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A Day of Service in the Community: Doing Things That Need to be Done

Allen Insurance and Financial encouraged employees to use a paid community service day on Jan. 18  Amy Bowen and Sally Miles, members of the business insurance team in our Belfast office, put in some real elbow grease, volunteering for Waldo Community Action Partners in Belfast, assembling 20 conference room chairs and deep cleaning two of the organization’s transport vans.  Says Sally: “It was a great day – we did things that needed to be done!”

AMy Bowen and Sally Miles volunteer at WaldoCAP
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MLK Day Food and Funds Drive an Incredible Demonstration of Community Spirit!

promotional image for Jan. 18 food drive in Rockland, Maine

How do you find the words to describe an event where teamwork, generosity and community all come together to exceed a goal three times over? That’s what happened on Monday, Jan. 18, when a group of Allen employee-owners from our Camden and Rockland offices joined AIO Food and Energy Assistance’s team of volunteers at The Strand Theatre in Rockland, which hosted the event. Together we assisted in collecting food and funds in support of AIO’s Food Assistance, Energy Assistance and Weekend Meal programs.

In all, 2,219 pounds of food and $24,502 were collected. AIO’s original goal of filling the seats in the Strand was exceeded by three times, with a total of 1,128 seats filled – each with a bag of food.  (And the original funds goal of $10,000 was shattered, too!)

It was a day of community, connection and joy and a great way to celebrate Martin Luther King Day in Rockland.

We’re truly grateful for

  • All who donated food and funds.
  • Our fellow volunteers from AIO and The Strand.
  • AIO for stellar event organization and for the opportunity to participate in this special event.
  • The Strand for a warm, welcoming venue.
  • Main Street Markets in Rockland, for being a food collection site and rolling a huge cart of donations down Main Street from the market to the Strand.
  • Photographers Tara Rice, Leila Murphy and Dan Bookham for these photos we can share with you.
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Supporting a Waldo County YMCA Food Drive

When the call came in  from the Waldo County YMCA in December 2020 about a food drive to help fill food pantries at schools in the county, our six-member Belfast office team leapt into action and as of Friday, Jan. 15, together had raised a total of $825 in cash donations, which includes donations from the entire office as well as additional contributions from a number of fellow employee-owners and a partial company  match in the form of Hannaford gift cards.

Shown here are, from left, are Libby Davis, Amy Bowen and Joella Rossignol, with just some of the groceries Amy was able to buy with those funds.

Libby Davis, Amy Bowen, Joella Rossignol
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Neighbors Helping Neighbors: Filling The Strand Theatre with Food and Funds

AIO Food and Energy Assistance is hosting its first FILL THE STRAND food and funds drive to benefit AIO’s Food Assistance, Energy Assistance and Weekend Meal Programs. In partnership with the Strand Theatre and Allen Insurance and Financial, this event challenges the community to fill every seat in the historic theater with bags of food and funds for AIO’s programs. AIO was inspired by GatherNH, who has held a successful Fill the Hall event in Portsmouth, NH at the Music Hall and who provided guidance to AIO.

Coordinators would like to encourage community organizations, businesses, and residents to do food and fund drives within their groups, workplaces, and neighborhoods to help with the drive.  As of Friday, Jan. 15, $12,000 has been raised in support of the event; food items will be sorted and weighed on Monday, Jan. 18.  Donations will be accepted at The Strand in Rockland that day, with all COVID protocols followed.

Non-perishable food with a current expiration date is appreciated (no glass please). Most needed items include:

  • ready rice pouches
  • macaroni and cheese and pasta
  • cereal & oatmeal
  • pop-top canned foods and Chef Boyardee meals
  • single serving lunch items
  • 100% juice boxes, shelf stable milk, powdered milk
  • kid-friendly snacks (granola bars, peanut butter crackers, 6-pack raisins)

Whether a monetary gift or food donation – your support will help the people in our community who need it the most.

Due to COVID-19 the majority of the food and funds collection will take place in the weeks leading up to Jan. 18. Food collection sites have been established at area businesses, including:

  • Allen Insurance & Financial offices (Rockland and Camden)
  • Main Street Markets (Rockland)
  • AIO Food and Energy Assistance (Rockland)

On Jan.  18 volunteers will be at the Strand Theatre between 9:00-2:00pm to receive food and funds donations—curbside—to limit the number of people inside the Strand Theatre itself.

Monetary donations are welcome – and in fact your dollar goes further since AIO can purchase food through partners at a competitive price. Individuals can sponsor a bag at $25, which will fill one seat in the theater. Those interested in sponsoring a bag through a financial donation can make it online.  

Fill the Strand With Food and Funds
Strand Marquee - AIO Food and Fund Drive
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How a Biden Administration Might Impact HR and the Workplace

While we don’t have a Magic 8 ball, with a new Executive Administration, all signs point to changes to how you approach your human resources.  Our seasoned prognosticators have some insight for you.

Each presidential transition brings changes to the HR landscape. And the more prepared an HR team is, the easier it will be for them to succeed amid these changes. To that end, this article discusses potential changes employers can expect during a Biden presidency.

To read more, click the image at right to view the article (PDF) in a new window.

HR Insights December 2020
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Do You Use 123456 as Your Password?

QUESTION: What were the top passwords leaked during 2020 data breaches?

We recently came across a new report looking at 275,699,516 passwords leaked during 2020 data breaches – it  found that the most common passwords are incredibly easy to guess – and it could take less than a second or two for attackers to break into accounts using these credentials. Only 44% of those recorded were considered “unique.”

If you cyber defenses have failed – or you have been breached by a hacker – cyber insurance can help you recover. Ask a member of the Allen Insurance and Financial business insurance team for more information about cyber coverage. Anyone who does business on the Internet really shouldn’t be without it.

ANSWER: The most popular passwords from those 2020 data breaches included  “123456,” “123456789,” “password,” and “12345678.” Read more about the report. 

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Paid Leave During Quarantine – Answers for Maine Businesses

IRS FAQs -FFCRA Tax Credits for Small and Midsize Businesses_001

With the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in Maine, businesses across the state are seeing employees being quarantined due to diagnosis or close exposure.

It is important to remember that under the The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, all businesses with fewer than  500 employees – nearly the entirety of the Maine business community – are required to provide up to two weeks of pay (80 hours for FTEs) for quarantining employees.  This includes our small businesses who may never have had to administer paid sick leave in the past.

With reduced revenue streams resulting from the pandemic, this requirement may cause deep concern.

It is important to also remember that the FFCRA also provides for a refundable tax credit for the payroll in this scenario.  The credit currently is available through the end of December with their quarterly unemployment filings (form 941).

Allen Insurance and Financial has an HR Compliance Bulletin which may answer many of the questions a business owner or manager may have about these scenarios.  Click here for the PDF.

We also recommend a conversation with your tax preparation professional.

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Test Your Knowledge of COVID-19 Mortgage Relief

In response to the pandemic, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law on March 27, 2020. Included in the CARES Act are provisions that allow homeowners to delay mortgage payments through forbearance for federally owned or backed mortgage loans.

True or False?

Under the CARES Act, when a mortgage payment forbearance period ends, a lump-sum balloon payment is immediately required to catch up on missed payments.

Answer: False

Although you can choose to repay all the missed payments at one time in a balloon payment, doing so is not required under the CARES Act. After the suspension ends, a variety of repayment options may be available depending on your lender and mortgage type. Repayment options may include setting up a repayment plan, modifying the payment, or increasing the length of your loan to account for the missed payments.

Once a mortgage is placed in forbearance, the loan payments will be temporarily suspended, but this does not mean the loan is forgiven or removed. The good news is that while the mortgage is in forbearance, late fees will not apply. Interest will continue to accrue on the mortgage during forbearance, however.

The following information can help you determine if you qualify for mortgage payment forbearance:

  • Eligibility: Eligible homeowners include those who have (1) experienced a COVID-19 hardship, such as a loss of a job, reduction of income, or sickness, and (2) have a federally owned or backed mortgage. Federally backed mortgages may include those backed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Federal Housing Administration, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Fannie Mae, or Freddie Mac.
    • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has tools to help you look up which organization owns your mortgage. You can also contact your mortgage lender to confirm which organization owns your mortgage.
  • Duration of relief: Payment relief is available for 180 days. In addition, you can apply for an extension for another 180 days.
  • How to access relief: Reach out to your loan servicer to discuss solutions available.

Some states have provided temporary relief from certain foreclosures or evictions as well. Many companies are also providing a range of mortgage relief options as needed. For mortgages not backed by the federal government, contact your mortgage servicer to see how it can help.

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Post-coronavirus Workplace Preparedness Checklist

By taking workplace preparedness steps such as updating office layouts, encouraging new behaviors and evaluating existing policies, employers can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health and safety of employees. To get started, employers can review topics on this checklist. Click for PDF.

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In the Spirit of Helping Others

Our clients include many of the small businesses and non-profit organizations we count on in our communities. News and social media include stories daily of Mainers helping Mainers and raising money to help others  We thought we would highlight some those efforts.

Opportunity Knox: Hosted online by the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce, this is a centralized way to send funds to Knox County area businesses and non-profit organizations. You decide how much you want to give in support, and the website allows you to divide that amount among the businesses and organizations listed. Many, though not all, of those listed are our clients. Participation is not automatic – businesses and non-profits have to ask to be listed. More information: opportunityknox.me

In Belfast, the City of Belfast has set up the Belfast Keep the Faith Fund, which is providing grocery vouchers to residents and grants to small businesses. Individuals can call 338-3370 x131 for more information. Donations can be made by check to the City of Belfast with subject line: Belfast KTF Fund and mailed to: City of Belfast, Attn: Belfast Keep the Faith Fund. 131 Church Street, Belfast, ME 04915. A donation to the Belfast Keep the Faith Fund is tax deductible. More information: cityofbelfast.org/groceryvoucher and cityofbelfast.org/smallbusinessgrant.

On MDI, the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce is highlighting those businesses staying open on their website here: visitbarharbor.com/open. To the best of our knowledge there’s no formal effort launched in Southwest Harbor yet, but we are monitoring the situation and should that change we’ll update this information asap.

Statewide, a host of organizations have banded together to launch Pay It Forward Maine which works in a similar fashion to the Pen Bay Chamber’s Opportunity Knox. You can find full details here: payitforwardmaine.com

Also, there is the statewide Maine Helps program, designed to connect Mainers looking to volunteer time, treasure or talent so that their impact is maximized and everyone stays safe in the process. Maine Helps connects you with ways to immediately help support nonprofits, businesses, and your community in the fight against COVID-19. More information can be found at this link.maine.gov/covid19/maine-helps

Update 4/27/2020:
The UMaine Cooperative Extension is providing an updated  list of agricultural (cheese, eggs, produce, etc.) and seafood pickup locations where consumers can purchase food from the people who produce or grow it. Many local fishermen and producers are organizing more informal efforts. Additional information about these can be found on social media outlets like Facebook. Here is a link to the Cooperative Extension web page: https://extension.umaine.edu/agriculture/farm-product-and-pickup-directory/

Any support for these efforts– however small it seems – can make a difference for our communities.