Civic News & Info
Keeping Government on a Short Leash PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 18 October 2010 07:53
Keeping Government on a Short Leash

by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

The health of the U.S. economy typically serves as a good yardstick to gauge the public’s approval or disapproval towards Washington. This year, the public’s distaste for Washington’s appetite to tax, spend and borrow our way back to prosperity exposes a major disconnect between the political leadership and the grassroots.

Inch by inch, Washington’s cure for fixing health care, the economy, the environment, higher education, housing, Wall Street and Detroit has involved unprecedented taxpayer bailouts and unrealistic promises.

Many Iowans share how fed up they are with this Washington-knows-best approach to governance. From mandating individuals to buy health insurance to phasing out conventional light bulbs and shutting local lenders out of the school loan market, Washington is taking American consumers out of the decision-making process.

A Washington-knows-best philosophy undermines personal responsibility and weakens genuine accountability and effective transparency that are fundamental to upholding our government “of, by and for the people.”

I work to keep Washington on a short leash.  It’s not always popular, but I relish my job as a watchdog in Washington. It demands long haul oversight work that I have pursued as a representative for Iowa in the U.S. Senate. Holding the federal bureaucracy accountable, protecting the integrity of hard-earned tax dollars and keeping the people’s business open to the public are non-negotiable principles.

Recently, I’ve focused my oversight work on several federal agencies to give voice to the concerns of Iowa farmers, retirees, taxpayers and investors, including:

·         The EPA’s proposed federal rule that would dictate how much dust could reach beyond the ditch to the roadside when farmers harvest their crops;

·         Inadequate scrutiny of health care contractors by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Fraudulent claims and improper payments paid by Medicare siphons scarce tax dollars and further weakens the long-term solvency of this important health insurance program for retirees and disabled individuals. Consider one example in which a durable medical equipment supplier in Florida was ordered by a federal court in February to repay $445 million to the U.S. government. I want to know why CMS failed to detect suspicious billing activity (the investigation was launched by the FBI) and have serious concerns regarding how many cases of fraud go undetected.

·         The internal auditors at the Department of Defense are failing to follow the “money trail” and conduct full-scale contract audits. Unless the Inspector General commits to returning to the core mission of connecting the dots between a contract and a payment, the taxpaying public and military readiness risk losing even more to waste, fraud and abuse.

I also use legislative tools to establish accountability and transparency in government.

·         More than a decade ago, I secured passage of the landmark “Congressional Accountability Act” which holds the legislative branch of the federal government to the same civil rights, workplace safety and employment laws as the rest of the country.

·         My bipartisan effort to end the practice of so-called “secret holds” would end the ability of a single lawmaker to anonymously hold the people’s business hostage by preventing a nomination or bill from coming to a vote on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

·         My Witness Sunshine Resolution would require individuals who testify before Senate committees to disclose outside affiliations and financial interests in organizations which have ties to the issue under consideration. The public deserves to know about special interests witnesses might have that could influence the outcome of public policy.

·         The president signed into law my bipartisan legislation to repeal blanket exemptions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for the Securities and Exchange Commission. Considering the SEC’s failure to investigate the ponzi scheme cooked up by Bernard Madoff, it’s obvious the American public deserves more disclosure, not less.

It’s pretty clear that Washington sticks to the adage “if you give an inch, it’ll take a mile.”  Considering the $13 trillion national debt and fragile economic recovery, it’s more important than ever to make sure the federal government measures up to the highest standards of service, integrity and accountability.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Governor Quinn Urges July Flood Victims to Apply for Federal Assistance PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Kara Beach   
Monday, 18 October 2010 07:35
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Nearly $260 Million in Federal Assistance Already Approved for July Floods; Largest Amount of Disaster Assistance in State History

SPRINGFIELD – October 14, 2010. Governor Pat Quinn today urged people affected by the July floods to apply for federal disaster assistance to help them recover from the storms. The deadline for registration was extended this week to Nov. 17 after the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approved Governor Quinn’s extension request.

“With more than 1,000 applications for assistance still coming in each day, this extension will help ensure that everyone who was affected by the July floods has a chance to apply for aid,” said Governor Quinn. “This disaster has impacted more people than any other in our state’s history and already a historic level of federal assistance has been approved for people who were affected.”

Nearly $260 million in federal assistance has already been approved to help flood victims recover, and that figure continues to increase as more applications are approved. That amount is greater than federal assistance for any other disaster in Illinois history. According to FEMA, this is also the biggest federal disaster in the history of FEMA’s Region V, which includes Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.

On Oct. 6, Governor Quinn asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to extend the registration period to Nov. 17. This 30-day extension of the original Oct. 18 deadline will ensure that everyone needing help has an opportunity to apply for the aid. Since Aug. 19, when FEMA approved Governor Quinn’s request for federal assistance for people and businesses affected by the floods, more than 123,000 applications have been received and nearly $260 million in assistance has been approved.

“In most cases, the number of applications dwindles considerably as the deadline nears,” said Joe Klinger, Interim Director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. “But with so many people applying each day, we know that the need for assistance is still great. This extension will enable more people to get the help they need.”

Counties included in the federal declaration for assistance to people and businesses include Cook, Carroll, DuPage, Jo Daviess, Ogle, Stephenson and Winnebago.


Governor Quinn Announces State Investment in New Housing for Homeless Veterans PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Civic News & Info
Written by Kara Beach   
Monday, 18 October 2010 07:34

Hope Manor Apartments to Provide Job Training, Support Services

CHICAGO – October 14, 2010. Governor Pat Quinn today announced a $4 million state investment to help build a housing development that will provide quality, affordable apartments and supportive services for 80 Veterans who are homeless. Approximately 75 jobs will be created during the construction of Hope Manor Apartments in Chicago.

“Our Veterans deserve to have a place to call home after sacrificing so much for our nation,” said Governor Quinn. “The Hope Manor Apartments will provide safe homes for our Veterans and ensure that they receive the skills and support necessary to find stability.”

Hope Manor will provide supportive housing for up to 80 Veterans who are homeless. The four-story building on Chicago’s West Side will include 30 studio apartments, and 10 two-bedroom and 10 three-bedroom suites. Employment readiness classes, job training and coaching, computer training, a business resource center, a health and wellness clinic, recovery resources, individual counseling and case management will be available on the first floor of the development. Construction is expected to be completed in November 2011.

The Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA), the state’s housing agency, invested approximately $4 million in federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding and Illinois Affordable Housing Tax Credits to build the development. The federal tax credits will generate an additional $8.8 million in private equity for construction of the building.

“Hope Manor Apartments demonstrates how important supportive housing is to end homelessness,” said IHDA Executive Director Gloria L. Materre. “By investing in this development, we are getting our Veterans off the streets and giving them hope.”

Developed by the Volunteers of America of Illinois, the Hope Manor Apartments will also be financed with a $1 million U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs grant, and a $174,000 Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity grant. The City of Chicago donated the property to build Hope Manor, which will include a “green” roof and other environmentally-friendly features.

“Many Veterans continue to need facilities that provide supportive housing and services that allow them the opportunity to reach their fullest potential,” said Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Director Dan Grant. “We salute and congratulate Volunteers of America for helping to fill this need with Hope Manor Apartments.”

Hope Manor Apartments is the latest Illinois development to break ground as a result of federal housing stimulus dollars created by ARRA. To date, ARRA has provided a jumpstart to construction of 2,646 affordable rental homes, creating more than 3,000 jobs across Illinois.

Veterans represent up to 15 percent of America’s homeless population. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, more than 100,000 Veterans are homeless any given night.

For additional information on statewide resources available to Veterans, visit



Governor Quinn Honors Work of Volunteers With Governor’s Home Town Awards PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Civic News & Info
Written by Andrew Mason   
Monday, 18 October 2010 07:13
Assistance Center in Western Illinois Awarded 2010 Governor’s Cup
SPRINGFIELD – October 12, 2010. Governor Pat Quinn today announced 26 projects as 2010 Governor’s Home Town Award recipients. The awards recognize the contributions of thousands of Illinois’ volunteers for their hard work and dedication towards improving their communities.

“One of our greatest duties is to help those who are in need,” said Governor Quinn. “The Governor’s Home Town Awards are one small way we can honor those who have selflessly gone above and beyond the call of duty to help those around them and improve their communities.”

The Governor’s Home Town Awards recipients were chosen by a group of volunteer judges who reviewed and ranked applications based on local need, volunteer participation, use of resources and results. The judges then selected one project from each population category to compete for the coveted Governor’s Cup. The Governor’s Cup is a traveling silver trophy presented to the community whose efforts were deemed most representative of Illinois’ spirit of volunteerism.

The Community for Christ Assistance Center was chosen as the 2010 Governor’s Cup award winner. The center serves the Villages of Camp Point, Clayton, Golden and Coatsburg. In 2009, the center sponsored a back-to-school fair where approximately one-third of area students received school supplies ranging from pencils, paper, backpacks and shoes to free physicals, immunizations, dental exams and haircuts.

The projects were judged within their population category as well as within an assigned project category, such as services and mentorship, memorials and monuments, parks and recreation, beautification and sustainability, and history and historic preservation. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) administers the Governor’s Home Town Awards Program.

Each of the award-winning communities receives a road sign and plaque recognizing its efforts. The Governor’s Cup winner receives the traveling trophy and a unique road sign that proclaims its status as the overall winner.

The 26 projects recognized represent the work of almost 3,000 volunteers who devoted more than 91,000 hours of their time. Nearly $2.3 million in donated materials or in-kind services were provided and more than $3.1 million in private funds were raised for these projects. A complete list of winners is attached.


Grassley, Landrieu Release “Call to Action” Offering Options to Build on Successful Foster Care Policies PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 11 October 2010 12:15

October 7, 2010

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, co-chairs of the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth, today released a “Call to Action” set of policy options to build on successful policy improving the lives of youth in foster care.

The Call to Action release occurs on the second anniversary of the enactment of the bipartisan Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoption Act of 2008, the most significant child welfare bill to be enacted in more than a decade.

“One of the goals of the Caucus on Foster Youth is to hear directly from the youth in foster care about the policies that affect them,” Grassley said.  “They’re telling us that some key improvements have been very helpful, but there are still gaps in services and persistent problems that a combination of policy changes and citizen involvement can ease.  The Call to Action kicks off the next step in the discussion of how to improve the quality of life for foster youth.”

“We see the Call to Action as a way to help lawmakers implement polices to improve our broken foster care system,” Landrieu said. “With more than 25,000 young adults aging out of care each year, we cannot fail these youth. Yet, we cannot expect them to succeed when less than half of aged-out youth graduate from high school and so few are provided sufficient support. As Members of Congress we rely on these youths to tell us what issues are important to them.  Their input is critical to translate those issues and concerns into meaningful legislation. They need to know that we are dedicated to looking out for their best interests and working to help connect them with loving, caring families.”

The Call to Action addresses issues associated with group homes, congregate care, an over-reliance on psychotropic medications, sibling connection, youth engagement, mentoring, pregnant and parenting teens, family preservation activities and child welfare financing.

The document builds on improvements in the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, which provided additional federal incentives for states to move children from foster care to adoptive homes, expanded adoption assistance to all special needs foster youth, allowed states to extend care to youth up to age 21, allowed for federal reimbursement for kinship care, and made health and education improvements for youth in foster care.  Grassley helped lead the effort to enact the legislation.

In 2009, building on the success of the 2008 act, Grassley, along with Landrieu, established the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth.  The caucus has sponsored a series of working sessions with the goal of assembling options for the next steps in child welfare reform. To an unprecedented degree, the caucus has engaged current and former foster youth in these working sessions.

Last Friday, Grassley and Landrieu appeared on an episode of the national “Dr. Phil” show that highlighted the forthcoming Call to Action and encouraged viewers to learn more about the issues facing youth in care and youth transitioning out of care and possibly volunteer as youth advocates.

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