I wanted to take a moment to share some items of interest.

CIRCUIT BREAKER TAX CREDIT

I am pleased with the new tax credit for Massachusetts senior citizens age 65 and older called “The Circuit Breaker.” Seniors whose property tax payments exceed 10 percent of their annual income, and seniors who rent their homes can take advantage of the program. No special application is required. If you believe you are qualified, you can receive this credit by filling out a 2001 Massachusetts state income tax return before the April 15 2002 deadline. For more information contact the state Department of Revenue Customer Service Bureau at 1-617-887-MDOR or toll-free at 1-800-392-6089 or contact my office at 1-617-722-1643.

EARLY RETIREMENT BILL

As former Senate Chairman of the Committee on Public Service I co-sponsored the Early Retirement Bill. Passed in December, the Early Retirement incentive program allowed certain eligible seniors employed by the state to file for retirement five years earlier. The program was designed to reduce staffing levels by providing viable early retirement incentives while realizing significant cost savings to the state budget. As many as 4,000 involuntary layoffs were avoided, and hundreds of millions of dollars were saved. A similar bill to help reduce town expenses and avoid involuntary layoffs is expected to pass soon.

EQUAL CHOICE BILL

As many of you may know, I have filed the Equal Choice Bill aimed at providing seniors with equal access to home care services under Medicaid. The legislation has been endorsed by thousands of seniors across the state including the senior advocacy group Massachusetts Senior Action Council and by Mass Home Care. I am pleased to report that the Equal Choice Bill has been approved by the Committee on Human Services and Elderly Affairs and it is now before the Committee on Ways & Means.

PRESCRIPTION ADVANTAGE

Launched last April, the nation’s first prescription drug insurance plan for elders and people with disabilities enrolled more than 70,000 people this past year. The program’s development team has made 450 visits in 168 communities since last year to maximize awareness and enrollment. For more information or to apply call 1-800-AGE-INFO and press 1 for Prescription Advantage.

REDISTRICTING
I am currently serving my third term as Senator from the Suffolk and Norfolk District representing parts of Boston, Avon, Canton, Randolph and Milton. Under redistricting scheduled to go into effect in January 2003, I will also begin representing the towns of Stoughton, West Bridgewater, and parts of Braintree, Sharon, Easton and East Bridgewater. Senate and House districts are restructured every ten years to reflect demographic shifts. As a result of a population boom in the southeast section of the state, my district was expanded southward. I view this as an opportunity to learn about new issues, familiarize myself with different communities, and meet as many new constituents as possible.

BUDGET CRISIS
We are facing an economic challenge the likes of which have not been seen since the fiscal crisis of 1988-92. State revenues fell by $225 million in September, $120 million in October, $45 million in November, and $96 million in December. The numbers represent a shortfall of $2 billion in Fiscal Year 2002 and tax collections are running $275 million below the previously estimated $190 million. This is going to be a difficult year for everyone, and some compromising may be necessary. However, I remain committed as ever to improving care for seniors.

PENSION ASSISTANCE
The New England Pension Assistance Project is a resource based at the Gerontology Institute of UMass Boston. The Project offers a hotline to help seniors answer pension questions, including whether persons are entitled to a pension, how their social security benefits affect their pensions, whether persons can receive payments from the pension of a deceased spouse and whether early retirement plans should be accepted. The Project’s services include individual counseling, attorney referrals and financial advisors, and services are free and confidential. The Pension Assistance Project can be reached at 1-617-287-7311.

FREE GED AND COLLEGE PREP FOR VETERANS

The Veterans’ Upward Bound Program at the University of Massachusetts Boston offers free evening college preparatory services and high school equivalency classes to men and women of all ages who served in the United States Armed Forces. The program also provides academic advising, tutorial assistance, textbooks, school supplies, and a modest transportation stipend. The program is rolling admission with three 18-week cycles beginning September, January, or May. For more information, contact Frank Boback at 617-287-5873.

FUEL ASSISTANCE

Due to record cold temperatures, many homeowners are still struggling to pay last year’s heating bills. For fuel assistance, please contact Self Help Inc. at 800-225-0875, the Citizens Energy Oil Heat Program at 1-877-563-4645, or the Massachusetts Winter Heating Helpline at 1-866-ENERGY-7.

Questions or concerns? Please contact me at my office at (617) 722-1643,
my home at (617) 696-0200, by email at [email protected],
or visit my website at www.BrianAJoyce.com

Thank you for allowing me to work for you
.

Warmest regards,

BRIAN A. JOYCE
State Senator