by U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl
As the year 2000 approaches, Arizonans need to know whether their Social Security checks will arrive on time, whether their small business will face disruption, whether "911" emergency services will remain up and running. Government and private sector preparations for Y2K -- and what you should be doing to prepare -- were covered at a congressional forum I sponsored in Phoenix recently. Here are some highlights:
- Take charge of your own "Y2K life." Don't rely solely on the federal government to guide you over the threshold of the next millennium.
- Be responsible. Keep your bank statements and write down things like the names of your prescription medications in case of a temporary loss of records.
- Don't panic. Don't try to withdraw all of your money from the ATM on Dec. 31. Instead, if you want to withdraw money, do it gradually and far enough in advance.
- Don't hoard your prescription medications; they could have a short shelf-life and could become ineffective. Call the pharmacist to check the expiration date of your medication.
- Ask questions. Will my computer work? Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov). Will my phone work? Federal Communications Commission (www.fee.gov/year2000). Will it be safe to fly? Federal Aviation Administration (www.faay2k.com). Is my small business ready? Small Business Administration (www.sba.gov/ y2k).
- Most importantly, use common sense. Don't get taken advantage of by scam artists or fear mongers who will try to make money off a Y2K panic.
As for government and private agencies, here is an update on Y2K compliance:
- Social Security: According to the General Accounting Office, an investigative arm of the U.S. Congress, Social Security should be OK. The Social Security Administration began preparing for the Y2K problem in 1989.
- Veterans Administration reports it is meeting its schedule of compliance. (The General Accounting Office is currently verifying the VA's claim).
- Health Care Financing Administration: The agency responsible for Medicare and Medicaid got a late start on Y2K preparations. Testing to be conducted this summer and fall will help determine how HCFA is doing. Contingency plans are in the works to minimize disruptions to reimbursements, though I believe there will be problems.
- State and local government: State agencies are in good shape, according to John Kelly, Arizona's chief information officer. Arizona is working to integrate its systems with federal agencies and preparing contingency plans to help ensure the continuation of services critical to Arizonans.
- Arizona cities have paid more than $20 million to fix Y2K and are working to ensure that city services such as garbage collection, transit services and emergency services will be operational.
- Phone service: US West does not expect any interruptions in service. According to William White, the company's executive director, "The sun will rise and the phones will ring."
- Banking: Bank accounts in federally insured institutions will be safe, according to the FDIC. Currently, 97 percent of financial institutions are ready for Y2K.
While no one knows what Y2K will bring, the best advice from the forum is: be aware and be prepared. If you have any questions, call my office at 602-840-1891 or contact the President's Council on Y2K at 1-888-USA-4-Y2K.