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January 23, 2001

QUESTION: I received a letter telling me I can get up to $816 in a tax rebate. The letter said send a $36 processing fee to the Senior Advisory Assistance Center.

According to the letter, checks should be made payable to "rebate assistance."

Should I send the money or can I do this myself? I could surely use the cash. — Tempted, El Centro

Don't send any money. That's a state program, but the Senior Advisory Center is not a state agency. If you had read to the end of that two-page letter you would have read that.

Nevertheless, you could be eligible for a tax rebate — if you were 62 or older by Dec. 31 or if you are blind or disabled.


— And owned and lived in your own home. A house, condo, apartment or a mobile home will qualify.

— Had a total income of $33,993.

— And are a U.S. citizen or a designated alien.

Colleen Ludwig, chairman of the Area Agency on Aging advisory committee, promised to find out how to apply for the homeowners assistance program. When she finds out, she said, she will tell us and we will tell you.

We suspect it won't be difficult. In the meantime, hang onto your money. That's always a good idea. When in doubt, don't send any money.

That Sacramento outfit must have mailed a lot of letters. Ludwig said she got a bunch of calls. So did we.

There's lots of rebates around. …

AIR CONDITIONER TUNE-UP — To get the $25 discount for tuning up your air conditioner, there are a couple of things you have to do.

You have to hire a participating technician so when you arrange for the service, ask if the company is participating. If so the bill will be discounted $25. And you have to pay the bill. — IID, Imperial

Shucks! Nothing is ever as easy as we hoped it would be. But that does sound like an easy way to make $25. Thanks for setting us straight.

NOT ONE APPLICATION — I am with the Imperial Valley Housting Authority. We talked about the tenants still in the county houses in the Poe Colonia.

We still have not received one application from any of those residents for housing assistance. What do you think that means? — Waiting, Brawley

We hope it means those families have reached a plateau where they no longer qualify for housing assistance. It may only mean they don't want to move.

GRANDPA HITCH-HIKED — F.F. Leja and his wife were my grandparents. We grew up with the story about how grandma came from Poland with three children, traveled 11 days on the train and slept on the ground their first night in Imperial Valley.

Grandpa didn't have it so easy, either. When he got off the boat on the East Coast, he walked and hitchhiked to California.

How did you happen to hear about that story? — Grand-daughter, Holtville

We were digging through the book "The First Thirty Years" looking for the history of the Imperial Cemetery. We saw the name Leja and remembered we knew a boy, Pat Leja, in Holtville High School in 1946 and started to read.

When we got to the part about how there was nobody there to meet the young wife and her children at the end of the journey, we were knocked out. We imagined the anxiety of that young mother after it got dark.

What do you do when you're standing in the dirt 7,000 miles from home with three children tugging at your skirt? She spread a blanket on the ground and they settled down for the night.

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