Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Busy December for Congress

With the inability by the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction (“Supercommittee”) to reach a deal before Thanksgiving, December will be a busy time for the U.S. House of Representative and Senate. Funding for the Federal Government expires on December 16th, meaning that Congress will have to pass either a Fiscal Year 2012 Budget or another continuing resolution (CR) before that deadline to prevent a government shutdown. Also looming are the thorny issues of a payroll tax extension, unemployment insurance, and the “doc fix” to cover the shortfall in Medicare payments to physicians, all of which are about to expire and the “Supercommittee” was supposed to address in its deliberations. Possible vehicles for these to be extended include the defense appropriations bill, an omnibus appropriations bill, or another CR.

On November 22nd, House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Whip, Steny Hoyer, and Assistant Democratic Leader, James Clyburn, wrote to Speaker John Boehner asking him to pass these three pieces of legislation. They argued that, “Independent economists from across the political spectrum estimate that the failure to pass these essential pieces of legislation could reduce economic growth by 2 percentage points next year.” Adding to this argument for a stimulus push to prevent another recession, the Congressional Budget Office last week released a report indicating that the ARRA economic stimulus package created 0.9 million jobs in 2009, 3.3 million jobs in 2010, and 2.6 million jobs in 2011.

Since the Democrats and Republicans seem far apart on how to pass these measures, it seems likely that lawmakers will remain in Washington, DC well past the date of December 8th, when the House was schedule to adjourn for the year. We need to remind our elected officials of the importance of an extension for the payroll tax cut, unempolyment insurance, and the Medicare payment "doc fix" in the lives of working Americans.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!

One of the crucial pieces to solving our country’s debt crisis is the need to put people to work. As the economy continues to sputter and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) is in its final stages, there is a need for Washington, DC to implement a real jobs plan.

With almost 14 million people unemployed, there is a need to put people to work. In addition to all the other benefits of people working, the U.S. economy reaps the proceeds of employed people paying taxes, purchasing products and services, and not drawing unemployment insurance benefits.

Harvard University economist and former National Economic Advisor, Lawrence Summers, has estimated that each additional one percent of economic growth will close the deficit by $400 billion (Center for American Progress, Recommendations for the Special Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction 2011).

Congress should recommend the extension of a payroll tax cut, the continuation of extended unemployment insurance benefits, and policies that will create jobs (and additional growth).

Thursday, November 3, 2011

First Release of FY 2012 LIHEAP Funds!

Late in the workday on Friday, October 28, 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services finally informed states that $1.7 billion had been authorized for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). This was perplexing as the program starts on November 1st. States were then left to quickly calculate benefit levels and receive authorization to start the program.

At the same time, the amount for LIHEAP authorized by Washington, DC is inadequate for the long winter ahead with high prices for oil and rising numbers of people in poverty. As a result, households in need will get less than half of the fuel assistance they received last year. For families that heat with oil, for example, the benefit will allow them to buy enough oil to last to mid-December leaving them without help for three month of winter. Both the Senate Labor-HHS and the House Subcommittee budget spending bills appropriate $3.4 billion for LIHEAP. On November 1, 2011 Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts (a member of the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction) sent a letter to the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid urging additional funding for LIHEAP in the Federal Fiscal Year 2012 Budget.

We must continue to push for funding LIHEAP at a full level of $5.1 billion. In the United States, we should not force our seniors, children, and working poor families to choose between heating and eating.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Join SAVE 4 All Social Media Campaign TODAY!

With the November 23rd deadline for the “super committee” recommendations just weeks away, the SAVE for All campaign needs your help urging Members of Congress to prioritize our communities.

Starting on November 1st, the SAVE for All campaign is launching a social media action campaign. They’re inviting people from all over the country to join them on Facebook and Twitter to discuss what’s happening next in the “super committee” by using the hashtag #SAVE4All. Also, please use #CommunityAction hashtag so that we can see the tweet on our CAPWorks.org website.

Here’s how you can get involved:
On Facebook, go to your Senator's Facebook page and click the ‘Like’ button at the top. Then post this message to his or her wall: "Please reject any deficit reduction plan that harms low‐income people, adds to their number, and stalls our fragile economic recovery." You can also craft your own message—the more personal the story, the better!

On Twitter, post a message like one of these:
Both parties are putting out disappointing plans in the #Supercommittee http://bit.ly/sbe52O #SAVE4All #CommunityAction
Check out http://bit.ly/t0Xt2n to see what’s happening in the #supercommittee. #SAVE4All #CommunityAction

Or go here to find your Senators Twitter handle and post a message like this:
Dear (@insert your Senator’s handle) Please reject any deficit reduction plan that harms low‐income people or stalls economic recovery #SAVE4All #CommunityAction