Entries Filed in 'News from Washington'
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree warned Congressional leaders that letting emergency unemployment benefits expire at the end of this month would slow the economic recovery and make it harder for workers looking for a job to get by.
“If Congress doesn’t act, 3,000 people in Maine will lose their unemployment checks at the end of the month and nearly 9,000 more will by next summer. Not only will that be a devastating blow to families struggling to make ends meet but will have a real impact on economic growth,” Pingree said. “Unemployment checks don’t sit in someone’s bank account, they get spent on gas, groceries, clothes, home heating oil and other essentials at local businesses.”
According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) unemployment checks are the most effective benefit, dollar-for-dollar, to drive local economic activity.
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Tags: Unemployment insurance
“The idea that so many children are born into poverty in the wealthiest nation on Earth is heartbreaking enough. But the idea that a child may never be able to escape that poverty because she lacks a decent education or health care, or a community that views her future as their own, that should offend all of us and it should compel us to action. We are a better country than this.
So let me repeat: The combined trends of increased inequality and decreasing mobility pose a fundamental threat to the American Dream, our way of life, and what we stand for around the globe. And it is not simply a moral claim that I’m making here. There are practical consequences to rising inequality and reduced mobility,” said President Obama on his speech about economic mobility.
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President Barack Obama is ordering the federal government to nearly triple its use of renewable sources for electricity by 2020. Already the White House has been equipped with solar panels. These efforts are aimed to show an example to others that transitioning to renewable energy sources makes economic sense as in the long run it saves money, saves finite resources, keeps jobs in America, lessons our dependency on other countries for oil, reduces the effects of climate change, and grows American jobs. It also strengthens our national security.
Obama announced the plan today as part of a wide-ranging, second-term drive to fight climate change and prepare for its effects. The directive on renewable energy applies to all federal agencies — civilian and military. The Defense Department has already set a goal that 25 percent of its energy needs should be supplied by renewable energy by 2025 and is implementing their plan.
The U.S. State Department has said it would review and consider any change of use for the Portland Pipeline, including the reversing of its flow.
“I’m glad the State Department is taking this seriously. The Portland Pipeline passes through the hearts of many Maine communities and along some of our state’s most valuable natural resources, like Sebago Lake. Any change in the pipeline’s use—including the transport of Canadian tar sands—should be reviewed closely at the federal level. While there are currently no plans to make changes, I think it’s important that the State Department has said that none could go forward unchecked,” said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree.
Communities across the state have issued ordinances baring Tar Sands from being transported through their areas. The environmental clean-up of leaks in Tar Sands Pipelines continues in committees throughout America. The most notable being in Michigan.
In February of this year, Pingree wrote a letter signed by 17 House and Senate members asking the State Department to require a new permit and full environmental review before allowing the owners of the Portland Pipeline to reverse its flow to transport tar sands.
Tags: Tar Sands in Maine
Through the USDA Rural Development a total of $462,591,340 in the areas of homeownership, business assistance, energy and renewable energy development, water and wastewater and community facilities in Maine.
“These investments represent an historic level of funding – the largest ever by Rural Development in Maine, of which the impact can be felt in nearly every part of a rural community. From assisting Maine families gain equity for a more secure future through homeownership, to assisting rural businesses to expand and grow to supporting community facilities such as health clinics, libraries and fire stations, our work is critical in strengthening rural Maine communities,” said USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel.
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Tags: Agriculture·Maine rural areas
After approving a bill authorizing major medical facility leases for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a hearing that examined the VA’s major construction program. Multiple internal and external reviews, including committee hearings, have found serious deficiencies in the management of the VA’s construction program, leading to significant cost increases and substantial delays in the design and construction of medical center projects.
“‘Over budget’ and ‘delayed’ should not be the terms that best describe the VA’s major construction projects. Unfortunately, that’s the most accurate way to characterize them,” said Rep. Mike Michaud (ME-02), Ranking Member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “After years of reforms and attempts to fix the problems, VA is still coming up short. While some delays and cost overruns are completely legitimate, this hearing revealed that numerous weaknesses still exist and must be addressed.”
In 2012, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) conducted a review of the VA’s management of medical facility construction projects and released the report in April, 2013. GAO found VA’s four largest construction projects, Las Vegas, Orlando, Denver and New Orleans, all had cost increases ranging from 59 percent to 144 percent, representing a total cost increase of nearly $1.5 billion and an average increase of approximately $366 million per project. Additionally, GAO reported schedule delays ranging from 14 to 74 months with an average delay of 35 months per project.
Michaud is pushing for an omnibus Veterans bill that covers backlogs, and other deficiencies in the VA/Department of Defense system. Read more here:
President Barack Obama’s weekly address on how we are creating a new clean energy economy
Congressman Mike Michaud is now serving as the ranking member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. On the committee, Michaud has been able to work successfully with Republicans, cutting through the current partisan climate in the nation’s capital.
Mike Michaud comforts a Vietnam Veteran who finally was recognized for his service. Photo By Ramona du Houx
Over the years, Michaud has been on the front lines of the fight in Congress to fund the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) at a level that begins to meet the needs of veterans. He helped pass historic legislation that provided the largest budget increases for the VA, expanded access to VA health care, improved health services for all veterans, and modernized benefits earned by servicemembers.
In addition, Michaud successfully passed provisions into law that led to increased access to healthcare services for rural Maine veterans. The state has new veterans’ care facilities and a mobile care unit because of the congressman. He also authored legislation creating a new program that provides support to veteran caregivers by offering them training and access to mental health counseling. Last year, Michaud worked to pass a bill improving long-term care for elderly and severely disabled veterans that are at state veterans’ homes.
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By David Cutler – a professor of economics at Harvard University
Published: November 8 on the Washington Post
The anger over the botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act’s federal health insurance exchange — and over the conflicting explanations about whether people can keep their coverage — has been bipartisan and well-deserved. The administration needs to make personnel and management changes to get enrollment back on track. But the focus on insurance coverage obscures other parts of the ACA that are working well, even better than expected. It is increasingly clear that the cost curve is bending, and the ACA is a significant part of the reason.
The law has two overarching goals: Cover almost everyone, and slow the growth of medical care costs. The goals are equally important. Too little coverage, and premiums in the exchanges will be unaffordable; too rapid a cost increase, and the federal government will not be able to afford the subsidies.
Even as coverage efforts are sputtering, success on the cost front is becoming more noticeable. Since 2010, the average rate of health-care cost increases has been less than half the average in the prior 40 years. The first wave of the cost slowdown emerged just after the recession and was attributed to the economic hangover. Three years later, the economy is growing, and costs show no sign of rising. Something deeper is at work.
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Representatives Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree announced that farmers in a number of Maine counties are now eligible for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) disaster assistance.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack issued a disaster designation today for Somerset County due to damages and losses caused by excessive precipitation that occurred from May 8th through September 25th. In addition to Somerset Country, the USDA has designated Aroostook, Franklin, Kennebec, Penobscot, Waldo and Piscataquis counties as contiguous disaster counties also eligible for assistance. This disaster designation makes farm operators in these counties eligible to be considered for assistance from the Farm Service Agency (FSA). According to the USDA, eligible farmers have 8 months from now to apply for benefits.
“This designation comes at an important time since agricultural producers across the state have experienced several hardships during this past crop season,” said Michaud and Pingree. “These USDA programs provide critical assistance to producers when disasters strike, and we encourage Mainers to contact their local Farm Service Agency office to learn more about how these programs can help.”
For more information on FSA programs and eligibility requirements, Mainers should contact the Maine FSA office at 207-990-9140 or visit the FSA website.