Law Ensures Employees' COBRA Coverage Under Federal Recovery Act

SPRINGFIELD - May 15, 2010. Governor Pat Quinn today signed legislation into law that ensures unemployed small business workers in Illinois will receive continued COBRA health care insurance coverage and premium discounts provided under the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

"During these difficult economic times it's very important to extend a helping hand to those in need," said Governor Quinn. "This law protects workers laid off from small companies, and extends ongoing coverage and the premium discounts provided under the federal recovery act."

The "Mini-COBRA" law, Senate Bill 3004, applies to workers of companies with 19 or fewer employees. The law amends the Illinois Insurance Code and the Health Maintenance Organization Act to extend the duration of the insurance premium subsidy from 12 to 15 months.

The law also extends the eligibility period for the insurance premium subsidy from December 31, 2009 to May 31, 2010, the end of the period set forth in the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Under ARRA, employees who lose their health insurance coverage because they lose their job on or before May 31, 2010, can receive a 65 percent premium reduction, for up to 15 months.

The law also ensures that employees of small businesses will be eligible for the premium reduction for as long as the federal government makes it available under ARRA. Without Governor Quinn's action, former employees of companies with 19 or fewer workers would not be guaranteed the full benefits and protections provided under ARRA.

"In the best of times, families in Illinois are often burdened by high health insurance premiums with explosive volatility," says Michael McRaith, director of the Illinois Department of Insurance. "By virtue of this legislation that Governor Quinn is signing into law, individuals encountering the trauma of unemployment will have continuing access to subsidized, more affordable extended health insurance."

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Susan Garrett (D-Highwood) and Rep. JoAnn Osmond (R-Antioch) and is effective immediately.

Passage of the bill was backed by the Illinois Department of Insurance and the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Council 31.


WASHINGTON - Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa is working to educate fellow members of Congress and the public about the needs of youth in foster care, with a special focus on the 29,000 young people who "age out" of foster care each year without permanent families.  May is National Foster Care Month.

"Children in foster care don't have highly paid 'K' street lobbyists advancing their cause," Grassley said.  "To move forward with legislation, Congress needs to hear ideas and opinions directly from the community.  Information sessions and panel discussions offer us the opportunity to learn what we need to do to move forward so that no child is ever without a permanent and loving home, and that foster youth have a smooth transition out of the system."

Grassley is founder and co-chairman of the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth.  This week, he and his co-chairman, Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, hosted a policy briefing covering recommendations in areas such as employment, housing, financial security, education, mentoring and permanency to improve the experiences and outcomes of youth in foster care. The panelists included researchers, child welfare experts, and alumni of the foster care system.

In coordination with the briefing on older foster youth, Grassley joined in introducing a Senate resolution on National Foster Care Month. The measure, which was introduced with bipartisan support, encourages Congress to implement sound policy to improve the lives of the almost 500,000 children in the foster care system.  For the text of the resolution, please click here.

And on Monday, Grassley will co-host an event that will feature excerpts from an upcoming Porch Productions documentary "From Place to Place", which follows six young people as they age out of the foster care system, followed by a roundtable discussion among two of the subjects of the film, leading child welfare researchers, advocates, young people from foster care, and policy makers.  The documentary preview and roundtable discussion, "When Foster Care Becomes Home: What Can Be Done to Improve Options for Youth in Foster Care?", will be held on Monday, May 17, 2010, from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. EST in Senate Dirksen Building, Room G-50, Washington, D.C.

Grassley said a forthcoming legislative vehicle to help foster youth is the reauthorization of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  Grassley has urged the Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee, which earlier this year began holding hearings on the reauthorization of the act, to consider the direct experiences of foster youth in the nation's educational system and their suggestions for reform. Reforms could include better record-keeping, more of an effort to keep students in the same school when their foster home changes, and better coordination between school personnel and child welfare agencies in developing strategies to help these youths.  Last month, a committee hearing including testimony from a foster youth, as Grassley encouraged.  The teen-ager described her difficulties staying in a school throughout homelessness and then foster care.

"The older kids in foster care and the young adults who have just 'aged out' and don't have the support and stability of a permanent family face special challenges," Grassley said.  "The issues challenging these young people - school attendance and performance, substance abuse, financial literacy, teen pregnancy, homelessness, and juvenile delinquency - have come to my attention through my efforts on foster care and adoption over the last 13 years."

In 2008, Congress passed and the President signed legislation Grassley initiated to make major updates to foster care laws and dramatically increase adoption into permanent, loving homes.  The law - Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoption Act of 2008 -- also broke new ground by establishing opportunities for states to extend care and help "aged out" kids with education and vocational training.  Monitoring implementation of this law is another focus of the Senate caucus.


WASHINGTON- Chuck Grassley today said that the U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded $6,106,608 to Iowa through the Natural Resources Conservation Service's (NRCS) Wetlands Reserve Program.

These funds will be used to add 75,000 acres to the approximately 2.2 million acres already enrolled in the program throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.

"I'm glad to see the USDA encourage stewardship and help Iowans preserve their wetlands," Grassley said.

According to the Department of Agriculture, the NRCS provides technical and financial support to landowners in efforts to restore wetlands.  The NRCS seeks to encourage long-term wetland functionality and use as wildlife habitat.

Each year, thousands of local Iowa organizations, colleges and universities, individuals and state agencies apply for competitive grants and loans from the federal government.  The funding is then awarded based on each local organization or individual's ability to meet criteria set by the federal entity.


It's no wonder public opinion towards the federal government is sinking to historic lows. Consider the disingenuous public relations strategy undertaken by General Motors (GM) and the Treasury Department. With great fanfare, the U.S. automaker boasted that it was paying back billions of tax dollars to Uncle Sam thanks to an upswing in car sales.

Upon closer review, however, the repayment announcement is overshadowed by the fact that the Treasury Department allowed GM to dip into another taxpayer-financed pot of money to repay $7 billion of its taxpayer-backed government loan.

It's obvious why the car company and Treasury Department would be eager to claim tax dollars were being paid back "in full" and earlier than scheduled.  However, it's regrettable the very public announcement essentially misled the American public by glossing over very relevant details.

Taxpayers still own 61 percent (paid for with $41 billion tax dollars) of General Motors' common stock. It's highly likely the taxpaying public won't rejoice in an estimate by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. It says taxpayers stand to lose around $30 billion on the General Motors bailout when it's all said and done.

The idea that Washington can solve every problem with a government program is rooted in a misguided borrow-and-spend mentality.

Holding the federal government accountable, tracking tax dollars and keeping the people's business open and accessible to public scrutiny are central to my congressional oversight.  As Chairman or Ranking Member of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, I've led efforts to shut down offshore corporate tax loopholes; investigate the eligibility and compliance of non-profit organizations relative to their tax-exempt status; disclose financial relationships between the pharmaceutical industry and researchers who provide expertise that influences health decisions; and, most recently, scrutinize the trillions of tax dollars that Washington has pumped into the private sector.

As Congress debates financial regulatory reform, I worked to advance bipartisan legislation that would bring more transparency and accountability to the Federal Reserve. The Fed controls the supply of money in the U.S. economy. Last year the Federal Reserve took unprecedented action to stabilize banks at risk of failing. The American public has a right to know who has taken the money and how it has been spent. Allowing the independent investigative arm of Congress, the Government Accountability Office, to audit the Federal Reserve's emergency lending program would give lawmakers and taxpayers another tool to protect tax dollars.  I also cosponsored legislation to reform the way credit-rating agency evaluations are handled in order to help bring about the independent assessment investors deserve.  It's a matter of market integrity.

In these times of economic uncertainty, the American public is facing an even bigger burden of public debt. Washington is marching towards an all-time-high spending benchmark, reaching 25 percent of the nation's gross domestic product. Now, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, or CBO, said health care reform will cost $115 billion more than projected.  That makes the deficit reduction that was promised impossible.  Despite the President's promise that health care reform would not add one dime to the deficit, when costs for Social Security and the new long-term care CLASS Act program in the bill are factored in, the real result is that the bill signed into law adds $90 billion to the deficit.

A bigger government has a bigger appetite for more and more taxes. Without a major shift, the current path of reckless deficit spending and unsustainable public entitlements will keep future generations of Americans working longer than ever before just to fulfill their tax obligations let alone maintain a certain standard of living.

Friday, May 14, 2010

WASHINGTON - Chuck Grassley today said that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has awarded competitive grants totaling $3,146,657 to the state of Iowa, Iowa cities and Iowa businesses through the Freight Rail Security Grant Program, the Port Security Grant Program, the Intercity Bus Security Grant Program, the Buffer Zone Protection Program, the Interoperable Emergency Communications Grant Program, the Driver's License Security Grant Program and the Emergency Operations Center Grant Program.

"The federal government has a responsibility to defend the homeland," Grassley said. "This funding will help prevent future emergencies and protect Iowans."

DHS will distribute the money as shown below ordered alphabetically by town.

Through the Freight Rail Security Grant Program:

· Iowa Interstate Railroad, Ltd. in Cedar Rapids will receive $100,000

Through the Port Security Grant Program:

· Davenport Fire Department in Davenport will receive $200,000

Through the Intercity Bus Security Grant Program:

· Royal Charter, Inc. will receive $20,627

· Windstar Lines, Inc. will receive $273,353

Through the Buffer Zone Protection Program:

· Iowa will receive $200,000

Through the Interoperable Emergency Communications Grant Program:

· Iowa will receive $452,000

Through the Driver's License Security Grant Program:

· Iowa will receive $800,677

Through the Emergency Operations Center Grant Program:

· Benton County Emergency Management Commission will receive $500,000

· Ames will receive $600,000

The Freight Rail Security Grant Program encourages sustainable, risk-based efforts to protect travelers and surface transportation infrastructure from acts of terrorism and other emergencies.

The Port Security Grant Program provides grant funding to port areas for the protection of critical port infrastructure, particularly from attacks using explosives or non-conventional threats that could cause major disruption to commerce.

The Intercity Bus Security Grant Program funds sustainable protection of travelers and intercity bus systems from acts of terrorism. 

The Buffer Zone Protection Program provides funding to increase preparedness of departments responsible for the security of communities near critical infrastructure and key resources.  These include chemical facilities, financial institutions, nuclear and electric power plants, dams, stadiums, etc.

The Interoperable Emergency Communications Grant Program funds initiatives carried out by states, territories, and local and tribal governments designed to improve communication and cooperation during collective emergency response.

The Driver's License Security Grant Program advances public safety by improving the security of state-issued driver's licenses and ID cards.

The Emergency Operations Center Grant Program identifies and corrects weaknesses in current emergency response programs.

Each year, thousands of local Iowa organizations, colleges and universities, individuals and state agencies apply for competitive grants from the federal government.  The funding is then awarded based on each local organization or individual's ability to meet criteria set by the federal entity.


Much attention has been given in recent years to reinvigorating history education in our nation's schools - updating curriculum, exploring effective teaching strategies, and increasing training and professional development for our history teachers.  The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), publishers of The Nation's Report Card, report America's twelfth and eighth graders know more U.S. history now than in the past, with performance improving on the most recent assessment (2006) compared to 2001.  Still, only 43% of twelfth grade students performed at or above the Basic achievement level (as defined by NAEP), with 11% at or above Proficient and only 1% at Advanced.

National History Day is one program aimed at addressing this issue - making history come alive by engaging youth in hands-on discovery of the experiences of the past.  Students conduct primary and secondary research on their selected topic, then present their work at local, state, and national levels.  National History Day inspires students through exciting competitions while teaching essential historical literacy.  The 2010 National Contest will take place June 13th -17th at the University of Maryland and feature 24 Iowa students!  Among those representing Iowa will be the teams of Christopher & Christine Mbakwe and Meghana Pagadala & Joann Weeks from Rivermont Collegiate in Bettendorf.  2010 is a national year for the NAEP U.S. history assessment, meaning it was administered country-wide in select schools between January and March, with results to be released in 2011.  With programs like National History Day in place, it is expected performance will continue to improve!

The community is invited to attend a fundraising history-themed Trivia Night on Friday, May 21st in support of Rivermont students' trip to the national competition!  Trivia Night is open to the community - adults and students (grades 6 and up).  Pizza will be served at 5:30 p.m. and competition will get underway at 6:00 p.m.  Cost for adults is $10 and for students is $5.  Participants may register a whole team (6-8 people) or just themselves and they will be assigned to a team (and make some new friends!).  Participants are asked to register by Wednesday, May 19th.  The competition will take place in the auditorium on the Rivermont campus, located directly off 18th Street behind K&K Hardware in Bettendorf.  For additional information on Trivia Night and to register, contact Leigh Ann Schroeder at or (563) 359-1366 ext. 343.

For additional information on National History Day, visit

For additional information on The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and The Nation's Report Card, visit

For additional information on Rivermont Collegiate, contact Cindy Murray at (563) 359-1366 ext. 302 or


Doctor Reveals How Diet and Supplements Can Prevent And Treat Diabetes

The ranks of those who suffer from diabetes are rising, and the tragedy is that it is largely preventable.

That's the opinion of Dr. Sherrill Sellman (, who saw one of her own cousins die tragically primarily because they did not manage their illness correctly.

"The news about diabetes isn't good," she said. "The incidence of Type 2 diabetes in adults is reaching epidemic levels, which is not easy to achieve for a disease that is not contagious. Moreover, children are becoming diabetics at a faster rate than ever before. One in three children born today will become a diabetic in their lifetime. Over the course of the last 10 years, there has been a 1,000 percent increase in these cases."

The statistics from Wellness International Network tell a tale of a disorder that is running rampant in the U.S., which has been designated the most obese nation on the planet.

Between 8 percent and 45 percent of newly diagnosed cases of childhood diabetes are Type 2, associated with obesity. Whereas 4 percent of childhood diabetes was Type 2 in 1990, that number has risen to approximately 20 percent in 2010. Of children diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, 85 percent are considered obese,

One in four overweight children is being diagnosed with impaired glucose tolerance, an early sign of Type 2 diabetes.

"I watched two of my cousins suffer dramatically from diabetes-related blindness and then amputations," Sellman said. "One of my cousins eventually died from those complications. What still makes me cry is the fact that neither of them had to suffer. If they could have simply managed their blood sugar through diet and lifestyle choices, they'd both be living happy, fulfilling quality lives today."
Three myths that Dr. Sellman wants to debunk include :

  • It's JUST a fat person's disease -- "Being fat is not a cause of diabetes," she said. "Obesity is an indicator that someone isn't managing their diet and blood sugar correctly. You can be relatively average in terms of your weight, but still be at risk.

  • If I get diabetes, the meds will keep me healthy -- "Most people think diabetes is treated with insulin, and as long as you take your shots, everything is okay," she added. "But that's Type 1. Type 2 diabetes is typically treated with oral medications that have their own issues, including risk of congestive heart failure, heart attacks, stroke, chest pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and indigestion.

  • Diabetes can't be prevented or controlled just through diet and lifestyle -- "In most cases, diabetes can be prevented entirely through diet and lifestyle choices," Sellman said. "Moreover, research studies indicate that proper diet and exercise can help control other symptoms of diabetes like elevated cholesterol and hypertension.  Certain combinations of natural ingredients can boost those effects, such as the combination of nutrients found in Syntra-5 (, which was proven in a clinical study to reduce blood sugar levels three times greater than traditional diabetes pharmaceuticals."

Sellman is motivated by her family's stories to convince everyone that blood sugar that isn't controlled is an issue for everyone, and not just diabetics.

"At the rate we are going, simply being an American will place you in a high risk group for diabetes," she said. "I cannot stress firmly enough that people should do everything they can to get and stay healthy, and manage their blood sugar so that they don't have to suffer the way my family did."

About Dr. Sherrill Sellman

Sherrill Sellman, N.D., Naturopathic Doctor (Board Certified in Integrative Medicine), is an educator, women's natural health expert, psychotherapist and journalist in the field of women's health. She is also a much sought after international lecturer, radio host, senior editor and contributing writer to numerous health publications.  Dr. Sellman is the best-selling author of Hormone Heresy: What Women MUST Know and What Women MUST Know to Protect Their Daughters from Breast Cancer.

Harkin Statement on the Clean Energy Legislation Introduced Today

(May 12, 2010) ? Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) released the following statement today in reaction to clean energy legislation introduced by Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) this afternoon.

"I applaud Senators Kerry and Lieberman for their tireless and resolute campaign to bring us an approach to addressing our climate change challenge.  It is important that we pass legislation to reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign energy sources- an addiction that sends money to unfriendly nations rather than invests it in America.  We must, as the most recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico reminds us, protect our natural treasures, our sources of food and the air we breathe.  And we must make investments in clean energy technology in the United States to make us a true competitor in the global economy and create jobs here at home.  The bill proposed today is a great start towards these goals and as we move forward with this legislation, we must ensure that it includes even more provisions to promote the production and use of renewable sources of energy, as well as promote energy efficiency.

"With this new draft in hand, we'll now have to evaluate whether we can garner sufficient support to pass this, as well as whether there will be sufficient time yet this year to give it full consideration on the Senate floor.  It is my hope that we can pass a bill that will address our energy and climate issues in the near future."

By Senator Tom Harkin

Iowa's farmers and landowners have a deep connection, commitment and respect for our state's land, water and resources.  To help them meet the challenges of conserving Iowa's rich natural heritage for future generations, I have long believed that our U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs should reward agricultural producers not just for what they grow, but for how they grow it.

That is why as Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I worked so hard to author the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) in the 2002 farm bill and then to improve and strengthen it in the current farm bill, the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008.  In order to protect the environment and conserve productive farm land for years to come, CSP provides financial incentives to farmers and ranchers who maintain and adopt sound conservation practices.  Earlier this week, USDA announced that the signup period for CSP will begin June 11, 2010 and I encourage producers in Iowa - and across the country - to consider applying for this program.

What is CSP?

CSP is a voluntary program delivered by the USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) that financially rewards producers who conserve resources in a comprehensive manner by:

•    Adopting and carrying out new, additional conservation activities; and
•    Improving, maintaining and managing existing conservation activities.

The program is designed to recognize and reward producers for adopting and maintaining sound stewardship on their land and to provide financial incentives for increasing conservation efforts.

CSP is offered to support conservation on private and tribal agricultural land and non-industrial private forest land in all 50 states and the Caribbean and Pacific Islands areas.  The program provides equitable access to all producers, regardless of operation size, crops produced or geographic location.

What are the basic features of CSP?

CSP offers participants five-year contracts that provide annual payments to producers who install and adopt additional conservation activities and improve, maintain and manage existing conservation activities as specified in the CSP contract and conservation stewardship plan.

How do I apply for CSP?

Potential applicants are encouraged to use the CSP self-screening checklist to determine if the new program is suitable for their operation.  The checklist highlights basic information about CSP eligibility requirements, contract obligations and potential payments.  It is available from local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service offices or on the NRCS web site at

If the program seems right for you and your operation, download and fill out the Conservation Stewardship Program Application  (available at, and deliver it in to your local NRCS office.  To find your nearest office please visit

For more information on enrolling in CSP please visit


Video Available: Congressional hearing examines cause of catastrophic disaster in Gulf Coast

Washington, DC - Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) participated today in a hearing examining the cause of the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf Coast. As Vice-Chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Braley questioned leaders of the companies involved, including BP America, Inc.,Transocean Limited, Halliburton and Cameron International.  Braley's opening statement, as submitted for the record, is attached.

"These are the questions I want answers to," Braley said in his opening statement. "How did this happen? Why did this happen? Who is responsible? Most importantly, what have we learned? What are we?Congress?going to do and what are we prepared to do to make sure this never happens again? Finally, who will bear the cost? Because despite the assurances we received at the briefing from Secretary [Ken] Salazar and others that BP has made repeated assurances to stand the full cost of this recovery, some of the actions that are taking place in response to this catastrophe would give us the indication otherwise. And that's why, as we look at these serious issues, I look forward to the testimony of our witnesses in answering those questions."

Watch Braley's opening statement here.

Watch Braley's first round of questioning here.

Last week, Braley introduced the Big Oil Company Bailout Prevention Act with Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ) to ensure that taxpayers are protected from paying for the disastrous effects of this spill.  Currently, the responsible party in an oil spill must pay for all the economic damages up to $75 million, including lost revenues from fishing and tourism, natural resources damages, or lost local tax revenues.  This legislation would raise the cap to $10 billion and would also eliminate the current $500 million cap on natural resources damages.  This legislation is critical to ensuring that if big oil companies are responsible for a disaster, big oil companies pay for the clean-up and damage.

Braley also introduced legislation, along with Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA), to establish an independent, nonpartisan commission to investigate the causes and impact of the explosion and uncontrolled release of oil into the Gulf of Mexico that will ultimately affect the seafood industry, tourism, and the environment.

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