DESC grant making a difference

Downtown Emergency Service Center

The Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC) helps chronically homeless adults gain the skills they need in order to obtain and maintain employment, providing them with economic well-being, productivity and self-accomplishment.

Case managers and volunteers work with each client to address issues holding them back, like chronic homelessness, no high school diploma, mental illness, disability, and/or chemical dependency. DESC also works with employers within the community, such as Metropolitan Improvement District and Princess Tours, who are willing to work with and employ DESC clients, helping them achieve job longevity and success.

With support from the TMF in 2011, DESC has been able to take great strides in eliminating existing barriers that prevent homeless adults from securing and retaining livable wage jobs and stable, affordable housing. DESC was able to update the computer labs at the 216 Drop-In Center. Clients enrolled in their Connections program produced up-to-date resumes, cover letters, master applications and search for jobs online and master interview skills. Through the course of the grant, DESC helped more than 1400 clients.

The effects of Connections programming are noticeable, especially in clients like “Joe Smith.” When Joe arrived at Connections, he had recently lost his job and his unemployment compensation had quickly run out. Fortunately, he was a skilled welder and with a Connections focus, guidance and accessible computer lab, he was able to find work quickly. However, with most of his paychecks being spent on hotel stays, he lacked the ability to stabilize his housing situation. He returned to Connections, this time in search of financial guidance. He and his case manager created an action plan that included DESC’s free overnight shelter service, a monthly budget, savings account, and they set a date for when Joe could start looking for stable housing with his case manager. Within two months, and with only a couple of setbacks, Joe was a proud resident of his own apartment.

Case managers, volunteers and access to technology all made this process a bit smoother for Joe and many other folks with similar stories. For more information on this project, contact Jen Bliss.

Digital voice wins

The YTech’s Civic Voice Curriculum is a winner! On November 15, six youth programs will be receiving the first Colleen Willoughby Youth Civic Education Awards from the Seattle City Club. The curriculum helps develop the ability of youth to learn to produce digital media, and participate online to connect, collaborate and take action. The curriculum was developed by the YMCA in conjunction with the Puget SoundOff project, supported by the City of Seattle Department of Information Technology with Comcast. Chris Tugwell from the YMCA and David Keyes from the City of Seattle Community Technology Program recently presented the Puget SoundOff and Civic Voice Curriculum at the NCDD conference. You can see their NCDD presentation on Slideshare.

Youth voices against violence: a call

Youth Voices Against Violence is looking for young people (ages 15-25) to produce a five-minute or less audio piece demonstrating the urgent need for youth violence awareness. Multiple persons can apply as a team but only one grant will be awarded. What they are looking for: documentary/interviews; autobiographical/personal essay; skits/dialogue; spoken Word/poetry; music; or a combination of all styles.

Judges will choose one Grand Prize Project to receive a grant award of $500. This first place audio piece will be featured prominently on Puget SoundOff and as well as published locally. Two Awards of Excellence will each receive a grant award of $250 and will be featured online. The contest deadline is Friday November 30, and contest details can be found here.

Understanding cable bill taxes

Look at your monthly cable bill and you are likely to find several line items of taxes and fees. Have you ever wondered what they were for? Below is a list of the typical taxes/fees/surcharges you are likely to see on your bill, and a description of each. The types of taxes/fees/surcharges you have on your bill will depend upon what types of services you have and where you receive your services. Other helpful information about your Cable bill can be found at cable service provider websites, Comcast and Wave Broadband. If you have questions about your bill that aren’t answered by your service provider, contact Seattle’s Office of Cable Communications via their website or call (206) 684-8498.

Franchise Fees: A local fee cable operators are required to pay as ‘rent’ for using of public rights of way as a path to route the cables and wires necessary to provide their cable television services. The franchise fee is remitted to the local government where the cable operator holds a franchise. This rent for using public rights of way is a cost of doing business for cable operators, but federal law allows them to pass these fees on to subscribers as a separate billing line item. Depending on your cable operator, this fee may be called a “Franchise Fee” or “Access Fee.”

Franchise related costs: A surcharge imposed by cable providers as a cost-recovery for costs they incur related to their franchise contract with local governments. These funds collected are kept by the cable operator; they are not turned over to the local government.

FCC Regulatory Fee:U.S. statute requires the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to “assess and collect” fees to recover the costs of its enforcement activities, policy and rulemaking activities, user information services, and international activities. The FCC Regulatory Fee covers the costs of these types of FCC oversight activities for the cable industry. Depending on your cable operator, this fee may be called an “FCC Fee,” “FCC Mandated Fee,” or “Regulatory Fee.”

Public, Educational, and Governmental Access (PEG) Fee: A local fee required as part of a cable operator’s negotiated franchise agreement. It is remitted to the local government to enable members of the public, accredited educational institutions, and government to produce their own programming and televise it to a mass audience. Depending on your cable operator, this fee may also be called an “Eg Fee.”

Seattle TV Station Fee or Retransmission Fee: A fee cable operators pay to local broadcast stations for the right to retransmit the local broadcast signals to cable customers. Most cable operators cover these business costs with rate increases, but some are now choosing to list the cost as a separate billing line item, to give customers visibility on the nature of the increased costs.

State Sales Tax: This is State sales tax paid by the subscriber on the services purchased from cable operators.

‘Local Taxes’ may be comprised of a variety of taxes and fees. To find out which are being applied to your specific bill, contact your cable provider.

Utility Tax: In Seattle, this is a local tax on all businesses (including the City of Seattle), engaged in or carrying on a telephone business, drainage and wastewater system, or cable television system; or in the business of selling, brokering, or furnishing gas, water, electricity, or steam heat; or the business of collecting solid waste.

Telephone Service Taxes/Fees: If you purchase telephone services from your cable provider, you may see some of these types of taxes/fees on your bill, or they may be included in a roll-up ‘State and Local taxes’ category. Contact your cable provider for more details on what taxes/fees are being applied to your specific services.

USF (Universal Service Fund): A Federal surcharge which supports the Universal Service Fund (USF). The USF helps provide affordable telecommunications services to rural, isolated, and high-cost areas; low-income residential subscribers; schools and libraries; and rural health care programs. Congress mandates that all telephone companies providing interstate service must contribute to the USF. Although not required to do so by the government, many carriers choose to pass their contribution costs on to their customers in the form of a line item. Depending on your cable operator, this fee may be called the “Federal Universal Service Fee” or “Universal Connectivity Fee” or “Carrier Universal Service Charge.”

911 Fee: A fee imposed by local governments to help pay for community 911 emergency telephone communication systems.

TTY (Telecommunications Relay): A charge which helps pay for the relay center which transmits and translates calls for hearing-impaired and speech-impaired people. Depending on your cable operator, this fee may be called “Hearing Impaired Surcharge,” “TTY Fee,” or “Telecommunications Relay Fee.”

Regulatory Recovery Fee: This is usually a combination of several different local, state and federal fees/surcharges which cable operators pay as a cost of doing business. The Federal Communications Commission allows companies to recover these costs from subscribers, which companies can do by including them in the price of monthly service or listing them as a separate billing line item. Below are fees typically included in this billing item.

State Lifeline Surcharge: A surcharge for funding “Lifeline” programs, which are state-run programs to lower the cost of residential telephone service for persons who meet certain income guidelines, have a disability, or are at least 65 years of age.

State Telecom Relay Service: A charge to help pay for the relay center which transmits and translates calls for hearing-impaired and speech-impaired people.

City Utility User’s Tax: This is local tax on businesses engaged in or carrying on utility businesses, which includes a telephone business.

Federal Cost Recovery Fee: Similar to the “FCC Regulatory Fee” imposed on cable television services; this is a federal fee to recover the costs of FCC oversight activities for the telecommunications industry.

Free internet hookups

Free cable broadband Internet service is available for organizations providing technology training to community members. The free service is offered within the Seattle city limits, based on the City’s cable franchise agreements with Comcast and Broadstripe (Millennium). For more information and to download a short form to make application, go to our tech web. If you have questions, email Derrick Hall or call (206) 233-5061.

All in one systems

Today when you are deciding to purchase a desktop computer you have choices to make, like, how much RAM to get, how big of hard drive do I need, how fast of a computer do I want, even if I should buy a Mac or PC.

You may also be thinking about the physical size of your computer as well. Most manufactures are building systems today called “all in one”. These systems allow your computers, DVD Drive, Hard Drive, Monitor, and all other features to be crammed in a slightly bigger case than your monitor. This is useful if you’re trying to save space, however, it is important to note that you may end up sacrificing computing power and expandability.

If you plan to buy a computer to mostly surf the Internet and use it for educational purposes an all in one would be a great way to go. However, if you plan to use it for video or audio editing, I would suggest getting a standard computer.

Agree or disagree with me? Drop me a note: Derrick Hall.

Cloud security

There are many benefits to adopting cloud services: more mobility, reduced cost, and more storage, to name a few. So how secure is “the cloud?” What if your vendor goes out of business? Jim Lynch, co-director of TechSoup’s GreenTech program offers some answers to these questions. You can also read the full 2012 TechSoup Global Cloud Computing Survey results and see if your organization’s concerns and/or level of engagement is on par with the world at large.