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Loebsack Calls on Social Security Administration to Reform COLA PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Joe Hand   
Wednesday, 17 October 2012 09:42

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Dave Loebsack, in response to the announcement that the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for Social Security beneficiaries in 2013 will be 1.7 percent, called on the Social Security Administration (SSA) to reform the way this adjustment is calculated.

“I was raised in poverty by my grandmother, who relied on Social Security survivors benefits to care for my brothers and me, so I understand how difficult it is for seniors to get by on fixed incomes,” wrote Loebsack.  “Particularly in these difficult times, it is imperative that Social Security benefits keep up with inflation.  It is important to remember that the yearly COLA is not a benefits increase, but rather it is intended to ensure that monthly payments keep up with the rising costs of essential expenses.”

The COLA in 2012 was 3.6 percent, after two years of no COLA in 2010 or 2011.  Loebsack urged the SSA to work with Congress to reform the way the adjustment is determined to ensure that benefits keep up with the increase in seniors’ everyday expenses.

A copy of the letter sent by Loebsack can be found here.

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Simon announces opening of new training facility PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Justin Stofferahn   
Tuesday, 16 October 2012 13:55

Will improve efforts to train workers for green jobs

CHAMPAIGN – October 16, 2012. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon announced the opening of a new facility at the University of Illinois that will help improve training for workers that weatherize homes through a state program that offers low-income residents an opportunity to improve their homes’ energy efficiency.

During a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the 6,700 square foot Indoor Climate Research and Training Center, Simon, who serves as Governor Quinn’s point person on education reform, said the center will help better prepare workers for green jobs in the Illinois Home Weatherization Assistance Program (IHWAP) through increased hands-on training.

“In order to compete for the jobs of the 21st Century our workers need the right training,” Simon said. “This new training facility will provide workers with the hands-on training needed for jobs in home weatherization, allowing them to ensure families maximize the potential to lower their energy bills and live more comfortably.”

The training facility will provide classroom space and hands-on application areas for trainees completing the Weatherization Training and Certification Program at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center located in Champaign. Graduates will provide weatherization services to low income families that qualify for assistance from IHWAP.

Trainees include weatherization subcontractors and staff from the 35 not-for-profit organizations across the state that the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity works with to administer the assistance program. The organizations identify applicants, evaluate homes, determine the scope of work and contract with weatherization contractors to complete work. Contractors use the training they receive to bid for both IHWAP and private-sector weatherization projects.

The assistance program provides free weatherization services including air sealing, attic and wall insulation, furnace repairs or replacements and window and door work to low-income families. Over the last three years the program has weatherized over 42,000 homes, with nearly 20,000 homes weatherized in the past year. Weatherization typically reduces household energy consumption by 12 to 25 percent and improves indoor environmental health and safety, according to DCEO.

“The Indoor Climate Research and Training Center will help put people to work making low-income homes more comfortable for residents,” said David Vaught, director of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. “The program marks an important economic opportunity for the state and prepares workers for jobs in Illinois’ expanding green economy.”

Funding for the training center was provided by the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Illinois Jobs Now! capital construction program. The facility will feature props, videos and other interactive materials that will enhance the hands-on training for weatherization assessors and workers, according to Manohar Kulkarni, the director of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) at the University of Illinois.

The training currently is offered to ISTC-related subcontractors, but going forward the certificate program will be open to the public, Kulkarni said.

“The ISTC has been proud to partner with DCEO to provide the most up-to-date training for workers providing services for the IHWAP program,” said Kulkarni. “Over the last year we have trained about 300 individuals who took 900 training classes. Over the five years the same numbers are 600 and 2500, respectively. These are impressive indeed and the new facility will allow us to expand upon those efforts including research on indoor human health and comfort issues in buildings.”

The ISTC houses the weatherization training program and is among the five state scientific surveys at the Prairie Research Institute. The other surveys are the Illinois Natural History Survey, Illinois State Archaeological Survey, Illinois State Geological Survey and the Illinois State Water Survey.

Following the ribbon-cutting Simon chaired a meeting of the Illinois River Coordinating Council, which works closely with the ISTC to promote the environmental and economic health of the Illinois River and its tributaries. The council is composed of a diverse group of citizens, not-for-profit organizations, and state and federal agencies, and holds quarterly meetings across the state to gather local input on conservation issues.

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Grassley, Heller, Amodei Press for Answers on Impact of Reno US Attorney/ATF Rift PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 16 October 2012 09:49

WASHINGTON – Senators Chuck Grassley and Dean Heller and Representative Mark Amodei are pressing Attorney General Eric Holder for information about the cases that were not prosecuted during a fall-out between the Reno, Nevada offices of the U.S. Attorney and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

 

A recent article in the Reno Gazette Journal indicated that the U.S. Attorney’s office may have declined or dismissed as many as a dozen cases that were submitted by the ATF.

 

“The Justice Department has yet to respond to any of Congress’ questions about what happened in Reno for more than a year.  It’s an abdication of responsibility on the part of the Justice Department, and if these crimes weren’t prosecuted, whether because of actions of the U.S. Attorney or the ATF, the people of Nevada should know why,” Grassley said.

 

"This breakdown within the Department of Justice is a threat to public safety. There is no question this problem should have been addressed some time ago. The Department of Justice needs to explain why they allowed this problem to fester. I will continue to work with Senator Grassley and Congressman Amodei to get answers and hold the Department of Justice accountable," said Heller.

 

"The Department of Justice owes Nevadans an explanation and a solution. That it has failed to provide either, let alone demonstrate a sense of concern or urgency, is disappointing. I will continue to work with Senators Grassley and Heller to ensure this problem receives the attention it deserves," Amodei said.

 

A copy of the text of the letter is below.  A signed copy of the letter can be found here.

 

VIA ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION

 

The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr.

Attorney General

U.S. Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20530

 

Dear Attorney General Holder:

 

We are in receipt of the Department’s October 12, 2012, letter regarding the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Nevada and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in Reno.

 

On September 28, 2012, we understand that ATF Acting Director B. Todd Jones and U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden released a public statement, although neither the Justice Department nor ATF took any steps to notify any of our offices about the statement before we learned about it from public news accounts.  In that statement, Acting Director Jones and U.S. Attorney Bogden reportedly said: “The United States Attorney’s Office in Nevada is accepting, for review and potential prosecution, all cases and matters referred to it by ATF.  The United States Attorney’s Office and ATF are reviewing the allegations and will work to address any issues that could impact the effectiveness of their law enforcement efforts to protect the public from violent crime.”

 

According to recent accounts by the Reno Gazette Journal, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Nevada may have declined or dismissed as many as a dozen cases that had been submitted to it by ATF.[1] Therefore, please provide answers to the following questions:

 

1)      Is the U.S. Attorney’s Office re-considering the cases that it formerly declined when submitted to it by ATF?

 

2)      If so, how long will it take to conduct reviews of those cases?

3)      Who within the U.S. Attorney’s Office would conduct the review?

4)      In the course of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s dispute with ATF, how many of the ATF cases declined by the U.S. Attorney’s Office would be barred within the next six months by statutes of limitations?  For each such case, precisely when would the statute of limitations expire?

 

Please provide a response and produce these documents by Thursday, October 25, 2012.  If you have any questions concerning this matter, please contact Senator Grassley’s staff at (202) 224-5225, Senator Heller’s staff at (202) 224-6244, or Representative Amodei’s staff at (202) 225-6155.

 

Sincerely,

Chuck Grassley

Dean Heller

Mark Amodei

 

 

cc:       The Honorable Michael E. Horowitz, Inspector General

U.S. Department of Justice

 

B. Todd Jones, Acting Director

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives

 

The Honorable Daniel G. Bogden, U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada

U.S. Department of Justice

 

[1] Martha Bellisle, ATF cases U.S. Attorney’s office in Reno refused to prosecute, Reno Gazette Journal (Oct. 9, 2012), available at http://www.rgj.com/interactive/article/20121009/NEWS01/121009018/RGJ-Investigates-ATF-cases-U-S-Attorney-s-office-Reno-refused-prosecute.

 
Branstad, Reynolds issue statement on the passing of state Senator Pat Ward PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Office of the Governor of the State of Iowa   
Tuesday, 16 October 2012 08:49

(DES MOINES) – Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds issued the following statements today upon learning of the passing of state Sen. Pat Ward:

“I was with shock and sadness that learned of my friend Pat Ward’s passing. She had a wonderful career in public service, and was such a caring and passionate person. As a senator, she was a champion for her district, took the time to get to know the issues, and worked in a bipartisan manner to enact meaningful legislation on behalf of her constituents. She always had a positive outlook on life, even in illness, and her smile would brighten each room she entered. The thoughts and prayers of Chris and I are extended to her large network of family, friends and constituents,” – Gov. Terry E. Branstad

“Having served with Pat in the Senate, I witnessed firsthand her dedication to the state of Iowa, and her incredible work every day on behalf of her constituents. Pat Ward was a dear friend, and the news of her passing is incredibly difficult and painful to hear. I hope all Iowans will look at her example, the way she cared for others and worked to make the world a better place, and remember her significant life and achievements. Our administration will miss her as a policy maker, and we all will personally miss her as a friend.” – Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds

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Iowa Farm Bureau, FBL Financial Group Support Iowa Hunger Summit’s Focus on Food Insecurity PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Nancy Doll   
Tuesday, 16 October 2012 08:48

Employee-led Food Drive Strives to Fight Hunger Close to Home

WEST DES MOINES, IOWA – Oct. 15, 2012 – This week, the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) and FBL Financial Group (NYSE:FFG) kick off a new joint effort to fight local food insecurity through a week-long, company-wide food drive to bring much-needed support to Iowa food banks. The food drive coincides with the organizations’ sponsorship of the World Food Prize Foundation’s Iowa Hunger Summit, held Oct. 16 in Des Moines. This is the second year of the organizations’ five-year joint sponsorship of the Iowa Hunger Summit.

The Iowa Hunger Summit is expected to bring together 500 leaders from across the state to explore how building food security helps fight hunger and to showcase efforts that raise awareness of local, national and global issues of poverty, hunger and nutrition.

“Iowa farmers strive to raise a variety of food at a variety of price options, which brings more choices to more Americans,” said Craig Hill, IFBF president. “This is important to help increase food security in Iowa and around the world. The key, however, is to embrace innovation and technology in farming practices to enable us to meet growing consumer needs.”

“We’re proud to sponsor the Iowa Hunger Summit with Iowa Farm Bureau, and be part of an initiative that leads the charge against hunger and poverty, spotlighting the achievements of organizations that bring food insecurity to the forefront and inspire others to act,” said FBL Financial Group Chief Executive Officer Jim Brannen.

In addition to the local food drive, IFBF will support the Iowa Food Bank Association during its America Needs Farmers Game Day Oct. 20 when the Iowa Hawkeye football team plays Penn State (www.americaneedsfarmers.org).

“It’s a great opportunity to not only raise awareness of what our farmers do to raise the food we need, but to raise funds for the food bank,” said Hill. “For every one dollar donated, the Food Bank of Iowa can provide two pounds of food to those in need. Just like we still believe in Norman Borlaug’s vision of feeding more needing people through agricultural technology and innovative methods, we support this organization’s ability to make the most of those donations.”

 

-30-

 

About Iowa Farm Bureau

The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation is a grassroots, statewide organization dedicated to enhancing the People, Progress and Pride of Iowa.  More than 153,000 families in Iowa are Farm Bureau members, working together to achieve farm and rural prosperity.  For more information about Farm Bureau and agriculture, visit the online media center at www.iowafarmbureau.com.

 

About FBL Financial Group, Inc.

FBL Financial Group is a holding company whose insurance companies go to market under the Farm Bureau Financial Services brand. Through an exclusive, multi-state agent force, the companies affiliated with the Farm Bureau Financial Services brand underwrite, market and distribute a broad range of insurance and financial services products to individuals, families and businesses. For more information, please visit www.fblfinancial.com or www.fbfs.com.

 

About the Iowa Hunger Summit

The World Food Prize Foundation established the Iowa Hunger Summit as a means to celebrate Iowa’s great successes in fighting hunger and poverty, and to unite in further action against both. The Iowa Hunger Summit, first held in 2007, seeks to gather leaders from across Iowa representing community organizations, business and industry, state and local government, social agencies, churches and religious communities, schools and universities, and other groups that lead or participate in projects to confront hunger.

 

 

 
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