Twenty States Raise Minimum Wage at Start of New Year

Twenty states and dozens of localities increased their minimum wage, giving a financial boost to many frontline workers during the pandemic. New Mexico will see the largest jump, adding $1.50 to its hourly minimum and bringing it up to $10.50. Arkansas, California, Illinois and New Jersey will each increase their minimum wages by $1. Alaska, Maine and South Dakota will increase wages by just 15 cents an hour, while the rate in Minnesota will rise by half that, at 8 cents, to $10.08 an hour. Additional increases are scheduled for elsewhere this year, with most changes taking effect on July 1st. Much of the country’s workforce have seen their wages remain relatively stagnant for decades when inflation is taken into account.

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Debt Collectors, Payday Lenders Collected over $500 Million in Federal Pandemic Relief

More than 1,800 Paycheck Protection Program loans last year went to debt collectors and high-interest lenders, according to the Washington Post. The aid to these firms amounted to more than $580 million. More than 170 of those recipients have been the subject of a multitude of complaints. Twenty-five have been subject to legal enforcement or consumer alerts, many by the CFPB and the Federal Trade Commission.

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Jackson County Court temporarily halts eviction writs and proceedings

The Jackson County Circuit Court has temporarily suspended eviction proceedings and service of eviction writs after placing two process deputies on leave for shooting a man while serving an eviction writ on Jan. 8.

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N.R.A. Declares Bankruptcy and Seeks to Exit New York

Seeking an end-run around an investigation by the New York attorney general, the National Rifle Association said that it was declaring bankruptcy and would reincorporate in Texas. The group’s effort to circumvent New York’s legal jurisdiction raised immediate questions from the New York attorney general, who is seeking to use her regulatory authority to dissolve the N.R.A. She has been conducting an investigation into corruption at the gun group since 2019. Typically, nonprofit groups that are chartered in New York and under investigation are prohibited from relocating their assets during an inquiry; in recent years, the attorney general’s office prevented the Trump Foundation from closing before it had reached the conclusion of an investigation into that organization. The bankruptcy filing could delay the resolution of the attorney general’s case while the matter is litigated in bankruptcy court.

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2020 Tax Tip – Mileage

The mileage rate for businesses for 2020 is being reduced from 58 cents per mile to 57.5 cents per mile.  The medical mileage rate for individuals for 2020 is being reduced from 20 cents per mile to 17 cents per mile.

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2020 Tax Tip – Retirement Distributions

If you suffered an economic hardship due to COVID-19, you may be eligible to take a distribution from your retirement plan and avoid the ten percent (10%) penalty and spread the distribution over a three (3) year period.

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2020 Tax Tip – Stimulus Payments

Before you file your 2020 tax return, be sure to include the information from your IRS Notice 1444.  This document informs you how much you received in stimulus payments this past year.  You should not file your tax return without including this information on your return.

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Macy’s to Close 45 Stores this Year

Department store operator Macy’s Inc. said yesterday that it would close about 45 stores this year as part of its three-year plan to lower store count in order to focus on its more productive outlets, Reuters reported. Even before the lockdowns in the U.S. last year, Macy’s had announced the plan to close 125 of its least productive stores to tackle plummeting mall traffic. It had closed about 30 stores in 2020. “Macy’s is committed to rightsizing our store fleet by concentrating our existing retail locations in desirable and well-trafficked A and B malls,” Macy’s said in an emailed statement. The COVID-19 outbreak has worsened the plight of certain mall-based chains, forcing them to shutter stores and double down on their online business, while few chains are looking to open smaller stores in off-mall locations. Macy’s, which operates over 750 shops, including Bluemercury, and Bloomingdale’s, said it would post a list of stores expected to be closed this year on its website.

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Crash Was a Driving Accident, Not a Breakfast Accident

Statute bars compensation for injury resulting from “risk unrelated to the employment to which workers would have been equally exposed outside of and unrelated to the employment in normal nonemployment life.” Risk means activity. That exclusion, like all workers’ compensation statutes, is subject to strict construction. Claimant choked on his breakfast, passed out, and crashed his work van while on his way to a work assignment. Breakfast, choking, and passing out are unrelated to the employment and part of normal nonemployment life, but driving the van to a work assignment is not, and crashing the van caused the injury. Driving the van while having breakfast violated an employer safety rule, for which statutes penalize claimant, but do not remove driving from the course of employment.
GARY BOOTHE, JR., Employee-Appellant v. DISH NETWORK, INC., Employer-Respondent
Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District – SD36408

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Motion for Summary Judgment Leaves Material Facts in Genuine Dispute

In an action to enforce settlement, on a motion for summary judgment, movant included two documents naming different sums. Each party claimed that a different document constituted a settlement offer, movant the first and non-movant the second. Non-movant’s response to the motion included a third letter showing acceptance of the second letter, raising a genuine dispute as to which of the first two letters constituted the offer of settlement, which was material to the claim. The state of the record therefore precluded summary judgment, circuit court erred in granting the motion, and Court of Appeals reverses and remands.  
NORMAN LAWS, Appellant vs. PROGRESSIVE DIRECT INSURANCE COMPANY, Respondent
Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District – SD36707

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