Lallis and Higgins Blog

RMV Implements Further License and Other Credential Extensions

Joseph Coupal - Friday, May 22, 2020
Lallis and Higgins Insurance

Many Expiring Licenses, Registrations, and Other Credentials Further Extended

The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) has implemented further extensions to the renewal timelines for expiring motor vehicle inspection stickers, passenger plate registrations, professional credentials, and driver's licenses and learner's permits, including Commercial Driver’s Licenses and Commercial Permits (CDLs / CLPs).

While the RMV previously announced extensions for most credentials, passenger plate registrations, and inspection stickers expired or expiring in March, April, and May, an additional extension has been applied to those credentials, and an extension has been added to some credentials expiring in June, July, and August.

These extensions replicate the ongoing measures the RMV has taken to reduce the need for customers to physically visit an RMV Service Center or one of its business partners’ facilities, allowing for "social-distancing" by decreasing non-essential travel and customer volume. Additional longer-term extensions will also allow the RMV to ensure "social-distancing" guidelines are met as demand for in-person service and renewals resumes during the Commonwealth’s reopening phases.

The following new changes to expiration extensions are now effective:

  • Driver’s licenses and ID cards, including Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDLs), that expired or will expire in March, April, and May 2020, will now expire in September 2020 and do not need to be renewed at this time.
  • Driver’s licenses and ID cards that will expire in June have been extended until October 2020; those that will expire in July have been extended until November 2020; and those that will expire in August have been extended until December 2020 and do not need to be renewed at this time.
    • The specific expiration date typically coincides with an individual’s birth date. Customers holding an RMV credential marked “Limited-Term” that has expired or will expire between March 1 and August 31, 2020 should visit Mass.Gov/RMV for more information and to check the validity of their credential.
  • The RMV also recently introduced an online renewal option for CDL holders if they are self-certified in the Non-Excepted Interstate (NI) category for medical certification.
  • Learner’s permits, including Commercial Learner’s Permits (CLPs), that expired or will expire in March, April, and May 2020, will now expire in December 2020. Learner’s permits that will expire in June, July, and August will also be extended until December 2020. This extension will allow additional time for permit students and driving schools to complete in-car instruction and a road test when those functions are authorized to restart safely.
    • Road tests for CDLs are still being conducted during the state of emergency. Massachusetts State Police manage CDL road tests, and require anyone taking a CDL road test to bring and wear a face covering for the entirety of the road test.
  • In accordance with updated guidance from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), all CDL Medical Certificates expiring between March 1 and May 31, 2020, have previously been extended until June 30, 2020 and no additional extension will be applied. However, all CDL Medical Certificates expiring between June 1 and August 31 have been extended until September 30, 2020 and do not need to be renewed at this time. Extensions to CDL Medical Certificates are intended to prevent license downgrades and elective medical visits, as well as alleviate demand on medical providers, during the State of Emergency.
  • The annual motor vehicle safety and emissions inspection stickers that have expired or will expire in March, April, and May 2020 have been extended until July 31, 2020. No additional extensions will be applied and inspection stations are open at their discretion within the public health guidelines to perform this work.
  • All passenger plate registrations that have expired or will expire in March, April, and May 2020 have been extended until July 31, 2020. The RMV has also applied a 30-day extension to registrations that expire in June, which will now expire on July 31, 2020. Registration renewals can continue to be performed online at Mass.Gov/RMV during this time.
  • All school bus, school pupil (7D), and bus registrations that will expire in June have been extended 30 days until July 2020.
  • Professional credentials for School Bus Certificates, School Pupil Transport Licenses (7D), Inspector Licenses, Inspection Station Licenses, Driving Instructor Licenses and Driving School Licenses that have expired or will expire in March, April, and May have previously been extended until 90 days after the state of emergency is lifted. The RMV has added June expirations to the previous extension and professional credentials that expire in June have 90 days after the state of emergency is lifted to renew.

Details on all of these extensions and additional information on RMV services and the RMV’s response to COVID-19 can be found here.

The RMV Business Partner Website has been updated to include details and recordings from recently held webinars hosted by the RMV to address issues arising as a result of the pandemic.


3 Ways Cybercriminals Are Exploiting the COVID-19 Crisis

Joseph Coupal - Monday, May 18, 2020
Lallis & Higgins Insurance - Quincy, Weymouth, MA

Cybercriminals are taking advantage of the coronavirus crisis to spread mal- ware, disrupt operations, sow doubt and, as always, make a quick buck, via virus-themed emails, apps, websites and social media. Here are some of the techniques you need to watch out for:

1. Phishing emails

Sending unsuspecting recipients emails related to current tragic events is a classic tactic cybercriminals use to snag victims, and this pandemic is no exception.

Themes in these emails include analyst reports specific to certain industries, details of official government health advice, requests for donations, and offers of facemasks or other assistance regarding operations and logistics. These emails often contain malicious links or attachments, or requests for sensitive information. Delete them, and never click on the links or open the attachments.

“Our threat research team has observed numerous COVID-19 malicious email campaigns, with many using fear to try and convince potential victims to click,” says Sherrod DeGrippo, senior director of threat research and detection at Proofpoint. She says around 70 percent of the emails the threat team has uncovered deliver malware, with most of the rest aiming to steal victims’ credentials through fake landing pages like Gmail or Office 365.

2. Malicious apps

Although Apple has placed limits on COVID19-related apps in its App Store and Google has removed some apps from the Play store, malicious apps can still pose a threat to users. One site, for example, urged users to download an Android app that provides tracking and statistical information about COVID-19, including heat map visuals. However, the app was actually loaded with an Android targeting ransomware now known as COVIDLock. The ransom note demanded $100 in bitcoin in 48 hours and threatened to erase contacts, pictures and videos, as well as the phone’s memory.

3. Bad domains

New websites are springing up that purport to disseminate information relating to the pandemic. In fact, many of them are traps for unsuspecting victims. Re- corded Future, a company that analyzes threat data, has found that hundreds of COVID-19-related domains are being registered every day. The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre has reported fake sites that are impersonating the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and creating domain names similar to the CDC’s web address to request passwords and bitcoin donations to fund a fake vaccine.

Source: Security Smart Newsletter


Do’s and Don’ts of Secure Videoconferencing

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, May 12, 2020
Lallis & Higgins Insurance - Quincy, Weymouth, MA

When the popularity of any technology increases quickly, the number of bad actors taking advantage of new and untrained users also grows. During the current pandemic, this has been happening with videoconferencing services and applications—for example, multiple reports surfaced recently of conferences being disrupted by intruders who inserted pornographic and/or hate images and threatening language into meetings.

While hijacked meetings are disruptive and disturbing for participants, a more insidious threat is intruders who lurk without revealing their presence—a nightmare for corporate security and individual privacy alike.

The good news is that many videoconferencing products include security settings that can prevent such incidents—but it’s up to the host to configure those settings, and attendees need to follow best practices as well. Here’s a list of videoconferencing security do’s and don'ts:

For Hosts

Do enable password protection.

Zoom, for example, now auto-generates a password in addition to a meeting room ID. Make sure your service uses both a meeting ID number and a string, and that it also has a separate password or PIN.

Do use waiting room features.

These put participants in a separate virtual room before the meeting and allow hosts to admit only those people they want to have attend.

Don’t record meetings unless it's absolutely necessary.

If you do record a meeting, make sure all participants know they are being recorded (the software should indicate this, but it’s good practice to tell them, too) and give the recording a unique name when you save it.

Don’t allow participants to screen share by default.

Your software should offer settings that allow hosts to manage screen sharing. Once a meeting has begun, the host can allow specific participants to share their screens when appropriate.

Do lock a meeting once all the participants have joined the call.

However, if a valid participant drops out temporarily, be sure to unlock the meeting to let them back in and then re-lock it after they return.

Do eject participants from meetings if an intruder is able to get in or becomes unruly.

This prevents them from rejoining. Do make sure that if you host work meetings, you know the specific steps you should take in the software your company uses to ensure your conferences are secure.

For Hosts and Participants

Don’t post links to conferences on social media.

Hosts should invite attendees from within the conferencing software—and invitees should not share the links.

Don’t use video unless you need to.

Turning off your webcam and listening in via audio prevents possible social engineering efforts to learn more about you through background objects. Audio only also saves network bandwidth on an internet connection, improving the overall audio and visual quality of the meeting.

Do use the latest version of the software.

Security vulnerabilities are likely to be exploited more often on older software versions. Double-check that you are using the most up-to-date version available.

Security Smart Newsletter


What to Check Before Your First Spring Classic Car Drive

Joseph Coupal - Monday, May 04, 2020
Lallis & Higgins Insurance - Quincy, Weymouth, MA

If you’re reading this, you almost certainly have a non-daily-driven classic car somewhere in a locked garage.

But you need to check a few things first.

Assuming the antique car has been sitting over the winter, say three to six months, the list below should be pretty good.

Tires

If, when you roll open the garage door for the first time in months, one of your car’s tires is wheel-on-the-cement flat, you kind of have to start with the tires, so let’s. Obviously, if that’s the case, you need to air that tire up before you can move the car. If you don’t have a compressor in the garage, buy a portable compressor that runs off the cigarette lighter socket, or better yet, runs off 12V DC or a 120VAC adapter. I’ll air up the tire and then see what it’s going to do. If you immediately hear it hissing from a puncture or a bad valve stem, then you need to stop everything, jack up the car, pull the wheel off, and either swap on another wheel and tire or get this one fixed. But if you don’t, you can see whether the leak deflates the tire over hours or days. Just remember that it deflated over the winter, so it’s going to do it again.

Then, check the pressure of all four tires. While you’re doing that, it’s a good idea to inspect the tire sidewalls for cracking. Odds are that if the car is stored indoors, the tires aren’t going to get much worse over a single winter, but it’s easy for 10 years to go by one winter at a time and the tires to cross from old-but-OK to sheeh-I-don’t-want-to-drive-farther-than-to-the-gas-station-on-those.

Battery

If the battery has been on a tender or trickle-charger for the winter, it’s probably fine. But if not, you can take a multimeter, set it to measure voltage, and put the two probes on the battery terminals. If it reads 12.6 volts, or near it, the battery is fully charged, and if it’s in good health and the cable connections are good, it should turn the engine over. But with every 0.2-volt drop, the battery loses about 25 percent of its cranking power, so if it’s reading closer to 12 volts than 12.6, it’s unlikely to crank the engine over without being connected to a good three-stage battery charger for several hours. So measure it, and if you need to charge it, charge it.

Fluids inside

Check the oil, coolant, and brake fluid levels. If the oil looks black, make a note to change it soon. Give a quick look inside the radiator or expansion tank to both check the level and see if there’s any oil in there indicating a weakening head gasket.

Fluids outside

Next, look under the engine compartment for evidence of leaks. Hopefully all you find is a few dots of oil from where the car’s been leaking out the front timing cover for the last 40 years and nothing more. Anything green is antifreeze, and its source should be identified before you drive the car, as a minor leak can quickly mushroom into a gusher. Blue liquid can be either antifreeze or washer fluid. Clear liquids are usually power steering or brake fluid.

Move to the back of the car where the fuel tank is, skooch under, look, and sniff. Vintage cars have metal fuel tanks, and they can leak from age, particularly with Ethanol’s propensity for attracting water. Since it’s good practice to store a car with a full tank of gas (this eliminates the chance for humid air to get into the tank and contaminate the gas with water), if you find the tank leaking, it ruins your day, since you now need to drain it. Gas can also leak from rotted or cracked rubber fuel lines. Gasoline isn’t like oil or antifreeze; there should be a zero-tolerance policy for any amount of fuel leakage. You should also sniff in the engine compartment to be certain gas isn’t leaking there.

The critter check

If your garage has an affinity for rodents and they’ve made your car home, they can deposit a lot of material in the air cleaner in a short amount of time. It’s good insurance to pop the top off the air cleaner and have a quick look. Hoses and belts

Give the hoses and belts a quick inspection. Squeeze the hoses. If any of them are pillow-y soft, order replacements. Inspect the belts for cracks and cuts and put a thumb on each of them to check the tension. If they’re obviously loose, take a moment and tighten them.

The crank-over

If the car has passed the above checks, the engine is ready to be cranked. If the battery is fully charged and registering about 12.6 volts, it should crank when you turn the key. If it doesn’t crank, clean the battery and cable terminals and try again. If the voltage is a little low, you can jump-start the car, but if the battery is deeply drained (turn the key and you get a click of the starter but that’s all), or worse, flatlined (less than 10.5 volts, or the car’s dash lights barely even turn on), it’s best to replace it before you drive the car. Alternators aren’t designed to charge deeply discharged batteries. Although old analog cars often don’t seem to mind, post-OBDII cars with a proliferation of electronic control modules can do very odd things, including bucking and dying, if a deeply discharged battery is jump-started and the car is driven.

If the car is fuel injected, it will likely start in just a few seconds when the starter is cranked. If it doesn’t, the fuel pump may not be running, either due to a popped fuse, stuck relay, or the pump itself. Carbureted cars often take much longer to start due to the lower fuel pump pressure, the need to refill the float bowls, the far less precise air/fuel metering, and the lack of direct spray into the cylinders. A short blast of starting fluid into the carburetor throat can coax the engine to life. If a carbureted car still won’t start after sitting, the problem is often that an old fuel line has become dry-rotted and is sucking air rather than fuel.

The eyeballs-on idle

Once the engine is running, let it idle for about a minute. Then shut it off and look under the engine for any fluid dripping or streaming out.

Twice around the block

It’s common for brake pads to stick to rotors from sitting. If the car has been stored indoors, the rotors probably won’t have rusted much, but still you want to scope it out. Take the car for an easy lap around the block. Brake gently to verify that the brake pedal is firm and functional, then more firmly. Pick up speed and do it again. Note any brake pedal shudder (pulsation), pulling to one side, and steering wheel shimmy. Pull back into the driveway and check again for any fluid leakage.

A real test drive

Take the car up onto the highway or other road where you can build speed. Verify that it comes up to operating temperature in about the middle of the gauge and stays there. Continue to test the brakes for shuddering or pulling. If the brake pedal is still pulsating, there are still unwiped deposits on it. A series of hard braking exercises (first verifying that no one is behind you) may wipe the rotors clean, or you may find that it doesn’t go away and you need to buy new rotors. If there’s steering wheel shimmy that wasn’t there in the fall, it’s likely the tires are flat-spotted from sitting. It may go away. It may not. Come home, recheck for fluid leakage, and check again the next morning.

If the car passes these tests,it’s in about the same condition it was in when put away in the fall and ready to enjoy in the spring. But keep in mind that it doesn’t mean that the car has been healed of any known problems. Cars are not biological systems; they don’t mend themselves with a good long sleep.

hagerty.com


COVID-19 Relief Options - Quincy, Weymouth, MA

Joseph Coupal - Monday, April 27, 2020
Lallis & Higgins Insurance - Quincy, Weymouth, MA

Our nation's small businesses are facing an unprecedented economic disruption due to the COVID-19 outbreak. On Friday, March 27, 2020, the President signed into law the CARES Act, which contains $376 billion in relief for American workers and small businesses.

Funding Options

In addition to traditional SBA funding programs, the CARES Act established several new temporary programs to address the COVID-19 outbreak.

Paycheck Protection Program

This loan program provides loan forgiveness for retaining employees by temporarily expanding the traditional SBA 7(a) loan program. lean more here: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/paycheck-protection-program

EIDL Loan Advance

This loan advance will provide up to $10,000 of economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing temporary difficulties. Learn more here: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/economic-injury-disaster-loan-emergency-advance

SBA Express Bridge Loans

Enables small businesses who currently have a business relationship with an SBA Express Lender to access up to $25,000 quickly. Learn more here: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/sba-express-bridge-loans link

SBA Debt Relief

The SBA is providing a financial reprieve to small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more here https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/sba-debt-relief

Need more information on small business funding options? Click here https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options


Insurance Policy Management Registration Revocation Timeframes

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, April 23, 2020
Lallis & Higgins Insurance, Quincy, Weymouth, MA - Registry of Motor Vehicles

On March 2, 2020 the RMV issued this memorandum to address the timelines for Insurance Revocations and a proposed schedule for revisions to the Notice to Carrier (NTC). At that time, the RMV indicated it would publish proposed new specifications for the NTC report and a proposed revision of the “No Policy” revocation dates, both of which were to be distributed for discussion by April 15, 2020.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the RMV's priorities have been dramatically altered. Currently, only 10 RMV Service Centers are open, and those service centers have transitioned to an appointment-only reservation system. Many RMV resources have been re-deployed to focus on this effort. Additional information on RMV services and the RMV’s response to COVID-19 can be found here.

At this time the RMV does not anticipate having the available resources to establish and document new specifications for the NTC file or No Policy revocation dates in the next 30 days. The Notice to Carrier redesign remains a high priority and will be addressed as resources become available.

Questions?

Contact Lallis & Higgins Insurance with any questions you may have.


5 Reasons to Use an Independent Insurance Agent

Joseph Coupal - Monday, April 20, 2020
Lallis & Higgins Insurance,  Quincy, Weymouth, MA

Licensed Professional

One advantage of utilizing an independent insurance agent is that they are a licensed professional. A licensed agent has many legal obligations, such as behaving ethically and acting in your best interest. Many states require agents to pass a licensing exam in order to sell insurance. The type of license an agent needs depends on the products he or she sells. For instance, an agent that sells property and liability insurance may require a property/casualty license.

A license is generally valid for two years.

To renew an existing license, an agent may need to fulfill state continuing education requirements.

Choice of Insurers

Because independent agents represent multiple insurers, they can obtain quotes on your behalf from several sources. Insurance products offered by one insurer may differ in price and scope of coverage from those offered by another. Your agent can help you compare policies and choose the one that best suits your needs.

Independent agents are familiar with the insurers they represent. Your agent's knowledge of insurers' preferences can save you time and effort. They won't waste time submitting applications that are likely to be rejected but will direct your submission to insurers that want your business. If your agent isn't sure whether you meet an insurer's underwriting guidelines, they can ask the underwriter directly before submitting an application.

Claims Assistance

One benefit of using an independent insurance agency is that you will get help filing claims. If an accident occurs, you can report the event to your agent, who will then notify your insurer. Your agent can help you fill out claim forms and can advocate on your behalf if problems arise. Agents are familiar with claims handling procedures and the amounts typically paid for various types of losses. After your claim is paid, your agent can tell you whether the payment amount seems reasonable.

Risk Assessment

Agents are trained in risk assessment. For home insurance or for small businesses, they can help you prioritize your risks and determine which are insurable. While many of the risks associated with operating a business can be covered by insurance, some are uninsurable or insurable at a high cost. Your agent can help you decide which risks are worth insuring.

Another advantage of using an independent agent that agents are familiar with the risks in your geographical area. For instance, agents in coastal areas or near rivers are familiar with flood risks and flood insurance. Your independent agent can educate you about the risks in your region and how you can mitigate them.

Personalized Service

Insurance is a people business. When you meet with an agent in person, you develop a personal relationship with him or her. Over time, your agent will become more familiar with you and your business and will be able to provide more personalized service. For instance, your agent may contact you when new coverages become available or when prices on certain insurance drops. Your agent will review your coverages prior to renewal and may suggest changes or upgrades. Many small business owners value this individualized attention.

To work with an independent agent, contact Lallis & Higgins Insurance.

The Balance


Top 10 Cleaning Projects While You Are Stuck at Home

Joseph Coupal - Monday, April 13, 2020
Lallis & Higgins Insurance - Quincy, Weymouth, MA

Many of us at Lallis & Higgins Insurance have been looking for things to do at night and on weekends while we have been stuck at home. You might as well make your space as beautiful and bright as possible. When it's time for spring cleaning, try these projects. Tackling them will leave your home extra clean, organized, and clutter-free while also helping you feel good.

Dust

Dusting is part of everyone's usual cleaning routine, but spring cleaning calls for extreme dusting. A long-handled duster and a couple of microfiber cloths are perfect for this chore.

Starting at the top in every room, dust down the ceiling, light fixtures, ceiling fans, and walls. Ceiling fans may require a gentle cleaning solution on the blades to remove greasy dirt. Pay attention to air vents, switch plates, window sills, and doors, as well as anything hung on the walls. If you have open shelves, remove everything and dust them thoroughly. Dust the objects or books with a dry microfiber cloth before replacing them on the shelves.

Once you've finished dusting down the walls, do a pass on the baseboards. The dust is now on the floor, where you can vacuum it up!

Draperies, Curtains, and Blinds

Spring is the right time to take down all of your draperies and curtains for washing or cleaning. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's directions. Blinds and shades will also need cleaning, which you can do without taking them down.

For aluminum miniblinds, try a damp microfiber cloth, or a mild soap solution and a lint-free towel. Turn the slats toward you, wipe down gently, then reverse the slats and wipe them from the other side. Don't use anything wet on wood blinds; they may warp or discolor. Wipe them down well with a dry microfiber or lint-free cloth, turning the slats as recommended for aluminum blinds.

Pleated cloth shades, fabric pleated shades, and cellular pleated shades require only a good sweep with a vacuum cleaner attachment. For stains, try a dry sponge (found in many hardware stores). Keep these types of shades in a closed position whenever possible, to keep the pleats well-defined.

Windows

  • If you've taken down the drapes for cleaning, this chore is a no-brainer. Window washing – inside and out – isn't drudgery, if you outfit yourself with the right tools:
  • A good 10 to12-inch squeegee with a sharp, new rubber blade (You may also need a second squeegee in a smaller width, if you have windows with divided lites.)
  • A scrubber or sponge
  • A 5-gallon bucket
  • A few lint-free rags or small towels
  • Mix 1 teaspoon dishwashing liquid into 2 gallons of water. If your windows have especially tough dirt, grease, or dried paint on them, try a nylon scrub pad or a sharp razor blade. Adding ½ cup of ammonia to the water will help remove grease.

Upholstery, Mattresses, Bedding, and Pillows

Use a vacuum cleaner with an attachment to thoroughly go over all upholstered furniture and mattresses. Pay special attention to the crevices. Rent a rug shampoo machine with an upholstery attachment to take care of soiled couches and chairs.

Wash or dry clean all slipcovers, throws, mattress pads, comforters, blankets, and pillows. While the beds are stripped, flip the mattresses. Store the clean blankets and comforters away until the cold weather returns – be sure to protect woolens from moths.

Kitchen Appliances

Appliances serve you well year-round. At least once a year, pay them some extra attention – but unplug them as necessary! Clean the oven and give the cooktop a good scrub. Empty the refrigerator and wash down all the shelves and drawers. Toss anything that's out of date, including old condiments, jams, and jellies. Also clean the top of the refrigerator, and vacuum the coils. Freshen your dishwasher by running it empty, with 1 cup of baking soda and 1½ cups white vinegar. Clean the inside of the microwave with baking soda and water; loosen tough spills by boiling a cup of water inside it.

Don't forget the toaster, blender, coffeemaker, and other small appliances – follow the manufacturer's maintenance instructions.

Countertops and Wall Tiles

Whether it's sealing granite, waxing marble, or oiling butcher block, there's an appropriate maintenance chore for every countertop. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for each type of counter in your house – kitchen and bathrooms. Take care of any damage: stains, nicks, burns, etc.

Wall tiles in the kitchen and bathrooms should be washed and given the appropriate maintenance, too. Replace any damaged tiles, and clean and reseal grout as needed.

Floors and Rugs

Do you need to wax and buff your hardwood floors? Is it time to reseal a floor? Does grout need attention? Get ready to show off those floors this summer.

Wall-to-wall carpets, area rugs, throw rugs, and doormats are also due for a cleaning. Start with a thorough vacuuming. Shake out the throw rugs and doormats. If they're washable, run them through your machine (or a large-capacity machine at the Laundromat) on the gentle cycle. Dry them on low, or let them air dry. Rent a rug cleaning machine for wall-to-wall carpeting.

Send valuable wool rugs to a professional cleaner. It's a good idea to have them moth-proofed at the same time.

Cabinets and Drawers

Close the cabinets and drawers, and the mess disappears. But once a year, do yourself a favor and clean them out.

In the kitchen, remove anything that's not being used on a regular basis, as well as mismatched storage lids and bowls, out-of-date herbs and spices, and anything that doesn't really belong in the kitchen.

In the bathroom, throw away expired medicines and prescriptions, nearly empty bottles of rarely used items, and last year's sunscreen (you should replace it yearly). Note: Do not dispose of medicine in the toilet. Alarming levels of numerous drugs are now appearing in many water supplies. Many pharmacies are now accepting expired medications for recycling.

Wash down the cabinets and drawers, inside and out, and reorganize the contents.

Clutter

Granted, it may be tough to tackle your kids' rooms, but you don't have to live with clutter in the rest of your house. Clearing clutter isn't complicated if you follow an organizing principle. Gather four good-sized cardboard boxes and go room by room. Fill them as follows:

Throw away anything that you don't need or want, and that no one else does, either. If you have things that are damaged or broken, and that can't be repaired, toss them.

Give away, donate, or sell anything that you don't absolutely love, but which has some value. If all these objects are doing is taking up space in your home, let someone have them who will really enjoy them.

Put in storage things that you do not use or need on a regular basis, but which you can't bear to part with. Perhaps it's your grandmother's knick-knacks, or an old tennis trophy. Store these items in labeled boxes, so you can easily find them again.

Keep any essentials that you need to have available. Be honest with yourself about this, and make sure these items have a place of their own, without creating clutter. If they don't, come up with an attractive storage solution – meantime, leave them in the box!

familyeducation.com


Advice from a Teacher for Homeschooling Parents

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, April 07, 2020
Lallis and Higgins Insurance

At Lallis & Higgins Insurance, we know life as we know it has changed dramatically. Many of us are working, parenting, teaching and filling roles in ways we have never had to before. We found this article helpful and wanted to share it. We hope you find it helpful as well.

'You don't have to strive for perfection' when homeschooling your kids.

As schools continue to remain closed throughout Massachusetts due to coronavirus, more and more parents are finding themselves with an unexpected and challenging new job title: Teacher.

Kids have lists of online lessons to complete and curriculum to review with their moms and dads, and parents may be feeling more than a little overwhelmed by the workload and the pressure to help their children make the right amount of progress during the time their schools remain closed.

When it comes to teaching kids at home, parents should practice self-compassion.

Here is what teachers wish parents knew about home learning during COVID-19-related school closures.

1. Take it easy on yourself

Although some parents may have the time and resources to throw themselves into intense homeschooling mode overnight, it’s not realistic for most people. Expectations and guidance vary greatly from school to school (and even teacher to teacher), so what one family is doing with their kids might not make sense for yours.

Try to avoid social comparison; cute color-coded schedules and elaborate crafts just might not work in your house, and that’s OK. Remember that we’re modeling for our kids that we don’t have to strive for perfection or imitate what others are doing.

2. Let them get bored

Kids are used to having lots of structured activities and near-constant visual stimuli at their fingertips. Letting them sit with the discomfort of boredom may be really hard at first — for all of you — but it’s worth it to let them struggle. Imagination, creativity, and self-discovery blossom during boredom.

3. Lean into reading

Maintaining and building reading skills will serve students at every level. While younger kids love being read to by a parent, you don’t have to do all the heavy lifting. Actors are reading children’s books aloud online, and audiobooks are more accessible than ever. While most public libraries are closed, many offer electronic downloads of e-books.

Whenever possible, let kids choose their own books. Following a child’s interest is more important than identifying the right reading level; when motivated by their own curiosity, kids can stretch their reading comprehension. And don’t dismiss graphic novels; they are great for reluctant readers and voracious book worms alike.

4. It's OK if you hate math

Unless you love exploring math with your kids, go easy on yourself with this one. And since most parents are unfamiliar with — and even afraid or suspicious of — the current approaches to math, you’re really off the hook here.

Luckily, there are many high quality online resources for math. Younger kids can use flash cards to maintain or build automaticity with their math facts, and they can do it on their own, without an adult or a computer.

5. Don’t forget home economics

We’ve all heard the horror stories of young adults going out into the world not knowing how to do even the most basic household tasks. This is the perfect time for them to learn key life skills, such as cleaning, cooking, laundry and pet care. With teens, you can introduce financial literacy by including them in your checkbook balancing, budgeting and online bill-paying.

6. Give them choices

Some kids may have structured schedules for online classes. But for others, you can let them have a say in how, when and where they want to do their work. This is a great chance to build their metacognition — where they can become more aware of how their own learning and thinking process works.

7. Be intentional with screen time

It’s helpful to separate screen time for school from screen time for leisure, so encourage kids to switch gears with some physical cues — for instance, have them use a computer at a desk for schoolwork and later watch a movie on the TV while sitting on the couch.

Remember they may need their phone now more than ever, as it gives them access to essential social connections.

Having family movie nights — or even weekend movie marathons — can make screen time a chance to connect rather than just zone out. If your child has a cell phone, ask for their input on establishing reasonable boundaries around phone usage; and remember they may need their phone now more than ever, as it gives them access to essential social connections.

8. Go old-school

Even if your child is accessing school materials online, this is a perfect moment to make space for some low-tech activities. Encourage them to pull out the art supplies and get their hands dirty. Writing an old fashioned letter to friends or family — or even fan mail to a celebrity — helps them not only feel connected but also supports communication and fine motor skills.

9. Model self-care

This is an anxiety-provoking time, so it’s important to take care of our own mental health, whether that’s accessing a care provider by telemedicine, enjoying our favourite comfort food or going for a daily walk — whatever it is that works for us, given the parameters of social distancing or even shelter-in-place requirements.

It can be helpful to name our actions for our kids — for example, “I really love taking baths, so I’m going to go relax in the tub because it’s been a really hard day.”

Let your kids sleep in, high school teacher advises, but keep a regular schedule

10. Let kids feel their feelings

Social-emotional skills are at the core of all meaningful learning and are key to our overall well-being. While our kids may not always have access to ideal instruction in their academic subjects, they can still learn essential emotional literacy skills that will serve them their entire lives.

Our kids are going to remember this moment forever. Teaching them how to weather a crisis just may be the most important lesson they ever learn.

This moment gives us the opportunity to help our kids name and process lots of difficult stuff, so acknowledge their worries and fears and frustrations and just be with them. We aren’t “fixing” anything; we’re showing them the power of feeling heard and valued.

Be safe, healthy, and take care.

Source: today.com


Massachusetts RMV Enforcing No Walk-In Policy: Updated Phone Number

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, April 02, 2020
Lallis and Higgins Insurance

RMV UPDATE: No Walk-In Policy Effective March 27
Contact Center Phone Number Correction: 857-368-8000

The RMV will be strictly enforcing a No Walk-In Policy. Only Customers with Appointment Reservations Will Be Served for Required In-Person Transactions

Effective today, Friday, March 27 the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) is enforcing a strict no walk-in policy at its eight service centers that are open to the general public. The only transactions that will be processed at service centers are those that require an in-person transaction, including Commercial Driving Licenses or Permits (CDLs/CLPs), some new registrations, out-of-state conversions and new Mass IDs. Customers who need to complete these transactions will be required to make an online appointment reservation, and customers arriving without an appointment will be asked to leave and make an appointment online to return at a future date.

Appointment reservations can be made online at in the myRMV Online Service Center under “Make or Cancel a Reservation.” Customers who make an appointment will receive a confirmation email that they should be prepared to show on arrival at their designated time at a specific service center. Customers can also call the Contact Center at 857-368-8000 to make a reservation.

The eight RMV Service Centers that are open for reservations are:

  • Boston
  • Brockton
  • Fall River
  • Lawrence
  • Pittsfield
  • Plymouth
  • Springfield
  • Worcester

The RMV offers many services online, including renewing motor vehicle registrations, and customers needing these services will only be serviced online at this time. If the service can be completed online, the RMV will not process the transaction in a service center. Renewals for standard driver’s license and ID credentials can be performed online at Mass.Gov/RMV along with more than 40 other transactions that can be conducted online, over the phone, or by mail.

As a reminder, the RMV has already suspended knowledge/written exams and road tests for non-commercial (Class D and Class M) learner’s permits. In addition, the federal government’s REAL ID compliance deadline has been postponed, and is now next year, in October 2021. For this reason, the RMV has suspended at this time the issuance of new REAL IDs.

Commercial (CDL/CLP) Transactions and B2B/IRP Services

The Milford and Wilmington RMV Service Centers will remain open to exclusively perform walk-in commercial transactions for CDLs and permits (CLPs), and CDL road tests continue to be administered. Drop-off only services for B2B and IRP transactions will continue to be accepted at the Milford, Springfield, and Wilmington Service Centers.

60-Day Extension of Commercial and Non-Commercial Credentials

All Class D, Class M, and Class DM driver’s licenses, ID cards, Learners’ Permits, and commercial driver’s licenses and permits (CDLs/CLPs) with an expiration date between March 1, 2020 and April 30, 2020, have had a 60-day extension applied to their credential, with the exception of customers whose end of stay in the United States is the same as the expiration date on their driver’s license, ID card, or Learner’s Permit. Customers eligible for these extensions should wait to visit an RMV Service Center to renew after the State of Emergency has concluded. CDL Medical Certificates (Med Certs) expiring after March 1 will also have a 60-day extension applied to prevent license downgrades and elective medical visits, as well as alleviate demand on medical providers, during the State of Emergency.

Suspension Hearings

Customers may continue to request suspension hearings by visiting a RMV Service Center in-person on a first-come, first-served basis, but under new protocols, customers will be required to submit their application and all required supporting documentation depending on the type of suspension, before leaving and having a Hearings Officer call the customer directly to conduct their suspension hearing by phone.

Some suspended customers may already be able to complete the reinstatement process and payment online if all other outstanding requirements have been satisfied by visiting Mass.Gov/RMV and selecting “Pay my Reinstatement Fees.”

Hearings are being conducted at Boston/Haymarket, Brockton, Fall River, Lawrence, Springfield, and Worcester. Hearings at the Pittsfield RMV occur weekly on Wednesdays and no hearings are conducted in Plymouth. Chemical test refusal (CTR) hearings are only held at Boston/Haymarket.

These and several additional measures are being implemented at the RMV to prioritize reducing customer volumes in physical locations and maintaining proper “social-distancing” under Governor Charlie Baker’s declaration of a State of Emergency the week of March 9 and to complement the work that has been underway for weeks across state government to keep residents safe and healthy.

More information about available services and additional steps the RMV has taken under the State of Emergency declaration, including the extension of expiring licenses/permits and vehicle inspection stickers, is on the RMV website here.

The Baker-Polito Administration will continue to update the public on COVID-19 response and precautionary measures at Mass.Gov/Coronavirus.



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