Monday, July 6, 2009

PathWays PA E-Newsletter: July 6, 2009

PA Budget

We are almost one week into the fiscal year and Pennsylvania is still without a budget. It is imperative that we continue to let our legislators know what programs Pennsylvania cannot afford to cut.

Industry Partnerships and Child Care Work Subsides are two of those programs. Industry Partnerships provide training for individuals so they can find jobs that pay a self-sufficient wage and Child Care Work Subsidies make it possible for parents or care givers to afford to go to work.

Until the budget is complete, keep reminding your representative of the critical programs that cannot be cut!


College Cost Reduction Act – Income Based Repayment and Forgiveness of Student Loans

For everyone with mounds of student debt, and even those with just a little student debt, today there might be some relief and assistance.

Last year Congress passed the College Cost Reduction Act, which put into place the Income-Based Repayment (IBR) plan with a special provision on loan forgiveness for people who work in public service.

IBR is a new way to make your federal student loan payments more manageable. It can help borrowers keep their loan payments affordable with payment caps based on their income and family size. For most eligible borrowers, IBR loan payments will be less than 10 percent of their income - and even smaller for borrowers with low earnings. IBR will also forgive remaining debt, if any, after 25 years of qualifying payments.

If you're a teacher or work in government or at a nonprofit (501(c)(3)) organization, you might also qualify for a new type of public service loan forgiveness after 10 years of eligible payments and employment. Public Service Loan Forgiveness is a new program for federal student loan borrowers who work in qualifying jobs. Under this program, any remaining debt will be forgiven after 10 years of eligible employment and qualifying loan payments. During those 10 years, the IBR can help keep your loan payments affordable.

If you have federal student loans be sure to check to see if they qualify under these new programs!


Ask Your Legislator to Support a Pay Raise for Direct Support Professionals

The Direct Support Professionals Fairness and Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 868) offers cash-strapped states a way to increase the pay of one part of the crucial and underpaid direct care workforce.

Direct support professionals provide vital care and support to people in every district, so they can remain valued and engaged members of the community. Direct care workers have a great impact on the lives of the people they assist and their families, however, too many dedicated workers leave their jobs for better pay in other industries.

H.R. 868 will help address this workforce crisis by giving states a much-needed option to secure additional federal dollars for the direct support workforce.

To support this bill please click here. If you have any questions contact Rob Gedat at rgedat@directcarealliance.org.


Impact Health Reform – Remind Your Members of Congress to Address the Needs of Vulnerable Children and Youth

Nearly 46 million Americans do not have health insurance and many more are underinsured and without meaningful access to needed physical and mental health care. The House and Senate are working diligently to pass comprehensive health reform legislation that would provide coverage to most, if not all, Americans. This is a critical opportunity to ensure that the physical and mental health needs of vulnerable children, youth, and families are better addressed.

Tell your Senators and Representative to pass comprehensive health reform this year! As part of health reform, tell your Members of Congress to:
  • Support mandatory funding for home visitation programs, as currently in the House leadership health reform bill;
  • Ensure coverage for comprehensive reproductive health care for women;
  • Create a Medicaid service category for therapeutic foster care programs;
  • Ensure quality care and appropriate benefits for all children, including adequate preventive care, mental health services, and dental services;
  • Make coverage affordable for all Americans, particularly low- and moderate-income families;
  • Improve the workforce by increasing payments to qualified providers accepting Medicaid beneficiaries; and
  • Reduce or eliminate health disparities.


Support Transitional Jobs – Ensure a Workforce Development System that Works for All!

Transitional Jobs programs provide a bridge to unsubsidized employment for individuals with limited work experience, low levels of education and other barriers to employment, who face a particularly challenging labor market.

These programs have grown during the past decade, reaching over one hundred thousand people in more than 30 states. A dedicated federal grant program is needed to expand and further develop the comprehensive Transitional Jobs program model and demonstrate its effectiveness.

For more information please see this template letter of support and one-page fact sheet. Please contact your legislators and urge their support of this important program!



Support the Life Span Respite Care Act


In Pennsylvania, family caregivers need respite desperately, regardless of the age or disability of the care recipient. Respite is the most frequently requested service by family caregivers and at the same time provides significant savings by avoiding more costly nursing home and foster care placements.

The Lifespan Respite Care Act is meant to make respite more accessible and affordable to family caregivers, however, to date Congress has only provided $2.5 million in funding for this important program.

Some of the facts:

  • The nation's estimated 50 million family caregivers provide 80% of long-term care at an estimated value of $375 billion
  • American businesses lose $17.1 to $33.6 billion annually in lost productivity costs related to care giving responsibilities.
Please contact your representatives to urge the Appropriations Committee to provide more funding for Lifespan Respite.



Help Make Student Loan Forgiveness a Reality

The House Education and Labor Committee reports that the average student now graduates with over $22,000 in total student debt. Because women are more likely to borrow money for college than men and will earn less on average after graduation, female graduates are more likely to struggle with their loan debt.

The College Cost Reduction and Access Act is an important step toward making college more affordable and accessible. In particular, one part of this act, the Income-Based Repayment (IBR) program, will be a great help for those who struggle with their monthly student loans payments, but there is still one problem that needs to be addressed.

While most borrowers will pay off their debt in full, those responsible borrowers who are still paying off their college education 25 years later will be taxed on the forgiven amount as income. This would not only create a new financial obligation for borrowers, but the threat of a significant future tax liability may prevent those who could benefit most from the IBR program from taking advantage of it in the first place.

For these reasons, legislation has been introduced, H.R. 2492, which would prevent the taxation of federal student loan debt forgiven through the IBR program. Please urge your representative to cosponsor H.R. 2492 and make the ideals behind loan forgiveness a reality.


Remind Your Senators: Don’t Play Politics with Women’s Health

In the Senate some are urging their colleagues that reproductive health services be excluded from health reform legislation. This would limit coverage many women have right now, as well as deny benefits to millions of women who would otherwise be covered under proposed health care reform legislation.

Please send a message to your legislator reminding them that they should be focused on expanding health coverage and providing better quality care for all Americans. This move to take away basic benefits is unconscionable.

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