Take Steps Now to Prevent Utility Shut-off

In August, when the summer sun is scorching, it seems strange to be thinking about heating your home. But the reality is that actions not taken in the summer can negatively impact you as the weather turns cold. When people struggle with utility bills, the thought is sometimes to let it slide. After all, you don’t need heat in the summer. This can end up being a very costly mistake.

All states have guidelines for utility companies, preventing them from turning off power in cold weather. That is good news and ensures that a family’s power can’t be shut off in sub-zero temps and create a life-threatening situation. To compensate for these laws the utility companies have been known to aggressively use their shut-off capabilities in the months preceding cold weather. If your utilities are shut-off, it will cost you, as fines and reconnect fees are added to the amount of the overdue bill.  If you are behind on your utility bills, you could be putting yourself in jeopardy of a utility shut-off.

Don’t ignore overdue utility bills. If you are having trouble with your bills, you have options.

  • Contact your provider to:
    • Try to work out a plan.
    • See if you can get on a monthly plan that averages your annual cost into uniform monthly payments.
    • Ask about utility conservation assistance programs to help you reduce your usage.
  • LIHEAP  has funds available for those households that meet their guideline.
  • Contact the National Energy Assistance Referral (NEAR) project at 866-674-6327 or energy@ncat.org.
  • Your state may have an assistance program

If you qualify for one of these programs, you’ll be able to get future bills reduced—and may be able to spread out payments on past bills.

If you have tried these resources and still are threatened with a utility shut-off, contact Binc and we may be able to help get you back on track.

Don’t Let a Disaster Find You Unprepared

It’s July and that means summer and, unfortunately, the middle of hurricane season.

Hurricanes are now regularly joined by wildfires, floods, tornados and ice storms to wreak havoc on booksellers across the country. Booksellers have been assisted by Binc after their homes were flooded by a hurricane, stores and homes were destroyed in a raging wildfire, having pipes burst or roofs collapse under ice and snow, and all manner of natural disaster. Thanks to our generous donors, both corporate and individual, we have never had to turn anyone away. Binc has been and continues to be a place to turn when booksellers begin to put their lives back together after enduring a natural disaster.

While there are many different types of natural disaster, the preparation is the same. With the help of industry partners and a number of bookstore owners, we have created some tools to help you, your employees, and your store meet whatever Mother Nature has in store.

Last year in conjunction with LIBRIS we rolled out a Disaster Preparedness Checklist. Hopefully, there is already a copy in your bookstore; if not, download your copy LIBRIS_DisasterPreparedness.

Earlier this year we received an email from Sara Hines from Eight Cousin’s Bookstore in Falmouth, MA.

 Because of our situation last year (closed for three months due to massive water damage) and seeing all of the other disasters that bookstores across the country have experienced and because a restaurant across the street from us recently had to call an ambulance for a customer who overdosed during dinner, I am working on increasing our emergency preparedness staff training.

Sara realized that her store needed instructions that were specific to their store. She was looking for a way to train staff on how to manage a situation until the people who know what they are doing arrive. She knew that overwhelming her staff with too much information would be counter-productive but wanted them to be prepared for any emergency. She was compiling an emergency training binder and asked if Binc would take a look at what she had and make suggestions.

What Sara created was an amazingly detailed step-by-step plan to prepare her employees ready for any emergency. We were able to help her organize the information and we are happy to share what we call Emergency 1-2-3. We encourage you all to personalize the pages with important phone numbers, meeting places, contacts and any special processes you use. Then be sure to share the information with your staff. After going over the information with her staff, Sara has it all filed in the store’s Emergency Binder. Every employee of Eight Cousins knows the contents and where to find the binder.

Don’t let your store get caught unprepared, create your personal Emergency Binder today.

Bed bugs. Just the thought is enough to make anyone squirm.

Recently, a bookseller spent months trying to rid their apartment of bedbugs, only to have them return – over and over again. Their whole building was infested. All appeals to the landlord were dismissed. The bookseller’s only recourse was to move out, but they lacked the funds to do so. With their security deposit tied up as they tried to break their lease, and having to continue to pay rent and live in the infested apartment, they didn’t see a way out.

But their bookstore had a Binc poster prominently displayed and the bookseller made the call for help. Because of supporters like you, Binc was able to pay the move-in expenses for a new apartment, providing this bookseller with a safe and healthy home.

Bed bugs know no social or economic bounds and they can set up residence in any home. The sources are numerous – they can be picked up while traveling, brought in aboard furniture, even travel from a neighboring apartment. However they arrive, and wherever they land, the process of ridding your home of them can be grueling.

Residents can take some steps to control an infestation.

  • Find where they are hiding, not just in mattresses and overstuffed furniture. Look along baseboards, hard furnishings, and any dark hidden area.
  • Vacuum carefully and remove the vacuum bag and contents immediately.
  • Steam clean furniture and other surfaces.
  • Put mattress and box springs into a bed bug proof cover.
  • Wash all cloth items in hot water or put in the drier for at least 20 minutes.
  • Notify your landlord immediately.

Most landlords, not wanting bed bugs to spread, will help eradicate the pests. They should work with you to help correct the problem and prevent the spread. They should arrange for professional pest control if necessary. With quick action, the infestation can be minimized.

Nationally the incidents of bed bug infestations are rising (no one seems to know exactly why) and as a result, Binc has received an increased number of requests for assistance from booksellers battling them. The help Binc has provided ranged from helping with eradication costs to assistance for a bookseller to move out of a chronically infested building.

More information on how to prevent bed bug encounters and more about the treatment can be found through the EPA, Texas A&M University, and National Apartment Association.

If you are unlucky enough to find yourself living with bed bugs, give Binc a call.




Burying a Loved One

Of all the unexpected expenses a bookseller faces, funerals can be one of the toughest to find help paying for. There is little public assistance available to help loved ones afford the financial burden of a funeral. Whether a bookseller is dealing with the loss of a child, spouse, parent, or sibling – they often don’t have enough savings to meet the expenses of a funeral. Because of the emotional stress, funeral expense requests are some of the most emotional requests for assistance that we receive at Binc.

Today, the average North American traditional funeral costs between $7,000 and $10,000. This price range includes services, burial in a cemetery, and installation of a headstone. While this is the average, funeral costs can vary widely depending on location. Even a simple cremation can cost $800 – $1,000, which is still an amount beyond the means of many booksellers.

Resources such as the FTC Funeral Rule can help keep costs down by making it possible for you to choose only those services you want, whether you are making arrangements when a death occurs or in advance. The Rule allows you to compare prices among funeral homes and makes it possible for you to select the arrangements you want at the facility you use.

There is a very limited amount of government assistance available, with one-time payments of $255 from Social Security, or $300 – $600 from the Veterans Administration. Which is obviously not enough to cover all of the expenses.

Paying funeral expenses from an estate (should one exist) presents its own set of obstacles. Funeral expenses can be paid with assets from an estate, but because of the legal process in most states, the funds will not be available immediately when needed. Most funeral homes require payment at the time that funeral services are provided, this often means that someone will need to cover the expenses up front and then be reimbursed from the estate. Again, this creates a problem for a bookseller living on a tight budget.

A U.S. News & World Report article stated that affording funeral expenses is a serious problem that seems to have grown worse over the years and one that spiked during the recession. So what does one do if there is no money for a funeral? If you lack the funding for a funeral, here’s what some experts say your options are.

  • CrowdFunding – GoFundMe, one of the largest fund-raising sites, says that 13% of its campaigns created in 2017 were described as memorials, which include funerals and are one of the company’s fastest-growing categories.
  • Local churches sometimes have funds set aside to help with funerals.
  • Some states have limited assistance available. Assistance for burial or cremation and the criteria for eligibility vary widely from state to state.
  • If you are a bookseller, and you are financially responsible for the funeral expenses of a family member, you can apply to the Binc Foundation for assistance.
    • Binc may be able to help with an assistance grant to cover basic burial expenses.
    • Binc can offer a Matching Grant of up to $2,000 to match funds collected through a GoFundMe or similar campaign used to raise funds for funeral expenses.

The loss of a loved one is traumatic enough, at Binc we want to help keep debt from making the situation even worse.

Extending Binc Assistance with Resources

At Binc we are always pleased to be able to pay overdue bills for booksellers. We know from experience that these payments give great relief to the household. Over the past twenty-two years of paying bills for booksellers, we have come to realize that this is only part of the solution, however. More often than not, additional help is needed. This help can take the form of partnering with another organization to add additional financial support, helping to negotiate existing bills, or providing financial education for the future. Whatever the need, Binc strives to provide additional guidance to each bookseller who reaches out to us for assistance, with the ultimate goal of preventing another financial hardship.

Calling on years of experience, Binc has compiled a useful Resource Guide to help anyone struggling with a wide variety of unexpected events. Whether you are experiencing serious medical expenses or are struggling to pay mounting utility bills, there are organizations out there ready to help beyond Binc. One important service that we provide, is helping to match booksellers with national and local assistance to supplement any help the Foundation provides.

Large national organizations like the Red CrossUnited Way and Community Action Partnerships are often the best places to begin a search for additional assistance. They are depositories for a wide variety of assistance resources specific to geographic location. We frequently refer to an amazing site called Need Help Paying Bills that lists resources by state, county, and city. These sites will provide a variety of resources from rent and utility assistance to food pantries and local thrift stores.

Medical expenses can be overwhelming and affording needed care is often difficult on a bookseller’s salary. One great Binc partner is NeedyMeds. They can help lower prescription costs or help you locate a no-cost or low-cost clinic. You can search their site by diagnosis or by prescription. NeedyMeds even has a funding platform for major medical expenses called HEALfundr.

If you are looking for help negotiating existing medical bills, we have compiled some tips in this flyer Medical Bill Negotiation How-To. Whether before your scheduled medical care or following emergency surgery, Binc strives to help booksellers maneuver the frustrating and confusing maze of health care billing.

Binc’s Resource Guide also has links to organizations geared to improving your financial well-being. There are some great websites with very useful and easy to follow steps to help booksellers save and work toward a healthy financial future. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is the government website with a wealth of information to help manage bills and credit. NerdWallet can help you make informed decisions about credit cards, bank accounts, loans and more. Check out their thorough comparisons before making financial choices. Sign up for the newsletter at The Simple Dollar and money saving tips and timely and useful articles will come right to your inbox.

We are always looking for more resources to share with booksellers, so if you have a favorite, please feel free to pass it along!