Financial literacy computer game helps Iowa students learn money management skills

DES MOINES, IA (03/24/2010)(readMedia)-- State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald introduced a new financial literacy teaching tool to Iowa teachers attending the Future Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) state convention this week in Des Moines. "Financial Football" is an interactive computer game designed to prepare students to make informed personal finance decisions by challenging their knowledge on a host of money topics.

"I think we can all agree that knowing how to manage the money you have is every bit as important as being able to earn it," stated Treasurer Fitzgerald. "Financial Football is a great way to get students interested in personal finances and give them a financial playbook they can use the rest of their lives."

Treasurer Fitzgerald offers "Financial Football" to Iowa schools at no cost, thanks to a special partnership with Visa, Inc. and the NFL. The game comes with individual teaching modules on budgeting, saving and investing, the basics of credit use, and more. "The rules of the money game are complex and subject to change," Fitzgerald stated. "The consequences of poor money management can be costly and leave a lasting impact on a person's life."

The program is already being used across the state to engage students. West Monona High School senior Lauren Fink, part of the FCCLA Financial Fitness peer education team, presented "Financial Football" to 7th graders in her town and received receptive responses from those who participated. "We paired the students up and let them play the game following a structured lesson plan that gave lots of background information to the students," Fink stated. "The kids were having fun without realizing they were learning and were eager to play the game at home with their parents." Fink will be attending South Dakota State University in the fall to study secondary English.

Teachers can request a copy of "Financial Football" by contacting the State Treasurer's Office at 515-281-7003 during normal business hours. An online version of the game is available on the State Treasurer's website at www.treasurer.state.ia.us by clicking on the 'Financial Literacy' tab or by visiting iowa.financialfootball.com.

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WASHINGTON - Senator Chuck Grassley today asked the Special Inspector General for TARP to investigate why the Treasury Department did not follow through on the mandate from Congress in last year's stimulus bill to require that all TARP recipients, including AIG, meet appropriate standards for executive compensation.

"Since the Treasury Department failed to do this, we now see the multi-million severance payments going to departing TARP executives, such as the $3.9 million paid in severance to AIG's former general counsel, who left the job voluntarily," Grassley said.

Grassley also asked the TARP watchdog to determine if Treasury Department officials with potential conflicts of interest were permitted to draft the Treasury regulations that govern executive compensation, including severance at bailed out companies such as Bank of America, AIG and others.

Grassley described his request of the Special Inspector General in a statement placed in today's Congressional Record. The floor statement text is below. Click here to read Grassley's letter of request to the Special Inspector General.

Last week, Grassley questioned the Treasury Secretary about the failure of the Department to act on the congressional mandate to impose appropriate standards on executive compensation. "It seems as if the Treasury Department unnecessarily tied the hands of the Special Master for Compensation before he even assumed his duties," Grassley said. Click here to read that news release and letter.

Floor Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley

AIG Severance Payments

March 23, 2010

Mr. President. I recently asked Secretary Geithner why the Treasury Department is allowing AIG to pay millions of dollars of severance pay to executives given the billions of dollars of taxpayer assistance AIG has received.

At one point I even said that AIG has the American taxpayer over a barrel and that AIG has outmaneuvered the Administration.

Mr. Kenneth Feinberg, the Treasury Special Master for executive compensation, insisted he was not outmaneuvered by AIG.

As it turns out, he was not outmaneuvered by AIG.

Instead, he was outmaneuvered by Secretary Geithner. Let me explain what I mean.

In February, 2009, we enacted the Recovery Act. The law required Secretary Geithner to take control of the runaway executive compensation at companies that the American taxpayer bailed-out.

Congress provided Mr. Geithner with several tools to accomplish this critical job.

By far the most important and most flexible tool Congress gave Mr. Geithner was a general mandate to require bailed-out companies like AIG to meet "appropriate standards" for executive compensation.

This rule was applicable to compensation already in place, compensation in the future, and compensation for all executives, not just a handful of the most senior executives.

What happened to this tool?

Well, even before the law was passed the bonuses, retention awards, and incentive compensation were "grandfathered."

That means that while one part of the statute banned them for a handful of senior executives, another part said they had to be paid if the payments were based on a contract that existed in February, 2009.

We all remember the outrage when people learned that this provision was quietly added by the Senate drafters on the other side of the aisle because it required AIG to pay massive bonuses in March 2009 and again earlier this year.

Secretary Geithner was quoted in the press at the time saying that "Treasury staff" worked with the Senate drafters on the grandfather carve-out.  Well, the damage was done.

The grandfather loophole was law. You might say the American taxpayer was outmaneuvered by Treasury staff too.

The President instructed Secretary Geithner to "pursue every single legal avenue to block these bonuses and make the American taxpayers whole."

The next step required Treasury to implement the law and use the tools Congress gave Mr. Geithner to put the brakes on runaway executive compensation at firms where taxpayers are footing the bill.

What did Treasury do?

One thing Treasury apparently did was hire a Wall Street executive compensation lawyer from a firm that specializes in helping highly paid executives maximize their pay, but more about that later.

Despite the public outcry over the loophole, which permitted AIG employees and others to walk away with millions, Treasury wrote a regulation that actually expands the loophole even further.

That's right, in the face of overwhelming public outrage, Treasury quietly worked to expand the loophole. Let me explain how they did that.

The grandfather provision in the law that Congress enacted protected three things: bonuses, retention awards, and incentive compensation. It did not protect severance. Let me repeat: it did not protect severance.

But in what appears to be an effort to protect severance agreements despite the statutory language, the regulations Treasury drafted expanded the term "bonus" beyond its normal meaning.

Unlike bonuses, severance payments are intended to ease someone out the door, not reward them for doing a great job.  Severance is basically the opposite of a retention bonus.

But, after Treasury drafted the regulation, suddenly, severance payments were also protected by the grandfather loophole, just like bonuses.  Treasury must have known exactly what it was doing.

AIG had an executive severance plan that dated back to March 2008. It was just the sort of contract the grandfather provision would protect if Treasury expanded the loophole.

And what was the impact of the Treasury regulation on the bottom line? What did American taxpayers have to pay?

Because of this regulation, AIG recently paid two of its executives $1 million and $3.9 million in severance pay. We don't yet know how many others have received severance or may receive it in the future.

As the law was passed, these payments would not have been protected by the grandfather provision because they were not a bonus, retention, or incentive payment.

But Treasury officials took care of that. Rather than setting appropriate standards for executive severance payments generally, as the law passed by Congress required, the regulation leaves AIG free to pay excessive severance payments to many of its executives. Then, the American taxpayer gets the bill.

The Recovery Act told Mr. Geithner that he "shall" require each bailed-out company to meet appropriate standards for executive compensation. This command covers all types of executive compensation for all executives, not just bonuses for the most senior executives.

It is a command, not a suggestion. And the grandfather provision that protects certain bonuses does not apply to this more general provision.

But the Treasury regulation almost completely ignores this mandate. It does address one form of executive compensation. The regulation bars tax gross-up payments for senior executives.

That is the practice of allowing the company to pay the executive's income taxes for him. Now don't get me wrong -- tax gross-up payments should be banned for companies that were bailed-out, and I am glad to see that this was done.

But Congress gave Mr. Geithner a powerful tool that should have been used to curb other types of inappropriate executive compensation as well.

That includes tax gross-ups, extravagant severance payments, and other goodies Wall Street thinks it's entitled to.

Secretary Geithner should have used the tool as it was intended.  It's like using a big tractor to plow a little flower garden.

There's nothing wrong with banning tax gross-ups or planting flower gardens, but you could have done so much more with the tool you had.

If Secretary Geithner had done what he was directed to do in the law, we would not be witnessing this spectacle.

AIG is paying multimillion dollar severance payments at taxpayer expense to executives who chose to resign rather than work for the maximum salary of $500,000 per year set by the Special Master.

This is a scandal as far as I am concerned. The American taxpayer, as well as Mr. Feinberg, was outmaneuvered by Secretary Geithner and his staff. And it all happened before the Special Master's first day on the job.

There is another troubling matter that I must address. I mentioned earlier that the Treasury Department hired at least one Wall Street executive compensation lawyer from a firm that specializes in helping wealthy executives maximize their pay.

There is nothing wrong, as a general matter, with hiring talented people with expertise in technical legal subjects to draft regulations and administer the law.

But there are some red flags here that need a little sunshine.  We need to be sure that the people working on these issues at Treasury have dealt with any potential conflicts of interest carefully and openly.

Recently I learned that at least one Treasury official previously worked for Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen and Katz, a top Wall Street law firm.  Wachtell, Lipton has represented at least two former AIG executives.

The firm's job was to look-out for the interests of the executives, not the shareholders.  They were paid to make sure the compensation contracts, including severance provisions, were as generous as possible for their clients.

Wachtell, Lipton also represented Bank of America on its controversial Merrill, Lynch acquisition in 2008.  A Wachtell attorney who worked on that deal joined Treasury in the spring of 2009.

He said that he then worked on the Treasury executive compensation regulations.  These are the regulations I have been describing: the regulations that were to govern AIG, Bank of America and all of the other bailed-out companies.

This situation raises a host of questions, for example:

• How many other Treasury officials have similar potential conflict issues?

• Why wasn't the attorney recused from participating in the drafting of a regulation that was going to have a direct effect on Bank of America, his former client, and AIG executives, his firm's former clients?

• Did the attorney comply with the revolving door provision of the President's Executive Order, which prevents appointees from working on matters that relate to their former clients?

• The President has committed to publicly disclosing all the waivers issued to exempt appointees from his ethics executive order.  If this attorney recused himself, as he should have, why was that recusal not also disclosed so that the public would know about the potential conflict?

At a minimum there is the potential for an appearance of impropriety here.

What we know so far raises serious questions and red flags.  But there also are facts we do not know.

Therefore, I am asking that the Special Inspector General for TARP investigate these issues and report his findings to Congress and the public as soon as possible.

Specifically, I am asking the Inspector General to examine why Treasury did not set appropriate compensation standards pursuant to Section 111(b)(2) of the Recovery Act sufficient to prevent severance payments like those AIG recently paid to its former General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer.

I am also asking him to determine whether Treasury officials working on executive compensation matters have fully complied with the revolving door provision of the President's Ethics Executive Order.

In the meantime, there are still numerous documents that I have requested that have not been provided to me despite assurance that I was going to get them.

There are many questions I have asked that remain unanswered, and I will continue to seek information on these issues.

I call on Secretary Geithner to stop stonewalling.  Oversight is important.  Oversight is necessary to protect the American taxpayer.  I take that duty seriously, and I am not going away.  American taxpayers deserve to know where their money is going.

WASHINGTON - (March 23, 2010) - Senator Chuck Grassley said today that he will offer an amendment for rural health care equity during Senate debate on the health-care reconciliation bill. Grassley said at issue is how Medicare calculates payments to physicians and unfairly penalizes rural doctors, making it increasingly difficult for rural Medicare beneficiaries to find a doctor.

Grassley said his amendment this week would repeal the special deal for five selected frontier states that became law today when the President signed health-care reform legislation. The higher payments given to these five states, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and Utah, come at the expense of every other state and will make it more difficult to secure passage of formula changes to achieve equity for rural states nationwide. The Grassley amendment would improve physician payments for all rural states, not a selected few.

Grassley said his amendment to the reconciliation bill also would make clear that a side agreement reported over the weekend between House members and the Secretary of Health and Human Services for an Institute of Medicine study about geographic disparity cannot interfere with the clear-cut improvement made during Senate debate on the health care bill to improve the accuracy of the data the government uses to factor in physician practice costs in determining Medicare payments. Last September, the Finance Committee adopted a Grassley amendment to make this change. The Senate proposal was much stronger than the health care bill in the House of Representatives because the House bill only had a study to make recommendations.  It didn't make actual improvements to the status quo for rural providers.

"I want to make sure the agreement with Secretary Sebelius that somehow accompanies the House health-care reconciliation bill, cannot un-do the actual formula fix established by the Grassley amendment in the health-care reform bill to secure more equitable payment for doctors serving Medicare beneficiaries in rural areas," Grassley said.

The Grassley amendment that's part of the health-care reform that became law today tells Medicare officials to use accurate data. Grassley said his concern is "if the House reconciliation bill results in the Institute of Medicine coming up with different data and makes recommendations that aren't consistent with the requirements for the practice-expense geographic adjustments that are now law, we could be back where we started, or worse off. It's  unclear what was agreed to between Secretary Sebelius and the House, and what the advantage is for rural health care equity for physicians, so anything could happen."

The senator said that another concern is that descriptions of the study promised by the Secretary of Health and Human Services say it would be part of the work of the new Independent Payment Advisory Board.  "The purpose of that Board is to cut Medicare spending, which likely will not result in improvements for rural areas," Grassley said.

"I hope senators don't let politics get in the way of making sure these important policies are established in a way that is equitable and fair. These formulas determine how well Medicare works, or doesn't work, for beneficiaries in rural states," Grassley said.

Separately, the health-care reconciliation bill passed by the House and pending in the Senate also raises questions by creating a new reimbursement cliff for doctors in Medicaid, on top of the physician payment formula problem that exists already in Medicare. "As bad as the physician payment problem is in Medicare, House members now have set up the same kind of problem in Medicaid. The health care reform bill puts another 16 million Americans in Medicaid, so Medicaid's problems will get even bigger. That's a disservice to beneficiaries in both programs," Grassley said.

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YMCA Child Care Earns 5-Star Quality Rating

Scott County Family Y Is Among Few Area Providers To Achieve This Quality Assurance Level

Davenport, Iowa - March 23, 2010 - The Scott County Family Y Palmer Learning Center has earned a level 5 rating from the Iowa Department of Human Services - the highest quality assurance rating the state offers.

The Scott County Family Y Palmer Learning Center is one of only three licensed child care centers in Scott County to receive this rating, showing that the YMCA goes above and beyond state licensing standards.  "We believe that quality is an ongoing process and we continually strive towards maintaining and improving the quality of care we provide, said Deb Gustafson, Executive Director, YMCA Child Care & Family Services.  "This rating shows that our programs and staff are committed to nurturing the whole child, and his or her family, all while making sure they have a healthy and safe environment to grow and learn in."

The Iowa Quality Rating System for Child Care Providers (QRS) is a voluntary program that rates child care providers on quality indicators such as professional development; health and safety; environment; family and community partnerships; and leadership and administration.  Established in 2005 by the state legislature, QRS is designed to make providers aware of the many paths and steps they can take to improve the quality of their care.  The system also offers parents another resource in evaluating and selecting a child care provider.

As Scott County's largest child care provider, YMCA Child Care & Family Services offers a variety of educational programming for children beginning as young as 6-weeks with infant care to toddler and preschool programming. Before and after school child care is also available for children between the ages of 5 and 12.  Each Scott County Family Y child care site is state licensed and staff members receive extensive training and go through rigorous background checks.  Enrollment is open without decimation to any child and registration is first come, first serve.  For more information about the programs and services offered through the Scott County Family Y Child Care & Family Services, call (563) 323-4668 or visit www.ScottCountyFamilyY.org.

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SEN. CHARLES E. GRASSLEY, R-IOWA, HOLDS A NEWS TELECONFERENCE

MARCH 23, 2010

GRASSLEY:  Tomorrow, our Agriculture Committee is going to start consideration of what's called the child nutrition bill.  This bill is a -- is going to bring into consideration a number of improvements and heavy investment in programs that gives kids healthier meals and learn more nutritious habits.  Some of the improvements that are expected in the bill, changes in current law include making science-based nutrition standards based on dietary guidelines for all foods sold in the schools.  It encourages wellness, physical activity at child care centers, a nice improvement to help get kids off of the couch and actively take part in their own health.  And the bill would give the first increase in reimbursement rates to schools in more than 30 years.  There are some concerns about using EQIP money as an offset to pay for nearly half the bill.  Some will argue that not all the EQIP dollars were spent last year, but the problem with that argument is that the funds are lost from the baseline for the 2012 farm bill yet to be negotiated.  I look forward to seeing amendments offered in committee to improve the bill without increasing the deficit.

Tom Rider?

QUESTION:  Good morning, Senator.  Senator, I was visiting with the Iowa cattlemen.  They're quite concerned about that EQIP money.  Will you be offering any amendments yourself to try to restore that funding?

GRASSLEY:  I don't -- I haven't reached a decision on that yet, but my guess is that I probably would not, but I think that others are, and then I've got to look at what they substitute as a source of revenue on that point to whether or not it'd be EQIP or other dollars.

Tom Steever?

QUESTION:  Good morning, Senator.  Even though the House-passed version of health care came on Sunday, there is still some more work to be done in the Senate on health care.  What -- do you see any problems coming up with -- with that?

GRASSLEY:  Well, I hope there's a lot of problems coming up with it, because I don't support the bill.  You know, I voted -- the bill the president's going to sign today I voted against just before Christmas.   Now, this reconciliation bill is supposedly changing some things in that bill that got it enough votes so the bill the president's signing could pass the House.  And so I don't see things in this bill changing my mind and probably would vote against it, but I intend to offer some amendments.  One amendment I would offer is that this bill, the president's a very strong proponent of it, but he's not covered by it.  So I'm going to offer an amendment that the president, cabinet members, not executive branch civil servants, but political appointees and their staff and the president, the White House be covered by it.  And that's a follow-on to my amendment that I got adopted in the Finance Committee that will be in the bill the president's signing this morning that members of Congress and their staff get their health care insurance through the exchange.  It should be the same for the president.  The president thinks this is such a good program, then shouldn't he get his health care the same way that members of Congress would get their health care under this bill, through the exchange?  I just think it's -- that's one of the things.  Then there are some things on rural health care and reimbursement for low reimbursement states that I'm going to be offering amendments on, as well.  And naturally, I hope that these amendments carry, and that's why they're being offered.

Bob Quinn?  Dan Skelton?

QUESTION:  Good morning, Senator.  The administration has become more active on trade.  We've seen the deals with Russia on pork and China on pork in recent weeks.  Can you give us an update?  What's the status of Isi Siddiqui as chief ag negotiator?  Is there any movement on that nomination?

GRASSLEY:  No.  And there isn't.  It's being held up.  But I can tell you this, that a real litmus test of the president moving on trade ought to be judged from the standpoint, is he pushing Colombia, Panama, and South Korea?  Those are all negotiated.  They're all under fast track.  That's a real litmus test.  Now, I know he's put out a lot of other things.  And I don't oppose what the president wants to do in these other areas, including what you just give him credit for accomplishing, but a real test of the seriousness of this administration ought to be -- the benchmark ought to be Panama, Colombia, and South Korea.  Until I see those being pushed by this administration -- and I'm going to help them -- I have serious doubts about whether or not they ought to be given much credit for pushing trade.

Stacia?  Gary, Arkansas?

QUESTION:  Senator, first, I would like to go back, again, to the Child Nutrition Act and EQIP.  Why isn't all the EQIP money being spent?

GRASSLEY:  I would only guess that it's getting approval.  I wouldn't say that there's not enough applications.  But -- but it's -- it's crimped by appropriations.

QUESTION:  My theory has always been that, in particular, Stenholm and Combest had sought a large amount of EQIP money because they feared EPA was going to clam down on large livestock operations.  This would have been, you know, 2002.  EPA didn't do that, and the EQIP money wasn't needed.  Do you see any -- any reason to believe that?

GRASSLEY:  Well, that may be the reason, but you can't count on this EPA in this administration, not in the future, being tough on -- on any livestock operation, large or small, and -- and so consequently, the need for more EQIP money.

QUESTION:  OK.

GRASSLEY:  Jean?  Oh, go ahead.

QUESTION:  I also wanted to ask about climate change, because you're hearing talk that the three senators working on a compromise proposal may release it by the end of the month.  Are there any items in it that you find appealing?

GRASSLEY:  I will wait until it's released and then answer your question at that time.  But if you -- if it is released and you anticipate a question like that down the road here, after we get back from spring break, let my staff know so I'm prepared to answer it for you, because I -- I do want to be able to answer that for you.

QUESTION:  OK.  Do you see any likelihood that any climate legislation...

GRASSLEY:  No.

QUESTION:  ... may pass this year?

GRASSLEY:  No.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

GRASSLEY:  And, obviously, that's what I hope for, Gary.

Jean, Agrinews?  Matt Wilde, Waterloo Courier?

QUESTION:  Morning, Senator.  I have a question dealing with flooding issues and farm policy.  In northeast Iowa, we've endured two major floods in 15 years.  And the Cedar River and other waterways, as you know, are out of their banks again (ph).  Some people believe that modern grain production, farm policy, and intensive tiling of farm ground is to blame or partly -- or mostly to blame for floods.  It's suggested to me that the government payments force farmers to predominantly raise corn and beans, which don't exactly help hold back the water, and -- and then, of course, we don't have the native grasses like we used to have.  So are lawmakers in Washington concerned about this?  Is that -- is ag policy partly to blame?  And what can be done to change this?

GRASSLEY:  I don't policy-makers in Washington are concerned about that for the most part.  And to some extent, not necessarily just answering the hypotheticals that you bring up, but I would have to say that any government program, whether it's a farm program or some other program, whether it's an expenditure or which you could call a subsidy or whether it's a tax incentive, they -- they do tend to influence the marketplace.  Some of them are meant to influence the marketplace.  Most cases are meant to influence it positively.  In -- in -- in the case of agricultural programs, I would say that -- that I doubt if you would say the northern half of Iowa that this would apply to, but I think in the 1960s, '70s and the '80s, you had a lot of grassland that would be better used for cow calf operations in southern Iowa, probably plowed up because of the incentives of the farm program.  But I believe that -- that the extent to which the concept of a safety net for agriculture is very important.  And by safety net, I mean just a minimum amount to get people, farmers over humps that are beyond their control, like natural disaster, international politics, you know, war, a lot of things that affect farming, that the farmer has no control over, that -- that we have a safety net to protect those farmers from catastrophic drops (ph) in prices beyond their own control.  But the extent to which farm programs have gone beyond that and helped a very small percentage of the farmers that maybe don't need subsidy because of high income and big operations, they can get over these humps themselves.  It has subsidized them to get bigger.  But except for within the -- then getting back to within the concept of a safety net for small- or medium-sized farmers, I think that -- that you can't take these considerations that cause your -- your question to be raised very seriously because what we're talking about is a farm program to maintain the continuity of food supply.  And -- and that's done for two reasons, one, for the national security of our country, and the other one is for the social cohesion of our society, because you've got to have food for your military, and Germany and Japan learned in World War II they didn't have enough food, so that's why they protect their farmers to a great extent.  The United States ought to learn that lesson.  And then social cohesion.  You know the old saying, you're only nine meals away from a revolution.  So if we don't have a stable food supply, we'd have a more chaotic society.  So those two considerations have to override the issues that you brought up.

QUESTION:  OK.

GRASSLEY:  Are you plowing up -- are we growing too much grain?  I'll bet some of these very people that raise those questions would be the first to cry out that if we didn't have enough food when they go to the supermarket.

QUESTION:  OK.  Thank you, Senator.

GRASSLEY:  All right.  Hey, I see Ken Root down here.  Ken, are you on there?

QUESTION:  Yes, but nothing to get excited about, sir.  I'm not on the air until next week on WHO-TV, so I'm just monitoring this week, but I want you to be prepared for a question next week, sir.

GRASSLEY:  Well -- well, I'll be prepared.  You bet.

QUESTION:  OK.  And I may have the WHO people ask it to you again on the television piece that you do.  Don't you do that at 1 o'clock on the same day?

GRASSLEY:  Yes, I do.  I do.

QUESTION:  OK, so sharpen up your -- you know, your wit, if you wouldn't mind, sir.

GRASSLEY:  Well, I welcome you back.

QUESTION:  Well, thank you very much.

GRASSLEY:  And just in case the rest of you people didn't know Ken Root was still alive, he's alive.  OK.  Anybody else want to jump in?  OK.  Thank you all very much.

QUESTION:  Thank you, Senator.

END

(Kansas City, Kan., March 23, 2010) - The Des Moines-West Des Moines, Iowa, metropolitan area is tied for 24th on a list of U.S. metropolitan areas with the largest number of energy efficient buildings that earned EPA's Energy Star in 2009. The Des Moines-West Des Moines metropolitan area has 36 Energy Star labeled buildings. Energy efficiency saves building owners money and fights climate change.

"These cities see the importance of taking action on climate change," said Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Air and Radiation. "Communities from Los Angeles to Louisville are reducing greenhouse gases and cutting energy bills with buildings that have earned EPA's Energy Star."


EPA first issued its ranking of cities with the most Energy Star labeled buildings last year. This year, Los Angeles remains in first place; the District of Columbia picks up second; Denver and Chicago move into the top five; and Lakeland and New York City are new to the top 10.

Continuing the impressive growth of the past several years, in 2009 nearly 3,900 commercial buildings earned the Energy Star, representing annual savings of more than $900 million in utility bills and more than 4.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

Since EPA awarded the first Energy Star to a building in 1999, nearly 9,000 buildings across America have earned the Energy Star as of the end of 2009, representing more than a 40 percent increase over last year's total. Overall annual utility savings have climbed to nearly $1.6 billion and greenhouse gas emissions equal to the emissions of more than 1 million homes a year have been prevented.

Energy use in commercial buildings accounts for 17 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions at a cost of over $100 billion per year. EPA awards the Energy Star to commercial buildings that perform in the top 25 percent of buildings nationwide compared to similar buildings. Thirteen types of buildings can earn the Energy Star, including schools, hospitals, office buildings, retail stores and supermarkets.

View a list of the Top 25 Cities in 2009 with Energy Star labeled buildings: http://www.energystar.gov/ia/business/downloads/2009_Top_25_cities_chart.pdf

Access EPA's real-time registry of all Energy Star labeled buildings 1999-present:

http://energystar.gov/buildinglist

National menu labeling effort will also take effect soon


WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today issued the following statement after President Obama signed into law The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Senate-passed comprehensive health reform measure approved by the House earlier this week.  Harkin, as Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, was on hand at the White House to witness the bill signing.

"It's been a long debate and a hard-fought battle, but today, the hundred year struggle to provide affordable, quality health care coverage is over.  In signing this bill into law, President Obama today rewrote history, and in doing so, made access to health care available to millions of Americans. I've been on hand for a number of White House bill signings, but witnessing this particular event has been one of the most poignant of my career," said Harkin.

"I am most encouraged that with this reform, we will begin to recreate America as a genuine wellness society - a society focused on healthful lifestyles and preventing the chronic diseases that take such a toll on our bodies and our budgets.  And make no mistake, this bill doesn't just tinker around the edges; it changes the paradigm."

The Prevention and Public Health title of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act creates incentives to prevent chronic disease and rein in costs across the full health care spectrum.  At the federal level, creating a new inter-agency council to develop a national health strategy, creating a dedicated funding stream to support these efforts; at the clinical level with doctor training and coverage of preventive services and the elimination of co-pays and deductibles for these services; and at the grassroots level with grants for community initiatives that will support more walkable communities, healthier schools and increased access to nutritious foods in safe environments.

The legislation also includes a bipartisan compromise brokered by Harkin and others to provide mandatory disclosure of calories on menus and menu boards to help reduce rising obesity rates by enabling Americans to make healthier food choices.  The compromise combines key elements of the Menu Education and Labeling (MEAL) Act, sponsored by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and the Labeling Education and Nutrition (LEAN) Act, sponsored by Senators Tom Carper (D-DE) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). 

"A critical component of the just passed federal menu labeling is that the nutrition information is right on the menu or menu board next to the name of the menu item, rather than in a pamphlet or in tiny print on a poster, so that consumers can see it when they are making ordering decisions," concluded Harkin.  "It's a common-sense approach that's also a step toward good public health."

Prevention and wellness provisions of the The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will:

  • Provide $15 billion in mandatory spending to support prevention and wellness activities.
  • Eliminate cost sharing on recommended preventive services delivered by Medicare and all insurance plans available in the Health Insurance Exchange.
  • Support two independent, advisory task forces ? the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and the Task Force on Community Preventive Services (TFCPS) ? to strengthen and coordinate these bodies' efforts to conduct rigorous, systematic reviews of existing science and recommend the adoption of proven and effective services.
  • Support investments in the science of prevention to further expand the base of information available for evaluation by the task forces.
  • Provide coverage under Medicare, with no co-payment or deductible, for an annual wellness visit that includes a comprehensive health risk assessment and a 5-10 year personalized prevention plan.
  • Deliver clinical preventive services by  covering 100% of the cost of USPSTF-recommended preventive services for Medicare beneficiaries, providing enhanced federal Medicaid matching funds to states who offer USPSTF-recommended services, requiring coverage of tobacco cessation services for pregnant women in Medicaid and by making clinical preventive services a required benefit of insurance available in the Health Insurance Exchange.
  • Deliver community preventive services by investing in state, territorial and local public health infrastructure and by providing grants to implement recommended services.
  • Require chain restaurants to put calorie counts directly on their menus and to make other nutritional information available so that consumers can make informed choices about what they eat.
Four advocacy groups working to create affordable housing and end homelessness released a report today demonstrating that unless the State of Illinois passes comprehensive tax reform even more people will lose their housing and become homeless. The entire report is available at www.housingactionil.org.

The report was based on a survey of state-funded providers of homelessness prevention funds, emergency shelter, homeless youth programs, transitional housing and permanent supportive housing.

Among the survey's key findings were:

1. Agencies are already turning people in need of housing away due to state budget cuts. Sixty-one agencies turned away 1,292 people in January 2010 because of prior year state budget cuts, representing 9% of the 13,720 people they were able to serve. This does not include additional people who were turned away for issues not related to state budget cuts, such as lack of bed space.

2. Agencies are already owed a significant amount of money by the state and are taking on additional debt to manage the crisis. In total, 54 agencies are owed $10.2 million from the state in delayed payments, or about $189,000 per agency. The average delay in state payments is slightly less than 3 months, with delays as high as 9 months.

3. State-funded programs create jobs and leverage federal funding. State funding for 61 agencies supports more than 1,600 jobs across Illinois. Forty-nine agencies are leveraging $47.7 million in federal funds every year that depend on a state match.

4. More budget cuts will result in fewer people receiving services and the loss of state-funded jobs. Based on the responses of 66 agencies, if programs are cut substantially in the FY11 budget, 79% of agencies would have to reduce services and 74% of agencies would have to lay off staff. Forty-one percent of agencies would have to eliminate programs.

The agencies surveyed are funded by line items that receive a combined $36.5 million in state funding. While that total represents only a small portion of state funding?less than 1% of the $4 billion in total General Revenue Funding for the Illinois Department of Human Services?the harm caused by cuts to these programs are troubling examples of the larger impact of cuts to human services overall.

"While Governor Quinn deserves credit for acknowledging the need for revenue increases, his proposal falls far short of what is needed," said Bob Palmer, Policy Director for Housing Action Illinois. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn released his fiscal year 2011 budget proposal on March 10. He proposed over $2 billion in cuts. Although not included in his formal proposal, Governor Quinn is advocating for a 1% increase in the income tax.

The report was prepared by the Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Housing Action Illinois and the Supportive Housing Providers Association. All four groups are members of the Responsible Budget Coalition.

"The 200-plus organizations of the Responsible Budget Coalition believe the best and fairest way to adequately fund all our essential priorities?education, health care, human services, public safety and more--is through comprehensive tax reform like House Bill 174, that passed in the Illinois Senate in 2009," said Lore Baker, Assistant Director for the Supportive Housing Providers Association.

St. Anthony Catholic Church in Davenport is celebrating a project milestone this Sunday, March 28 at 3:00 pm at 417 North Main Street in Davenport, IA. Please read the attached press release and project fact sheet regarding the dedication of St. Anthony Catholic Church.



Construction Ends for Historic Davenport Landmark

St. Anthony's Catholic Church to hold Dedication Ceremony on Sunday, March 28, 2010

Davenport, IA - The oldest church in Davenport, IA will reach an important milestone this week. St. Anthony's Catholic Church will hold a dedication ceremony on Sunday, March 28, 2010 at 3:00 p.m. at 417 N. Main Street in Davenport, IA to commemorate the completion of construction on their new building addition and renovation.

Founded in 1837 by Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli, St. Anthony's Catholic Church has been a major part of Quad City history over the last 172 years. Having outgrown their current facility due to this congregational outreach to meet the spiritual needs of the surrounding community; construction began on a 7,200 s.f. addition and renovation project to the existing parish in June 2009. This addition included a new Multipurpose Hall, Education Center, Gathering Center, Parish Offices and a warming kitchen, patio, and distribution window, affectionately named "McAnthony Window," which is used to serve meals to the homeless and underprivileged.

St. Anthony's McAnthony Window also received a covered patio area with heating elements for colder months. The McAnthony Window helps to meet the needs for those who have little or no other means of support. They previously prepared between 125 and 150 meals a day, 45,000 meals a year, out of a small, residential kitchen.

This project aims to achieve a more unified, aesthetically pleasing campus, which will attract attention to the historically significant church square and coincides well with the city's downtown beautification plans. In addition, it will create a unified square with historic emphasis placed on the original church building, a building to which Antoine LeClaire himself contributed the lead gift.

Russell Construction, located in Davenport, IA, served as the Design/Builder for the $1,800,000 addition and renovation project. Russell has delivered over $40 million in religious facilities in and around the Quad Cities area. SGGM, located in Davenport, IA provided architectural services. For more information on Russell Construction or SGGM, please visit their corporate websites at www.russellco.com or www.sggm.net.

March 23, 2010

ROCKFORD, IL ?
It takes a certain type of person to own a hot rod, muscle car or classic car. It's not just a car to them; it's a lifetime commitment and a passion. Keith Country Day School in Rockford, Ill., will celebrate this passion by showcasing more than 120 unique vehicles that span over 100 years at its annual Classics and Chrome Car Show presented by State Farm Insurance on Friday and Saturday, April 17-18, at the Indoor Sports Center (ISC), 8800 E. Riverside Blvd., Loves Park.

The largest indoor car show in northern Illinois, Classics and Chrome features pre- and post-war classics; sports cars; muscle cars; hot-rod and custom cars; exotic and race cars; specialty cars and motorcycles. The two-day show will run from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on April 17 and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on April 18. Admission is $6, with children younger than 10 admitted free.

Although the "heavy metal" is the main attraction, the Classics and Chrome raffle is one of the show's most popular features. Patrons can buy raffle tickets for just $100 or buy five tickets and get the sixth one free! The grand prize of the raffle is $35,000. Other prizes are:

2nd Prize: $2,500 Clodius & Co. jewelry set
3rd Prize: $1,000 in Mobil gas cards
4th Prize: Pepsi & Papa John's package ($1,000 value)
Tickets can be purchased by calling Keith Country Day School at 815.399.8823 or by going to classicsandchrome.com.
Attending Classics and Chrome is the perfect excuse to take a weekend getaway in Rockford. Check out these other great events during your stay:
Lighten your heart and share a laugh at Rockford Dance Company's presentation of Shakespeare's classic romantic comedy "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Performances are at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 17, and 3 p.m. Sunday, April 18, at the Sullivan Center, 118 N. Main St., Rockford. Tickets are $20 and $32 and can be purchased by calling 815.963.3341 or at www.rockforddancecompany.com.
Immerse yourself in art on Friday and Saturday, April 16-17, during ArtScene, Rockford's citywide art exhibit of original works. Galleries and studios across Rockford will be open to the public free of charge from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday and 3 to 9 p.m. Saturday. Visit www.springartscene.com for a listing of participating galleries and studios.
The Rockford Art Museum will also feature two art exhibitions you won't want to miss: the Rockford Midwestern and the Young Artist Show - Youth Division. Now in its 68th year, the Young Artist Show is a Rockford tradition that showcases the strength and diversity of art programs across the region. This year marks the 71st presentation of the Rockford Midwestern, a biennial juried exhibition that draws the best works from artists from a nine-state region. Admission to the Rockford Art Museum is $6, $3 for students and seniors and free for children younger than 12. For more information, call 815.968.2787 or visit www.rockfordartmuseum.org.
For information on hotel accommodations in the Rockford Region, be sure to visit gorockford.com/hotels.
Classics and Chrome is a fundraiser for Keith Country Day School, an independent, nonsectarian, college-preparatory school serving students from age three through grade 12 from the northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin area. For more information on Classics and Chrome, visit www.classicsandchrome.com or call 815.399.8823.
Rockford, IL, is located approximately 60 minutes west of Chicago's O'Hare International Airport off Interstate 90. For information on accommodations and things to do, visit www.gorockford.com. The Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau is a private, non-profit organization that champions efforts to promote and further develop the Rockford Region as an overnight visitor destination. RACVB generates positive economic impact for the community through investments in tourism marketing, sales, promotion and advocacy.
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