New Nutrition Bill Improves Access to Young Children
For many children in America the only place where they get a nourishing meal each day is at their school or child care program. The importance of regular nutritious meals throughout the day has been well documented over the years, especially among our youngest children. The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) allows child care centers, family child care homes, and Head Start and Early Head Start programs to offer wholesome and nutritious meals. The enrollment and strain on these programs has continued to increase over the past year as the rate of children living in poverty increases along with the recession. It has become more important than ever that education and child care programs be a resource that families can depend on to provide their children with healthy meals and help battle food insecurities.
Economic Recovery Package Keeps Millions of Americans Out of Poverty
This past February, Congress passed the American Recovery and Re-Investment Act of 2009 (ARRA) and President Obama signed the bill into law. At the time that this legislation was crafted, America was slipping deeper and deeper in to a recession. It was conceived that some action needed to be taken quickly in order to stimulate the economy and safeguard the fiscal future of individuals and families who were feeling the effects of a decreasing income.
It is very possible that without this safety net millions of families would have had to stop paying their mortgage, therefore leading to foreclosure and the loss of their home. Impacted families would also have had difficulty paying for important medicines, putting food on their tables, and heating their homes during the winter months. In addition AARA provided states that were facing significant budget short falls with aid, allowing them to put off programming cuts that would have directly affected low-and moderate-income families.
Congress Moves to Extend Unemployment Insurance Benefits
On October 2 the Bureau of Labor Statistics released their most recent jobs report. The report shows employment remains weak and employers will need stronger evidence of a reviving economy before adding new workers to their payrolls. For 21 months in a row, unemployment has increased reaching 9.8% of the workforce in September. The Commerce Department released new economic reports today that indicate the U.S. economy is starting to dig itself out of a recession and that the gross domestic product (GDP) rose 3.5% for the quarter. While this is positive news, the rise in GDP is not a full indicator of the overreaching health of an economy. The labor market shows little indication of reflecting this change right away and many Americans are still struggling to find a job or full-time work.
With the current unemployment numbers in mind, on September 22, the House of Representatives passed the Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2009 (H.R. 3548). The bill provides an additional 13 weeks of benefits to those who have lost their jobs and reside in states with unemployment rates greater than 8.5%. (In September, 27 states plus the District of Columbia had unemployment rates at this level). The bill passed overwhelmingly, 331-83.
Legislation has now moved on to the Senate (S. 1647). The Senate plans to amend the House bill to provide an additional 14 weeks of benefits to jobless workers in all 50 states, and an extra 6 weeks of benefits in states with ...
The Senate Moves Forward In Finalizing a Health Care Reform Bill
After three months of bi-partisan negotiations, the Senate Finance Committee finally passed their version of the health care reform bill on October 13th. With the support of a single Republican, Senator Olympia Snowe (ME), the Committee voted 14 to 9 to approve legislation that would, for the first time, require every American to have health insurance. This bill would dramatically expand health care coverage and mark the largest single expansion of government health care benefits in 40 years. Current projections expect this plan to cost $829 billion, financed by new taxes on high-cost health insurance plans, and decreased Medicare spending.
Senate leaders will now attempt to merge the Senate Finance Committee's health reform legislation with the bill the legislation that was approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee earlier this year. These negotiations have already begun. There are several key differences between the two pieces of legislation that the Senators will need to resolve. For example, the HELP Committee bill includes measure that lowers the cost of insurance with a public health insurance option. The corollary Senate Finance Committee does not. This topic has been a prominent feature of the public debate on health care reform. Despite all the attention focused on the real differences between the two bills, it is important to remember that both bills share similar elements like promoting shared responsibility with an employer requirement to contribute to coverage and by making health insurance affordable to families through subsidies. The negotiations that take place between Senate Leadership in the coming weeks will significantly shape the health care bill, which aims to offer quality, affordable health insurance for all Americans. Senate negotiators say they remain focused on several key issues, including whether to include a public option, how to pay for the package, how to ensure affordability, and what level of employer responsibility to demand.
Fighting Poverty with Faith: Good Jobs, Green Jobs Launch
Yesterday the Jewish Council for Public Affairs joined with Catholic Charities and 34 other national faith organizations representing the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Hindu communities to launch Fighting Poverty with Faith: Good Jobs, Green Jobs, a week-long mobilization, which will include programs such as worker training/retraining seminars, home retrofitting fairs, roundtable discussions on how to implement green job training opportunities, and tours of green jobs facilities across the country.
On the kick-off call Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of JCPA stated, "It is tragic that in today's era, despite being the richest country in the world, there are still those who are unable to make ends meet. There is no doubt that the United States is making strides to transform our nation into a more clean-energy economy. No matter if one is a Jew, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, or of any other faith, all of our religious traditions have a strong ethical mandate of helping the most vulnerable among us. This central tenet of our faiths is why we are speaking as one voice to encourage our nation's leaders to make poverty reduction a central component of any initiatives ushering in this new economy."
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