Entries Filed in 'News from Washington'
President Obama signed into law today bipartisan legislation that will address many of the immediate systemic problems within the Department of Veterans Affairs. U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud worked with leaders on both sides of the aisle to finalize the legislation late last month. The new law takes steps to ensure veterans receive care in a timely fashion, and also strengthens accountability and transparency within the Department. It includes a number of provisions from Michaud to benefit veterans in Maine and across the nation.
Michaud, who serves as Ranking Member on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, commented:
“Today represents an important milestone in our ongoing efforts to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs. The signing of this bipartisan legislation into law is, by no means, the end of this journey. In fact, it’s just the beginning.
“Now is the time for us to roll up our sleeves and get to work on implementing a wide range of reforms within the VA. Veterans deserve timely and high-quality benefits and services. We must change the culture at the VA to one where the needs of veterans are met directly and in a timely manner – and where employees are motivated to always do the right thing. A big part of getting there means increasing accountability and transparency across the Department, and having an assessment of whether VA’s current structure allows it to meet the needs of veterans. I look forward to working with Secretary McDonald over the long-term on achieving a stronger, more veteran-focused VA.”
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The U.S. House of Representatives today passed the bipartisan VA conference report that Rep. Mike Michaud helped finalize over the weekend. Michaud, who serves as Ranking Member on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, worked with Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to reach the bipartisan deal that addresses the immediate problems plaguing the VA system.
“Today’s House vote is an important step toward reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs into an organization that is focused on meeting the individual needs of every single veteran, and meeting them in a timely and responsive manner,” said Michaud. “I am confident that the bipartisan spirit we saw throughout our many oversight hearings on this crisis, throughout the Conference Committee, and on the floor of the House today will carry us forward over the coming years as we dig into the real work of reform. I’m proud that we all came together, worked across the aisle for the best interests of our veterans, and put together a path forward for VA.”
A number of Michaud’s provisions were included in the final conference report. Most notably, Michaud secured the extension of Project ARCH – a program he first worked to bring to Maine in a 2008 bill he helped pass. ARCH serves approximately 1,400 Maine veterans and allows them to receive quality care close to their homes and support networks, at Cary Medical Center in Caribou. Without the ARCH program, many Northern Maine veterans would face a nearly 600 mile round-trip journey to and from Togus to receive care. Prior to Michaud’s work on the Conference Committee to secure a renewal, the program was set to expire at the end of September.
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SAPPI paper mill in Skhowegan, Maine, emits polutants. Photo by Ramona du Houx
Maine has been a leader in clean energy and efficiency, with a plan enacted during the Baldacci administration working with lawmakers. During that time Maine became part of the New England state’s cap-and-trade carbon trade system, know as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, (RGGI).
However, the state is still at the mercy of winds that carry pollution here. That’s why President Barack Obama’s EPA proposal to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants by 30 percent nationally and by about 14 percent in Maine by 2030 is critical. Carbon emissions are the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States and power plants account for roughly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions.
While there are limits in place for the level of arsenic, mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particle pollution that power plants can emit, there are no national limits on carbon pollution levels.
“The EPA’s plan will allow states like Maine to build on the strong work we’ve already been doing to reduce carbon dioxide emissions,” said Congressman Mike Michaud. “Over the last 9 years, emissions from power plants in the nine states participating in RGGI have dropped by more than 40 percent. That is a very important step forward, and this proposal – when taken with Maine’s cutting-edge clean energy initiatives – positions Maine to be a leader in the clean energy sector. That means more jobs, lower utility bills and cleaner air for all Mainers.”
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Tags: Climate change·RGGI - Regional Green House Gas initiative
The Houlton International Airport and the Sugarloaf Regional Airport are receiving a total of $450,000 in operations and environmental assessment grants. The Federal Aviation Administration is providing $300,000 to Houlton and $150,000 to Carrabassett to assist in the development of new infrastructure at each airport.
“I commend the FAA for providing this essential funding to the Houlton and Sugarloaf airports so they can undertake these needed planning and infrastructure improvement projects,” said Rep Mike Michaud. “These investments ultimately promote air travel across Maine by ensuring that our airports have the resources needed to operate effectively, efficiently, and in an environmentally friendly way.”
Houlton’s grant will fund the construction of a 3,375 square foot snow removal equipment building for protection from adverse weather conditions. In Carrabassett, the funding will be used for an environmental assessment study which will evaluate the environmental and economic impacts related to proposed terminal area improvements.
Captan Adam Cote received the Bronze Star.
The Maine Army National Guard’s 133rd Engineering Battalion announced today that Captain Adam Cote, a Sanford native, has been awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his service in Afghanistan. Cote deployed to Afghanistan last September and is due to return home in the next couple weeks.
During the first four months of the deployment, Cote served as Company Commander for the Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the 133rd Engineer Battalion. For the final five months of the deployment, Cote was chosen to be the Company Commander of the 150th Engineer Company. The 150th is a horizontal construction engineering company of approximately 150 Soldiers who fell under the command of Maine’s 133rd Engineer Battalion throughout the duration of the deployment.
“I hand-picked Captain Cote to lead the 150th because of his leadership skills and his ability to get things done,” said Lieutenant Colonel Dean Preston, Commander of the 133rd Engineer Battalion. “He had an enormous amount of responsibility throughout our time here in Afghanistan, yet he rose to the challenge and performed incredibly well. He is truly deserving of this very prestigious award.”
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Tags: Adam Cote
Congressman Mike Michaud
U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, Ranking Member on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, was appointed today to serve on the conference panel of House and Senate lawmakers tasked with finalizing legislation to address the systemic shortcomings within the VA healthcare system. The panel consists of six Democrats and eight Republicans.
“Serving our nation’s veterans has been the highest honor of my career in public service, and now we must all come together – Republicans and Democrats alike – to roll up our sleeves and finalize a legislative package that best meets the urgent needs of the brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for our nation,” said Michaud. “We have a serious task ahead of us, but I am confident that all of us share the common goal of ensuring our veterans receive the dignity, respect and care they have more than earned through their unrelenting service to our country. I look forward to working with my colleagues in finalizing a legislative package that substantively addresses the systemic failures plaguing our VA system, puts an infrastructure in place so that they never recur, and lay out a road map for how our VA can deliver high-quality, timely, convenient care to every single veteran it serves moving forward.”
Michaud has voted for a number of bipartisan bills aimed at strengthening accountability and improving performance within the VA. Michaud supported H.R. 4031, bipartisan legislation that would make it easier to remove poorly performing VA executives; as well as H.R. 4810, which would make it easier for veterans not receiving timely care within the VA to get access to non-VA care.
Michaud also has called on President Obama to enact key provisions from his own legislation, H.R. 4399, via executive order. Michaud’s legislation would not only hold an even larger swath of VA executives accountable for performance, but it would establish patient goals and outcomes for ensuring veterans are receiving quality care.
In addition to legislative action, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee is continuing to hold a series of oversight hearings into the matter. In fact, the committee has held more than 90 hearings this past Congress – more than 50 of which involved oversight.
The Senate passed VA reform legislation last week. Michaud and his other conferees will now work on reconciling a final bill for approval before heading to the President’s desk for signature into law.
Tags: Congressman Mike Michaud·VA healthcare scandle
Kris Doody, CEO of Cary Medical Center in Caribou, appeared before the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee today to update lawmakers on the successes of Project ARCH and the need to secure an extension to fund the program that provides healthcare to veterans who live in northern Maine.
Congressman Mike Michaud included the program in a 2008 bill he helped pass, bringing ARCH to Maine and providing high-quality healthcare to veterans in or near their local communities. For many veterans in northern Maine, it’s a nearly 600 mile round-trip journey to Augusta.
“I was pleased that Kris Doody had the opportunity to join our committee today and share the successes of the ARCH program with Members of Congress. I firmly believe that Project ARCH can offer us insightful guidance as we look for national solutions to the VA crisis,” said Michaud. “I’m proud of Project ARCH, and I continue to hear from so many veterans all across The County who have been able to receive high-quality medical care, close to the comforts of their family and friends, because of ARCH. I won’t stop working until the VA commits to officially extending this critical program.”
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Tags: Congressman Mike Michaud
USDA announces over $1.5 million to assist with critical upgrades to rural healthcare in Maine communities.
“I am pleased USDA Rural Development can contribute to rural healthcare upgrades in a substantial way, through helping to provide a new healthcare facility and a brand new lifesaving ambulance for Maine residents in these two very rural areas of Maine,” said USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel.
Danforth Habilitation Association, in Danforth, has been selected to receive a Community Facility Guaranteed Loan in the amount of $1,372,724 to construct a new Intermediate Care Facility in Danforth, replacing the older facility. Danforth Habilitation Association provides 24/7 licensed nursing supervision of coordinated health treatment and rehabilitative services to individuals diagnosed with intellectual disabilities.
Anson Madison Starks Emergency Services, in Madison, has been selected to receive a total of $161,800 (a Community Facility Direct Loan of $132,000, and a Rural Economic Impact Initiative Grant of $29,800). Funds will be used to purchase a new ambulance. The existing ambulance is in need of replacement, as it has high mileage and has reached its maximum useful life. The new ambulance will assist Anson Madison Starks Emergency Services in providing its lifesaving services for its large and very rural area of Somerset County.
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Tags: USDA in Maine
President Obama in Maine in 2010 photo by duhoux
President Obama said at a press conference Friday that he would make a decision “in the days ahead” about whether to use American military power to help the Iraqi government with the onslaught of Islamist insurgents. The President ruled out using ground forces.
“This poses a danger to Iraq and its people and, given the nature of these terrorists, it could pose a threat eventually to American interests as well,” said President Barack Obama said of the offensive now threatening Baghdad. “We will not be sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq, but I have asked my national security team to prepare a range of other options.”
Working with a collation of nations will take time, he said, so no actions will be taken immediately or unilaterally.
“People should not anticipate this is something that is going to happen overnight,” said Mr. Obama. “We want to make sure that we have good eyes on the situation there. We want to make sure we’ve gathered all the intelligence that is necessary so that if I do order action it will be precise and direct.”
Two Maine organizations will share a total of $321,500 in funds from the USDA to support local foods efforts.
“Support for Maine’s farmers and local foods’ businesses is critical to creating economic and community development in rural communities. I am pleased that USDA Rural Development can invest $321,500 to make a significant impact on farm and food infrastructure in several Maine counties while creating jobs and giving Mainers access to locally grown and produced foods,” said USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel.
Coastal Enterprises, Inc., in Wiscasset, has been selected to receive a Rural Business Enterprise Grant in the amount of $86,500 to provide technical assistance to small and emerging private farm and food infrastructure businesses located in Maine’s “Rim” Counties of Aroostook, Franklin, Oxford, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Somerset, and Washington. The goal is to expand elements of the value chain including processing, marketing, and distribution, thereby giving producers the opportunity for growth and added prosperity. Twenty jobs are anticipated to be created and eight businesses assisted.
The Greater York Region of Commerce has been selected to receive a Community Facility Direct Loan in the amount of $235,000 to purchase a two acre parcel of land directly adjacent to the Chamber so that they may expand their farmer’s market, provide additional parking, and to incorporate a picnic area for the vendors and customers.
Supporting local and regional foods systems is one of the top three emphasis areas of USDA Rural Development. The agency supports this initiative through increased economic activity related to local and regional food systems through the creation and expansion of infrastructure, business services and supply chain coordination, and by facilitating connections between rural food producers/businesses and regional market opportunities. The other emphasis areas are advancing the biobased economy and renewable energy development, and investing in community and economic development.
President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities.
USDA Rural Development invested $462.5 million in rural Maine communities last fiscal year in the areas of homeownership, business assistance, energy and renewable energy development, water and wastewater and community facilities. The agency has Area Offices located in Presque Isle, Bangor, Lewiston, and Scarborough, as well as a State Office, located in Bangor. There are 59 employees working to deliver the agency’s Housing, Business, and Community Programs, which are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, and farmers, and improve the quality of life in rural Maine.
Tags: Agriculture·agriculture in Maine·Farms in Maine·Value added goods in Maine