Corvallis Parent: Bittersweet Holiday Light Display, Online Fraud Protections for Kids, Indefinite Waitlist for Child Care Subsidies

Everyone’s favorite Corvallis Christmas light display goes live the day after Thanksgiving again this year – it’s a drive-through affair with the requested price of admission being only a canned food donation. 

However, this may be the last time this event comes around – these last few years have seen fewer volunteer sign-ups, and now the Pastega family is seeking a new organization to take over. So far, nobody has come forward. 

For forty years, the Pastega Christmas Light Display has been bringing holiday joy to Corvallis. And for most of that time, volunteers donated thousands of hours of work to deck the fairgrounds out in holiday lights and displays, including more than 250 figures and mechanized scenes. We at The Advocate have loved this event, and we’ll be sad to see it go. 

Visitors can enjoy the Pastega Christmas Light Display from 5 to 10 pm daily, Nov. 24 through Dec. 31 at the Benton County Fairgrounds. Drivers can enter the light show through the Reservoir Avenue entrance. Admission is a canned food item for donation. Here’s a short video of the display. 

Keep Your Kids Safe from Identity Theft 

And now, we move to a less cheery topic, but nonetheless, an important one. Let’s face it, with school vacay days on the horizon, our guard wanes somewhat, and our kiddo’s time scrolling increases. 

Miguel Bedolla, manager of OnPoint Community Credit Union’s Corvallis branch, points to some jaw-dropping statistics. 

Common Sense Media found that teens are on devices for an average of 8.5 hours per day and kids ages 8 to 12 use them for an average of 5.5 hours per day. He also points out that with so much scrolling, it takes just one click on the wrong link for kids to open themselves and the rest of their family to fraud and identity theft. 

Given the statistics, we asked Bedolla for some tips to help protect our community’s kids and families., and here’s what he offered. 

According to Bedolla 

As the manager of the OnPoint Community Credit Union Corvallis Branch in Fred Meyer, I’ve helped families pull themselves out of the repercussions of online fraud. Here are four reminders we share with our members with kids: 

  1. Talk to your family regularly about the threats that exist. A new job that asks to be paid for training. Online shopping sites with typos offering luxury goods at huge discounts. Direct messages from a stranger on social media that start as an online romance and become requests for money.

These are just a few of the scams targeting young people today. Stay on top of the latest scams by visiting the Federal Trade Commission’s site or other consumer watchdog sites. Talk with your kids regularly, sharing red flags to be aware of and what they can do to protect themselves. 

  1. Teach the importance of verification. Scammers usually target kids via email, text or phone calls, claiming to be a legitimate company or institution. They either ask kids to provide personal information or click on a link containing hidden malware.

Tell your kids to always double-check an email sender’s address and domain name, and never rely on the display name. They can hover over a link to see if the URL looks legitimate or has common tricks like a zero in place of the letter “o” or an “s” added to the end of a word, like onpoints.com. Encourage them to be extra wary of offers or notifications that are unsolicited or full of grammatical errors and typos. And the best lesson to pass on? If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. 

  1. Strengthen passwords or better yet—passphrases. Whether it’s their own social media accounts or their school’s web portal, kids have a lot of accounts to track. They may find it easiest to use the same username and password across sites. But if one account is breached, the rest could follow.

Show them how to use a password manager to keep track of different passwords. Encourage them to adopt passphrases, which are longer than a password, can contain spaces between words and should be easy to remember. They can have fun with it by considering song lyrics, a quotation or something memorable to them like “Eye Heart Tayl0r Sw1ft!,” mixing in symbols and numbers in place of some letters. 

  1. Encourage them to ask for help. Bad clicks can happen to anyone. Encourage them to alert you immediately if they are targeted, rather than try to hide it. Acting quickly can curb damage. Warn them to stop using their devices and disconnect them from the internet to stop the spreadof malware. Call their financial institution’s hotline (on the back of their credit or debit card) to report the incident.

Kids today grew up using the internet and trust it much more than previous generations. But teens are still more likely to fall for online scams than their grandparents. Cybercriminals know this and are evolving their tactics every day to take advantage of tech-savvy kids. 

I encourage you to take this opportunity to sit down with your family and share the very real threats that exist. A good place to start is with OnPoint’s eBook, “The OnPoint Guide to Personal Cybersecurity.” And remember, you are not alone. Please stop by and see me at the OnPoint branch in Corvallis inside the Fred Meyer on Kings Boulevard if you have any questions. We are always happy to help. 

And now we’ll editorialize for a moment: Some of us at The Advocate have sat with fraud victims – and we’ve seen how very real people – just going about their business – can be impacted. It’s not pretty. We would strongly suggest that you occasionally monitor your own credit report, and even monitor possible reports on your children.  

We know it all sounds yucky, and it shouldn’t have to be this way, but this is an instance in which just a little watchfulness can go a long a way.  

Oregon Child Care Subsidies Underfunded, Wait List is Long and Indefinite  

A record number of Oregon families signed up for child care subsidies this year when eligibility was broadly expanded, but that has led to a budget shortfall that could reach $123 million. 

Department of Early Learning and Care officials told a legislative committee last week that they stopped taking applications Nov. 4 for the state’s Employment Related Day Care program, which helps low-income families pay for child care. The pause in applications came months after the Legislature broadened eligibility to more families and increased benefits – but it didn’t allocate enough money to pay for them, forcing the agency to create a waitlist.  

That’s frustrated recipients and child care advocates whose lobbying efforts failed to increase the program’s funding enough during this year’s legislative session to meet the demand. 

The subsidy program pays for the bulk of child care costs for low-income families earning less than 200% of the federal poverty line, which is about $3,300 for a family of two. Families receiving the benefit only pay a monthly copay, which vary by income. The average was $10 in August. 

The budget deficit means the waitlist for subsidized care will probably remain in place indefinitely, barring a major investment by the Legislature in the 2024 session. Even if the program doesn’t grow beyond its current caseload of 15,600 families – which is unlikely – funding is $38 million short. That figure excludes $13 million in federal funding the agency expects to receive. 

That expected funding gap would spike to $123 million if the caseload grows by 2% per month, according to a presentation by state early learning director Alyssa Chatterjee and two of her aides. 

Some lawmakers on the interim education subcommittee expressed concern about the budget shortfall. They also affirmed that assistance for day care is critical for families and employers in Oregon, where child care costs many families 20% of their income – if it is available at all. 

“We need to make this program something that can’t surprise us,” said Rep. Susan McLain, D-Hillsboro.  

In June, lawmakers appropriated about $113 million less for the program than what the Department of Early Learning and Care had requested. Gov. Tina Kotek, for whom early learning is a priority, called on lawmakers last month to commit at least $50 million more. 

It’s unclear how much funding the early learning agency will ask for during the 2024 session, which kicks off in February. Kate Gonsalves, a department spokesperson, said analysts are “still working to finalize what that number will be.”  

Dana Hepper, director of policy and advocacy at Children’s Institute, told the Capital Chronicle that Employment Related Day Care is “ready to grow” but needs support from lawmakers. 

“That is not a sustainable strategy. And we know what to do. We know we have a program that works,” she said. 

Deficit driven by caseload spike: During the presentation, Chatterjee told lawmakers that budgeting for the program has been difficult because it’s been impossible to project how many families would apply for subsidies under the expanded eligibility rules. She said she expected clarity to emerge in the coming months. 

Hepper noted that the agency’s original budget request this year may have covered the current demand had it been approved. 

“They might have gotten it kind of right back then,” she said. 

Oregon has offered Employment Related Day Care subsidies for decades, but the program’s advocates long considered the program broken because it saddled recipients with exorbitantly high co-pays. In 2021, lawmakers reacting to the COVID-19 child-care crisis extended the program to serve more categories of low-income families. Students became eligible, as did families with an open child welfare case, families receiving federal assistance and survivors of domestic violence. Most of those changes went into effect this year, and more are planned.  

The legislation also beefed up the subsidy by reducing families’ copays, which were some of the priciest in the country. The copay for an average family of three with one child in care was about $520 per month in 2019, according to a report by the National Women’s Law Center. Now, depending on monthly income, a family of that size can pay no more than about $110 per month.  

To drive down co-pays and make the subsidy more useful for families, the state relied on about $97 million of federal American Rescue Plan Act funding. But the last of that funding will be spent within the year, Chatterjee told the Capital Chronicle last month, creating a funding “gap.”  

Applications for subsidies spiked in June, just after state lawmakers committed much less funding than what the agency and advocates had asked for. That month, about 11,500 families participated in the program; by October, more than 15,600 families did. However, thousands of accepted families are still waiting to connect with a child care provider who accepts the subsidy.  

“I’m also not surprised that we grew so quickly,” Rep. Emily McIntire, R-Eagle Point, said during the presentation. “This is something that our state has been begging for, that is long overdue.” 

McLain reassured Chatterjee that Employment Related Day Care is “not the first program to have a waitlist.” She noted that the state’s two grant programs for electric vehicle purchases were quickly sapped this year and closed to new applications.  

By Advocate Staff. Keep Your Kids Safe from Identity Theft by Miguel Bedolla of OnPoint Credit Union. Oregon Child Care Subsidies Underfunded, Wait List is Long and Indefinite by Grant Stringer for Oregon Capital Chronicle 

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