Giving Tuesday marks the beginning of the holiday giving season and has become a global day of giving celebrated nationally on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving. This is one of the most important days of the year for the 5,000+ Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) charities as the campaign’s goal is to make this the biggest online giving day of the year.
Most of us are planning to eat some wonderful meals later this month, so it seems like the right time to think about those who depend on CFC charities to get enough food all year long. Many of our CFC charities provide nutritious food to those who need it in their community through school programs, soup kitchens, and shelters. As we face a global hunger crisis, donations supporting these charities are more important than ever.
Do you want to make sure that no one goes hungry? Here are some examples of what you can do through your CFC donation:
Feed students a nutritious breakfast to help them excel academically.
Improve farming standards through sustainable practices.
Test children for signs of malnutrition and provide nutritious dietary supplements.
We are looking for a volunteer to assist in placing a Labor Day Op Ed. The bulk of the text is already written:
It’s been a rough couple of years for American workers. First, working families were battered by a pandemic that caused massive unemployment, loss of health coverage and financial hardship for tens of millions of working people.
Thanks to swift bipartisan action in 2020, Congress passed historic relief packages that helped workers, extended health coverage and protected the majority of Americans from COVID’s worst harms. The unemployment rate fell from 14.7 percent in April 2020 to 3.5 percent this summer, millions of people got affordable healthcare coverage that brought the number of uninsured people to an all-time low and poverty actually declined even as the pandemic raged on. [Insert state specific numbers on employment, ACA and Medicaid enrollment, etc.]
But even as infection rates declined, the pandemic’s impact lingered. Rising inflation over the past year threatened recovery as people found themselves paying record amounts for fuel, goods and services. Large corporations, seeing an opportunity to fatten profits, used pandemic conditions as a pretext for price-gouging consumers. Since the spring of 2020, corporations in the non-financial sector have raised prices by an annualized rate of 6.1%—a huge increase over the 1.8% annual price growth between 2007–2019. Over half of this increase (53.9%) contributed to bigger profit margins, while labor costs accounted for less than 8% of the increase. In 2021, corporate profits surged by 35%, giving American corporations their most profitable year since 1950. But even as CEO pay and shareholder earnings soar, workers’ real wages–despite some increases– failed to keep up with the higher cost of living.
Though corporations made more profits, they mostly didn’t pay more taxes. In 2020, for instance, 55 of the nation’s largest profitable firms like Nike, FedEx and Salesforce, paid zero in federal taxes thanks to loopholes and breaks in the tax code. Neither did their billionaire CEOs and shareholders. Billionaires increased their wealth by an astonishing $1.7 trillion, or 57 percent, between March 2020 and March 2022. In [State], [XX] billionaires increased their wealth by [XX] over this two-year period.
Like their corporations, the ultra rich have either avoided taxes or paid a much lower rate than middle class workers thanks to special tax breaks that help them hoard their wealth. Research shows that the nation’s 400 richest billionaire families paid an average tax rate of just 8.2 percent between 2010 and 2018. Middle class people paid an average tax rate of 13.3 percent in 2019.
A rigged tax system is something we can fix and, thankfully, Congress has already started [with support from Representative/Senator X] or [despite opposition from Senator/Representative X]. [Representative/Senator X voted for or voted against] the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) that lowers the price of prescriptions, makes health insurance premiums for Affordable Care Act coverage more affordable, and cuts energy costs through its climate provisions which also reduce pollution and harmful carbon emissions.It also makes the tax code more fair by requiring the nation’s richest corporations–those making over $1 billion in profits annually– pay a 15% minimum corporate tax. It provides the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) resources to track down the nation’s richest tax cheats so they will finally have to pay what they owe like the rest of us. No one making less than $400,000 a year will see higher taxes.
These improvements give us a lot to celebrate this Labor Day. There’s a lot more to do to make our system more fair and equitable but at least we’re headed in the right direction. Congress should pass a Billionaires Income Tax that requires the ultra-rich to pay taxes on their increased wealth the same way workers pay on wages. While working people pay taxes on every paycheck, billionaires can go years without paying any federal income taxes at all because their income is derived from stock and financial assets which are not taxed unless they are sold. Billionaires don’t need to sell assets to live a lavish lifestyle–they can borrow against those assets nearly interest-free and pass all their wealth on to the next generation without paying what they owe.
We need a tax system with fair and consistent rules that apply to everyone, including the rich and corporations. Under that kind of system, billionaires would still be billionaires and corporations would still make a lot of profit, but both would pay more of what they owe and contribute back to the communities that make them rich just the way American workers do every day.
I will work with you to add a personal story and provide the required statistics. It will be a light lift on your end, as usual. Please reply back if you are interested.
Addressing union workers, Fried says she makes Gov. DeSantis ‘nervous’ during FL Cabinet meetings
With Gov. Ron DeSantis canceling Florida Cabinet meetings, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried claimed on Thursday that she makes the Republican governor uneasy during the meetings because she forces him “to get in the conversation about true policy.”
Fried, seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination against DeSantis this year, mentioned DeSantis’ demeanor during Cabinet meetings while addressing the Florida AFL-CIO convention in Orlando. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, also seeking the nomination, addressed the convention, too.
“I make this a joke all the time — when I am in Cabinet meetings and I go to press my microphone to start talking, Ron starts to have this very weird twitch about him that he gets because I make him nervous,” Fried said.
“I make him nervous and I force him to not just get on his soap box and talk about nonsense, but I force him to get in the conversation about true policy,” said Fried.
The Cabinet comprises three members — Fried, Attorney General Ashley Moody, and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis — who are statewide-elected officials conducting the state’s business along with the governor.
Crist, meanwhile, alleged to union members that DeSantis “wants to bust your union.”
“The AFL-CIO is the backbone of our country and this state,” said Crist, a former Republican governor. “I am here today because union workers really are the essence of our society. You think back to the beginning of this pandemic, and it was you who held it all together.”
Endorsement to come
Although the labor union hasn’t endorsed either Fried or Crist, the union is expected to do so soon, said Florida AFL-CIO spokesman Michael Newberger. Read More
UPDATE: on Friday June 24th, the FL AFL-CIO chose to endorse Charlie Crist
The Hill: Hispanic super PAC releases gun control ad
The country’s largest Hispanic-oriented super PAC on Thursday released a Spanish-language ad linking Republicans to gun violence.
The ad released by Nuestro PAC, a group that promotes increased outreach to Hispanic voters, will air exclusively in Spanish, with a six-figure investment by the PAC.
“The frustration in the community started with the local Uvalde community not even being able to get information about the shooting in Spanish,” said Chuck Rocha, the Democratic political consultant who started Nuestro PAC.
“It made me think that if they can’t even get information about who’s to blame and what happened — on the shortcomings — in Spanish, then they don’t even know that they should be blaming Republicans for the lack of action on curtailing assault rifles,” Rocha added.
Rocha’s hope is that the investment will serve both to educate Spanish-speaking voters and to attract donors interested in running the ad in key congressional districts.
Hispanic voters will play a key role in several competitive districts in 2022, a novelty for a community that’s traditionally held most of its political power in safe Democratic districts.
Among the potential targets for Nuestro PAC’s ad are the South Florida district where state Sen. Annette Taddeo (D) is challenging Rep. María Elvira Salazar (R); the California district where Democrat Rudy Salas is challenging Rep. David Valadao (R); the New Mexico district where Democrat Gabe Vasquez is challenging GOP Rep. Yvette Herrell; and the Texas district where Democrat Michelle Vallejo is facing off against Republican Monica De La Cruz.
“We bought a six figure National Digital buy to target Latino voters and donors, to see if we can raise enough money to run this into individual congressional districts that have large Latino populations,” said Rocha.
“For the first time in American history, there’s a whole bunch of [districts] that are actually marginal and have a ton of Latinos,” he added.
Many of those districts are relatively near to sites of mass killings that shook entire communities.
In the ad, the narrator asks, “How many more children do we need to bury?” while the names of Columbine, Colo.; Newtown, Conn.; Parkland, Fla., and Uvalde, Texas, are displayed on screen.
“All of this is very localized where the shootings have happened. There’s large constituencies of Latino voters, who a lot of them consume information in Spanish where they’re not hearing anything from Democrats,” said Rocha.
“Latinos who consume MSNBC, Latinos that consume Fox News, they’ve already picked a corner. They’re already going to be with one party or the other. Right? Because they’re getting information in English. There’s just not a lot of information getting to our community in Spanish,” he added.
CBS Miami: Nearly 150 new laws set to go into effect in Florida on Friday
From a record $109.9 billion budget to naming a state dessert, nearly 150 laws that Florida legislators passed this year are set to hit the books Friday.
Some of the measures face legal challenges, such as a bill that would prevent abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy and a bill that would restrict how race-related concepts are taught in schools and workplace training.
In all, lawmakers sent 280 bills to Gov. Ron DeSantis. Of that total, 149 that were signed or were awaiting signatures Monday had July 1 effective dates. Seventy-five took effect immediately when signed. Others are slated to take effect on October 1, January 1, or at other times.
As of the end of last week, DeSantis had vetoed 11 measures passed this year.
Here are some of the bills that will become law Friday:
BUDGET AND TAXES
— DeSantis signed a $109.9 billion budget (HB 5001) for the 2022-2023 fiscal year, which will start Friday. The record spending plan was bolstered by federal stimulus money and higher-than-expected state tax revenues.
— Lawmakers passed a wide-ranging tax plan (HB 7071) that includes a series of sales-tax “holidays” on such things as back-to-school clothes and supplies and a one-month suspension of the state gas tax in October.
— Dubbed by DeSantis as the “Stop WOKE Act,” lawmakers passed a measure (HB 7) that restricts how race-related concepts are taught in schools and workplace training. It has drawn a court challenge.
— Lawmakers approved a measure (SB 1048) to replace the Florida Standards Assessments testing program in public schools with a “progress monitoring system” that would test students three times a year.
— Lawmakers passed a measure (SB 1054) that will require high-school students, starting in the 2023-2024 academic year, to take financial-literacy courses.
— Lawmakers passed a bill (HB 1467) to place 12-year term limits on county school-board members and to increase public scrutiny of school library books and instructional materials.
— In an issue that fueled a national debate, lawmakers passed a measure (HB 1557) that prohibits instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third-grade and requires that such instruction in older grades be age-appropriate. It has drawn a court challenge.
– Lawmakers approved a measure (SB 7044) that requires state colleges and universities to change accreditors at the end of each accreditation cycle and revamps the process of reviewing professors’ tenure.
— Amid national legal and political battles about abortion, lawmakers passed a measure (HB 5) that prevents abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The law faces a court challenge.
– Lawmakers passed a measure (SB 1950) that will help set the stage for the Agency for Health Care Administration to award billions of dollars in Medicaid managed-care contracts.
– As the use of telemedicine has increased, lawmakers approved a bill (SB 312) that expands the authority of physicians to prescribe controlled substances through telemedicine.
— Lawmakers passed a wide-ranging Department of Health bill (SB 768) that will prevent renewal of licenses for medical-marijuana businesses that have not started to grow, process and sell cannabis.
— Lawmakers passed a wide-ranging bill (HB 3) that includes offering $5,000 bonuses as a tool to recruit law-enforcement officers from other states and provides $1,000 bonuses for law-enforcement officers and other first responders in Florida.
— Lawmakers approved a plan (SB 226) that will cover veterinary costs of retired law-enforcement dogs. Handlers of retired dogs will be able to receive up to $1,500 in reimbursements for annual costs.
LOCAL GOVERNMENTS AND SPECIAL DISTRICTS
— In an issue stemming from Walt Disney Co.’s opposition to a new law involving instruction in schools about gender identity and sexual orientation, lawmakers passed a bill (SB 4-C) that will dissolve the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which plays a key role for Disney. The law takes effect Friday, starting the clock on the June 1, 2023, dissolution of Reedy Creek and five other special districts in the state.
— Lawmakers passed a measure (SB 105) that will allow cities and counties to restrict smoking at beaches and parks that they own. They will not be able to ban smoking unfiltered cigars.
— The Legislature passed a bill (HB 7055) that made a series of changes related to cybersecurity, including prohibiting local governments from making ransom payments when hit with “ransomware” attacks.
WATER AND INFRASTRUCTURE
— Lawmakers passed a measure (SB 1038) that will give Putnam County until July 1, 2024, to have a feasibility study to determine if a port could be created on the St. Johns River in Palatka.
— With the state threatened by rising sea levels, lawmakers passed a measure (HB 7053) that creates a new resiliency office directly under the governor and expands the Resilient Florida Grant Program.
JUVENILES AND FATHERS
— Lawmakers passed a measure (HB 195) that will expand the ability of minors to have arrest records expunged if they complete diversion programs. The law will not apply to arrests for forcible felonies and felonies that involve the manufacture, sale, purchase, transport, possession or use of firearms.
— In a priority of the House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, lawmakers passed a bill (HB 7065) that includes creating the “Responsible Fatherhood Initiative” within the Department of Children and Families.
— In a nod to the strawberry industry around Plant City, lawmakers approved a bill (SB 1006) that designates strawberry shortcake as Florida’s official state dessert.
Health Care — Florida COVID fight ramps up
Tonight, Beyoncé is dropping her first single in two years. It’s called “Break My Soul.” Are you ready?
As COVID vaccines for infants, toddlers and preschoolers start rolling out, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) picked a fight with the White House by not pre-ordering doses ahead of time. We’ll look at some of the implications.
DeSantis escalates feud with White House
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is escalating his feud with the White House over the COVID-19 response as he positions himself for a possible presidential campaign in 2024.
DeSantis has been taking heat from infectious diseases experts — as well as state and national Democrats — for his decision not to preorder from the federal government COVID-19 vaccines for infants and young kids.
“The state of Florida intentionally missed multiple deadlines to order vaccines to protect its youngest kids,” White House coronavirus response coordinator Ashish Jha told reporters Friday.
The White House initially made 10 million vaccines for young children available for states to preorder.
Having a small stockpile of doses on hand meant shots can start being administered as early as June 20, if states were able to distribute them quickly enough.
But Florida was the only state that decided not to place an order. Read More
Research Provides Further Evidence that Pensions are Superior to 401(k) Plans
A new study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College has found that retirees are exhausting their 401(k) savings at an alarming rate, providing further proof that 401(k) accounts do not provide the same level of retirement security as pensions.
Since the transition towards the 401(k) over traditional pensions in the 1980s, workers are increasingly responsible for saving for their retirement themselves. However, retirees with 401(k)s are drawing from their savings at a much faster rate than those with pensions. By age 75, 401(k) savers had $86,000 less than those who had a pension.
Financial experts and senior advocates stress that 401(k) plans do not offer the guaranteed income that pensions do. In addition, 401(k) accounts do not offer the monthly payments and withdrawal calculations of pension plans, leaving retirees to make difficult financial decisions on their own.
Now that Americans are living longer than ever before, the risk of depleting retirement savings becomes ever more concerning. About half of retirees are living past the age of 85, but many are in danger of entirely exhausting their savings before then.
“This study shows why Alliance members fight for traditional pensions,” said Robert Roach, Jr., President of the Alliance. “Too few American workers are on track for secure retirements. Replacing defined benefit pension plans with 401(k)s fails workers and retirees.”
U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Rule Requiring Return of Medicare Overpayments
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to a Medicare requirement by UnitedHealth Group on Tuesday, effectively upholding the government rule requiring Medicare Advantage insurers to promptly return any payment that was based on an unsupported diagnosis.
UnitedHealth took issue with applying 2014 law’s application to private Medicare Advantage plans. They unsuccessfully argued they were unfairly audited because Medicare Advantage plans were being treated differently from traditional Medicare. At stake were billions of dollars that Medicare Advantage insurers are now obligated to return to the federal government.
“This outcome prevents private insurers from padding their profits by pocketing money they were paid in error,” said Joseph Peters, Jr., Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “This decision is a big win for retirees who paid into Medicare with every paycheck they earned.”
New Bipartisan Legislation Aims to Limit Insulin Prices for Patients
Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Susan Collins (R-ME) announced a bipartisan bill on Wednesday that promises to curb the rising cost of insulin.
The result of months of negotiations, this compromise would cap insulin costs at $35 per month for all insured Americans while eliminating some authorization hurdles that previously complicated insurance coverage of the drug. Patients with private insurance as well as those enrolled in Medicare would not be charged more than $35. However, patients without insurance are not protected by this bill.
Although Sens. Shaheen and Collins claim bipartisan support for the bill, House Republicans argue that a price cap could harm research efforts. Top Senate Democratic leaders are pledging a vote on the bill, but its fate is
uncertain with Democrats’ narrow margin in the Senate. The House passed H.R. 6833, the Affordable Insulin Now Act, on March 31.“Passage of this bill would be a step in the right direction. However, Congress must quickly build on it with additional legislation that lowers drug prices,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance. “It is not a substitute for more substantial reforms, such as allowing Medicare to negotiate prices for other drugs and limiting the overall out-of-pocket costs seniors pay for their medications.”
New Flu Vaccines Recommended for Older Americans
A CDC panel announced recommendations for older Americans to receive new, “souped-up” flu vaccines that are more effective in preventing flu-related hospitalization. The recommendations are based on findings that certain flu vaccines might offer more or longer protection for seniors, whose weakened immune systems don’t respond as well to traditional shots.
These newly-recommended shots include Fluzone High-Dose, Fluad with an immune booster, or Flublok. Although the research is still relatively new, these special flu vaccines have already proven popular, with roughly 80% of Medicare beneficiaries choosing the souped-up vaccines each year.
“Minimizing hospitalizations is important. The flu can lead to death,” said President Roach. “Particularly in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, we should take advantage of the precautionary measures recommended by the CDC.”
Kaiser Health News: 100 Million People in America Are Saddled With Health Care Debt
By Noam N. Levey
Elizabeth Woodruff drained her retirement account and took on three jobs after she and her husband were sued for nearly $10,000 by the New York hospital where his infected leg was amputated.
Ariane Buck, a young father in Arizona who sells health insurance, couldn’t make an appointment with his doctor for a dangerous intestinal infection because the office said he had outstanding bills.
Allyson Ward and her husband loaded up credit cards, borrowed from relatives, and delayed repaying student loans after the premature birth of their twins left them with $80,000 in debt.
Ward, a nurse practitioner, took on extra nursing shifts, working days and nights.
“I wanted to be a mom,” she said. “But we had to have the money.”
The three are among more than 100 million people in America ― including 41% of adults ― beset by a health care system that is systematically pushing patients into debt on a mass scale, an investigation by KHN and NPR shows. Read more here.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ redistricting map is back in play for November elections
An appeals court Friday tossed out a temporary injunction that would have blocked the use of a congressional redistricting plan that Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed through the Legislature in April.
The ruling by a three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal was expected: The panel had earlier placed a stay on the temporary injunction, describing it as “patently unlawful.”
Friday’s decision also came on the final day of a formal qualifying period for this year’s elections. Candidates qualified under the DeSantis-backed plan, which could increase the number of Republicans in the state’s congressional delegation from 16 to 20, based on past voting patterns. Read More
9 in 10 Floridians at ‘high’ risk of COVID as hospitalizations rise
Florida’s COVID-19 infection rate evened out last week, but hospitalizations kept rising. The state recorded 10,618 cases per day, on average, during the week of June 11-17. That’s essentially unchanged from last week. But Florida hospitals had 3,212 confirmed COVID-19 cases Friday, a 13% jump from the week before. Elevated infection and hospitalization rates mean that 92% of Floridians now live in “high risk” counties, according to federal data released Thursday.
The state’s pandemic response made headlines this past week when White House officials said Florida was the only state in the union not to preorder COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 4 and under. Biden administration officials said the decision could delay doses for Florida’s youngest children, who rely on medical providers instead of retail pharmacies. Federal health officials approved the child-sized doses from Pfizer and Moderna on Friday. Doses could be available in some states this week following the unanimous recommendation Saturday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisers to approve the kids vaccine. That is pending a final signoff by CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
Omicron appears to cause fewer cases of long COVID than the delta variant in vaccinated adults, according to a study published in The Lancet. Approximately 4.5% of vaccinated adults developed long COVID-19 symptoms after an omicron infection, compared to nearly 11% who were infected with the delta strain, according to London researchers. CDC research, released in May, suggests that more than 20% of U.S. adults have a long-term health condition related to a previous COVID-19 infection. Read More
White House says Gov. DeSantis has reversed course, now ordering COVID vaccines for kids under 5
Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday was still refusing to order COVID-19 vaccines from the federal government, for the country’s youngest children. But by Friday, the governor had “reversed course and is now ordering vaccines,” according to White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
“We are encouraged that after repeated failures by Governor DeSantis to order COVID-19 vaccines even after every other state had ordered, the State of Florida is now permitting health care providers to order COVID-19 vaccines for our youngest children. We believe it is critical to allow parents everywhere to have the choice to get their kids vaccinated and have a conversation with their pediatrician or health care provider,” Jean-Pierre said in a statement.
She added: “Even though Governor DeSantis reversed course and is now ordering vaccines, we will pull every lever to get pediatricians across Florida vaccines as quickly as possible. This is an encouraging first step, and we urge the state to order vaccines for its state and local health departments, so that all Florida parents have the opportunity to get their children vaccinated.” Read More
AAA: Gas prices down, making $5 per gallon in Florida less likely — for now
Florida gas prices fell last week from an all-time state high, making $5 per gallon gas looking less likely — at least for now, according to AAA.
Prices per gallon fell 7 cents last week from an all-time average of $4.89 across the state, the auto club said Monday in a press release.
The drop was even more dramatic in Brevard County, which saw an average per-gallon price of $4.77 on Sunday, down 12 cents from the week before. It remains a steep spike over the county average of $2.92 per gallon a year ago.
AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins said the prices reflected falls in the price of oil and gas futures, which trended down last week on news of a rate hike from the Federal Reserve and the Biden administration’s announcement it was considering limits on petroleum exports to bolster domestic supply.
“Florida drivers are finally catching a break after several weeks of rising gas prices,” Jenkins said in the press release.
President Shuler, Secretary-Treasurer Redmond Bring Bold Vision For Labor Expansion
History was made at the AFL-CIO Convention in Philadelphia on Sunday as Liz Shuler was elected AFL-CIO President and Fred Redmond was elected Secretary-Treasurer. Ms. Shuler is the first woman to be elected federation president, and Mr. Redmond is the first black Secretary-Treasurer in AFL-CIO history.
From 2009 until 2021, President Shuler served as the AFL-CIO’s Secretary-Treasurer, and she has also served as Executive Vice President of the Alliance for Retired Americans. She began her labor career as an organizer, working to unionize clerical workers at Portland General Electric in Oregon. She worked her way up through the ranks at the IBEW in her capacity as a lobbyist and chief of staff to the international president.
Human Affairs for the United Steelworkers (USW) and has used his platform as a union leader to fight for civil rights and combat economic inequality throughout his career.
The two leaders shared their vision for the federation in their acceptance speeches, calling for action in organizing and pushing the labor movement forward past the COVID-19 pandemic. They stressed the importance of inclusivity in expanding the scope of the AFL-CIO, and President Shuler announced the AFL-CIO’s goal of organizing and activating 1 million workers throughout all 50 states to participate in the electoral process.
Alliance President Robert Roach, Jr. applauded the enthusiasm. ”I think we’re addressing key issues with inclusivity and the mobilization of voters, and I’m very optimistic about the direction of the federation,” he said. “I know that President Shuler and Secretary-Treasurer Redmond will put union retirees’ interests at the forefront of their agenda.”
Biden Speaks about Social Security and Medicare at Philadelphia AFL-CIO Convention
Speaking before the AFL-CIO convention in Philadelphia on Tuesday, President Joe Biden discussed Social Security and Medicare as he provided an overview for what is at stake in the 2022 midterm elections.
He also offered a scathing review of Sen. Rick Scott’s (FL) proposed economic plan, criticizing the extreme measures of the National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman’s proposal that include major cuts and potential elimination of Social Security and Medicare.
Other plans similar to Sen. Scott’s proposals have also been prevalent within the Republican Party. Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC)has recently reiterated his support for uprooting Medicare and Social Security altogether through “entitlement reform,” and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) and Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) have supported cutting earned benefits.
President Biden emphasized the importance of Medicare in lowering health care costs in his address, promising to empower the program to negotiate lower drug prices with pharmaceutical corporations and to ensure diabetes patients pay no more than $35 a month for insulin.
Biden also touted the record number of jobs created since he was elected president, and again called on Congress to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. The PRO Act would stiffen penalties for employers who violate workers’ rights and strengthen protections for employees against retaliation. It would also benefit retirees, since union workers have higher wages and can negotiate for benefits such as health care, pensions and employer contributions to retirement plans, which leads to higher income in retirement.
“Retirees need to be on high alert. Republican candidates for the Senate and House have declared their intent to cut the Social Security and Medicare benefits we’ve earned over a lifetime if they regain control of the Senate,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance.
Workers Encouraged to Track Down Lost Pension Benefits
Retirement benefits can easily be lost through each change of employment, leaving many Americans with unclaimed retirement income as they approach retirement age.
In a blog for the Administration for Community Living, David Bonello of Trellis Pension and Retirement Rights stressed some important steps to identify and locate these lost pension benefits. He emphasizes the importance of keeping documents related to eligibility, such as benefit statements or notices from the Social Security Administration. In addition, contacting former employers or even former colleagues can help with clarifying procedures for accessing retirement benefits.
The Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) and the Pension Rights Center offer other resources for locating lost pension benefits.
“A lot of people don’t know about lost pensions and retirement income that they may be eligible for,” said Alliance Secretary-Treasurer Joseph Peters, Jr. “It’s important to make people aware of the benefits they earned through years of hard work.”
Kaiser Health News: Preventive Care May Be Free, but Follow-Up Diagnostic Tests Can Bring Big Bills
By Michelle Andrews
When Cynthia Johnson learned she would owe $200 out-of-pocket for a diagnostic mammogram in Houston, she almost put off getting the test that told her she had breast cancer.
“I thought, ‘I really don’t have this to spend, and it’s probably nothing,’” said Johnson, who works in educational assessment at a university. But she decided to go forward with the test because she could put the copay on a credit card.
Johnson was 39 in 2018 when that mammogram confirmed that the lump she’d noticed in her left breast was cancer. Today, after a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation, she is disease-free.
Having to choose between paying rent and getting the testing they need can be a serious dilemma for some patients. Read more here.
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
Judge 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
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.
Dr. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Thanks 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
Ms. 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.”
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.