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Omaha Steve Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-21-09 08:17 PM
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BCTGM-ARA (Alliance Retired Americans)

January 16, 2009

U.S. House Stimulus Recovery Package Outline Includes Provisions for Seniors

On Thursday, Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY), Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, released the outline for the House's $825 billion economic recovery package. The package includes an additional Supplemental Security Income payment for low-income older and disabled recipients, as well as health care assistance through COBRA and Medicaid for older workers who have become temporarily unemployed. "The money for these deserving recipients will be given to citizens who have substantial needs. Therefore, it will be used wisely. The types of things that this money will be spent on - food, health care, and heat--are not luxury items," said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. The outline includes plans to provide temporary subsidies through COBRA for health insurance coverage to those who have lost their jobs, and to extend the availability of unsubsidized COBRA coverage for older and tenured workers beyond the 18 months provided under current law. Additional agencies and programs including the Social Security Administration, Low-Income Energy Assistance, and Meals on Wheels will receive increased funding as well. "I cannot think of a better use of recovery funds, and seniors and older workers are grateful that the U.S. House agrees," concluded Mr. Coyle.

House Democrats Use Rules Package to Eliminate Medicare's "45% Trigger"

Last Tuesday, House Democrats used a rules package to turn off the Medicare "trigger" that each year forces a debate on the program's costs. According to CQ Today, the provision was buried in H.R. 5 - a package of operating rules that govern the House in the 111th Congress - as a one-line item saying the Medicare trigger "shall not apply." The package was adopted, 242-181. In a release accompanying the rules package, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) called the trigger "an ideologically driven target based on a misleading measure of Medicare's financial health." The trigger is part of the 2003 Medicare overhaul law that also created the prescription drug benefit. According to the law, if 45% or more of Medicare's funding comes from general tax revenues for two years in a row, the president must submit--and Congress debate--legislation to slow spending over a seven-year period and in order to restore fiscal stability. The trigger went into effect for the first time last year. The change is temporary. "If the House wanted to change the statute permanently, it could pass legislation to do that," said a House Democratic aide.

Transition to Digital Television in Limbo

Just a few weeks before the scheduled February 17 switch to digital television, some members of Congress are drafting legislation to provide more funding for the converter box coupon program and delay the transition by up to three months. In five weeks, broadcast television stations will shift from analog signals to digital programming. While consumers with digital TV sets or cable or satellite subscriptions will not need to make any changes, those with older analog TV sets will need a converter box to receive the new signals. However, the $1.34 billion federal program to offset the cost of the converter boxes with $40 coupons has reached its funding limit. The agency distributing the vouchers cannot hand out new ones until the already-issued coupons expire, and officials are worried that people on the waiting list may not receive them in time for the transition. The Commerce Department estimates 2 million consumers are currently waiting for vouchers, but that the list could grow to as many as 5 million people. Several members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee have argued that any delay will worsen consumer confusion.

Alliance Executive Board Member Brigitte Castellano Honored by AARP

Brigitte Castellano, an Alliance Community Advocacy Network Executive Board member, has been awarded AARP's 50th Anniversary Social Impact Award. The award honors Ms. Castellano's exceptional commitment to enhancing the lives of New Yorkers, improving communities, and inspiring others. Ms. Castellano founded the National Committee of Grandparents for Childrens Rights (NCGCR), a leading organization in the fight for the rights of grandparents raising their grandchildren. To learn more, go to . "Brigitte is a pioneer and a leader in the fight for grandparents rights," said George J. Kourpias, President of the Alliance. "We are very proud of her."

Save the Date: Alliance Lobby Week February 16-20, 2009

Alliance members worked hard in 2008 to educate and mobilize seniors to vote for positive change. Now we will begin 2009 by welcoming our new and returning members of Congress and educating them about critical retiree issues. Join Alliance members across the nation for Alliance Lobby Week, February 16-20. During Congress' Presidents' Day Recess, we will kick off our 2009 advocacy efforts, strengthen relationships with members of Congress and raise the profile of the Alliance with lobby visits in legislators' home districts, a national media campaign, and press events around the country. "I encourage every Alliance member to join us at an event in your area and remind your member of Congress of the promises they made last year," said Edward Coyle. For more information on participation, please call: 1-888-373-6497, option #1, or email .

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