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Showing posts from August, 2009

PathWays PA E-Newsletter: August 31, 2009

PA Budget

It is nearly September and Pennsylvania is still without a complete state budget. The Conference Committee is scheduled to meet again this Tuesday, and the current proposals stand at just under $29 billion from the House and $27.1 billion from the Senate. There has been some willingness from groups to bring their proposals more to the middle with talk of some recurring revenue included in the final bill. In the meantime, preschools and other pre-kindergarten programs are shutting their doors, along with child care centers and many other state programs.

Many institutions and organizations that rely on state funding are going without until the remainder of the budget is passed. These include our schools, hospitals, and non-profit organizations, which are now faced with tough decisions that could lead to layoffs, service cuts, or having to close their doors. If you work for one of these organizations or if the services you rely on have been cut, please tell your story! Write…

Dispelling the Myths of Health Care Reform: Individual Choice – Pre-Existing Conditions

Myth: Under health care reform, choice will be taken away from the individual and people will be forced into certain plans as decided by the government.

Fact: Heath care reform will open up more options for individuals to purchase the health care they choose by regulating the grounds on which insurance companies can deny coverage(including denial based on pre-existing conditions).

A pre-existing condition is considered to be any medical condition that existed before an individual applies for a new health insurance policy. The condition can be something as serious as heart disease or cancer, or as common as hay fever, asthma, or a sports injury. These conditions can lead to higher premiums or a complete denial of coverage.

In 45 states, it is legal for insurance companies to discriminate against people purchasing health insurance based on their pre-existing conditions. In nine states, being a survivor of domestic violence is considered a pre-existing condition.

Insurers can deny covera…

Devastating Impact of the Budget Impasse

To keep you updated on the budget crisis, below are some articles we recently saw:


Child Care Hard Hit by Pennsylvania Petty Politics – On September 1, JoAnna Collins, co- owner and Early Educational Director of Creative Play Day School will have to lay off 21 of 27 employees and will no longer be able to care for children whose parents pay for their care with funding from the state.

Service Agencies in Crisis over Pa. Budget Impasse – “Senior centers have cut staff hours. Adults who want to learn to read are told to wait, and classes have been cut. Agencies that help bathe and feed people with disabilities have sought hundreds of thousands of dollars on credit, not knowing when the state will reimburse them or if their credit will run out.”

School Districts Fight to Stay Above the Water – Schools have either started the school year or will start it soon, without funding from the state that many need to keep their doors open.

Class Must Go On – “‘Because we are a poor school district, ha…

Are You Ready To Be Counted?

In 2010, the Census is coming to a home near you.

In fact, it is coming directly to your home.

In March 2010, you will receive in the mail a form asking questions about income, race, age, and other characteristics of all those living in your household. If you don’t fill out that form, you will receive a “second-chance” notice, and if the second-chance is ignored, you might just get a knock on the door from one of the thousands of Census takers hired to ask those questions of you directly (peak recruitment for hiring will begin soon for jobseekers). Many programs will take place as part of the Census, including personal interviews with people who are transitory and follow-up interviews.

With every Census comes the opportunity for many questions and myths to circulate. So below, we have tried to address some of the common questions about the Census, as well as some of the more nuanced misconceptions that are out there.

How long does it take to fill out the Census?In past Census yea…

New Ways to Measure Poverty?

We talked in a recent blog post about the problems with the Federal Poverty Level: basically, it uses an outdated means of determining income and applies it uniformly to the 48 contiguous states. But what else is out there?

Mark H. Greenberg at the Center for American Progress just wrote a great article explaining this recommendation, which originated in the 1990s and is being considered by Congress as a replacement of the Federal Poverty Level. The Measuring American Poverty Act would create a new measure of poverty as well as a new “decent living standard.” Under the NAS threshold, the actual cost of food, clothing, and shelter, along with a little additional money, would make up the new poverty level. It would vary geographically, and count money available through food stamps, tax credits, and other subsidies as part of a family’s resources. At the same time, it would not count money that must be used to pay taxes, child support, or certain other out-of-pocket expenses as avail…

On Women’s Equality Day, Unfortunately Not Everything is Equal

Today marks the 89th Anniversary of women finally getting the right to vote. Unfortunately, after 89 years not everything is equal.

When it comes to health care women still face many barriers.

In the individual insurance market, many states allow insurance companies to calculate premiums based on characteristics such as existing health problems, age, and gender. In particular, women are often charged higher premiums than men during their reproductive years. For example, holding other factors constant, a 22-year-old woman can be charged one and a half times the premium rate of a 22-year-old man.

Beyond cost, the coverage in the individual market is woefully inadequate. A recent survey by the National Women’s Law Center found that the vast majority of individual market health insurance policies did not cover maternity care. Some insurance companies even consider pregnancy a pre-existing condition and therefore will not provide coverage for a woman who is pregnant.

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Special Budget Alert - August 26, 2009

It is now week eight of the budget stalemate. A budget is needed quickly, but it must also be a budget that supports Pennsylvanians. As budget proposals continue to be negotiated, important programs are still at risk of being cut. It is crucial for legislators to hear from their constituents about what programs are important.

While state workers have begun receiving paychecks and some essential services have received funds, many institutions and organizations that rely on state funding continue to go without until the remainder of the budget is passed. These include schools, hospitals, and non-profit organizations that will have to make tough decisions that could lead to layoffs, service cuts, or closing down their businesses because funding is tied up until the budget is passed.

If you work for one of these organizations or if the services you rely on have been cut, please tell your story! Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, or tell your story to PathWays PA. We…

Testimony at Public Hearing on LIHEAP

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Testimony at Public Hearing on LIHEAPPresented by Carol Goertzel, President/CEO of PathWaysPAAugust 25, 2009


Thank you for allowing us to testify today. My name is Carol Goertzel, and I am President and CEO of PathWaysPA, an agency that has been committed to keeping families together and providing both advocacy and services to and on behalf of at-risk children, teens, women, and families for over thirty years. We work directly with over 6,000 individuals each year.

Based on our experiences, we know that families are struggling every day to make ends meet, and the struggle has only been getting harder during this recession. We ask today that you reconsider the decision to reduce LIHEAP benefits and shorten the season so drastically.
Our request is based on the needs in Pennsylvania shown through our interactions with clients on a day-to-day basis as well as the findings in several of our studies, including The Self-Sufficiency Standard for Pennsylvania and Overlooked and Undercounted: S…

Dispelling the Myths of Health Care Reform: Individual Choice – Death Panels

Myth:Government will decide what level of treatments you may have at the end of your life. Health reform creates death panels that will encourage or even require euthanasia.

Fact: Health care reform may provide for the reimbursement of voluntary end of life counseling with your physician once every five years.


Under the House’s health care reform bill, Medicare would help to cover the cost of voluntary, private end-of-life counseling for individuals who want to consult with their family and physician about their care and their options to ensure that the patient is informed and their wishes are known. The Senate may choose not to address this issue in their bill.

When the time comes for end-of-life treatment, it is hard to make decisions on proper care amidst the emotions and grief of the moment. Yet studies show that people who discuss end-of-life care before they reach the need for treatment suffer less physical distress (and, yes, fewer costly procedures) in their final days.

Whethe…

Letter to the Editor: Pa. budget must serve the neediest citizens

This letter was published today in The Delaware County Daily Times.


To the Times:

The past month has been an anxiety-ridden time for both legislators and nonprofits looking to balance available funding with Pennsylvania’s needs.

As the commonwealth continues without a budget, many are working without pay, stopping their critical services, or facing layoffs – including the nonprofit organizations that care for vulnerable people at times of critical need.

PathWays PA, an organization working in the Greater Philadelphia region to provide residential, child welfare, and job-training services to women and their families, is one of hundreds of organizations providing services without government payment.

While PathWays PA has been weathering this crisis, we know of sister agencies that have endured payless paydays or were forced to lay off staff at a time when these organizations are most needed in the commonwealth.

Even without a budget, we know that contracted services through EARN Centers, DHS …

Do Your Homework: Making Sure Students Access Free and Reduced Price School Meals

In coming weeks, you may see PathWays PA's AmeriCorps* VISTAs posting information on our blog from time to time. We are looking forward to their contributions!


With the start of a new school year, millions of children will need access to nutritious school meals and afterschool snacks. Many of these children qualify for these meals at a free or reduced price. While most schools are working diligently to identify children, extra efforts to reach out to eligible and newly qualifying families are needed.

There are two reasons why schools need to accurately enroll qualifying students for free and reduced price meals. First, studies show that students succeed better in school when their bellies are full than when they are empty. Second, the more accurately a school accounts for these students, the more likely that school may qualify for additional funding to improve important educational resources, such as technological learning tools and library books.

There are two ways that families m…

PathWays PA E-Newsletter: August 24, 2009

PA Budget: Calling Eric Bruntlett?

Today is the 55th day of the fiscal year and Pennsylvania is still without a complete state budget. Three weeks ago. the House passed legislation approving the $27.3 billion Senate spending plan. The Governor then used his line-item veto to delete many of the budget items, leaving $11 billion to pay state workers and fund services essential to public protection. Last week, the Senate attempted to override some of the Governor’s line-item vetoes but they were unsuccessful. The Governor plans to hold a press conference today at 1:30.

While state workers have begun receiving paychecks and some essential services have received funds, many institutions and organizations that rely on state funding will have to go without until the remainder of the budget is passed. These include schools, hospitals, and non-profit organizations that may have to make tough decisions that could lead to laying-off workers, cutting services, or having to close their doors …

In Order to Lift PA out of Economic Crisis, We Need to Lift Up One Another

We are sharing this on behalf of our friends at the Pennsylvania Commission for Women, Governor’s Advisory Commission on African American Affairs, Governor’s Advisory Commission on Asian American Affairs, Governor’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs, Governor’s Advisory Council on Rural Affairs, and Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission


President Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”

We write out of concern that the people of Pennsylvania are at risk for loosing both privilege and principles. The future that we see for Pennsylvania is one that places value in each of our neighbors, by creating strong individuals. The state commissions, in turn, enhance the opportunities for healthy businesses, brisk economic development, and a state that is poised to lead.

Unfortunately these privileges are at risk. The Pennsylvania state budget proposes to eliminate the funding for the Governor’s Advisory Commission on African…

More on Poverty in the US

Last week, we posted on the new poverty data expected in September and what it shows (and doesn't show) about those in need in the US. Another article out this weekend shows that by the end of the year, it is likely that 1 in 5 people in the US will be at or near poverty.

More Local Impacts of Working Without a Budget

While state budget negotiations continue, many departments, organizations, and agencies throughout Pennsylvania are trying to keep their doors open without any state funding. Below are more articles from around the state that discuss how the delay and some of the budget proposals are truly impacting different parts of the state.

Plan C: Mayor Provides a Revised Budget that Cuts 3,000 Jobs, Closes All Libraries & Rec Centers
Ambridge Cancels Pre-K Program Due to Budget Concerns
Impasse Affecting Medical Ride Program
Pa. Budget Impasse Prompts Bethlehem Schools Cuts
Armstrong County Officials on Edge Over State Budget Impasse

For more local stories please see PathWays PA’s Budget Alert and previous post Local Impacts of Working Without a Budget.

Since 2000, Cost of Health Care Premiums is Up Significantly

A report released yesterday from Families USA found that since 2000 the cost of premiums to employers and individuals has risen significantly more than the increase in median income in Pennsylvania.

In Pennsylvania, Families USA found that:
From 2000 to 2009, the average price of a family health insurance premium purchased by an employer rose from $6,721 to $13,116.
The average amount employers paid towards premiums grew by $4,531, to $9,955, or 83.5 percent.The average amount workers paid towards premiums rose 143.7 percent, from $1,297 to $3,161.The price of a premium for an individual climbed 93.9 percent, from $2,467 in 2000 to $4,782 in 2009.The employer share of an individual premium went up to $3,879 from $2,094, an 85.2 percent increase.The employee's share grew 142 percent, from $373 to $904.Median earnings for Pennsylvanians rose from $24,834 to $29,188 between 2000 and 2009.The increase in costs did not lead to more coverage. Workers are getting fewer benefits while payin…

Dispelling the Myths of Health Care Reform: Individual Choice – Public Option

Myth: You will no longer have a choice when it comes to your health care.
Fact: Health care reform will expand your choices, not limit them.

It is a myth that reform will force individuals out of their current insurance plan or force them to change doctors. If you are happy with your health insurance, then you are free to keep it. This reform is meant to give people more affordable options, not take options away.

For those individuals who are unhappy with their current health care or are uninsured, then the government is offering another option, the public option. Through the public option, an individual will be able to choose or select a public insurance plan. The same individual will also still be able to choose a private insurer but will now have more options to choose from.

The public plan will be a government backed insurance plan for:
people who do not have insurance or who are unhappy with the insurance they have, it will give them a choice, another option when they are looking…

Duh, employers. Let sick workers stay home (A Guest Post)

by Katie Bethell

On Tuesday the Centers for Disease Control released its new toolkit, Preparing for the Flu: A Communication Toolkit for Businesses and Employers, which includes recommendations from the CDC, and a letter cosigned by the Secretaries of Commerce, Health and Human Services, and Labor.

Their advice? Plan ahead and “encourage sick workers to stay home without penalty.” You’d think this would go without saying, right? What employer would want someone with the swine flu to show up at work?

As it turns out, lots of them.

Today, nearly 1/2 of the workforce doesn’t have paid sick days. And, to make matters worse, the people who are most likely to interact with the public, like restaurant employees, hotel staff, and home health providers are the least likely to have paid sick days (roughly 74% in these industries have no paid sick days at all). When illness strikes, people without paid sick days have a tough choice: go to work sick and put their own health and their coworkers at ris…

Local Impact of Working Without a Budget

While state budget negotiations continue, many departments, organizations, and agencies throughout Pennsylvania are trying to keep their doors open without any state funding. Below are articles from around the state that discuss how the delay and some of the budget proposals are truly impacting different parts of the state.

Monroe County Upset with Legislators' Failure to Pass State Budget
Foster Parents to Press State for Relief
Impasse Creates Tough Decisions for Parents
Child Care Centers are in ‘Dire Straits’
Westmoreland's Social Services in Peril
Downtown Rally Tells of Hardships Under State Budget Impasse


For more local stories please see PathWays PA’s Budget Alert.

Poverty Numbers Expected To Rise - Do They Tell the Whole Story?

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Generally at this time of year, the story turns to "Poverty Day," the day when the newest statistics from the American Community Survey show changes in the Federal Poverty Level. While the stats won't be released until late September this year, reports indicate that we will see a statistically significant increase in the number of people "living in poverty," that is, below the Federal Poverty Level.

However, the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) is not the same as a measurement of all people who are struggling in the United States. The FPL was created in 1965 by Mollie Orshansky, who developed the estimate using the Department of Agriculture’s “economy food plan,” which provided a food budget for families to prevent starvation on a temporary or emergencybasis.

Orshansky modified the food plan for different family sizes and multiplied the budget for each family size by three, since one-third of household income was spent on food. Though in later years, Orshansky ad…

PathWays PA Special Budget Alert - August 17, 2009

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It is now week seven of the budget stalemate. A budget is needed quickly, but it must also be a budget that supports Pennsylvanians. As budget proposals continue to be negotiated, important programs are still at risk of being cut. It is crucial for legislators to hear from their constituents about what programs are important.

While state workers have begun receiving paychecks and some essential services have received funds, many institutions and organizations that rely on state funding continue to go without until the remainder of the budget is passed. These include schools, hospitals, and non-profit organizations that will have to make tough decisions that could lead to layoffs, service cuts, or closing down their businesses because funding is tied up until the budget is passed.

If you work for one of these organizations or if the services you rely on have been cut, please tell your story! Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, or tell your story to PathWays PA. …