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PREP Act is something you should understand

by TERRI DICKERSON/ CDA Press Consumer Gal
| December 10, 2020 1:00 AM

We’ve been hearing a lot about COVID-19 vaccines, but have you heard of the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness or PREP Act?

If you're considering getting the vaccine, you need to know about this act.

In 2005, the PREP Act took effect. Under this act, the Secretary of Health and Human Services was authorized to limit legal liability for losses related to medical countermeasures necessary to combat a public health emergency.

Under a March 10, 2020 declaration, retroactive to Feb. 4, 2020, the Secretary of HHS invoked the PREP Act and declared COVID-19 a public health emergency. So what does that mean?

For starters, this act limits the legal liability with any vaccine tied to COVID-19 and it appears to be broad in scope. A federal law will pre-empt any state or local laws.

Why should we as consumers care? Because the PREP Act offers immunity to any “covered person” with respect to all “claims for loss” caused by, arising out of, relating to, or resulting from the “administration” or the “use” of a “covered countermeasure” if a declaration has been issued with respect to that countermeasure. A covered person means the United States, or a person or entity that is a manufacturer of such countermeasure or distributor.

COVID-19 vaccines are considered a countermeasure to COVID-19. In short, that means any entity can be covered under this act if that entity or individual complies with all the requirements of the PREP Act and the conditions of the secretary’s declaration.

Furthermore, even if the medical product at issue is not a covered countermeasure, if that entity or individual reasonably could have believed that the product was a covered countermeasure, they could be protected from liability in the event their vaccine causes harm.

Bottom line: When you consider getting the vaccine, make sure you understand how the PREP Act could impact you as an individual. It is also important to do your homework on the company offering the vaccine.

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ABOUT ROTH IRAs

There are two main types of IRAs for individuals: a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA. The main difference between is when you pay tax on your money.

With a traditional IRA, you pay taxes on the money when you withdraw the funds in retirement. Consider with a Roth IRA you do not receive a tax deduction for your contributions but your investment grows tax free and is not subject to tax when withdrawn in retirement.

The thought behind traditional IRAs was to allow the investor to save for retirement with pre-tax money, often through payroll deductions, allowing for a lower taxable income at the time of earnings. Then after retirement upon withdrawal, the investor would get taxed on the income when your income tax rate would typically be lower.

But consider this: Our tax rates today are unusually low because of the massive budget deficit that is happening. Unfortunately, at some point, those tax rates will likely increase, which means there is a good chance that the tax rates will be higher in 20 years (if you are that far from retirement) when you go to spend your money.

The decision to choose between a traditional or Roth IRA, assuming you are eligible for either, comes down to whether or not you think the tax rates are going higher in the future. If you believe they will, then a Roth IRA would be a better investment for your retirement.

If you believe your tax rate will go down as you age, then you’d be better off gaining the tax benefit now by saving through a traditional IRA.

Another big advantage to Roth IRAs is that there are no required minimum distributions so they can be passed completely to your heirs.

For more information and to understand the income and contribution limits associated with each type of IRA, check with your tax professional.

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HOW TO AVOID CHARITY SCAMS

With the holiday season upon us, I'm asked for advice on tips for charitable giving. When you consider giving to a specific charity, search the company’s name plus complaints, reviews, ratings and scam. A couple of useful websites to assist with online research is Charity Navigator and Charity Watch.

When you do give, make sure you keep a record of all donations. Review statements closely to make sure you are charged only the amount you agreed to and that you did not sign up for recurring donation payments.

If you encounter a questionable organization, report them to FTC.gov/complaint. Find your state charity regulator at nasconet.org and report to them. Share any information you have — like the name of the organization or fundraiser, phone number, and what the fundraiser said or did.

A few final thoughts: Research the charity, find out how much money goes to the cause, look up rating reports and never pay by cash, gift card or wire transfer.

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Remember: I’m on your side.

If you have encountered a consumer issue that you have questions about or think our readers should know about, please send me an email at terridickersonadvocate@gmail.com or call me at 208-274-4458. As The CDA Press Consumer Gal, I’m here to help. I’m a copywriter working with businesses on marketing strategy, a columnist, a veterans advocate and a consumer advocate living in Coeur d’Alene.