ABLE ME Launches in Maine

ABLE Act -National Resource Center logoBangor, ME (October 18, 2021):  Bangor Savings Bank introduced its newest product, the first of its kind in the nation, Maine ABLE Benefit Checking. The account was created for people with disabilities to allow greater access to financial products and services, while protecting eligibility for federal and State of Maine means-tested benefits. Historically, individuals receiving benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are limited to $2,000 in resources. ABLE Accounts provide new avenues for financial health, planning, and empowerment for individuals with disabilities and their families.

ABLE Account can change the way individuals with disabilities and their families participate in the community, build financial wellness and plan for the future by empowering them to save and invest for the added expenses that come with having a disability without losing access to federal means-tested benefits. ABLE account holders can use these funds to make purchased of things like assistive technology that are not covered by other funders.

The federal “Achieving a Better Life Experience” Act of 2014 (ABLE Act) created a new option for qualified individuals living with disabilities and their families. Most ABLE programs follow an assets-under-management model. Maine has chosen a different approach and account structure to meet the more immediate needs of participants for whom longer term investment and saving is not a primary goal.

ABLE accounts originate from the federal ABLE Act and are established and managed at the state level. In partnership with the Office of the Maine State Treasurer, which oversees and maintains the program locally, Bangor Savings Bank is proud to serve as the administrator of the ABLE ME program.

ABLE ME, with Bangor Savings Bank’s Maine ABLE Benefit Checking account as the sole deposit instrument, was announced last month by Maine State Treasurer Henry E. M. Beck, Esq., and is the first of its kind in Maine and the nation.

“The State is grateful to partner with Bangor Savings Bank to offer this first-in-the-nation, simple ABLE checking account product,” said Beck. “When we first began developing this program, we listened to Mainers who live with disabilities who told us having access to a respected brick-and-mortar Maine-based financial institution was paramount. I encourage Mainers to take advantage of the protections and dignity an ABLE account can provide.”

“Our partnership with the Office of the State Treasurer is a unique public-private collaboration that allows us to increase access to banking.” said Bob Montgomery-Rice, President and CEO of Bangor Savings Bank. “Creating and offering this program supports the financial independence and well-being of Maine’s residents with disabilities and reflects our ongoing commitment to provide better banking experiences for all community members.”

“Partnering with the State Treasurer’s Office to innovate this first-in-the-nation Bank-administered ABLE Program has been incredibly rewarding. It wouldn’t have come to fruition without the vision and commitment of former State Treasurer Terry Hayes and current State Treasurer Henry Beck, as well as the unshakable support of our President and CEO Bob Montgomery-Rice,” said Joyce Clark Sarnacki, Bangor Savings Bank Foundation Chair and a member of the ABLE ME development team.

The Maine ABLE Benefit Checking can be opened at any Bangor Savings Bank branch and is available to qualifying Maine residents. For more information about ABLE Programs across the country, visit the National Association of State Treasurers.

Please visit the Maine State Treasurer’s Office ABLE Maine page for more important information

 

Maine Celebrating National ABLE to Save Month By Announcing Program

From the Office of the State Treasurer

ABLE Act -National Resource Center logoAugusta, ME – August 17, 2021: August marks the nationally celebrated ABLE to Save Month, based on the federal Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE Act). The Act created a new option for qualified individuals living with disabilities and their families to save for the future, while protecting eligibility for public benefits. Although ABLE accounts come from the federal ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) Act, they are established and managed on a state level. ABLE Savings Plan programs across the country will highlight the value and importance these plans bring to those living with disabilities this month.

In honor of the month, Maine Treasurer, Henry Beck, announced that Maine’s program, which is expected to launch by year end, will be the first of its kind in the country. ABLE ME is a new program of the State of Maine Office of the State Treasurer, and Bangor Savings Bank has been named the administrator of the program.

Beck said, “Nationally, ABLE accounts have gained traction and the structure of those accounts closely mirrors a 529 college savings account, with invested assets. Through our collaboration with Bangor Savings Bank and community advocates, we concluded that a transactional, FDIC-insured, checking account would best serve the needs of both young and adult Mainers with disabilities, and their families.”

“Creating greater financial empowerment in our communities is central to our You Matter More Promise,” said Bob Montgomery-Rice, President and CEO of Bangor Savings Bank. “We’re honored to step forward in partnership with the State Treasurer’s Office to create this innovative and beneficial program for Maine’s people with disabilities. Collaboration between the public and private sector is an integral part of Maine’s economy, and we are proud to contribute to greater economic mobility for those who qualify for this program.”

Bangor Savings Bank is currently developing the Maine ABLE Benefit Checking SM account. Until account development is complete and available, please direct all questions to The Office of the Maine State Treasurer.

About ABLE

ABLE plans can change the way individuals with disabilities and their families participate in the community, build financial wellness, and plan for the future by empowering them to save for the added expenses that come with having a disability without losing access to federal means-tested benefits.

ABLE accounts foster person-centered independence, build self-reliance, encourage employment, and improve quality of life. Without an ABLE account, individuals currently receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are limited to savings in the amount of $2,000. This creates a real barrier to financial independence and limits a person’s economic mobility.

For more information about ABLE Savings Plans across the country, visit the National Association of State Treasurers.

The Office of the Maine State Treasurer will update its website as plans for ABLE ME rollout get closer. www.maine.gov/treasurer

About the Treasurer’s Office

The Office of the Treasurer of State is established in Article V, Part Third of the Constitution of the State of Maine. The core duties of the Treasurer’s Office are debt management, cash management, trust fund administration and unclaimed property administration. Other major tasks assigned to the Treasurer are directorships on many of Maine’s quasi-governmental debt issuing agencies and distributions under the Municipal Revenue Sharing Program.

About Bangor Savings Bank

Bangor Savings Bank, with more than $6 billion in assets, offers retail banking to consumers as well as comprehensive commercial, corporate, payroll administration, merchant services, and small business banking services to businesses. The Bank, founded in 1852, is in its 169th year with more than 60 branches in Maine and New Hampshire and business and/or loan production offices in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. Bangor Savings Bank and The Bangor Savings Bank Foundation have invested more than $3.4 million into the community in the form of sponsorships, grants, and partnership initiatives last year. Bangor Savings Bank is an equal opportunity employer and Member FDIC.

 

FCC Launches Emergency Broadband Benefit Program on May 12

FCC logoThe Emergency Broadband Benefit is a Federal Communication Commission (FCC) program to help families and households struggling to afford internet service during the COVID-19 pandemic. This new benefit will connect eligible households to jobs, critical healthcare services, virtual classrooms, and more.

The FCC has announced that eligible households can apply for the program starting May 12, 2021 in three ways:

  1. Contact your preferred participating broadband provider directly to learn about their application process, or use the FCC’s online tool to find a participating company near you. Participating companies can help you apply through the National Verifier or through their company’s application process.
  2. Go to GetEmergencyBroadband.org to apply online and to find participating providers near you.
  3. Call 833-511-0311 for a mail-in application, and return it along with proof of eligibility to: Emergency Broadband Support Center, P.O. Box 7081, London, KY 40742.

Individuals who use videophones and are fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) may call the FCC’s ASL Consumer Support Line at (844) 432-2275 (videophone).

Enrollment for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program will end when the fund runs out of money, or six months after the Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the COVID-19 health emergency, whichever is sooner. Therefore, Mainers should also be aware of the FCC’s Lifeline Program, a permanent federal program that offers a monthly benefit of up to $9.25 towards phone or internet services for eligible subscribers (up to $34.25 for those living on Tribal/Native lands). Please use this link for more information about the Lifeline Program…

 

Emergency Broadband Benefit Program Update

FCC logoThe Emergency Broadband Benefit Program is a new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) program that provides a temporary discount on monthly broadband bills for qualifying low-income households. If your household is eligible, you can receive:

  • Up to a $50/month discount on your broadband service and associated equipment rentals
  • Up to a $75/month discount if your household is on qualifying Tribal lands
  • A one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer (with a co-payment of more than $10 but less than $50)
  • Only one monthly service discount and one device discount is allowed per household.

The FCC expects enrollment for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program to open within the next few weeks. It will end when the fund runs out of money, or six months after the Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the COVID-19 health emergency, whichever is sooner.

A new website – getemergencybroadband.org – provides all of the information needed to apply including:

Mainers should also be aware of the FCC’s Lifeline Program, a permanent federal program that offers a monthly benefit of up to $9.25 towards phone or internet services for eligible subscribers (up to $34.25 for those living on Tribal/Native lands). Please use this link for more information about the Lifeline Program…

 

Emergency Broadband Benefit Program Available to Eligible Families in April

From the Maine Department of Education

Neon sign with the words Hi Speed InternetThe Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently adopted a “Report and Order” that established the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, a $3.2 billion federal initiative to help lower the cost of high-speed internet for eligible households during the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.

Benefits of the program include:

  • Up to $50/month discount for broadband services;
  • Up to $75/month discount for broadband services for households on Tribal lands; and
  • A one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet purchased through a participating provider.
  • The Emergency Broadband Benefit is limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per eligible household.

A household is eligible if one member of the household:

  • Qualifies for the Lifeline program, including those who are on Medicaid or receive SNAP benefits;
  • Receives benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision, or did so in the 2019- 2020 school year;
  • Experienced a substantial loss of income since February 29, 2020, and the household had a total income in 2020 below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers;
  • Received a Federal Pell Grant in the current award year; or
  • Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 program.

The FCC expects the Emergency Broadband Benefit program to be open to eligible households before the end of April, 2021. Please check the FCC’s website regularly for the latest information. Once up and running, eligible households will be able to enroll through participating broadband providers or directly with the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC).

Many types of broadband providers can qualify to provide service in this program. The FCC is currently setting up the systems needed for providers to participate. Contact information for the providers participating in the program will be posted on USAC’s website.

For more information, the Report and Order along with the rules governing this program can be found at this link…

Rules Proposed to Improve Access to Vehicles for People with Disabilities

automobile with hand controlsThe U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) – National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released for public comment a proposed rule to improve access to motor vehicles, including rental cars, for people with disabilities. The rule proposes changes to NHTSA’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard to facilitate the use of adaptive equipment in rental cars and to simplify vehicle transport of wheelchairs and scooters.

Federal law generally prohibits making a vehicle’s safety features inoperable. One proposed change would permit rental car companies to temporarily disable a driver’s air bag to install hand controls. In an accident, the deployment of the knee bolster air bag can result in the hand controls hitting and injuring the driver. A second proposed change would allow installation of rear-mounted transporters for wheelchairs and scooters. These transporters may obstruct the view of a vehicle’s backup camera.

Public comments are due January 27, 2021. For further information, visit DOT’s website or contact Gunyoung Lee of NHTSA Office of Crash Avoidance Standards at (202) 366-6005, Daniel Koblenz of NHTSA Office of Chief Counsel at (202) 366-5329, or David Jasinski at (202) 366-5552.

 

Audio Description Project – Proposed Rulemaking

The following press release comes from the Audio Description Project of the American Council of the Blind (ACB):

On April 23, 2020, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that proposes expanding the number of broadcast designated market areas required to pass through audio description from the top 60 markets to the top 100, and to use the term “audio description” instead of the term “video description.”

The NPRM seeks to modernize the terminology in the Commission’s regulations to use the term “audio description” rather than “video description.” The term “audio description” is used by the rest of the federal government and is the term used in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. Additionally, “audio description” is the agreed upon international terminology for audibly describing the visual elements of videos, on-stage performances, and subjects at museum and art galleries.

On May 21, 2020, the Media Bureau of the FCC released a public notice announcing the NPRM comment due dates; comments are due June 22, 2020, and reply comments are due July 6, 2020. The text of the NPRM is available on the FCC website.

Interested parties may file comments on their own by accessing the Electronic Comment Filing System. All filings must reference MB Docket No. 11-43. People with disabilities who need assistance to file comments online may request assistance by email to FCC504@fcc.gov.

Read more about the plan to expand the number of broadcast designated market areas…

Read more about the Audio Description Project…

 

MaineCare now allows Telehealth to deliver pharmacy services

In a special ruling made on March 16, 2020 by the Division of Policy of MaineCare, Chapter 101 of MaineCare Benefits Manual Chapter I, Section 4, Telehealth services for Pharmacy Services are now covered by MaineCARE.

In the “concise summary” the change in rules states:

This emergency rulemaking will remove the MaineCare Benefits Manual (MBM), Chapter I, Section 4, Telehealth Services blanket prohibition against providers utilizing telehealth to deliver services under the MBM, Chapter II, Section 80, Pharmacy Services. Pursuant to 5 M.R.S. Section 8054, the Department has determined that immediate adoption of this rule is necessary to avoid a potentially severe and immediate threat to public health, safety or general welfare. The Department’s findings of emergency are set forth in detail in the Emergency Basis Statement. Maine is facing a substantial public health threat posed by the global spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a worldwide pandemic. As a preemptive action by the Department, Pharmacy Services will be available via telehealth when medically necessary and appropriate.

This emergency rule change will take effect upon adoption and will be in effect for 90 days (5 M.R.S. § 8054). The Department is concurrently engaging in the routine technical rulemaking process for Section 4 to prevent a lapse in the rule and added services.

Please use this link to see the new rules and rulemaking documents

 

State provides guidance on new Hearing Aid mandate

Regarding the recently passed and enacted legislation related to 24-A M.R.S. § 2762, a law which requires health insurance carriers in Maine to provide hearing aid coverage in all individual and group health plans, the Maine Bureau of Insurance in the Department of Professional and Financial Regulations has published the following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) documentation:

New Hearing Aid Mandate, Effective January 1, 2020

Q: I have insurance and I need hearing aids. Does this new law mean my insurance will cover the cost now?

A: It depends on several factors:

Type of Insurance

The following types are required to provide the benefit:

      • Fully funded major medical policies, including ACA coverage;
      • Short-term limited duration policies

These types are exempt from all State health insurance benefit mandates:

      • Medicare products, including Medicare Supplement and Medicare Advantage plans (federally exempted by Social Security/Medicare);
      • Self-insured plans, except state or municipal governmental and multiple-employer welfare association (MEWA) plans;
      • Plans other than comprehensive major medical or short-term limited duration: accidental injury; specified disease; hospital indemnity; dental; vision; disability income; long-term care; other limited benefit health insurance.

Benefit Details, Deductibles, Cost, Networks, and Renewal Dates

Coverage amount:

      • Up to $3,000 per hearing aid for each hearing-impaired ear; and
      • Available every 36 months.

Deductibles: You should be aware that you could still be responsible for all or part of the cost if you have not yet met your annual deductible at the time you purchase a hearing aid.

Cost:  If you purchase a hearing aid that costs more than $3,000, you should assume you will need to pay the amount over the $3,000 out of your own pocket, even if you have met your deductible – unless your policy specifically provides a greater benefit.

Network:  You could also be responsible for all or part of the cost if you use a provider who is not part of your plan’s network.

Renewal dates:  If you have a group plan that is required to provide this benefit, but it renews later in the year, the benefit will not be included in your coverage until that time.

Q: I know I have hearing issues. Do I need to go to my primary care office before going to see a hearing specialist and getting a prescription for hearing aids?

A:  Whether you are able to self-refer to a specialist and whether pre-authorization is required to purchase a hearing aid would depend on your policy contract.  Check with your insurer and/or your employer’s benefits department.

Q: Will my insurance cost more because of this mandate?

A:  The cost of providing the new benefit is built into the premium and should be very minimal (the Bureau’s 2014 report estimated that the cost per policyholder could be $.47 per month).

If you have questions beyond this FAQ, please contact the Maine Bureau of Insurance

Access to air travel for passengers who use wheelchairs

From the U.S. Access Board

Study Initiated on Equipping Passenger Aircraft with Wheelchair Restraint Systems

US Access Board logoThe U.S. Access Board is undertaking a study that has the potential to advance access to air travel for passengers who use wheelchairs. As directed by Congress, this project will assess the feasibility of equipping passenger planes with restraint systems so that passengers can remain in their wheelchairs on flights. Having to transfer out of wheelchairs makes air travel very difficult, if not impossible, for many people with disabilities.

The Board is conducting this study through the National Academy of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board (TRB). TRB has organized a committee of experts to evaluate the feasibility of in-cabin wheelchair restraint systems. Members include experts in aircraft interiors and safety engineering, accessibility, wheelchair design and crashworthiness, airline operations, and other disciplines. Committee members will evaluate the design, engineering, and safety requirements for equipping aircraft with locking or tiedown mechanisms for non-motorized and motorized wheelchairs used as seats. If such restraint systems are found to be feasible, the committee will then assess the wheelchair restraint systems that can be used to accommodate passengers using wheelchairs through all phases of flight, from boarding to deplaning.

The committee will hold its first meeting February 5 – 6, 2020 at the Access Board’s conference center. Most sessions will be open to the public and available by web conference. Those attending in person do not need to register in advance, but registration is required (free) to attend online.

Visit TRB’s website for further information on this project, the meeting agenda, and the committee.

Questions about the study can be directed to Mario Damiani of the Access Board at damiani@access-board.gov, (202) 272-0050 (v), or (202) 272-0066 (TTY). Inquiries about attending the committee meeting or registering for the web conference should be addressed to Anusha Jayasinghe of TRB at AJayasinghe@nas.edu or (202) 334-2401