Category Archives: National

IRS Free File Launched; Offers More Free Federal and State Tax Software Options

IRS LogoStory by IRS Media Relations Office

The Internal Revenue Service and Free File Alliance announced the launch of Free File with many changes and updates for 2016, including more free state tax return options and easier Form W-2 imports.

For 2016, there are 13 brand-name tax software providers making their federal tax return products available for free. Taxpayers whose adjusted gross income was $62,000 or less during 2015 are eligible for at least one, if not more, of the 13 tax software products. The income limitation is $2,000 higher than last year. The filing season officially began on Jan. 19, so people can use Free File software immediately.

For taxpayers who earned more than $62,000, there’s Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic version of IRS paper forms. Free File Fillable Forms are available now.

“You don’t have to be an expert on taxes. Free File software can help walk you through the steps and help you get it right,” said John A. Koskinen, IRS Commissioner. “For 13 years, this partnership between the IRS and the Free File Alliance has helped taxpayers. The real winner in this partnership has been the nation’s taxpayers.”

Tim Hugo, executive director of the Free File Alliance, said, “We are proud to once again offer the industry’s most innovative and secure tax software at no cost to 70 percent of American taxpayers. Tax time can be stressful, but Free File makes step-by-step help accessible to everyone making $62,000 or less. is the one place where taxpayers can choose from a variety of industry-leading tax software options in order to prepare and e-file their federal tax returns at absolutely no cost.”

Free File is available only at Since 2003, more than 46 million people have used Free File, saving nearly $1.4 billion based on a conservative $30-fee estimate. Continue reading

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Storm Damage Assessments

OEM Office of Emergency ManagementThe Oregon Office of Emergency Management (OEM), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) are working on Preliminary Damage Assessments (PDAs) following severe weather events produced by the December Winter Storm.

The damage assessments are for Individual Assistance and Public Assistance in those areas hardest hit by high wind, landslides, mudslides, flooding, and erosion in December. Teams comprised of staff from OEM, FEMA, the Small Business Administration (SBA), and local governmental representatives will conduct the PDAs and assess the impact and magnitude of damage while determining unmet needs of individuals, businesses and the community as a whole.

“Disaster recovery requires community-wide coordination and collaboration, and extends beyond a single jurisdiction or level of government,” said OEM Director Andrew Phelps. “Joint damage assessments are an important initial step towards a full recovery, and the information gathered during these assessments will inform how to proceed with our potential requests for federal recovery assistance.”

The reports are also used by federal officials to determine whether aid is warranted. Public Assistance damage assessments are scheduled for Clackamas, Clatsop, Columbia, Coos, Curry, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Multnomah, Polk, Tillamook, Washington and Yamhill counties. These assessments are schedule to run this week, Jan. 11-15. Continue reading

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Students who sign up to host winter Red Cross blood drives become eligible for Scholarships

American Red CrossYouth blood drive coordinators needed Dec. 15 through Jan. 15

This winter high school and college students can help save lives and be eligible to win a scholarship of up to $2,500 by hosting an American Red Cross blood drive. Registration is now open through Nov. 15 to host drives between Dec. 15, 2015, and Jan. 15, 2016.

“Winter is a difficult time to collect enough blood to meet patient needs with inclement weather and seasonal illnesses reducing the number of volunteer donors that come out to give,” said Red Cross Communications Manager Jared Schultzman. “Our Leaders Save Lives program gives students an opportunity to learn valuable leadership skills and help ensure blood is available for patients in need of lifesaving transfusions by recruiting their friends and family to give blood.”

The Leaders Save Lives program encourages community-minded high school and college students to host blood drives to help maintain the blood supply around the winter holidays. Blood donations made at high school, university and college blood drives account for as much as 20 percent of blood donations through the Red Cross. Around the winter holidays, when school is not in session, blood donations often decline.

Students who host a drive can be eligible to win a scholarship up to $2,500 for higher education and earn a gift card. A total of six scholarships will be awarded to students who host a blood drive collecting 25 blood donations or more. All students who collect at least 25 pints at their blood drive will receive a gift card to

For more information and to register to host a Leaders Save Lives blood drive, visit Continue reading

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Social Security Cost-of-Living Announcement for 2016

Social Security AdministrationLaw Does Not Provide for a Social Security Cost-of-Living Adjustment for 2016

With consumer prices down over the past year, monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for nearly 65 million Americans will not automatically increase in 2016.

The Social Security Act provides for an automatic increase in Social Security and SSI benefits if there is an increase in inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W).  The period of consideration includes the third quarter of the last year a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) was made to the third quarter of the current year.  As determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there was no increase in the CPI-W from the third quarter of 2014 to the third quarter of 2015.  Therefore, under existing law, there can be no COLA in 2016.

Other adjustments that would normally take effect based on changes in the national average wage index also will not take effect in January 2016.
Since there is no COLA, the statute also prohibits a change in the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax, as well as the retirement earnings test exempt amounts.  These amounts will remain unchanged in 2016.  The attached fact sheet provides more information on 2016 Social Security and SSI changes.

The Department of Health and Human Services has not yet announced Medicare premium changes for 2016.  Should there be an increase in the Medicare Part B premium, the law contains a “hold harmless” provision that protects approximately 70 percent of Social Security beneficiaries from paying a higher Part B premium, in order to avoid reducing their net Social Security benefit.  Those not protected include higher income beneficiaries subject to an income-adjusted Part B premium and beneficiaries newly entitled to Part B in 2016.  In addition, beneficiaries who have their Medicare Part B premiums paid by state medical assistance programs will see no change in their Social Security benefit.  The state will be required to pay any Medicare Part B premium increase.

Information about Medicare changes for 2016, when available, will be found at<>.
For additional information, please go to<>.

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USDA Grant Will Help Marine Related Businesses

By Kiera Morgan

usda logoAgriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack awarded nearly $20 million through 385 grants to help support the start-up or expansion of rural small businesses. Vilsack said “these grants will strengthen the economic fabric of rural small towns and communities by providing capital to small and emerging businesses.” USDA is awarding the grants through the Rural Business Development Grant program. Oregon is receiving a total of $285,000. Recipients may use the funds to provide technical assistance, training and job-creation activities.

Lincoln County Economic Development Corporation will receive $20,000. They will be working with the OCCC Small Business Development Center in offering business advising to Lincoln County marine related businesses for growth. According to Carolyn Bauman economic development director they are seeking up to 20 marine related businesses to provide expert technical assistance to help grow their businesses at no cost to them.

Bauman said some of the grant funds will also be used to help expand the Port of Alsea. This will be to explore opportunities to expand the commercial seafood business in Waldport. Bauman said they have signed an agreement with the Small Business Development Center as a sub-contractor. They will be assisting in the advising work and doing the intake interviews with the selected businesses.

She said they are very happy to be able to get this grant that will allow working more closely with the marine related businesses in Lincoln County and helping them to grow and expand. The idea Bauman said is to help grow jobs in the marine industry to provide family wage jobs in the area.

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Oxford House Coming To Newport

By Kiera Morgan

oxford house logoRecovery housing is coming to Newport with Oxford House of Yaquina Bay opening soon. Oxford House is a concept in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Oxford House is a democratically run, self-supporting and drug free home. The number of residents in a house may range from six to fifteen. Oxford Houses flourish in communities around the world but they all abide by the basic criteria. Each House represents a remarkably effective and low cost method of preventing relapse.

This was the purpose of the first Oxford House established in 1975, and this purpose is served, day by day and house after house. According to Sean Bossen with Oxford House they provide a safe, affordable, clean and sober housing for men and women in recovery. “Members of each house pay an equal expense share or EES, and that income goes to pay for the utility bills, rent and the household amenities. Each house is self supporting.”

There is no limit of time that someone can stay at an Oxford house as long as they are living according to the house rules. Client referrals will be coming from the recovery community and through parole and probation and treatment programs, but Bosson emphasized they do not take sex offenders. Right now they are seeking donations to get the home set up.

They are looking for twin beds, full beds, dressers and nightstands along with yard tools, pots and pans and cleaning supplies. Items need to be in good condition. For more information or to arrange for a donation call Sean at 503-313-8365 or email

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Funding Extended For Coast Guard Station In Newport

save the helo helicopterOregon Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden announced that the Senate Appropriations Committee has provided funding for the U.S. Coast Guard helicopter facility in Newport to stay open through September 2016. The funding was included in the Homeland Security appropriations bill for fiscal year 2016, which passed the committee this morning. The bill must still pass the full Senate and the House of Representatives and be signed by the President for the funding to be assured.

“The Newport helicopter facility has helped save countless lives over the years and now we are one step closer to keeping it open for an additional year,” said Merkley. “It’s crucial that we keep this lifesaving facility operating on Oregon’s central coast.”

“I’m gratified that the Senate Appropriations Committee heard my request loud and clear and provided the critical funding to keep Newport’s air facility open through September 2016,” Wyden said. “Today’s good news about this extension for the Coast Guard station provides us more time to seek a long-term permanent solution that recognizes the facility must remain in Newport. Given the Coast Guard’s record of saving lives in the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean, keeping that facility open in Newport is literally a life-or-death question.” Continue reading

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