QUESTION: Is the Texas Department of Insurance doing anything to lower auto insurance rates like in Louisiana because people are driving a lot fewer miles during the pandemic?
ANSWER: Some auto insurers in Louisiana are independently adjusting customers’ rates, and that is happening in Texas as well.
Texas Department of Insurance spokesman Ben Gonzalez said the state agency would review rates in the coming months. It will weigh information about the number of wrecks, for instance, because fewer people have been on the roads. It also will consider other factors such as the number of car break-ins that have occurred, considering that people’s cars have been parked for longer periods of time.
“We have not ordered rate reductions, at this point, but many auto insurance companies have indicated they are offering discounts or rebates for policy holders for the past couple of months, in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. You can see a list of companies on our website and the actions they are taking,” Gonzalez said in an email. “We are also expediting approvals for property and casualty filings that provide additional coverage or relief to policyholders during the outbreak.”
The agency maintains a list on its website with links to what the various auto insurance companies are doing in response to COVID-19 at tinyurl.com/ybzexsm3 .
Q: How do you get a mail-in ballot for voting?
A: You didn’t mention which county you live in, so I’ll start by assuming you’re in Gregg County. (These instructions could generally be applied to whatever county in which you live, however.)
The Gregg County Elections Office can provide you an application for a ballot by mail. The office has been encouraging people to conduct as much business as possible over the phone, by mail or email or, if that’s not possible, by making an appointment to go into the office. Contact that office to request a ballot by mail by emailing email@example.com or calling (903) 236-8458. You also can download an application for a ballot by mail to send to the elections office at tinyurl.com/y9wbk4rp . Gregg County Elections Administrator Kathryn Nealy offered the reminder that you must mail the signed original hard copy back to her office.
For now, at least, people may request a ballot by mail if they are 65 or older, disabled, will be out of town during the election or in jail during the election. We’re busy fighting right now about whether those restrictions will be expanded so people who have COVID-19 concerns also may vote by mail instead of standing in line at the polls.
If you’re planning to vote in the July 14 Democratic Party runoff, the elections office must receive you application for a ballot by mail by July 2.
Also, Neely reminds us there’s a lot of great election information online at greggcountyvotes.com. I’m a big fan of the searchable tool that tells you whether you’re registered to vote and who your elected officials are, but it also includes information about where to vote and who’s on the ballot, along with other helpful information.
Q: Do people who are in prison still receive a stimulus check?
A: People who are incarcerated because they have been convicted of a crime are not supposed to receive a payment. If someone in that circumstance receives a payment it should be returned.
“For a Payment made with respect to a joint return where only one spouse is incarcerated, you only need to return the portion of the Payment made on account of the incarcerated spouse. This amount will be $1,200 unless adjusted gross income exceeded $150,000” the IRS says.
Here’s how to return a payment:
For a paper check — write “Void” in the endorsement section on the back of the check; in Texas, the voided check should be mailed to Austin Internal Revenue Service; 3651 S. Interregional Hwy 35; Austin, TX 78741.
If you received a paper check that’s already been cashed, or if the payment was through direct deposit, you need to submit a personal check or money order to the same address as above. Make the check or money order payable to “U.S. Treasury” and write 2020EIP, and the taxpayer identification number (social security number, or individual taxpayer identification number) of the recipient of the check.
In both cases, Include a brief explanation about why you’re returning the payment.