Author Archives: Miami APWU

Florida Alliance for Retired Americans Monday Alert – April 11th

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Marco Rubio touts his COVID response record in new Senate campaign attack ad against Val Demings

Incumbent Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is telegraphing what he considers one of his biggest political assets in Florida against Rep. Val Demings, his likely Democratic challenger in what could become one of the most expensive US Senate races in history.

Rubio’s latest attack strategy as he seeks reelection in the battleground state is to tout his work co-authoring the $800 billion Paycheck Protection Program, a coronavirus rescue measure that allowed small businesses to borrow forgivable loans from the federal government to keep workers on the payroll.

In a digital ad out Monday, the Rubio campaign contrasts the senator’s work on the PPP in March 2020, during the early days of the pandemic, with media interviews Demings took around the same time. In them, she was asked about the possibility of then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden picking her as his running mate.

“While Val focused on politics, Marco got to work,” says the ad, dubbed “The Choice is Clear” and provided exclusively to Insider. Read More

Florida Officials React After Senate Confirms Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court

Officials across Florida reacted after the U.S. Senate confirmed President Joe Biden’s nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Jackson won a 53-47 vote as three Senate Republicans–U.S. Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah–joined every Democrat in supporting the nomination.

Florida’s two senators–Republicans Marco Rubio and Rick Scott–voted against Jackson.

“Today’s confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson reflects the continued danger of a Democrat-controlled Senate. KBJ is outside the mainstream on many legal issues and failed to give satisfactory answers to some very basic questions during her hearing, such as why she was consistently lenient on child sexual predators. Radical Senate Democrats have consistently voted however Joe Biden and Chuck Schumer ask them to. Today is no different,” said Scott. Read More

8 Republicans Run In South Florida U.S. House Seat Long Held By Democrats

With many pundits expecting a so-called “red wave” in November, a number of Republicans are running for Congressional seats in Florida that are currently held by Democrats.

This as we wait to see what those districts look like after a special session on redistricting results in a new Congressional map.

In the case of District 21, there are 8 candidates running in a GOP primary this August.

They include retired equity trader Bill Wheelen, who’s helped the campaigns of former President Trump, Governor Ron DeSantis and Senator Rick Scott.

This time, Wheelen says, he felt the need to run for office himself. He claims that he’s the only one that stands a chance against the current office holder.

“(Current office holder) Lois Frankel is a formidable opponent. Just because she didn’t really campaign against Laura Loomer two years ago doesn’t mean she’s not formidable.” Read More

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson Confirmed as 116th Supreme Court Justice

Justice Ketanji Brown JacksonJudge Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed as the first Black woman to sit on the Supreme Court in a bipartisan, 53-47 Senate vote Thursday. All 50 members of the Democratic caucus were joined by Republican Senators Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Mitt Romney (UT) in confirming Jackson, who is slated to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

In a recent poll, nearly two-thirds of Americans said they supported her confirmation, making her one of the most popular Supreme Court nominees in recent history. During her Senate hearings, Judge Jackson emphasized the importance of voting rights in a

functioning democracy. A graduate of Harvard Law School, her experience includes working as a public defender and serving as the vice-chair of the United States Sentencing Commission. Most recently she served as a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington D.C. Circuit.

“Judge Jackson’s record shows that she will be a champion of equal justice and civil rights for all Americans,” said Robert Roach, Jr., President of the Alliance. “She is exceptionally qualified. We are confident that she will defend the right of all workers to join a union and protect older workers from discrimination as a Supreme Court Justice.”

Medicare Limits Coverage of Aduhelm to Patients in Clinical Trials

Citing data showing the new Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm has serious safety risks and may not help patients,  Medicare officials decided Thursday to limit coverage of the drug to patients in clinical trials. The decision is extremely unusual for Medicare, which traditionally pays for drugs that the Food and Drug Administration has approved, at least for the medical conditions designated on labels.

According to The New York Times, some advocacy groups had said that Medicare must pay for a drug approved by the FDA. However, many Alzheimer’s doctors and experts cautioned against

broadly covering a treatment that scientific evidence shows has uncertain benefit and serious safety risks. Individual patients and families weighed in emotionally from both sides.

Last year, Medicare’s actuarial division, acting without knowing what the coverage decision would be, imposed one of the biggest-ever increases in Medicare Part B premiums for 2022. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said that half of the 14.55% increase in the premiums for 2022 was due to the cost of Aduhelm, which was then priced by its manufacturer, Biogen, at $56,000 a year.

Since then, Biogen, facing weak sales of the drug after many hospitals and doctors chose not to prescribe it, lowered the price to $28,800 a year, still much higher than what many analysts have said is defensible.

Xavier Becerra, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said previously that he would consider lowering Medicare Part B premiums after the final coverage decision for Aduhelm is made, adding, “We’re going to make sure that seniors don’t pay more than they have to.”

On Thursday, Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, the administrator of CMS, said, “The secretary told us to look at it, and we are going to engage in the process of reviewing the Part B premium.”

“Allowing Medicare to negotiate the cost of prescription drugs would go a long way toward diminishing the effect Aduhelm has on Medicare premiums,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance. “It would make a lot more sense to make decisions based on numbers that include giving Medicare that ability.”

After Insulin Copay Cap Passes House, Senate Looks for a Broader Bill

The chances of passing legislation this year to lower the price of insulin are looking brighter as the Senate undertakes a bipartisan effort to address the issue.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) has tapped Senators Collins (R) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) to take the lead in crafting a compromise that members of both parties can accept. The House previously voted on March 31 to pass a more limited bill that caps out-of-pocket insulin costs for many patients with insurance at $35 a month.

Sen. Collins said in an interview March 30 that she and Sen. Shaheen came up with an outline based on a bill they worked on three years ago. It goes beyond capping what diabetes patients pay and aims to bring down the prices that drug corporations charge.

“The House bill in March was a positive step, and the Senate bill sounds promising, but a broader bill that also brings down the prices of other drugs would clearly be even better,” said Executive Director Fiesta. “The 4.4 million members of the Alliance urge the members of the Senate to pass legislation that is similar to what the House passed in November as part of H.R. 5376, the Build Back Better Act. That requires Medicare to negotiate prices for insulin as well as many other prescription drugs. H.R. 5376 also included provisions that capped out-of-pocket prescription drug costs at $2,000 per year under Medicare Part D.”

Social Security Field Offices Reopen Nationwide

Kilolo Kijakazi, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA), announced this week that Social Security Field Offices would re-open nationwide on April 7 for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to close.

While walk-in visits will be available, Kijakazi urged people to avoid long lines and delays by scheduling appointments in advance. Appointments can be made online by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov or over the phone by calling 1-800-772-1213.

Social Security Administration officeDr. Kijakazi also offered other guidance for walk-in visitors to avoid lines. “Be aware that our offices tend to be the busiest first thing in the morning, early in the week, and during the early part of the month, so people may want to plan to visit at other times,” she explained. In order to protect the many Social Security beneficiaries with health vulnerabilities, field offices will continue to require masking, physical distancing, and self-health checks for COVID-19 symptoms. Face masks will be provided to visitors and employees as needed.

“It is good that the offices have reopened,” said Joseph Peters, Jr., Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “Now if SSA could get the full funding that it needs from Congress, we’d really be improving things for Social Security beneficiaries.”

The omnibus spending bill that Congress passed last month provided SSA with an increase in funding over last year, but it was $1 billion less than what President Biden had requested.

Honoring Florida’s Heroes – Message from Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis

Floridians,

This week, I concluded my “Year of the US&R” statewide tour by recognizing Task Force 6 in Fort Myers and Task Forces 1 and 2 in Miami. At the ceremony, I honored them with a challenge coin and a ribbon for their service during the Surfside condo collapse last year. The challenge coin represents respect, unity and courage, values that Florida firefighters live by. I cannot thank these heroes and their families enough for their bravery during this unthinkable tragedy and the sacrifices they make to protect our communities every day.

I also had the opportunity to present Israeli Consul General Maor Elbaz-Starinsky with challenge coins to honor the brave members of the Israeli Defense Force who responded to the building collapse in Surfside. These heroes brought a tremendous amount of expertise and served as an incredible compliment to the mission. The bonds between Israel and Florida run deep and we’ll never forget the support they brought to South Florida.

Honoring Florida's Heroes

Yesterday, I encouraged Floridians to be on the lookout for fraud and scams during Fraud Prevention Month. This legislative session, I am fighting for Senate Bill 1292 and House Bill 749, Fraud Prevention, sponsored by Senator Gruters and Representative Clemons. The bill, among many things, will force big corporations to allow Floridians to easily cancel subscriptions without forcing consumers to hop through a bunch of hoops. The legislation also cracks down on annoying telemarketing calls and on insurance fraud by increasing penalties on unlicensed public adjusters. During Fraud Prevention Month, it is especially important to educate yourself on common scam tactics at FraudFreeFlorida.com.

Lastly, we had a very successful and busy eighth week of session! Ten priority bills progressed this week including measures to protect fire investigators from cancer, safeguard consumers from fraud, and help Floridians harden their homes against storms. Thank you to our bill sponsors for their hard work on these important initiatives.

Have a great weekend!

Sincerely,
Jimmy

Protect the Right to Vote by Mail – Call Your Senators

In the coming days two very important bills to protect the right to vote will be debated in the United States Senate, and we need your help today to make sure they pass.

Before we ask you to call your Senator and urge them to pass these bills, please let us explain why they are so important to postal workers.

Two years ago, postal workers played a critical role in ensuring the 2020 election was carried out safely and securely via the mail, helping millions of Americans across the country deliver their ballots. This unprecedented operation was a testament to our courage, professionalism, and dedication as postal workers – our country needed us, and we answered the call.

Sadly, not everyone was happy about our good work.

Across the country, politicians in more than a dozen states have passed laws to try and suppress the right to vote and eliminate vote by mail, all to keep themselves in power.

Let us be blunt, Charlene.

These voter suppression laws are a cowardly attack on our democratic rights, and an insult to every single postal worker who labored tirelessly to make sure the 2020 election was conducted safely and securely by mail.

But, there’s good news.

The Freedom to Vote Act and The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of 2021 are two critical pieces of legislation which, if passed, would undo many of these voter suppression laws, and protect the right to vote for generations to come.

These bills have strong support, but right now, a rule in the Senate called the “filibuster” is allowing a minority of Senators to block the legislation, even though a majority support it.

Passing laws should be as easy as getting a simple majority of the votes.

Call your Senators and tell them to put aside the filibuster, and pass these critical voting rights laws.

Politicians shouldn’t get to re-write the rules of elections to keep themselves in power forever, Charlene.

Thank you for making this call, and for all that you do.

In Solidarity,

The American Postal Workers Union

Florida Alliance for Retired Americans Monday Alert – January 10th

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Your next Florida Power & Light electric bill is going way up. Here is why and how much

Higher electricity bills welcomed millions of Florida residents into the new year.

Florida Power & Light customers who paid $101.70 last year for a typical monthly bill of 1,000 kilowatt hours of  electricity will now be charged $120.67.

This change not only accounts for a five-year base rate increase approved by the Florida Public Service Commission in October, but a $6.82 per month adjustment for rising natural gas prices.

The new rates went into effect Jan. 1

While future rates could change depending on the cost of fuel, the utility estimates based on current prices that the average power bill, again based on 1,000 kilowatt hours a month of use, will be $117.92 in 2023, $118.12 in 2024 and $118.38 in 2025.

Also with the start of the new year, NextEra Energy, the parent company of the Juno Beach-based utility, took over the footprint of Gulf Power Company, now known as Florida Power & Light in Northwest Florida.

Northwest Florida customers who paid $129.24 per month last year for 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a month as Gulf Power customers will be charged $155.61, which includes a $6.83 per month increase for fuel costs. Read More

Fox 4: “Flurona” makes way to Florida

COVID-19 numbers are rising is Southwest Florida.

As people in Collier County flock to the Department of Health to get their Covid-19 testing.

But a new surge could be making it’s way to Florida.

“I’ve been feeling crummy for days and I tested negative earlier,” said Trish Watson, a Naples resident. “I thought if it’s not covid then what is it?”

New cases of Flurona have been poping up all around the U.S.

And it has many people wondering, what is it?

“I’d like to read more about it and do some research first,” said Naples resident John Goodlet.

Kristine Hollingsworth with the Collier County Department of Health is working remotely Thursday.

But she thankfully had the answer for us.

“So Flurona is actually when someone tests positive for both the Flu virus as well as the Covid-19 virus,” said Hollingsworth. “That’s where the term Flurona has been coined.”

That doesn’t sound like a good mix.

But luckily, there is a way you can help fight this virus off.

“The covid-19 vaccine, as well as the flu vaccine, help to slow the spread of both viruses,” said Hollingsworth.

And as cases continue to pop up around the state and the U-S, many are hoping they take this as a sign.

“I think if you’re immune-compromised or if you’re a senior over 60 or whatever,” said Watson, “I just think it’s really important to protect yourself to make sure you don’t get really sick when you get either one of these.”

UF Report: Omicron wave ‘potentially infecting’ most of Florida’s population

Biostatisticians from the University of Florida predict that the latest omicron wave will lead to most of the state’s population potentially being infected by the virus.

“We find that the omicron wave in Florida is likely to cause many more infections than occurred during the delta wave, potentially infecting most of the state’s population in this wave alone,” their Jan. 4 report reads.

That checks out to be about 70 to 80-percent of the state being infected by COVID-19 overall, Ira Longini, professor of biostatistics and co-director of the Center for Statistics and Quantitative Infectious Disease, told WESH.

But, according to the data, omicron infections, while projected to be higher in quantity, are shown to be less severe than those caused by the delta variant — particularly among those who are vaccinated.

“This means that despite causing more infections, it is possible that substantially fewer deaths will result from the omicron wave. We estimate that omicron will cause 1/3 as many deaths as were caused by delta,” the report reads. Read More

Prices Jump 5% On More Than 450 Prescription Drugs to Start the Year

Pharmaceutical corporations have already raised wholesale prices by a median of 4.9% on more than 450 prescription medicines in 2022, according to a new analysis by Stat.

The industry is expected to hike more prices throughout January. In 2021, the pharmaceutical corporations spread 783 price hikes throughout the first month of the year to avoid the heightened scrutiny of January 1 hikes. The initial batch of price increases includes a 4.9% increase on Trikafta, a blockbuster cystic fibrosis medication from Vertex that has no competitors and already has a list price of more than $311,000 per year.

A recent three-year investigation by the House Oversight and Reform Committee found that drug corporations increase prices in the United States because the government does not regulate or negotiate drug prices. The Committee’s report also revealed that price hikes went to executive bonuses and meeting revenue targets, not increased research and development or increasing the effectiveness of existing drugs.

“It is outrageous that legislation to lower drug prices and allow Medicare to negotiate with the drug corporations is stalled in the Senate,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance. “The industry’s monopoly power over prices is unjustified, and the American people are tired of paying the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. Older Americans can’t wait any longer.”

How to Get Social Security Questions Answered

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has released a new flyer explaining how Americans can get help and information while the pandemic continues. It stresses that the best way for most people to find the information they need is on its website, www.SSA.gov.

People can also reach SSA by calling 800-772-1213 or contacting a local Social Security office.

Local Social Security offices are open by appointment only. All visitors must wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status. Visitors are asked to be prepared to wait outdoors when ability to follow physical distancing requirements is limited indoors and to come alone unless they require help with their visit. If you need help, only one person is allowed to accompany you.

A recent report by the SSA’s Office of Inspector General found that there was a sixty-five percent increase in calls to the SSA during the pandemic.

“No Surprises Act” Law is Now in Effect to Dispute Unexpected Medical Bills

no surprise medical billsThanks to the No Surprises Act, Americans are now protected from surprise medical billing. Since January 1, 2022, this new law has begun to protect

both the insured and uninsured from surprise medical bills. Consumers have new rights and easy options to dispute unanticipated charges – which is important, since more than half of U.S. consumers report having received an unexpectedly large medical bill.

Surprise medical bills average more than $1,200 for anesthesia, $2,600 for surgical assistant fees and $750 for childbirth. However, the rules have finally changed after causing anguish to patients for decades. Learn about your new rights as a consumer here.

“No one should receive a surprise medical bill or face financial ruin because they were unknowingly treated by an out-of-network provider during emergency care,” said Joseph Peters, Jr., Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “Fortunately, patients now have protections.”

Obituary: Karen Ferguson, Founder of the Pension Rights Center

Karen Ferguson, the founder of the Pension Rights Center, a nonprofit organization that protects the interests of workers and retirees and helps promote legislation on their behalf, died on December 23 at her home in Washington, DC.

Karen FergusonMs. Ferguson successfully lobbied Congress for numerous pension reforms over more than four decades. She also personally handled thousands of individual claims from people who had worked throughout their adult lives but then had trouble receiving their full pension benefits.

She was instrumental in the creation and passage of the Butch Lewis Act, which was a high priority for many Alliance members. That measure, signed into law last year by President Biden, restored the pensions of more than one million people whose retirement benefits had been severely reduced.

“Karen aligned the Pension Rights Center with the Alliance. In addition to working with the Alliance on the Butch Lewis Act and other legislation, she spoke at the Alliance’s Pension Seminars and generously lent her expertise whenever she was asked,” said Robert Roach, Jr., President of the Alliance. “She took every opportunity to help people with pensions get the money they earned, and, on a more personal note, was a wonderful friend.”

U.S. Office of Personnel Annual Notice of Annuity Adjustment

There will be a delay in the postal mailing of the Annual Notice of Annuity Adjustment. You may not receive the notice until the end of January 2022. We apologize for the delay, however, you may access your notice by logging into your Service Online account at www.servicesonline.opm.gov and clicking on the Annuity Statement link.

Please be advised that the Federal Employee Health Benefit open season is now closed. Any changes in your premiums will be reflected in your February 1st payment.

Retirement Services

Come Volunteer this Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Turkey Drive - Volunteer Registration

ATTENTION: VOLUNTEERS NEEDED
We are looking for volunteers and need your help! This month, our office will be hosting two Thanksgiving Turkey Drives in District 35 – one in Broward and another in Miami-Dade. We are seeking volunteers to help us distribute turkeys and canned goods to the families of District 35. If you or anyone else you know is interested in volunteering, please click the link below to sign up:

Thanksgiving Turkey Drive – Volunteer Registration

Thanksgiving Turkey Drive with Publix (Miami-Dade)
Date: Monday, November 22nd, 2021
Event Time: 2PM – 5PM
Volunteer Shifts: 12:30PM – 5:15PM
Event Address: 606 NW 183rd Street, Miami Gardens, FL 33169

Thanksgiving Turkey Drive with The Fresh Church (Broward)
Date: Tuesday, November 23rd, 2021
Event Time: 2PM – 5PM
Volunteer Shifts: 1:30PM to 5:15 PM
Event Address: 2201 SW 42nd Ave, West Park, FL 33023

For more information, please contact Marina Braynon-Moore at braynonmoore.marina@flsenate.gov

Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

Senator Shevrin Jones
District 35

Thanksgiving Turkey Drive - Volunteer Registration

APWU Health Plan Open Season: Enroll Now – Dec. 13th

APWU Health Plan

The APWU Health Plan has been serving America’s postal and federal workers, and retirees for more than 60 years.

See APWU Health Plan benefits and rates. See if it is the right choice for you and your family and enroll today!

Open Season runs from today through the Monday, December 13th.

All federal and postal employees, and retirees who are eligible to enroll in the FEHB Program may become members of the APWU Health Plan.

» CLICK HERE TO ENROLL

Retirement Planning ZOOM Seminar – November 21st

The Retiree’s Department: Retirement Planning Seminar on Zoom

Sunday, November 21, 2021
12:00PM-4:00PM Eastern Standard Time (EST)

SPECIAL NOTES:

  1. Participants must be an active APWU member or retiree dues paying APWU member.
  2. Participants cannot register with a USPS email address, i.e. @usps.gov.
  3. Each participant must register individually and not as a group.
  4. Participants should not attend this training on the Postal Service time clock.
  5. Click on the link(s) below to complete the registration form.

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUsduCgqTgiGNLcukO14XxhffYdyU9CfTcy

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Open Season 101 webinars and Virtual Benefits Fair

Open Season 101 webinars and Virtual Benefits Fair

Open Season is here! Postal Service retirees who have already elected to participate in a FEHB plan may change their health benefits or enroll in new plans starting Monday, November 8, 2021 through Monday, December 13, 2021.

USPS is offering a nationwide Virtual Benefits Fair with participating Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB) carriers. The fair provides an opportunity to engage with healthcare provider booths, attend webinars, and download health plan materials from your personal computer or mobile device. In addition to the FEHB health plan carriers, representatives from the USPS Health Benefits Plan, Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP), Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program, Flexible Spending Accounts, Medicare, Social Security Administration, Thrift Savings Plan, and various educational partners, will be in attendance.

Annuitants can participate in live event days to speak with experts on four dates:

  • November 15  from 1:00pm – 9:00pm EST
  • November 18  from 9:00am – 5:00pm EST
  • November 30  from 1:00pm – 9:00pm EST
  • December 3  from 11:00am – 7:00pm EST

Register at the Virtual Benefits Fair site or via Keeping Posted.
 
The Postal Service is also offering educational webinars on Zoom specifically for retirees throughout Open Season, during the following dates and times:

Date Topic Start Time Zoom Link Dial-In Options
11/14/2021 Open Season 101 2:00pm EST Zoom Link Phone Number:
503-336-1236
or 952-229-5070
Meeting ID: 1604629113
Password: 325598
11/16/2021 Open Season 101 12:00pm EST Zoom Link Phone Number:
503-336-1236
or 952-229-5070
Meeting ID: 1608905755
Password: 152509
11/29/2021 Open Season 101 12:00pm EST Zoom Link Phone Number:
503-336-1236
or 952-229-5070
Meeting ID: 1608847302
Password: 490820
12/2/2021 Open Season 101 2:00pm EST Zoom Link Phone Number:
503-336-1236
or 952-229-5070
Meeting ID: 1612375953
Password: 169698

Keeping Posted has additional tools to help you prepare, including FAQs, informational videos, Medicare options, and a link to CHECKBOOK’S Guide to Health Plans for Federal Employees. CHECKBOOK enables you to make side-by-side comparisons of FEHB plans, so that you can evaluate services and costs, including premiums, copays, and deductibles.

For more information, visit www.keepingposted.org or connect via Facebook.  

» CLICK HERE TO REGISTER