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.

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.

https://www.epa.gov/bedbugs

https://citybugs.tamu.edu/factsheets/biting-stinging/others/ent-3013/

https://www.naahq.org/sites/default/files/documents/Bed-Bugs-Resident-Brochure-2013.pdf

What We Learned at Ci7

Pittsburgh, PA June 2019

I love going to industry tradeshows and conferences and Ci7 in Pittsburgh was one of the best (and most intense) I’ve been to yet. On my first day in Pittsburgh, I did the full-day bookstore tour where a busload of booksellers and other industry folks visited five of Pittsburgh’s growing and beloved indies: Mystery Lovers Bookshop, Spark Books, City of Asylum, White Whale Bookstore, and Classic Lines Bookstore. It was awesome to see these bookstores in person (the majority of which are less than four years old) and the growing literary community in Pittsburgh. There was another tour which was also offered where people visited indie bookshops in the north side of the city and surrounding suburbs. Opening a bookstore is often both a risk and the realization of a lifelong dream, and it is our core mission at Binc to support these intrepid entrepreneurs and their hard-working employees.

One of the most important Binc-related realizations that I took home from this gathering of booksellers was that even though Binc has been serving US booksellers’ emergency financial needs since 2011, there are still misconceptions about what Binc does, who qualifies for assistance, and what kinds of events Binc can help with.

Booksellers do not have to donate or “belong” to Binc to qualify for assistance—ever.

The first thing I often have to clear up when getting into a discussion with a bookseller who is mostly unfamiliar with Binc (oh you’re from that bookstore charity), is that Binc is not a membership organization. Booksellers do not have to donate or “belong” to Binc to qualify for assistance—ever. Binc is a nonprofit foundation funded and supported by a community of caring and generous donors from across the industry (i.e. authors, publishers, frontline booksellers, bookstore owners, the ABA, and regional associations like NCIBA and NEIBA) and we serve all people working full-time or part-time in a brick and mortar bookstore for over 90-days. We serve frontline booksellers, comic book retailers, owners, managers, buyers, events coordinators, and shift leaders. If you work in a bookstore—Binc is your foundation. There are no membership fees or costs, and there never will be.

Another misconception I often encounter at trade shows or when I’m visiting bookstores is that Binc assistance applies only to the bookstore itself or the bookstore owner. This is also not the case. If a tree falls on your house, and you work in a bookstore year-round, it’s possible that Binc can help. Due to donations from across the industry, Binc is able to help with a vast range of emergency events that effect booksellers’ lives outside of the bookstore where they work. Binc has helped pay for addiction treatment, vital medications, preventing eviction, repairs after a tornado partially destroyed a home, funeral expenses for a loved one, relocation for domestic violence survivors, dealing with bed bugs, and 100s more qualifying events. If you’re not sure if your situation qualifies, and you’re struggling financially after something unexpected happened in your life, call us. We’ll talk you through our simple application process and do our best to get you some relief.

If you’re not sure if your situation qualifies, call us.

Sometimes when I tell people about Binc they ask, “So what’s the catch? Do I have to pay the money back? Do you tell everyone I needed assistance?” The honest answer is that there is no catch. You never have to pay the money back (the assistance is in the form of grants, not loans), and our financial assistance programs are 100% confidential and judgment-free. We take your situation as it is and do our best to work with you and help you find a way out of it so you can get back to normal as quickly as possible.

At Binc we believe in the power of the indie bookstore in a community and the value of the people who work in that bookstore who every day make the store what it is. Binc is here for the children’s book buyer who is selecting the books on the shelves to reflect and at times challenge their community, the events coordinator who is always staying late and working weekends and moving that shelf out of the way for the 100th time, the aspiring writer and frontline bookseller who is trying to make her bookseller’s hourly wage work in New York City, for the new bookstore owner with a young family who has big dreams about building something great and valued for their community. Binc is here for each of them in times of great need. I always tell people, I wish that nobody ever needed Binc, but I also know that’s not the world we live in. At least it’s good to know if you need a little help during an emergency, that Binc will be here to help you find your way through a crisis. Then afterward, you can keep slinging those books and sharing your favorite stories with your customers and doing the incredible work of selling books and connecting readers with the stories they so urgently need to hear.

Kate Weiss was a frontline bookseller and book buyer for over ten years and is currently the communication and marketing coordinator at the Book Industry Charitable Foundation.

Binc’s Qualifying Events Explained

A qualifying event can often be easily explained. It’s easy to understand how a serious medical could create an overwhelming financial hardship for a bookseller. Some of the other qualifying events are more complex. In a series of blog posts (with accompanying downloadable posters) we will dig deeper into a number of qualifying events to explore the many ways Binc can help booksellers in times of need.

Loss of Household Income Downloadable Poster

Loss of Household Income

Easily the most complex of Binc’s qualifying events is the Loss of Household Income category. This category encompasses a variety of personal events that can lead to household financial hardship, preventing the bookseller from being able to pay essential expenses. Let’s explore examples of unexpected situations that could lead a bookseller to apply for assistance under Loss of Household Income.Childcare or Eldercare

  • A bookseller is the parent or legal guardian of a child or the primary caregiver for a parent or relative in their household.
  • An emergency need arose for child or elder care (i.e. weather-related school closing, illness of child or elder).
  • 50% or more of the bookseller’s scheduled weekly income was lost due to the emergency.

Death in the household

  • A bookseller experiences the sudden death of a wage earner residing in their household.

Disability

  • The bookseller or another wage earner in the household experiences illness or injury that requires them to be off work for a prolonged period of time.

Disruption of business

  • A store is forced to close unexpectedly due to disaster or severe weather.
  • 50% or more of the bookseller’s scheduled weekly income was lost due to the emergency.

Divorce or separation

  • A bookseller’s spouse or partner leaves the household and does not provide financial support due to divorce or separation.
  • A bookseller experiences the loss of court-mandated child support.
  • In some circumstances, the unexpected loss of a roommate can qualify for assistance.

Job loss of partner or spouse

  • A bookseller’s spouse or partner loses their job through no fault of their own.
  • The bookseller has a second job and it is lost through no fault of their own.
    • The loss of a bookseller’s job at the bookstore does not qualify.

For any application to the Binc Foundation the following criteria apply:

  • The declared loss of income must cause the bookseller to be financially unable to pay essential household expenses.
  • In many instances, up to three months essential expenses may be provided if there is sufficient evidence that financial equilibrium can be achieved during that time.

If you are still wondering if your circumstances apply – call or email. Binc 866-733-9064 or help@bincfoundation.org

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.