Tag Archive | Congress

Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014

cute little girl continuing to paint

The US House of Representatives and the Senate are set to take action now to ensure high-quality child care for children.

Late last week, they reached an agreement on a bill to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act (CCDBG), which was last authorized eighteen years ago.

children walking to school

The reauthorized Child Care and Development Block Grant Act would take numerous steps to improve access to high-quality care for young children and their families, including:

  • Improving the health and safety of children in Child Care and Development Block Grant Act -funded child care settings.
  • Making it easier for families to access and keep quality child care, especially low-income and homeless families.
  • Taking steps to prevent suspensions and expulsions of young children in child care.
  • Enhancing the overall quality of child care, with an additional focus on improving the quality of care for infants and toddlers. Take action today to ensure your members of Congress vote yes on the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act — crucial legislation for young children and their families.
  • High-quality child care provides a developmentally-appropriate environment for children while their parents work to support their families. It is a critical part of the continuum of high-quality early childhood development and learning services that all children and families need to thrive.
  • Please call your members of Congress and ask them to support the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014.
  • Source(s): Childrens Defense Fund and  Zero to Three

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Tell Your Senators To Increase Humanitarian Aid

african children

Mercy Corp remind us  in their  recent action alert that more than 50 million people across the world have fled their homes — the greatest number of global refugees since World War II.

Massive crises such as those in Syria, the Central African Republic and South Sudan are exhausting the capacity of humanitarian actors to respond. In such desperate times, it’s essential that Congress increase funding for humanitarian aid — millions of lives depend on it. 

As the conflicts continue to rage in these regions, millions more face illness, starvation and death. Their only hope is that compassionate citizens around the world will find in their heart to come to their rescue. 

Tell your Senators to increase humanitarian aid. South Sudan, over half of the people do not have enough to eat. At the same time, cholera and other water-borne diseases threaten to spread faster than aid agencies can respond.

Armed conflict and heavy rains have grounded flights and made many roads impassable for months, severely limiting the ability of humanitarian organizations to transport lifesaving supplies.

The South Sudanese people want nothing more than to restart their lives. Mothers and fathers want their children to go to school. Families want to plant seeds and crops, to earn a living. They need a respite from violence, from the struggle to survive… they need a future.

Around the world, millions of innocent civilians are trapped in complex crises like this one, forced by violence to leave their homes and face danger, uncertainty and even death.

Action is needed now — tell the Senate that there is no time to wait .

Thank you for making your voice heard on behalf of children and their families in the world’s toughest places.

Source: Mercy Corp Action Alert

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Food For Peace Reform Act of 2014

 

african children

The Food for Peace Reform Act of 2014 (S.2421) was introduce on June 3, 2014 by Bob Corker, Junior Senator from Tennessee. This Act establishes the Food for Peace program in the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. (Repeals authority for the current program under title II of the Food for Peace Act, including certain U.S. commodity purchase, U.S. cargo, and monetization requirements.)

 
The Act authorizes: USAID to provide emergency and nonemergency foreign assistance, including through the provision of U.S. commodities or local or regional procurement; nonemergency assistance to combat malnutrition and hunger, mitigate food crises, and promote resilient food security. It sets forth minimum funding levels for nonemergency assistance.
 
It also establishes the Food Aid Consultative Group, which shall: 1) test options for improved product packaging and storage; reform commodity acquisition and supply chain management; 2) increase private sector development in food aid products, packaging, and delivery; provide guidance on how best to use food aid commodities, including guidance on ensuring that the products reach their intended recipients; and 3) strengthen commodity quality monitoring. Further, it requires USAID to: 1)
assess the types and quality of agricultural commodities and products donated for food aid; 2) adjust products to cost-effectively meet nutrient needs of target populations; 3) test prototypes; adopt new, or improve existing, specifications for micronutrient fortified food aid products; 4) develop program guidance for matching products to nutrient purposes; and 5) evaluate performance and cost-effectiveness of food products and programs for vulnerable groups, such as pregnant mothers and young children.
Indian Girl
 
The Act also : 1) authorizes ocean transportation of agricultural commodities to be procured through full and open competitive procedures; 2) requires USAID to avoid displacing sales of U.S. agricultural commodities; 3) prohibits Program assistance from being made available unless USAID determines that the provision of the agricultural commodity in the recipient country would not: (a) result in substantial interference with the domestic production or marketing of agricultural commodities in the country, or (b) have a disruptive impact on the agricultural producers or the local economy of the country.
 
Further, the Act expresses the sense of Congress that the U.S. Merchant Marine: (1) is a critical component of the nation’s military and economic security; and (2) consists of a fleet of private, U.S.-registered merchant ships that provides domestic and international transportation for passengers and cargo.
 
Source(s): Congressional Research Service. http://www.govtrack.us
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Extend Unemployment Benefits: Help Make the Holidays Bright for Millions of Americans

woman with cellphone

While Congress is preparing to return to their home states to share in holiday festivities with their family members, millions of working Americans are bracing themselves for the expiration of their unemployment benefits. This post is written to remind the fortunate among us that as winter festivities continue across the country for many, there are literally millions of other Americans who are sitting at home right now, waiting to hear if they will have basic needs such as food and shelter met next month.

Federal unemployment insurance has proved vital support for millions of struggling families across our nation. Unemployment insurance for millions of citizens is slated to expire on December 28, 2013. The Economic Policy Institute says more than five (5) million U.S. workers have been unemployed longer than six months. This is more than four times the number of long-term unemployed before the onset of the Great Recession.

The National Association of Working Women remind us that, “…Nearly 8 million workers and their families have been kept afloat by the extension of the federal unemployment insurance program while they search for work in this tough economy. Long-term unemployment is at a level not seen since the Great Depression– over 42% of all unemployed have been without a job for over 6 months, and 30% (4.4 million workers) have been out of work for over a year.” The National Association of Working Women asks that we help give struggling families something to be grateful for by telling Congress to extend long-term unemployment benefits.

“The unemployment benefits these struggling families receive kept at least 3.3 million Americans from falling into poverty in 2009 alone, including 1.5 million children.” Until the national unemployment rate shows measurable signs of improvement and the economy begins generating meaningful numbers of living wage jobs, the program of federal jobless benefits should be continued by Congress. Extending unemployment benefits will not simply benefit the enrollees but our national economy. I know that to some it sounds counter-intuitive but continuing to support long-term unemployment benefits will help facilitate the growth of our economy—but it is true.

“How could unemployment insurance payments to these Americans help the economy? The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says every one dollar of unemployment insurance benefit grows the total economy by $1.10. And every one million of the benefit adds six new American jobs. Moreover, unemployment insurance has more economic impact than many other spending proposals according to the CBO.”

The Brookings Institution states, “Families on UI rely on it to maintain necessary spending, thus the money is rapidly spent rather than saved. Absent such benefits, spending would fall sharply, resulting in hardship on not just their families but also on the shops and workers that depend on those consumers.”

The provision of Extended Unemployment benefits has been part of every response to recessions since 1958, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Our country has never permitted benefits for the long-term unemployed to expire when unemployment was above 7.2 percent.

Allowing these benefits to lapse will be nothing short of a disaster for families and our economy. With that said, it is time for each of us to tell our Representatives in Washington to ensure that ALL Americans can celebrate this season. To accomplish said goal, call 1-888-245-3381 NOW and ask your Representative to extend federal unemployment insurance benefits.

SAVE SNAP Funding

Soup Kitchen

The 2009 Recovery Act’s temporary boost to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits is scheduled to end on November 1, 2013, resulting in a benefit cut for every SNAP household. For families of three, the cut will be $29 a month — a total of $319 for November 2013 through September 2014, the remaining months of fiscal year 2014.[2] That’s a serious loss in critical financial support for families in need, especially in light of the very low amount of basic SNAP benefits. Without the Recovery Act’s boost, SNAP benefits will average less than one dollar and forty cents ($1.40) per person per meal in 2014. Nationally, the total cut is estimated to be five (5) billion dollars in fiscal year 2014. It seems unlikely that Congress will enact legislation to remedy this problem, as President Obama and some members of Congress have proposed. Consequently, states need to prepare for the benefit cuts — including determining how they will provide information about the upcoming benefit reduction to participating households and other stakeholders as well as how to manage increased client inquiries when the cut takes effect.

America’s children need your help to fight for funding for much needed feeding programs. The US House and Senate are making decisions about funding for hunger-relief programs. Hunger in America is pervasive. Food security is necessary to lead a productive, healthy, and active life. It has been reported that more than forty-nine (49) million Americans lack reliable access to the food. Childhood hunger is a growing reality in America. In one of the wealthiest nations in the world, the prevalence of childhood hunger is a national travesty and for many a well kept secret.

Approximately, one in four children in America is food insecure. As is aptly stated in the materials by Share Our Strength i “No Hungry Kid”, “…their bodies may not be rail thin, nor their bellies bloated like their counterparts in other countries, but they’re at risk of hunger all the same. They lack the energy to learn, grow, and thrive.” It is a well known fact that proper nutrition is vital to the growth and development of healthy children.

Statistics on Childhood Hunger in the United States: • According to the USDA, over 17 million children lived in food insecure (low food security and very low food security) households in 2009. ii • 20% or more of the child population in 16 states and D.C. are living in food insecure households. The states of Arkansas (24.4 percent) and Texas (24.3 percent) have the highest rates of children in households without consistent access to food. (Cook, John, Child Food Insecurity in the United States: 2006-2008. iii • In 2009, households that had higher rates of food insecurity than the national average included households with children (21.3 percent), especially households with children headed by single women (36.6 percent) or single men (27.8 percent), Black non-Hispanic households (24.9 percent) and Hispanic households (26.9 percent).v

With 46.2 million residents, Poverty, USA, is the largest state in America. Despite recent economic growth more than 43 million Americans -including 14.7 million children – live in poverty, the highest in the more than 50 years that the data has been tracked. Yet a recent Gallup poll found that only 5% of Americans believe poverty and homelessness are important problems for the country. So let’s look at some facts and make our own determination:

Over 25 percent of the children in the US under the age of six live in poverty. The poverty rate among women climbed to 14.5 percent in 2010 from 13.9 percent in 2009, the highest in 17 years. As poverty surged last year to its highest level since 1993, median household income declined, leaving the typical American household earning less in inflation-adjusted dollars than it did in 1997. One out of every six Americans is now being served by at least one government anti-poverty program. Child homelessness in the United States is now 33 percent higher than it was back in 2007. More than 50 million Americans are now on Medicaid, the U.S. government health care program designed principally to help the poor.

According to the National Center on Family Homelessness, 1.6 million American children “were living on the street, in homeless shelters or motels, or doubled up with other families last year”. The percentage of children living in poverty in the United States increased from 16.9 percent in 2006 to nearly 22 percent in 2010. One out of every seven mortgages in the United States was either delinquent or in foreclosure during the first quarter of 2010.

The number of children living in poverty in the United States has risen for four years in a row. There are ten (10) different states where at least one out of every four babies is born to a family living in poverty. 28 percent of all households in America have at least one member that is looking for a full-time job. There are seven million children in the United States today that are not covered by health insurance at all.

Tell your members of Congress to protect programs that give hope and opportunity to people experiencing hunger and poverty. Reducing our nation’s long-term debt is critical, but hungry and poor people didn’t cause the problem, and cutting programs that help them won’t significantly reduce our debt. But cutting these programs will have a devastating impact on the most vulnerable members of our society. As our federal elected officials considers budget cuts, please join me in urging Congress to keep our nation’s commitment to those Jesus called “the least of these.” Please join me in sending an email to our members of Congress today and remind them that they are in office to care for all their constituents not simply the 1% that write sizable checks to their re-election campaigns.

We can only make a difference when we take action.

“You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result. ~ Gandhi

“Don’t miss your chance to make an impact, dial your elected officials in Washington DC now!

Source(s): “SNAP Benefits Will Be Cut for All Participants in November 2013”, Stacy Dean and Dottie Rosenbaum, Center on Budget Priorities, August 2013. Feeding America. Action Alert Voices for Americas Children. Action Alert Bread for the World. St. Vincent de Paul Society. National Center on Family Homelessness.

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i In 1984, Share Our Strength, was started by the brother and sister team of Bill and Debbie Shore started the organization with the belief that everyone has strength to share in the global fight against hunger and poverty, and that in these shared strengths lie sustainable solutions.

iiRhoda Cohen, J. Mabli, F., Potter,Z., Zhoa. Hunger in America 2010. Feeding America. February 2010.

iiiNord, Mark, M. Andrews, S. Carlson. United States Department of Agriculture/Economic Research Service, Household Food Security in the United States, 2008.

iv Cook, John. Feeding America. Child Food Insecurity in the United States:2006-2008.

v Nord, Mark, M. Andrews, S. Carlson. United States Department of Agriculture/Economic Research Service, Household Food Security in the United States, 2009.

Photo credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Why Put Children at Risk ?

Scared Girl

My question for the day is as follows: Why should one of the wealthiest nations in the world put children at Risk?

Because of the particularly challenging economic times confronting our nation, I often write about legislation designed to improve the quality of life for the most vulnerable members of society including but not limited to indigent children and youth. As a result, I have written about the Farm Bill’s Reauthorization.

More than one (1) in five (5) children lives in poverty and nearly one (1) in four (4) is at risk of hunger. Often, I write about pending legislation which impacts indigent children, youth, and families with the goal of encouraging the reader to act to protect vulnerable families. I know that ensuring America’s children and youth are connected to healthy food where they live, learn and play is as important to you as it is to me. As a result, I am writing to you today to update on the Farm Bill.

Over twenty-five (25) percent of the children in the US under the age of six live in poverty. The poverty rate among women climbed to 14.5 percent in 2010 from 13.9 percent in 2009, the highest in 17 years. As poverty surged last year to its highest level since 1993, median household income declined, leaving the typical American household earning less in inflation-adjusted dollars than it did in 1997. One out of every six Americans is now being served by at least one government anti-poverty program. Child homelessness in the United States is now thirty-three (33) percent higher than it was back in 2007. More than 50 million Americans are now on Medicaid, the U.S. government health care program designed principally to help the poor.

With that said, Congress is making progress on the Farm Bill, which provides critical federal nutrition programs like SNAP, formerly known as food stamps that helps to feed hungry kids. Were you aware that more than one (1) in seven (7) Americans receives SNAP benefits?

This week, the Farm Bill is moving in the House of Representatives. Drastic cuts to SNAP are being considered, including proposals that would result in two (2) to three (3) million Americans loosing SNAP benefits and would cause nearly three hundred (300,000) children to loose access to free school meal programs. If Congress cuts funding for this poverty relief program, it will affect millions of children and families, leaving them even more vulnerable to hunger.

Will you join me in speaking up for children right now, by asking your member of Congress in the US House of Representative to protect SNAP from any further devastating cuts? If so, please contact your Representative and ask them to not balance the budget on children and youth. Your elected officials in Washington, DC need to hear from you loud and clear, since the children who rely on SNAP are unable to speak from themselves to our elected officials.

As was recently shared in an action alert from anti-hunger programs, there are a lot of misconceptions about receives SNAP. Lets be clear, without SNAP, many indigent families assert that their children would “probably would not have food to eat.”

For those of you that read this post and take action to prevent further cuts to SNAP, I thank you for taking action on this very important issue and lending your voice to children who cannot protect themselves.

You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result. ~ Gandhi

Source(s): No Kid Hungry Share Our Strength Action Alert. http://www.congress.org. Feeding America. Action Alert Voices for Americas Children. Action Alert Bread for the World. St. Vincent de Paul Society. National Center on Family Homelessness.

Photo Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

House Republicans Passed the Ryan Budget Plan: A Nation Divided

child praying

Like last year, this week, the House Republicans passed the Ryan Budget Plan. Last year, the House Budget Committee Chairman, US Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., entitled his FY2013 budget plan “The Path to Prosperity”. Countless well-known economist have written that the Ryan Budget Plan is anything but the road to prosperity. Economist have proven that “Trickle Down Economics” simply does not work. Assertions about there flawed premises has not deterred US Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. and his Republican counterparts in the House of Representatives.

The Ryan Budget Plan has faced strong opposition by House Democrats and others. Many opponents assert that the Ryan budget irresponsibly seeks to balance the federal budget on the backs of the poor and other vulnerable citizens. Opponents to the Ryan budget assert that, we, as a nation, must find a balanced approach to the federal budget that will serve to protect investments in our nation’s greatest resource its people.

This week, the Republican-led US House of Representatives passed the Ryan Budget Plan by a partisan vote. The Ryan Budget Plan and the resulting vote in the House highlight the deep divisions in the vision for this nation.

As previously stated, opponents to the Ryan Budget Plan call it anything but a road map to financial health for this nation. One such opponent to the Ryan Budget Plan is Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)[i]. Van Hollen is the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee. Since the passage of the Ryan budget by the House, Van Hollen and others have been writing and speaking about the devastating implications of the Ryan Budget.

When discussing his budget plan, U.S. Rep. Ryan promised that it would free America “from the crushing burden of debt now threatening its future.” Opponents to the Ryan Budget Plan assert that it would do no such thing. To the contrary, the Tax Policy Center says that “… major tax cuts included in the Ryan budget would reduce federal revenue by $418 billion in 2015 alone; by 2019, revenue losses would exceed half a trillion dollars each and every year. That will make the deficit worse, not better…”

US Rep. Van Hollen asserts that the Ryan Budget Plan is a $3.5 trillion budget bill that has no chance of becoming law but that draws a clear line in the sand between Republican and Democratic goals for our nation. Van Hollen and other opponents have stated that instead of working with President Obama on a balanced approach, House Republicans passed a radical budget that seeks to: not only maintain but expand the Bush tax cuts; end the Medicare guarantee; Medicaid budget would be cut by $810 billion. If House Budget Committee Chairman, US Rep. Paul Ryan, has his way with his proposed budget resolution, Medicare will be privatized and Medicaid, food stamps, and countless other federal entitlement programs will be eliminated. The cuts under Ryan’s budget proposal, if implemented, would drastically increase income inequality and poverty.

While the Ryan budget reduced health, education, welfare, and transportation spending, the defense department budget was increased. Although, the Defense Department recommended a decrease in defense spending, its budget recommendation went unheard by House Budget Committee Chairman, US Rep. Paul Ryan. In response to the divided opinion on the defense department budget line, Ryan responded that, “the Generals aren’t giving us their “true advice”…” Meanwhile, the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy aren’t just extended, they’re vastly expanded. Billionaires and corporations that ship jobs overseas would receive millions while seniors are forced to pay more for their health care.

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[i] “Van Hollen was elected to Congress in 2002 in a high-profile election that received national attention. He quickly earned a reputation as an active, engaged, and effective member of Congress, rising to become one of the youngest members of the Democratic leadership in 2008. In addition to representing the Eighth District of Maryland and serving in House leadership, Congressman Van Hollen was elected by his colleagues in 2010 to serve as the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee. In this position, he is working to advance policies that support job creation and economic growth, reduce the deficit, and put America on a path to long-term fiscal sustainability.”

“The Washington Post named Chris Van Hollen one of “10 members to watch in the 112th Congress.” Roll Call has noted that “Van Hollen gets near-universal respect from his colleagues for his intellectual firepower and combination of policy and political chops.””

“Congressman Van Hollen is a tireless advocate for Maryland in Congress, and his leadership has helped to obtain funding for a wide range of critical investments in our community, including infrastructure, biotechnology and education; public transportation in the Washington National Capital area; and anti-gang initiatives. Congressman Van Hollen was recognized by Washingtonian Magazine as the ‘Best Metro Area Member of Congress’ in 2010 and as the ‘Best Local Elected Official’ by Bethesda Magazine in 2008.”

“Throughout his career, Congressman Van Hollen has been a champion of education, energy, the environment, health care, and civil rights. He is a leader on cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, and fought successfully to obtain a historic boost in federal funds for the Bay as part of the Farm Bill and to secure provisions in the Recovery Act that provided loan guarantees for renewable energy projects. He also played an integral role in the effort to pass comprehensive health care reform and fought to ensure that young adults receive expanded access to health insurance. He has been a staunch advocate for critical government reforms. He led the fight to pass far-reaching lobbying disclosure reform and has been a key supporter of whistleblower protections. A former professional staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Congressman Van Hollen has a strong background in national security policy. He lived and studied abroad in South Asia and has remained active in issues related to U.S. foreign policy in that region and around the world.”

“Congressman Van Hollen has received numerous leadership awards for his legislative activities, including the Chesapeake Climate Action Network’s “Climate Champion of the Year” award for his contribution to clean-energy policies; the “Community Health Superhero Award” from the National Association of Community Health Centers for his efforts on behalf of the uninsured and medically underserved Americans; the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce’s “Legislator of the Year” award; Progressive Maryland’s “Champion of Working Families” award; the Maryland Executive Council for Educational Opportunities’ “Excellence in Educational Advocacy” award; and the Multiple Sclerosis Society’s “Representative of the Year” award.”

“Before his election to the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Van Hollen served 4 years in the Maryland House of Delegates and 8 years in the Maryland Senate. His legislative record in Annapolis earned him the praise of The Washington Post, which called him “one of the most effective members of the Maryland legislature.” He is a graduate of Swarthmore College, the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and Georgetown University Law Center. He lives in Kensington, Maryland with his wife, Katherine, and their three children, Anna, Nicholas, and Alexander.”

Source: US Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s Congressional website. US Rep.Van Hollen Action Alert. Van Hollen Congressional website. “Why Paul Ryan’s budget would explode the deficit”, Jay Bookman, Atlanta Journal Constitution, March 30, 2012. “House passes GOP budget with no Dem support” Stephanie Condon, CBSNews.com., March 29, 2012. http://www.examiner.com. Washington Post. Wall Street Journal. http://www.MSNBC.com. “Republican budget: Ryan Plan would hurt seniors”, Daily Koos, Joan McCarter, March 30, 2012, http://www.dailykos.com