A Purpose in Life

By Margaret Snider  |  2017-12-14

Pat Nelson (left) and Lisa Oakumura register clients at the front desk of the Orangevale Food Bank. Photo by Gary mcFadyen

Providing Food, Resources and Hope

Orangevale, CA (MPG) - Orangevale Food Bank found its mission when it was conceived as an idea in 2011.  That mission is to make a positive impact in the communities of Orangevale and Fair Oaks by providing food, resources and hope to families in need.  Their doors opened in January of 2012. 

“We primarily get our food through small local donations in addition to donations from local grocery stores,” said Keith Wright, assistant director.  “We get close-to-date food from Trader Joe’s, WalMart, Safeway, and Sprouts locally.”  They also have food drives to collect nonperishable foods. 

The food bank relies on volunteers for everything from bringing food in, to sorting it and preparing it for easy dispersal.  On distribution days volunteers check in clients and distribute the food.  “I come on Monday before they open up at 11,” said volunteer Linda Eldredge.  “I do the bags, and I stock and I condense, and tell them what they’re going to need . . . I think the hardest part is that we sometimes don’t have enough volunteers.”

Linda Ervin was a client of the food bank at one time, when her husband had passed away and she needed help.  She figured that they were helping her, she should start giving back.  Ervin started volunteering three years ago.  “I love the clients, they’re fantastic, the volunteers are fantastic, they’re my second family.”  Ervin also serves the organization as ambassador to the Orangevale Chamber of Commerce from the food bank.  “The work is so rewarding.  It’s my first love,” Ervin said.  “I will never give this up, never in a million years.”

Wright joined up soon after the organization started.  A friend was volunteering there and since Wright had construction skills, the friend recruited Wright to do light construction work.  Now he serves alongside the volunteers as assistant director, along with Tom Carden, executive director.  Wright said the biggest challenge right now is reaching the people who need help.  “Some people don’t have the means to get here, or don’t have the physical capability to get here,” Wright said.  “We’re a volunteer organization . . . So we’ve got to find a way to meet that need without overtaxing our volunteer sources.”

Ray Cook, who is retired, finds the food bank a great place to volunteer.  “You feel like you’re part of something bigger than you could be as an individual,” Cook said.  “This, to me, is my purpose in life, to help other people.”

The volunteers at Orangevale Food Bank are very mission driven, Wright said.  “I think they are here because they want to take care of people.  I assume the same is true of all food banks, but I feel like Orangevale does a fantastic job of nurturing that volunteerism.  People who come here seem to come with the spirit that they really want to help people.”

The food bank is open for food distribution three days a week:  Mondays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Wednesdays from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The food bank is located at 6483 Main Ave. in Orangevale. 

You can sign up to volunteer for the Orangevale Food Bank by going to https://www.justserve.org.  Just enter your town or zip code to find a variety of projects and ways to serve in your community. 

Free Tax Help Available Through United Way

By Kristin Thébaud  |  2018-01-16

Diana Clay of United Way California Capital Region helps a local family prepare taxes through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program led locally by United Way. Photo courtesy United Way

Sacramento Region, CA(MPG) - Local households throughout the Sacramento region that earned $54,000 or less in 2017 can receive free tax help in person through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) effort led by United Way California Capital Region with support from Citi Community Development. The program will kick off at the first Super Saturday event on Jan. 27 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at Grant Union High School in Sacramento, where IRS-certified volunteers will provide free basic tax return preparation with electronic filing. For more Super Saturday events and weekday sites available during tax season, call (916) 498-1000 or visit YourLocalUnitedWay.org/FreeTaxPrep. Sacramento residents can call 2-1-1.

“We want to make sure more Sacramento-area households are financially healthy, and that starts with not spending unnecessary money on tax preparation and making sure they receive all of the refunds to which they are entitled,” said Stephanie Bray, United Way California Capital Region president and CEO.   

Through VITA, the national IRS program that offers free help to people who make a limited income and need help preparing their tax returns, local IRS-certified volunteers will help Sacramento-region households claim tax credits, including federal and state Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC and Cal EITC), Child Tax Credit, and Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled. This year, more households are eligible to earn up to $6,500 in federal and state Earned Income Tax Credits, including those who are self-employed. Many Cal EITC-eligible households are not legally required to file taxes due to low income, however if they do file, they can claim the state and federal credits for which they are eligible. Those who file for EITC, Cal EITC or Child Tax Credit should plan for their refund to be delayed until Feb. 27. 

“We want to encourage people to plan ahead for this delay instead of using refund advance products that can end up being very costly in the long run,” Bray said. “And don’t pay a preparer if you qualify for free VITA services. You won’t receive your refund sooner.”

Local households that made $66,000 or less in 2017 can file state and federal taxes online for free at MyFreeTaxes.com, sponsored by United Way Worldwide. The site provides households with free tax help they can trust so they can maximize refunds and credits. As with VITA, the site helps people save an average of $200 in preparer fees, guiding users through federal and state filing with software powered by H&R Block. Users need a valid email address, income forms and Adjusted Gross Income from 2017.

Funding support from Citi Community Development will enable United Way California Capital Region to increase capacity and reach of the local VITA program to meet additional need and demand over the next two years. The funding will help expand the number of sites offering free tax preparation and increase the number of volunteer tax preparers. 

“Nearly 20 percent of households in the Sacramento region are living on low incomes, and nearly half lack the savings to sustain an unexpected shock to income,” said Vicki Joseph, Northern California market manager for Citi Community Development. “By expanding access to free tax preparation services, United Way is enabling more families in need to benefit from this vital tax credit and help build their financial resiliency.”

Other sponsors of United Way’s 2018 free tax preparation programs include U.S. Internal Revenue Service, SAFE Credit Union and SMUD. For a list of collaborating partners, visit YourLocalUnitedWay.org/VITA

United Way California Capital Region is leading these free tax preparation programs as part of its Square One Project, a 20-year promise to significantly increase the number of local students who graduate from high school ready for success in college and beyond. Household financial well-being is a key factor in student success. Through nine decades of work and research across Amador, El Dorado, Sacramento, Placer and Yolo counties, the local United Way believes ending poverty starts in school and is working to ensure kids meet important milestones for success in college or career. To donate or volunteer, visit YourLocalUnitedWay.org

Citi Community Development leads Citi’s commitment to financial inclusion and economic empowerment for underserved individuals, families and communities across the U.S. Through innovative collaborations with municipalities, community groups and leading nonprofit organizations, the group harnesses Citi’s expertise, products and services to help expand opportunity for all. For more information: CitiCommunityDevelopment.com, @Citi on Twitter, YouTube.com/Citihttp://Blog.Citi.comFacebook.com/Citi and LinkedIn.com/company/citi.  

...Read More!  
  |  

State Point Media (MPG) - The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced that California's adolescent birth rate continues to decline. In 2015, there were 17.6 births per 1,000 females aged 15-19: a 10 percent decline from the 2014 rate of 19.6 and a 62 percent decline from the 2000 rate of 46.7.

"By empowering young people with the knowledge, tools and resources to make healthy choices, California is succeeding in reducing births among adolescents," said CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith.

The adolescent birth rate decreased across all racial and ethnic groups between 2000 and 2015. During this time, the adolescent birth rate dropped among Hispanics from 77.3 to 27.0, among African-Americans from 59.1 to 19.7, among Whites from 22.3 to 6.9, and among Asians from 15.0 to 2.9.

Despite declining birth rates, racial disparities persist in adolescent childbearing in California. African-American and Hispanic adolescents were three to four times as likely to give birth as White females. Additionally, the adolescent birth rate varies considerably across counties, from a low of 6.7 in Marin County to a high of 43.1 in Del Norte County.

California has a number of programs aimed at preventing adolescent pregnancy and improving pregnancy outcomes among young women. CDPH funds the Information and Education Program, the Personal Responsibility Education Program authorized through the Affordable Care Act of 2010, and the Adolescent Family Life Program for expectant and parenting adolescents. Also, the state provides no-cost family planning services to eligible men and women, including adolescents, through the Family PACT Program.

...Read More!  
  |  

‘Individual Ownership’ Model Fuels Local Economy

Sacramento County, CA (MPG) - More than 110,000 consumers over the past year chose to become members of a local credit union headquartered in Sacramento County as of Sept. 30, 2017 (third quarter), according to the 3rd Quarter Credit Union Trends Report for Sacramento County.

Sacramento County now boasts 1.35 million individuals who are “member-owners” of 10 locally headquartered credit unions — a record high (the last historical peak was 1.05 million in 2009). Each person owns an equal share of his or her respective credit union, with all profits reinvested to benefit every member in the form of better interest rates and lower or no fees.

How these credit union members are spending their money on homes, remodeling projects, new and used automobiles, higher education, surviving life events, and other big-purchase items provides a key barometer into what’s happening across the local economy.

This news release reflects year-over-year trends in local loans and deposits and is published by the Ontario, CA-based California Credit Union League. Local consumers who are members of Sacramento County-based credit unions continue taking on first-mortgages to purchase or refinance homes. First-mortgages rose 11 percent, hitting a record $3.96 billion. (This may include fixed-rate, adjustable-rate, purchase, traditional refinance, and cash-out refinance mortgages). They are turning home equity into cash for remodeling or other large purchases. Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOCs) and second-mortgages combined increased 5 percent, reaching $557 million — an amount not seen since 2015.

Credit union members have slid into the driver’s seat of a newer car or truck more often. New auto loans rose 31 percent, hitting a record $3.6 billion. Used auto loans rose 22 percent, hitting a record $3 billion.They remain true to the habit of paying for life through credit cards. Credit card lending increased 6 percent, hitting a record $628 million.

Members are also trying to save more money and increasingly using credit unions to transact purchases/bill-pay. Total deposits rose 9 percent, hitting a record $15.1 billion (including record individual amounts in checking, savings and money market accounts).

“These credit union trends will continue as long as the economy continues to perform well,” said Dwight Johnston, chief economist for the California Credit Union League.

He noted some areas of concern. Employers are having increasing difficulty finding workers in a tight labor market, which will limit economic growth “to some degree.” He also has concerns the economy may start running out of steam by late 2018. Consumer spending might be “good” by then, but its growth rate could still disappoint. If Wall Street reacts negatively to consumer spending numbers versus expectations, businesses could somewhat pull back on spending and hiring plans.

However, “There is nothing that suggests an economic slowdown is imminent, which makes the overall picture for credit unions bright,” Johnston said. “In fact, the business-skewed tax bill Congress recently passed should accelerate economic growth through at least the third quarter of this year.”

...Read More!  
  |  

As travel demand decreases after a busy holiday travel season, prices at the pump should decrease as well

Sacramento Region, CA (MPG) - Californians will kick off 2018 with the most expensive gas to begin a year since 2014, according to AAA, but prices are expected to fall in coming weeks as travel demand subsides after a busy holiday travel season.

At $3.10, California’s average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline today is 33 cents more than drivers paid in January, 2017. At nearly $3.23 per gallon, San Francisco residents are paying the highest prices for gas in Northern California -- 3 cents more than motorists in South Lake Tahoe, which normally tops the charts for the region.

“Last year was a historic travel season, with AAA forecasting record travel numbers for nearly every holiday, but prices historically will drop after the ball drops on New Year’s Eve,” said Michael Blasky, a spokesman for AAA Northern California. “Californians today are paying about 60 cents more than the national average, which AAA attributes to the state’s strong economy, higher taxes on gasoline and stricter environmental regulations."

The last time Californians started a year paying more than $3 for gas was in 2014, when the average price in January of that year was $3.62. Gas prices rose above $4 that summer.

Still, January prices don't always indicate how prices will move throughout a year. Motorists in California paid just $2.55 for regular unleaded gas to begin 2015, but by May were paying above $3.70 per gallon.

Oil prices were more stable in 2017, with prices for a barrel hovering around $50 much of the year. Prices rose late in the year and began 2018 over $60 a barrel, a 2-year high. 

“With global oil producers trying to scale back their production, supply could drop while demand for energy remains high,” Blasky said. “If they’re successful in cutting back oil production, gasoline prices will likely rise as well to meet the demand.”

...Read More!  
  |  

CDPH Offers Free Radon Test Kits

Sacramento Region, CA (MPG) - January is National Radon Action Month and the cold winter months are the best time to test for this odorless and colorless gas. CDPH is offering free test kits to households in California throughout the month of January, or until supplies run out.

Radon, a naturally occurring gas, is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, according to the Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


“Testing for radon in your home is a simple process,” said CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith. “Taking steps for remediation, if needed, can be critical for indoor air quality, and improving the safety of your home.”

The kits are provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s State Indoor Radon Grant fund, and are limited to one free test kit per household. The aggregated information from the test results will be used to update statewide Radon Potential Maps, which show the likelihood of radon in a specific region.

Test kits can be ordered through the CDPH Indoor Radon Program webpage or by calling the program toll-free at 1-800-745-7236. Options for remediation of radon in the home are available at the CDPH Indoor Radon Program.

Additional information about National Radon Action Month is available on the EPA National Radon Action Month website at www.epa.gov/radon/national-radon-action-month-information

Source: www.cdph.ca.gov

...Read More!  
  |  

Average residential customer bill will be reduced by $1.20

Sacramento Region, CA (MPG) - SMUD has removed the state-mandated SB-1 solar surcharge from all customer bills. Part of Governor Schwarzenegger’s “Million Solar Roofs Initiative,” the surcharge—currently equal to $0.0016 per kilowatt-hour of electricity usage or about $1.20 on an average SMUD customer monthly bill—was initiated in 2008.

Funds from the surcharge were used to help develop residential and commercial solar capacity throughout SMUD’s territory. Overall, the funds will have helped build approximately 125 megawatts of solar generation over the last ten years. This includes incentives for residential and commercial customer solar installations, Smart Home developments, and SolarShares™ developments. A recent example of how these funds were used is the $1.4 million awarded to the Sacramento International Airport to support their installation of two new solar arrays totaling 6.8 megawatts in capacity. The arrays produce enough electricity to handle approximately one-third of the airport’s power needs, saving the airport approximately $850,000 in energy costs each year.

Per the state mandate, the SB-1 solar surcharge was in effect until SMUD had collected $130 million. SMUD reached that cap in late December and immediately removed the surcharge. SMUD has disbursed approximately $125 million of these funds to date and will disburse the remaining funds by the end of 2020.

Per earlier approval by SMUD’s Board of Directors of the Chief Executive Officer & General Manager’s Report & Recommendation on Rates and Services, a rate increase of 1.5 percent for all residential customers and 1 percent for all business customers took effect on January 1, 2018. With the removal of the SB-1 solar surcharge, the average residential customer using 750 kilowatt-hours per month of electricity will now see an average net increase of about $0.42 per month ($1.62 average increase due to the rate increase less an average $1.20 SB-1 solar surcharge). Removing the surcharge from business customer bills will, on average, offset the entire 1 percent rate increase.

For more information about SB-1, visit energy.ca.gov/sb1. For more information about SMUD’s rates, visit smud.org/RateInfo.

Source: SMUD Media

...Read More!  
  |  

Sacramento, CA (MPG) - The Housing Authority of the County of Sacramento will open the wait list for the Housing Choice Voucher program on Tuesday, January 16, 2018 at 12:01 a.m. until Tuesday, January 30, 2018 at 11:59 p.m.

Applicants can use any device with internet access to complete the application at www.sacwaitlist.com.

There is no cost to apply for housing and a credit report is not needed to apply. However, Sacramento Housing Authority officials caution applicants not to use any other website to apply for the wait list. A number of websites charge fees to submit an application and may require personal information such as social security numbers or debit/credit card information to apply for assistance. This is a scam and could lead to possible identity theft. Housing Authority officials advise that the best way to find the correct website to fill out the application is to typewww.sacwaitlist.com directly into the website address bar usually located at the top left of the browser on the computer screen.

The application submission process is supported in the following browsers: Google Chrome, FireFox, and Internet Explorer 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and Safari. The application can be completed using iPhone, Android and iPad mobile devices.

Wait list preferences are given to families who are homeless or rent burdened, have a family member who is a veteran, have a family member who is disabled, and who live or work in Sacramento County.

A confirmation receipt is issued immediately after the application is submitted.

A total of 7,000 applicants will be placed on the wait list through random selection after the wait list has closed. For more information, go to www.shra.org. Under the Find Housing tab, select Housing Choice Voucher Program.

The Housing Authority of the County of Sacramento’s housing programs serve very low income families and individuals. Eligible families will receive rental assistance as funds are available. Criminal background checks are conducted on all adults applying for housing.

...Read More!  
  |  

Recent Employment Trends Show Real Concerns

Pacific Staffing Reports    |  2018-01-10

A shortage in the Sacramento region of qualified applicants has grown to include entry level/general labor applicants, construction trades, equipment operators and licensed route and delivery drivers. File photo.

Sacramento Region, CA (MPG) - The ongoing active Sacramento hiring marketplace raises employer concerns in the first quarter of the New Year. In speaking directly with top employers Pacific Staffing discovered hiring, retention and payroll pressure among 2018 employment market concerns.  Pressure from increasing competition with higher wage firms based in the Bay Area also causing pay issues in Sacramento.

In telephone contacts between November 23 and December 15th , sixty-five percent (65%) of regional companies report they plan to hire in the first three months of 2018. That projected hiring is lower than the previous quarter, as thirty-five percent (35%) of employers say no hiring is anticipated in January, February and March.

With a robust demand for workers, Pacific Staffing also learned that some regional companies are paying signing bonuses for scarce skillsets and retention of current skilled workers to maintain workforce needs. While eight percent (8%) of hiring in the first quarter is attributed to seasonal needs, not a single company is reporting any layoffs in the new calendar’s first three months. Overall demand is evenly split with 43% of employers attributing hiring to replacements, and for expansion.                       

A shortage in the Sacramento region of qualified applicants has grown to include entry level/general labor applicants, construction trades, equipment operators and licensed route and delivery drivers.  Companies also report strong demands for bookkeeping, accounting/finance, customer service and sales.

Having surveyed Sacramento regional employers since 1992 each new year brings new challenges. In 2017 those changes included Basic work ethics- less loyalty to employers and dedication to doing a job, as noted in our previous trends report.  In between August 23 and September 20, regional employers also were asked if people and their expectations of work were making it difficult to manage. This question generated the largest single positive response as seventy-seven percent (77%) said Yes, noting people were ‘unrealistic’, ‘underqualified’, and younger workers less driven to work. This change in ‘work ethic’ as ‘generational’ attitude with an ‘entitlement’ outlook is causing attendance, productivity and retention issues.

More cultural change came to the front as a surprising number of Sacramento HR contacts noted more parental interference in hiring and workplace settings as reported in our previous report for quarter three of 2017. Pacific Staffing learned one quarter, or twenty-five percent (25%) of all companies reported having had this experience recently when asked about it directly. This (parental interference) is an unwelcome new trend and seems to be growing in the workplace, with employers suggesting it was embarrassing ‘meddling’ for both parent and adult children.

For more information, employment blogs and market surveys go to www.pacificstaffing.com.

...Read More!  
  |  

SMUD Crews and Equipment Head to Puerto Rico

SMUD Special Report  |  2018-01-10

SMUD personnel load heavy duty line trucks, tools and equipment onto trailers for shipment to Puerto Rico. SMUD line crews along with other public power utilities will assist with power restoration efforts in Puerto Rico to restore power that has remained out since Hurricane Maria hit the island territory on September 20. Photo courtesy SMUD

Sacramento’s electric company committing lineworkers, trucks and equipment to help get the lights back on

Sacramento Region, CA (MPG) - SMUD shipped 15 utility trucks to Lake Charles, Louisiana recently where they will be loaded onto a barge for the voyage to Ponce, Puerto Rico, which is expected to take about 10 days.

SMUD, along with the American Public Power Association, is working with other public power utilities to send crews to restore power in Puerto Rico as the island U.S. territory continues to rebuild after Hurricane Maria hit last September. SMUD is a not-for-profit public power electric utility and a member of the APPA.

The trucks will be off-loaded at Ponce’s port and then more than a dozen SMUD lineworkers will fly to Puerto Rico, gather their trucks and tools, and head into the island interior to begin restoration work.

While most of the power outages in the island’s largest city, San Juan, have been restored, SMUD, along with Richmond (Indiana) Power and Light, Norwich (Connecticut) Public Utility and Commonwealth Utilities of the Northern Mariana Islands will be doing power restoration work in the territory’s suburban and rural areas. SMUD and the other utilities’ work is expected to take two months or more. SMUD will rotate its crews after about 30 days and replace them with fresh personnel.

SMUD’s involvement is part of the utility industry’s ongoing response as several electric companies have signed onto a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to work with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), the electricity provider on the island, as well as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in ongoing efforts to restore power to the people of Puerto Rico. The MOU was developed by the APPA, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA). It serves as a plan that allows electric companies on the mainland (that are members of APPA, EEI, or NRECA) to enter into emergency agreements to provide resources and workers to PREPA on a not-for-profit basis.

SMUD is community-owned and has a long history of providing utilities outside its Sacramento County service territory with mutual-aid assistance. SMUD’s labor, materials and other costs for the effort, which are expected to be about $5 million, will be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, so SMUD customers won’t be impacted financially. SMUD will also have plenty of crews and equipment to respond to any power outage issues locally.

Source: SMUD media

...Read More!  
  |