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Seattle/Western Wash. News Releases for Fri. Mar. 5 - 9:00 pm
Thu. 03/04/21
Seek Assistance Filing Taxes to Claim Important Tax Credit
Umpqua Bank - 03/04/21 10:28 AM

Umpqua Bank employee volunteers are among those providing free tax preparation assistance

Millions of dollars go unclaimed each year during tax season. This year, more than ever, filing taxes can put money back into pockets of those who need it most.

Among the IRS-certified volunteers providing assistance, Umpqua Bank employee volunteers contribute more than 200 hours annually to assist nonprofit organizations with free tax preparation for low-income residents to help them claim important federal tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit. Similar state tax credits may also be claimed.

The Earned Income Tax Credit, which may give families up to $6,660 back when they file taxes, is a federal and state tax credit for people making up to $56,844 per year. Too many miss out because they simply do not know about it. Check eligibility requirements for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and other credits, which can still be claimed going back to 2017.

“Only three out of four eligible Oregonians claim the tax credits for which they are eligible, according to CASH Oregon,” said Brenden Butler, Umpqua Bank vice president and community development officer. “Umpqua Bank employees are committed this year, as we are every year, to help return as many tax credits as possible back into the community.”

"MFS CASH Oregon is dedicated to helping Oregonians access the Earned Income Tax Credit, and we're grateful to all our volunteers, including Umpqua Bank associates, for their ongoing commitments," Riley Eldredge, MFS CASH Oregon Program Manager.

Oregon and Washington locations to seek free tax assistance include MFS CASH Oregon, NeighborWorks Umpqua’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), United Way of King County, United Way My Free Taxes, and AARP Foundation’s Tax-Aide. During the current tax season, advance appointments are required and most assistance will be conducted remotely.

Pre-pandemic, Umpqua Bank began ramping up its virtual volunteering infrastructure as part of its human-digital strategy, expanding upon the Bank’s long-standing employee volunteer program. Since 2004, Umpqua Bank associates have served more than 550,000 volunteer hours.

The bank’s Connect Volunteer Network allocates each employee 40 hours of paid volunteer time off annually, and the bank also has an employee giving match program. For more information on the EITC, visit https://www.eitc.irs.gov/. For tools to help file your return for free online or seek assistance, visit www.cashoregon.org.

Tue. 03/02/21
DEA Releases 2020 National Drug Threat Assessment - The Pacific Northwest is Flooded with Fentanyl by the CJNG Cartel
DEA Seattle - 03/02/21 2:30 PM

SEATTLE– DEA Acting Administrator D. Christopher Evans today announced the release of the 2020 National Drug Threat Assessment, DEA’s annual publication outlining the threats posed to the United States by domestic and international drug trafficking and the abuse of illicit drugs.

“This year’s report shows the harsh reality of the drug threats facing communities across the United States,” said Acting Administrator Evans. “While the COVID-19 pandemic plagues this nation, so, too, do transnational criminal organizations and violent street gangs, adjusting to pandemic restrictions to flood our communities with dangerous drugs. DEA and our local, state, and federal partners continue to adapt to the ever changing landscape, remaining focused on the current threats and looking to the horizon for emerging threats. We will always defend the American people against illicit substances that ruin lives, devastate families, and destroy communities.”

DEA Special Agent in Charge Frank Tarentino said, “The DEA Seattle Field Division, which includes the Pacific North West states of Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Alaska is primarily focused on the opioid threat, more specifically the illicit manufactured fentanyl that many drug trafficking and transnational criminal organizations are smuggling into our communities and selling to our citizens with dire consequences.” 

Drugs trends in the United States continue to evolve. While fentanyl and fentanyl analogues from China have decreased substantially following the DEA’s 2018 emergency scheduling action of fentanyl related substances and China’s enactment of fentanyl-class controls in May 2019, the opioid threat remains at epidemic levels, affecting large portions of the country. Meanwhile, the stimulant threat, including methamphetamine and cocaine, is worsening both in volume and reach, with traffickers selling increasing amounts outside of traditional markets.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 83,000 people lost their lives to drug-related overdoses in the twelve-month period ending in July of 2020, a significant increase from 2019, when more than 70,000 people died of overdoses.       

2020 NDTA findings of note:

·Mexican Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) remain the greatest criminal drug threat in the United States.

·Illicit fentanyl is one of the primary drugs fueling the epidemic of overdose deaths in the United States, while heroin and prescription opioids remain significant challenges to public health and law enforcement.

·Mexican cartels are increasingly responsible for producing and supplying fentanyl to the U.S. market. China remains a key source of supply for the precursor chemicals that Mexican cartels use to produce the large amounts of fentanyl they are smuggling into the United States.  

·Drug-poisoning deaths and seizures involving methamphetamine have risen sharply as Mexican TCOs increase the drug’s availability and expand the domestic market.

·Constraints associated with the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic – daily travel restrictions, U.S. border closings, closure of nonessential businesses, and broad shelter-in-place orders – temporarily posed new challenges to criminal organizations’ movement of drugs during the first half of 2020. 

The Pacific Northwest of the United States is under siege by the Mexican based Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG) cartel who is flooding the region with clandestine produced synthetic opioids in the form of prescriptions pills.  This transnational criminal organization (TCO) is taking advantage of the readily available and extremely dangerous, in fact lethal, synesthetic opioid; Fentanyl. These transnational criminal organizations, specifically CJNG are mixing illegally and clandestinely made fentanyl into most illicit narcotics, to include cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and pills, resulting in a significant increase in non-fatal and fatal overdose deaths.  

The National Drug Threat Assessment provides a yearly assessment of the challenges communities face related to drug abuse and drug trafficking. Highlights in the report include usage and trafficking trends for drugs such as prescription drugs, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana, and hundreds of synthetic drugs. New to this year’s report is the effect of COVID-19 during the first part of 2020.

The assessment gathers information from many data sources such as drug investigations and seizures, drug purity, laboratory analysis, information on transnational and domestic criminal groups, and U.S. government drug cultivation and production estimates.

The National Drug Threat Assessment is available at www.dea.gov/documents/2021/03/02/2020-national-drug-threat-assessment.



Mon. 03/01/21
The DEA Announces 20th Take Back Day The Pacific Northwest prepares for April event on the heels of largest collection to-date
DEA Seattle - 03/01/21 6:27 PM

SEATTLE – With opioid overdose deaths increasing during the pandemic, the Drug Enforcement Administration announced its 20th Take Back Day scheduled for s://3">April 24, 2021.  At its last Take Back Day in October, DEA collected a record-high amount of expired, unused prescription medications, with the public turning in close to 500 tons of unwanted drugs. Over the 10-year span of Take Back Day, DEA has brought in more than 6,800 tons of prescription drugs. With studies indicating a majority of abused prescription drugs come from family and friends, including from home medicine cabinets, clearing out unused medicine is essential.

“The DEA Take Back is a safe, convenient, and responsible program to dispose of prescription drugs and keeping your family and our communities safe,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Frank Tarentino.  “This initiative is more vital now than ever before due to the alarming spike in overdose deaths throughout our nation.  I hope to see record breaking participation this April, which will contribute to the safety of all our citizens and the communities.”

Last October, residents of Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington turned in an all-time record for the Pacific Northwest of 40,517 pounds at 150 collection sites. In addition, Alaska and Idaho had all-time record collections.  Collection numbers by state are as follows:

Alaska, 4,598 pounds at 16 collection sites.

Idaho, 10,526 pounds at 42 collection sites.

Oregon, 11,551 pounds at 45 collection sites.

Washington, 13,842 pounds at 56 collection sites.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. has seen an increase in overdose deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic, with 83,544 Americans overdosing during the 12-month period ending July 1, 2020, the most ever recorded in a 12-month period. The increase in drug overdose deaths appeared to begin prior to the COVID-19 health emergency, but accelerated significantly during the first months of the pandemic.

The public can drop off potentially dangerous prescription medications at collection sites which will adhere to local COVID-19 guidelines and regulations in order to maintain the safety of all participants and local law enforcement.

DEA and its partners will collect tablets, capsules, patches, and other solid forms of prescription drugs. Liquids (including intravenous solutions), syringes and other sharps, and illegal drugs will not be accepted. DEA will continue to accept vaping devices and cartridges at its drop off locations provided lithium batteries are removed.

Helping people dispose of potentially harmful prescription drugs is just one way DEA is working to reduce addiction and stem overdose deaths. 

Learn more about the event at www.deatakeback.com, or by calling 800-882-9539.