districts can be found in the list here.

Protecting Yourself from Smoke

– Check air quality
– Close doors and windows
– Run AC on recirculate
– Use a certified air filter
– Avoid vacuuming, frying food, or using gas appliances, which add to indoor pollution
– Wear a mask inside if needed

Fire and Manufactured Housing

An unfortunate fact about living in a manufactured home is that you may be at greater risk if you have a fire. In 1976, the Department of Housing and Urban Development established more restrictive standards for safety and construction. Homes manufactured before 1976 were not required to meet those guidelines and are more likely to have been built with more flammable materials and have fewer exits in the event of a fire. Thankfully, a 2007-2011 study by the National Fire Protection Association found that mobile homes built after 1976 had a rate of fire deaths 57% lower than those built before HUD’s standards.

A scary reality is that fire’s destructive power is incredibly fast. A small flame can morph into a raging fire in minutes, and the nature of manufactured homes may also put them at greater risk for structural damage faster than a site-built home. Fires have been known to fully engulf a mobile home in under 15 minutes. Knowing this, it is extremely important to be prepared in the event of a fire and practice fire safety in your day to day life.

Fire Safety and Preparation

Be Prepared to Evacuate

This is especially important with the current prevalence of wildfires, but knowing what to do before you have to evacuate due to fire can help save you time and help you keep calm. Understand that if you are advised to evacuate, you should do so immediately. Taking time after an evacuation order to pack up your most treasured belongings could cost you your life. Below are some steps you can take to prepare for the possibility of evacuation.

Regularly tune in to your local news and/or radio for the most up-to-date information about the fires near you.

Know your exits. Map out multiple escape routes before you need them. Check that you are able to easily open windows and remove screens. Practice your routes with your family.

Have a Go Kit ready. Prepare a disaster supply kit with necessities for you, other members of your household, and any pets. A helpful list of what to include in your kit can be found here.

Precautions to Take Now

Make sure you have fire insurance for your home. While it is an unpleasant thing to think about, there is always a possibility that you may lose your home and belongings to a fire. It is worth considering insuring your home against fire and for the full replacement value. Keep in mind that it will likely cost more than the original value of your home to replace it, plus the cost of new furniture, appliances, and other belongings.

Install smoke detectors. Have one on every level of your home. Test them monthly. Change the batteries yearly. Change the detectors every 10 years.

Purchase fire extinguishers. Get a fire extinguisher appropriate for your home, as there are different types for different kinds of fire. Learn how to use one properly from your local fire department.

General Safety and Fire Risk Reduction

Avoid overloading outlets or extension cords. Limit the number of appliances and devices plugged into outlets and surge protectors.

Periodically check electrical wiring. Look for exposed or fraying wires. Dark marks on electrical outlets could be an indicator of electrical issues.

Use items like space heaters and candles under supervision and for short periods of time. Be sure to keep them away from flammable items.

Maintain and keep heat sources clean. Dust accumulated on heat strips could ignite when you turn on the heat for the first time in the season.

Save by Monitoring Your Money

For many of us, just the word “finances” can be daunting. But you can help de-stress the process by employing a more active approach to your money. Tracking your withdrawals and deposits is one of the simplest steps to move toward healthier finances. Even for those in good financial standing, tracking expenses can help you better manage your money, weed out frivolous spending, and even catch banking errors and discrepancies.

Before the convenience of digital banking, many manually documented their income and expenditures as a way of tracking the money available to them. With the increasing prevalence of debit and credit cards, a large number of people have found this method unnecessary, as financial institutions automatically log transactions. However, there is always the chance for delays or processing errors. It can be easy to forget about a scheduled payment that processes later in the month, causing new problems when money you thought you had suddenly disappears, especially if you’re one of many Americans living paycheck to paycheck. By manually tracking all your spending and income as you go, you can create more peace of mind knowing you have the most up-to-date information at hand. You’ll also have the added benefit of having your own documentation to check against things like monthly bank statements for errors.

Money management doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

If you typically use a card payment method, it is easy to forget about transactions or fail to notice how quickly small purchases can add up, depleting your balance. Manually tracking expenditures allows you to take a closer look at your spending and really pay attention to where your money goes. It can help you spot poor spending habits, like impulse buys or unnecessary expenditures you may not even remember.

To help you get started, there are a large number of tools available. If you prefer a good, old fashioned pen and paper method, WalletHub has a simple, printable worksheet to track deposits and spending, available here. If you like digital methods, there are many mobile apps and online options that may work for you. Seniors can find a helpful list of some options here, with pros and cons taking into consideration concerns specific to your age group. Many more options can be found using your preferred online search engine.

Finally, if the concept of balancing your checkbook and reconciling bank statements is still new, foreign, or just plain overwhelming, WalletHub also has a How To Guide with step by step instructions, pictures, and more tips, found here. Just take it step by step and perhaps you’ll find yourself breathing a little easier when thoughts turn to your wallet.