Friday, December 27, 2013

WVTK Local & State News December 27, 2013

Once again, the number of power outages is dropping in Vermont.  The weekend ice storm initially knocked out electricity to more than 70-thousand customers, and by Christmas night the number had dramatically gone down.  Then with the fresh snow yesterday, it wasn’t long before the outages were more than 12-hundred.  As of this morning, it’s just under 400, with restoration of most expected by the end of the day.

Starting next Wednesday, undocumented workers can apply for something called a “driver’s privilege” card in Vermont.  The new law which begins January 1st outlines how undocumented immigrants get the card by showing proof of address, a birth certificate and passing a driver’s test.  It’s estimated about three-thousand people in the state will benefit from the new law which lawmakers passed earlier this year.  Vermont joins five other states in the country with similar laws, and is the first in New England.

New Yorkers are being reminded that the deadline to apply for a property tax break is approaching. The state tax department says homeowners need to register for Basic STAR by December 31.  The department says the average homeowner saves $700 each year from this exemption.  But, they need to register with them—one time only—to continue receiving this break in 2014 and beyond.  Homeowners are entitled to the exemption if their family income is under $500,000.  To register online, click here or call 518-457-2036.

The price of a stamp is about to go up.  A panel that oversees the Postal Service has approved a three-cent hike to 49 cents, from the current price of 46 cents.  The hike includes a one-cent increase to keep pace with inflation.  The additional two cents are intended to be temporary, and recoup the losses the postal service suffered during the recession.  The stamp price change will take effect on January 26.

Some laid-off IBM employees may be able to get federal re-employment benefits.  After more than 400 people lost their jobs at Big Blue last summer, Vermont labor officials sought assistance under the Federal Trade Act, which assists workers who lose jobs due to foreign competition.  Federal officials this week granted the state's petition, meaning some unemployed workers can get retraining and other help in finding new jobs.  Right now the decision only includes people who worked at IBM's facilities in Williston.  The state is reapplying to get coverage for those laid off from the Essex Junction site.

The U.S. Forest Service is encouraging safe snowmobiling this winter in Vermont's Green Mountain National Forest.  Weather permitting, snowmobiles are allowed on 470-miles of designated trails within the forest from December 16 through April 15.  Besides urging caution on snowmobile trails, the Forest Service is warning of the dangers associated with riding, hiking and skiing on frozen bodies of water.  The snowmobile season opened a little over a week ago, but the rains and ice storm of this past weekend led to the closure of many trails across the state. Snowmobilers should check trail conditions before heading out.