Fall Newsletter     

Dear Friends,  
     I wanted to send along several announcements which you may find of interest, relating to information on the Health Benefit Exchange deadlines, Free Credit Freezing, Consumer Warning on Flood-Damaged Cars, Beautification Grants and Re-Redistricting Reform public meeting.  Details on all of these events are provided below.
     Please feel free to share with others and as always, if you have additional questions or inquiries, feel free to contact me at   Geraldine.Valentino@house.state.md.us   or call 301-858-3101 .
Geraldine Valentino-Smith
Delegate Geraldine Valentino-Smith
6 Bladen Street Room 427
Annapolis, MD  21401


Open Enrollment  for health insurance plans offered by the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange runs from November 1 st -December 15 th , with plans going into effect on January 1, 2018 but one can begin reviewing the plans and considering one's choice now.   This insurance is open to all citizens in need of insurance.   Nine out of ten people last year received some financial help with the purchase of their plans and the 2.5 million Marylanders with preexisting conditions cannot be charged more for coverage.   "We encourage everyone who needs health coverage to review their options on MarylandHealthConnection.gov," said Dr. Howard Haft, interim executive director of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, which operates the state's insurance marketplace. "Don't automatically assume from what you've heard that this isn't for you. You need to check it out."

Marylanders should visit MarylandHealthConnection.gov, and click "Get Started." There they can "Get an Estimate" by entering basic information to review health and dental plans, and their estimated costs for 2018. Consumers who already have a 2017 plan also can make changes and shop for new coverage from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15, 2017.

Marylanders who are eligible for Medicaid or the Maryland Children's Health Program, or who have recently experienced certain qualifying life events (such as having a baby) can enroll year-round.

Maryland is making great strides in health coverage. It recently:
  • Cut the percentage of uninsured residents in half, down to 6.1 percent in 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Ranked fifth among all states in young adult enrollments (18-34 years old) as a percentage of overall enrollment, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Ranked fourth nationally in coverage gains in rural areas from 2013 to 2015, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
  • Saw the amount spent in hospitals for people without insurance decline by $311 million from 2013 to 2015, according to the Maryland Department of Legislative Services.
To help Marylanders enroll, Maryland Health Connection launched the most robust enrollment mobile app in the nation with more than 150,000 downloads to date. Hundreds of insurance brokers and "navigators" located across the state are available to provide free enrollment assistance. And enrollment events will be held throughout Maryland, including a series of "Beat The Rush" events during the weekend of Nov. 3-5. Details are available at MarylandHealthConnection.gov/BeatTheRush.

Attorney General Frosh Reminds Marylanders of New Law Effective October 1st Allowing Free Credit Freeze
Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh is reminding Maryland residents of a new law effective October 1st that provides consumers the right to place a freeze on their credit reports free of charge.
"A credit freeze is one of the most effective methods of protecting yourself against identity theft," said Attorney General Frosh. "The recent Equifax data breach is a clear example of why consumers should use every available resource to help keep their personal information out of the hands of identity thieves." Read more in the full press release.

CONSUMER ALERT: Attorney General Frosh Warns Consumers about Purchasing Flood-Damaged Cars
Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh today warned consumers to be cautious of purchasing vehicles that may have been impacted by major flood damage.  After hurricanes with large-scale floods like Harvey and Irma, flood-damaged cars often end up at salvage auctions and bought by rebuilders.  While these vehicles should be marked "salvage" or "total loss" on the title, dishonest sellers may "wash" the title, hide the damage, and offer these vehicles for sale.  
"Consumers purchasing a used car after a hurricane should always be wary that the vehicle may be irreparably damaged and not the good deal it appears to be," said Attorney General Frosh. 
Signs of a flooded vehicle may include:  
  • A musty odor in the interior, which might be covered with a strong air-freshener; 
  • Upholstery or carpeting which is loose, stained, doesn't match, is new or is damp; 
  • Rust around doors, under the dashboard, on the pedals or inside the hood and trunk latches; 
  • Mud or silt in the glove compartment or under the seats; 
  • Brittle wires under the dashboard; and/or 
  • Fog or moisture beads in the interior or exterior lights, or instrument panel. 
Attorney General Frosh advises consumers to follow these tips to protect themselves and avoid purchasing flood-damaged vehicles:
  • Check the VIN History: The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) has a free database that can tell you if a car has been marked as salvage, stolen, etc. Note, rental vehicles may not make it into this database. Consumers can check the vehicle history Click Here
  • Check the Title: If the VIN number clears the NICB, consumers should then check the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, a program administered by the U.S. Department of Justice, Click Here. There is a fee to obtain this report, ranging from $2.95 to $12.99 per report. The history reports provide: current and previous state of title data; title issue date; latest odometer data; theft history data (if any); any brand assigned to a vehicle and date applied; and salvage history, including designations of a "total loss" (if any).
  • Additional Resources: If the VIN and title checks clear, consumers may use paid sources, such as CarFax or AutoCheck. Consumers can obtain multiple reports to check multiple vehicles for a discounted rate.
  • Inspection: Consumers should thoroughly inspect their prospective vehicles, even if the vehicle clears all reports. Salvagers clean vehicles extensively. Not all flood damage is visible to the eye.
 Consumers who suspect they may have purchased a flood-damaged vehicle, may file a complaint with the Office of Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division by visiting www.marylandattorneygeneral.gov.
Keep Maryland Beautiful Grant Applications Now
Being Accepted 
More than $200,000 Available for Initiatives Throughout Maryland
The Maryland Environmental Trust is now accepting applications for funding through Keep Maryland Beautiful Grants Program, comprising five grants designed to help volunteer and nonprofit groups, communities and land trusts support environmental education projects, litter removal, citizen stewardship and solve natural resource issues in urban and rural areas.
Applications will be accepted through Nov. 15 for one of five grants in two categories: Environmental Education, Community Initiatives and Cleanup Grants for community groups and Land Trust Capacity, Excellence and Stewardship Grants for local land trusts in the state. Each organization may apply for one of the five grants per funding cycle.

Keep Maryland Beautiful is a program of the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development and a recognized state affiliate of the national Keep America Beautiful program. The Maryland Department of Transportation has been a contributor to the program for 25 years. Maryland Environmental Trust, part of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, administers the program's grants in partnership with these departments.
"The Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development is proud to partner with the Maryland Environmental Trust to offer community groups and nonprofits Keep Maryland Beautiful grants to support environmental education projects, litter removal and citizen stewardship," said Housing Secretary Kenneth C. Holt. "Providing funding for Clean Up & Green Up Maryland grants allows us to support our local stakeholders in the ongoing revitalization of their communities."
In the most recent funding cycle, about 50 grants totaling more than $160,000 were awarded to municipalities, nonprofits and schools for beautification projects, community cleanup activities and environmental education programs in 19 counties and Baltimore City.
"Keep Maryland Beautiful is a success story for our communities and our environment," said Maryland Environmental Trust Executive Director William Leahy. "Thanks to our partner agencies we will continue to find new ways to support efforts and programs that will inspire and engage Marylanders in the important work of stewardship of the places we care deeply about."  
The program's timeline has changed to distribute grant money to recipients earlier in the year to help fund more projects in spring. Additionally the application process is streamlined and can be completed online at the Keep Maryland Beautiful website.
Grants and funding amount available are:  
Aileen Hughes Grant of up to $2,000 is awarded to an individual representing a Maryland land trust for outstanding leadership, partnership and innovation in a conservation project or organization development.
Bill James Environmental Grant of up to $1,000 is awarded to school groups, science and ecology clubs and other nonprofit youth groups for proposed environmental education projects.
Clean Up & Green Up Maryland Grant of up to $5,000 is awarded to community groups and nonprofit organizations statewide to promote neighborhood cleanliness and beautification by increasing litter removal, greening activities, community education and citizen stewardship.
Janice Hollman Grant of up to $10,000 is awarded to land trusts throughout the state to increase capacity, support programming and innovation and foster stronger, better connected land trusts that will protect all natural resources and enhance the lives of Maryland citizens and generations to come.
Margaret Rosch Jones Grant of up to $2,000 is awarded to nonprofit groups or communities for an ongoing project or activity that has demonstrated success in solving an environmental issue. This award recognizes those organizations that have been actively educating people in their community about litter prevention, community beautification or reducing/eliminating the causes of a local environmental problem.  

By Authority of Friends For Geraldine Valentino-Smith, Elizabeth Ryan, Treasurer