Ask Finney: Lost wages after North Bay fires, commuter tax deductions, motor oil standards

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- 7 On Your Side's Consumer expert Michael Finney answers your questions, every weekday on ABC7 Mornings. Submit your video questions and tune in at 6 a.m.

Question 1:

Priscilla from Sonoma County asked: I'm a special education teacher on special assignment, not full-time salaried. I won't be getting paid for two weeks because of the North Bay Wildfires. How can I make up for that loss?

Answer 1:
You can apply for Unemployment Insurance payments without the seven day waiting period once a disaster is declared. This means you'll get your payment starting the day the fire broke out, even if it's retroactive to when you signed-up. It's not a perfect solution, but it's better than nothing at all.

Question 2:
Rob from Antioch asked: I recently started a bicycle delivery position in San Francisco. I live in Antioch. Is my Bart fare a tax deduction?

Answer 2:

No. Commuting costs between your home and main workplace are not tax deductible. But, the Federal Tax Code does allow the use of tax-free dollars to pay for transit commuting and parking costs through employer-sponsored programs. Bay Area employers with 50 or more employees are now required to register and offer employees benefits to comply with the Bay Area Commuter Benefits program. Last tax year, the program allowed benefits of up to $255 per month, per employee for transit expenses and qualified parking which includes BART stations.

Question 3:
Tim asked: Is a certain percentage of synthetic motor oil required for the oil to be called semi-synthetic?

Answer 3:
No. Standards for motor oil are based on performance, not on a formula. Oils labeled "API Certified" meet performance requirements set by U.S. and international vehicle and engine makers and the lubricant industry. Many automakers require the use of synthetic motor oil in their engines because it lasts longer than conventional oils, withstands high temperatures and flows in cold temperatures which reduces engine wear. But, it can also cost two to four times as much as regular oil. So, unless your owner's manual specifies "synthetic," you don't need it.
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