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We offer help on navigating through the virus crisis

We urge consumers to be on the lookout for an escalating number of pandemic-related scams, hazards and financial challenges. 

From price gouging preventing purchases of critical supplies to fake products promising cures, and from ongoing loan payments to travel cancellations, Arizona PIRG Education Fund wants to help consumers navigate this challenging, confusing time. We’ve prepared a set of guides for consumers which can be found at arizonapirg.org/feature/usp/responding-crisis. Here are key take-aways:

Paying utility bills. Arizonans are likely to face even greater challenges paying utility bills for the foreseeable future. For a list of organizations providing utility assistance, visit wildfireaz.org/find-help/energy-assistance or call 602-604-0640.

Refunding your travel. Many Arizonans wondering how to recoup the costs from cancelled plans. Top airlines and hotels have adjusted their policies and in a number of instances -- highlighted in our guide -- consumers can refund their bookings with each respective company.

Avoiding price gouging. Arizonans should be able to get the critical supplies they need without being ripped off. Our guide warns consumers about severe price gouging on online marketplaces, namely Amazon, and includes information about how to identify reasonably priced, effective supplies during the outbreak. 

Identifying phishing scams. Scammers have seized on people’s fear and confusion to steal their private and/or financial data. Our guide lays out the known phishing scams related to COVID-19 and offers some tips for identifying new ones. 

Paying off student debt. Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, Americans were struggling to pay off the nearly $1.7 trillion owed in student loan debt. Nearly a third of borrowers were in default before -- and that number is likely to grow in the coming months. Our guide offers potential ways to reduce student loan payments.

As we listen carefully to the medical community’s directions about protecting our health and that of our communities, let’s also make sure our families and friends are guarding against potential threats to our finances -- which in many instances, the repercussions of COVID-19 have already significantly strained or depleted.

The Arizona PIRG Education Fund will continue issuing tips for consumers on financial issues, product safety, food safety, scams and other threats. Government and corporate policies are rapidly changing and if you are seeking the latest policy of a particular entity it is best to directly check their website. 

-Diane E. Brown

PIRG executive director

 

Medicare and Alzheimer’s needs to be addressed now

In every Primary Presidential Debate so far, Democratic candidates have discussed “Medicare-For-All.”  On the Republican side, President Trump recently signed an executive order in which he took a stand against what he referred to as “Medicare-For-None.”

But neither Democrats nor Republicans should talk about Medicare without addressing Alzheimer’s. The reality is, Alzheimer’s is America’s most expensive disease and will cost to the country $305 billion this year alone, with the majority of costs being borne by Medicare and Medicaid. 

This is an urgent issue that deserves to be discussed.

In Arizona specifically, 150,000 citizens have Alzheimer’s. Nearly 400,000 caregivers in the Grand Canyon State are providing a total value of $5.1 billion in unpaid care. 

For over 20 years, I have been a caregiver for those with cognitive impairments, even before my own mother was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. For millions of families like mine facing this devastating and fatal disease, access to health care professionals and care services through Medicare is critical to our everyday lives.

When it comes to health care, the question isn’t “All or None.” The questions are, how can we best support families today, and are we investing enough in medical research to stop this public health crisis and save Medicare altogether? 

The day is approaching when Medicare will be bankrupted by Alzheimer’s, and there won’t be any program to fight about. Despite the debate no longer being in Arizona, our state’s presidential preference election is swiftly approaching, so let’s talk about THAT before it is too late. 

-Cynthia Valencia

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