$9.4 Million Coming to Expand Pennsylvania Health Clinics

More Recovery Act funds are coming to Pennsylvania as the White House announced $9.4 million to expand health clinics.

Washington, DC – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services today announced the release of $9.4 million to expand services offered at community health centers in Pennsylvania.  The money was made available by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and comes as more Americans join the ranks of the uninsured.

“More Americans are losing their health insurance and turning to health centers for care,” said Health Resources and Services Administrator Mary Wakefield, Ph.D., R.N.  “These grants will aid centers in their efforts to provide care to an increasing number of patients during the economic downturn.”

The Increased Demand for Services (IDS) funds will be distributed to 36 federally qualified health center grantees in Pennsylvania.  The health centers will use the funds over the next two years to create or retain approximately 180 health center jobs.

Grantees submitted plans explaining how the IDS funds would be used.  Strategies to expand services may include, but are not limited to, adding new providers, expanding hours of operations or expanding services.  The funds will provide care to an additional 59,603 patients in Pennsylvania over the next two years.

The IDS awards are the second set of health center grants provided through the Recovery Act.  On March 2, President Obama announced grants worth $155 million to 126 new health centers.  Those grants will provide access to health center care for 750,000 people in 39 states and two territories.

Obama’s Policy on Pakistan & Afghanistan

I was in Delaware County today attending an event by Congressman Sestak (more on that later) connecting small businesses with government agencies so I’m just catching up with the day’s news.  Meanwhile the dying hard drive on my desktop, workhorse computer gave its last gasp this morning.  That relegates me to my laptop pending installation of my new hard drive (which is green).

President Obama announced his strategy for Pakistan and Afghanistan today and the following are excerpts from his speech.

So let me be clear:  Al Qaeda and its allies — the terrorists who planned and supported the 9/11 attacks — are in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  Multiple intelligence estimates have warned that al Qaeda is actively planning attacks on the United States homeland from its safe haven in Pakistan.  And if the Afghan government falls to the Taliban — or allows al Qaeda to go unchallenged — that country will again be a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can.

The future of Afghanistan is inextricably linked to the future of its neighbor, Pakistan.  In the nearly eight years since 9/11, al Qaeda and its extremist allies have moved across the border to the remote areas of the Pakistani frontier.  This almost certainly includes al Qaeda’s leadership:  Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri.  They have used this mountainous terrain as a safe haven to hide, to train terrorists, to communicate with followers, to plot attacks, and to send fighters to support the insurgency in Afghanistan.  For the American people, this border region has become the most dangerous place in the world.

But this is not simply an American problem — far from it. It is, instead, an international security challenge of the highest order.  Terrorist attacks in London and Bali were tied to al Qaeda and its allies in Pakistan, as were attacks in North Africa and the Middle East, in Islamabad and in Kabul.  If there is a major attack on an Asian, European, or African city, it, too, is likely to have ties to al Qaeda’s leadership in Pakistan. The safety of people around the world is at stake.

For the Afghan people, a return to Taliban rule would condemn their country to brutal governance, international isolation, a paralyzed economy, and the denial of basic human rights to the Afghan people — especially women and girls.  The return in force of al Qaeda terrorists who would accompany the core Taliban leadership would cast Afghanistan under the shadow of perpetual violence.

As President, my greatest responsibility is to protect the American people.  We are not in Afghanistan to control that country or to dictate its future.  We are in Afghanistan to confront a common enemy that threatens the United States, our friends and our allies, and the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan who have suffered the most at the hands of violent extremists.

So I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal:  to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future.  That’s the goal that must be achieved.  That is a cause that could not be more just.  And to the terrorists who oppose us, my message is the same:  We will defeat you.

To achieve our goals, we need a stronger, smarter and comprehensive strategy.  To focus on the greatest threat to our people, America must no longer deny resources to Afghanistan because of the war in Iraq.  To enhance the military, governance and economic capacity of Afghanistan and Pakistan, we have to marshal international support.  And to defeat an enemy that heeds no borders or laws of war, we must recognize the fundamental connection between the future of Afghanistan and Pakistan — which is why I’ve appointed Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, who is here, to serve as Special Representative for both countries, and to work closely with General Petraeus to integrate our civilian and military efforts.

Let me start by addressing the way forward in Pakistan.

t’s important for the American people to understand that Pakistan needs our help in going after al Qaeda.  This is no simple task.  The tribal regions are vast, they are rugged, and they are often ungoverned.  And that’s why we must focus our military assistance on the tools, training and support that Pakistan needs to root out the terrorists.  And after years of mixed results, we will not, and cannot, provide a blank check.

Pakistan must demonstrate its commitment to rooting out al Qaeda and the violent extremists within its borders.  And we will insist that action be taken — one way or another — when we have intelligence about high-level terrorist targets.

The government’s ability to destroy these safe havens is tied to its own strength and security.  To help Pakistan weather the economic crisis, we must continue to work with the IMF, the World Bank and other international partners.  To lessen tensions between two nuclear-armed nations that too often teeter on the edge of escalation and confrontation, we must pursue constructive diplomacy with both India and Pakistan.  To avoid the mistakes of the past, we must make clear that our relationship with Pakistan is grounded in support for Pakistan’s democratic institutions and the Pakistani people.  And to demonstrate through deeds as well as words a commitment that is enduring, we must stand for lasting opportunity.

A campaign against extremism will not succeed with bullets or bombs alone.  Al Qaeda’s offers the people of Pakistan nothing but destruction.  We stand for something different.  So today, I am calling upon Congress to pass a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by John Kerry and Richard Lugar that authorizes $1.5 billion in direct support to the Pakistani people every year over the next five years — resources that will build schools and roads and hospitals, and strengthen Pakistan’s democracy.  I’m also calling on Congress to pass a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Maria Cantwell, Chris Van Hollen and Peter Hoekstra that creates opportunity zones in the border regions to develop the economy and bring hope to places plagued with violence.  And we will ask our friends and allies to do their part — including at the donors conference in Tokyo next month.

I don’t ask for this support lightly.  These are challenging times.  Resources are stretched.  But the American people must understand that this is a down payment on our own future — because the security of America and Pakistan is shared.  Pakistan’s government must be a stronger partner in destroying these safe havens, and we must isolate al Qaeda from the Pakistani people.  And these steps in Pakistan are also indispensable to our efforts in Afghanistan, which will see no end to violence if insurgents move freely back and forth across the border.

Security demands a new sense of shared responsibility.  And that’s why we will launch a standing, trilateral dialogue among the United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Our nations will meet regularly, with Secretaries Clinton and Secretary Gates leading our effort.  Together, we must enhance intelligence sharing and military cooperation along the border, while addressing issues of common concern like trade, energy, and economic development.

This is just one part of a comprehensive strategy to prevent Afghanistan from becoming the al Qaeda safe haven that it was before 9/11.  To succeed, we and our friends and allies must reverse the Taliban’s gains, and promote a more capable and accountable Afghan government.

Our troops have fought bravely against a ruthless enemy.  Our civilians have made great sacrifices.  Our allies have borne a heavy burden.  Afghans have suffered and sacrificed for their future.  But for six years, Afghanistan has been denied the resources that it demands because of the war in Iraq.  Now, we must make a commitment that can accomplish our goals.

I’ve already ordered the deployment of 17,000 troops that had been requested by General McKiernan for many months.  These soldiers and Marines will take the fight to the Taliban in the south and the east, and give us a greater capacity to partner with Afghan security forces and to go after insurgents along the border.  This push will also help provide security in advance of the important presidential elections in Afghanistan in August.

At the same time, we will shift the emphasis of our mission to training and increasing the size of Afghan security forces, so that they can eventually take the lead in securing their country. That’s how we will prepare Afghans to take responsibility for their security, and how we will ultimately be able to bring our own troops home.

For three years, our commanders have been clear about the resources they need for training.  And those resources have been denied because of the war in Iraq.  Now, that will change.  The additional troops that we deployed have already increased our training capacity.  And later this spring we will deploy approximately 4,000 U.S. troops to train Afghan security forces. For the first time, this will truly resource our effort to train and support the Afghan army and police.  Every American unit in Afghanistan will be partnered with an Afghan unit, and we will seek additional trainers from our NATO allies to ensure that every Afghan unit has a coalition partner.  We will accelerate our efforts to build an Afghan army of 134,000 and a police force of 82,000 so that we can meet these goals by 2011 — and increases in Afghan forces may very well be needed as our plans to turn over security responsibility to the Afghans go forward.

This push must be joined by a dramatic increase in our civilian effort.  Afghanistan has an elected government, but it is undermined by corruption and has difficulty delivering basic services to its people.  The economy is undercut by a booming narcotics trade that encourages criminality and funds the insurgency.  The people of Afghanistan seek the promise of a better future.  Yet once again, we’ve seen the hope of a new day darkened by violence and uncertainty.

So to advance security, opportunity and justice — not just in Kabul, but from the bottom up in the provinces — we need agricultural specialists and educators, engineers and lawyers. That’s how we can help the Afghan government serve its people and develop an economy that isn’t dominated by illicit drugs.  And that’s why I’m ordering a substantial increase in our civilians on the ground.  That’s also why we must seek civilian support from our partners and allies, from the United Nations and international aid organizations — an effort that Secretary Clinton will carry forward next week in The Hague.

At a time of economic crisis, it’s tempting to believe that we can shortchange this civilian effort.  But make no mistake: Our efforts will fail in Afghanistan and Pakistan if we don’t invest in their future.  And that’s why my budget includes indispensable investments in our State Department and foreign assistance programs.  These investments relieve the burden on our troops.  They contribute directly to security.  They make the American people safer.  And they save us an enormous amount of money in the long run — because it’s far cheaper to train a policeman to secure his or her own village than to help a farmer seed a crop — or to help a farmer seed a crop than it is to send our troops to fight tour after tour of duty with no transition to Afghan responsibility.

As we provide these resources, the days of unaccountable spending, no-bid contracts, and wasteful reconstruction must end. So my budget will increase funding for a strong Inspector General at both the State Department and USAID, and include robust funding for the special inspector generals for Afghan Reconstruction.  

And I want to be clear:  We cannot turn a blind eye to the corruption that causes Afghans to lose faith in their own leaders.  Instead, we will seek a new compact with the Afghan government that cracks down on corrupt behavior, and sets clear benchmarks, clear metrics for international assistance so that it is used to provide for the needs of the Afghan people.

In a country with extreme poverty that’s been at war for decades, there will also be no peace without reconciliation among former enemies.  Now, I have no illusion that this will be easy. In Iraq, we had success in reaching out to former adversaries to isolate and target al Qaeda in Iraq.  We must pursue a similar process in Afghanistan, while understanding that it is a very different country.

There is an uncompromising core of the Taliban.  They must be met with force, and they must be defeated.  But there are also those who’ve taken up arms because of coercion, or simply for a price.  These Afghans must have the option to choose a different course.  And that’s why we will work with local leaders, the Afghan government, and international partners to have a reconciliation process in every province.  As their ranks dwindle, an enemy that has nothing to offer the Afghan people but terror and repression must be further isolated.  And we will continue to support the basic human rights of all Afghans — including women and girls.

Going forward, we will not blindly stay the course.  Instead, we will set clear metrics to measure progress and hold ourselves accountable.  We’ll consistently assess our efforts to train Afghan security forces and our progress in combating insurgents.  We will measure the growth of Afghanistan’s economy, and its illicit narcotics production.  And we will review whether we are using the right tools and tactics to make progress towards accomplishing our goals.

None of the steps that I’ve outlined will be easy; none should be taken by America alone.  The world cannot afford the price that will come due if Afghanistan slides back into chaos or al Qaeda operates unchecked.  We have a shared responsibility to act — not because we seek to project power for its own sake, but because our own peace and security depends on it.  And what’s at stake at this time is not just our own security — it’s the very idea that free nations can come together on behalf of our common security.  That was the founding cause of NATO six decades ago, and that must be our common purpose today.

My administration is committed to strengthening international organizations and collective action, and that will be my message next week in Europe.  As America does more, we will ask others to join us in doing their part.  From our partners and NATO allies, we will seek not simply troops, but rather clearly defined capabilities:  supporting the Afghan elections, training Afghan security forces, a greater civilian commitment to the Afghan people.  For the United Nations, we seek greater progress for its mandate to coordinate international action and assistance, and to strengthen Afghan institutions.

And finally, together with the United Nations, we will forge a new Contact Group for Afghanistan and Pakistan that brings together all who should have a stake in the security of the region — our NATO allies and other partners, but also the Central Asian states, the Gulf nations and Iran; Russia, India and China.  None of these nations benefit from a base for al Qaeda terrorists, and a region that descends into chaos.  All have a stake in the promise of lasting peace and security and development.

That is true, above all, for the coalition that has fought together in Afghanistan, side by side with Afghans.  The sacrifices have been enormous.  Nearly 700 Americans have lost their lives.  Troops from over 20 countries have also paid the ultimate price.  All Americans honor the service and cherish the friendship of those who have fought, and worked, and bled by our side.  And all Americans are awed by the service of our own men and women in uniform, who’ve borne a burden as great as any other generation’s.  They and their families embody the example of selfless sacrifice.

I remind everybody, the United States of America did not choose to fight a war in Afghanistan.  Nearly 3,000 of our people were killed on September 11, 2001, for doing nothing more than going about their daily lives.  Al Qaeda and its allies have since killed thousands of people in many countries.  Most of the blood on their hands is the blood of Muslims, who al Qaeda has killed and maimed in far greater number than any other people.  That is the future that al Qaeda is offering to the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan — a future without hope or opportunity; a future without justice or peace.

So understand, the road ahead will be long and there will be difficult days ahead.  But we will seek lasting partnerships with Afghanistan and Pakistan that promise a new day for their people. And we will use all elements of our national power to defeat al Qaeda, and to defend America, our allies, and all who seek a better future.  Because the United States of America stands for peace and security, justice and opportunity.  That is who we are, and that is what history calls on us to do once more.

 

Fight for Boost in Foreign aid

Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with members of Sen. Arlen Specter’s staff to discuss the importance of improving the United States’ foreign development strategy. Regional Field Organizer Brian Sweeney of ONE was also in attendance, as well as the Rev. Dan Donmoyer of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

During our meeting, we spoke specifically about President Barack Obama’s budgetary commitment to increase funding for global development projects and emergency aid from $47.2 billion to $51.7 billion in the next fiscal year. This increase is vital to improving economic stability around the globe, which is essential for international peace and anti-terror measures. Specter is keenly aware of the need for increased and more effectively directed foreign aid and optimistic that Obama’s budget requests will be met with bipartisan support.

U.S. foreign aid helps to feed millions of children worldwide so that they can spend their days in school. It contributes to important disease-fighting measures that keep the world’s poorest citizens employable. Foreign-aid funding is more important than ever in a climate of falling trade and declining international investment, the largest sources of revenue for many of the world’s poorest countries.

I am proud to see that both Republican Specter and Democratic Sen. Robert Casey, Jr., with whom ONE has also been in correspondence, understand the importance of America’s continued leadership in international economic development.

ONE is an advocacy organization that educates legislators and U.S. citizens about the local effect of extreme poverty and preventable diseases abroad. I encourage all Pennsylvanians to be aware of the dire need of many of their fellow world citizens and to thank our state representatives for their national leadership in improving foreign assistance.

Matthew Schaeffer

Fredericksburg  

Problem with support enforcement

John,

The government’s decision to step up enforcement of child support is about as well timed as the Reading city codes department opting to go placard crazy when housing and the economy started going  in the tank.  With so many people out of work they’re going  to end up going  after people who are already being pinched  by the meltdown and make them end up on public assistance or utterly impoverished.  Spare me the “If you have children” lines.  Then again, I suppose the Democrats can’t feel validated unless they have hoards of people who will feel somehow saved by the generosity of the Democrats when it is voting time.  Instead of enacting more timely, reasonable policies, given the practical reality we are in now.  Yes, some can pay now and should, but I see this hurting more than helping.  I’d urge people right now not to have kids.  I’d urge the government to stop acting simply for the sake of trying to seem like they’re “doing something about the problem”.  We’ve seen that enough during the Bush years, but then it was much less palatable to digest.  There is a greater danger now in trying to play fast and loose with putting a show that makes good political hay, but paves a road to the completion of our ruination.  Therefore, I contend at this juncture, this use of funds is at cross-purposes withthe progress towards economic recovery.

Understanding the Financial Crisis

Rolling Stone has published the most thorough analysis of the economic meltdown, what it is, how it happened and who caused our economic ruin.  Matt Taibbi is unafraid to point fingers to individuals like Sen. Phil Gramm, the Bush Administration, AIG executives and Goldman Sachs executives who engineered this debacle.  It is an amazingly good article which, a bit long for the average reader, is must reading for every citizen.

Reading this article will provide an excellent overview of how deregulation, refusal of BushCo to regulate anyone, and Hank Paulson’s moves to sink $3 trillion into financial black holes happened.  The more I find out about AIG the more I feel we need the company to simply disappear into bankruptcy.  No amount of taxpayer money can or will save this corporation.  It is dead and its time to bury the carcass before we all catch its fatal disease.

The same goes for the major “too big to fail” banks.  In our market economy I have no doubt others will move into these markets and do the normal, sane business which we need.  AIG isn’t the only insurance company and capital will flow into insurance to form new firms as AIG disappears.  That is the hallmark of a capitalist system.

Meanwhile, as yet, not one single new regulation has been enacted to prevent another meltdown.  The Phil and Wendy Gramm engineered repeal of Glass-Steagall which precipitated the meltdown remains the law of the land.  Why Congress has yet to enact legislation is amazing to me.  This must be the highest priority.

AIG was the world’s biggest casino.  Unfortunately the huge bets they made on everything from whether you’d default on your mortgage to sports events to whether someone might die, were made with no financial reserves whatsoever.  They were completely unregulated.  I wrote frequently the past several years about these unregulated markets and I’m no financial expert so those who should have known what was going on simply turned blind eyes.  In return for huge campaign contributions mind you…

Some excerpts from the article:

He (AIG Chairman Liddy) conveniently forgot to mention that AIG had spent more than a decade systematically scheming to evade U.S. and international regulators, or that one of the causes of its “pneumonia” was making colossal, world-sinking $500 billion bets with money it didn’t have, in a toxic and completely unregulated derivatives market.

Nor did anyone mention that when AIG finally got up from its seat at the Wall Street casino, broke and busted in the afterdawn light, it owed money all over town – and that a huge chunk of your taxpayer dollars in this particular bailout scam will be going to pay off the other high rollers at its table. Or that this was a casino unique among all casinos, one where middle-class taxpayers cover the bets of billionaires.

More…

The mess (Joe)Cassano created had its roots in an investment boom fueled in part by a relatively new type of financial instrument called a collateralized-debt obligation. A CDO is like a box full of diced-up assets. They can be anything: mortgages, corporate loans, aircraft loans, credit-card loans, even other CDOs. So as X mortgage holder pays his bill, and Y corporate debtor pays his bill, and Z credit-card debtor pays his bill, money flows into the box.

The problem was, none of this was based on reality. “The banks knew they were selling crap,” says a London-based trader from one of the bailed-out companies. To get AAA ratings, the CDOs relied not on their actual underlying assets but on crazy mathematical formulas that the banks cooked up to make the investments look safer than they really were. “They had some back room somewhere where a bunch of Indian guys who’d been doing nothing but math for God knows how many years would come up with some kind of model saying that this or that combination of debtors would only default once every 10,000 years,” says one young trader who sold CDOs for a major investment bank. “It was nuts.”

In its simplest form, a CDS is just a bet on an outcome. Say Bank A writes a million-dollar mortgage to the Pope for a town house in the West Village. Bank A wants to hedge its mortgage risk in case the Pope can’t make his monthly payments, so it buys CDS protection from Bank B, wherein it agrees to pay Bank B a premium of $1,000 a month for five years. In return, Bank B agrees to pay Bank A the full million-dollar value of the Pope’s mortgage if he defaults. In theory, Bank A is covered if the Pope goes on a meth binge and loses his job.

When Morgan presented their plans for credit swaps to regulators in the late Nineties, they argued that if they bought CDS protection for enough of the investments in their portfolio, they had effectively moved the risk off their books. Therefore, they argued, they should be allowed to lend more, without keeping more cash in reserve. A whole host of regulators – from the Federal Reserve to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency – accepted the argument, and Morgan was allowed to put more money on the street.

But in the late Nineties, a few years before Cassano took over AIGFP, all that changed. The Democrats, tired of getting slaughtered in the fundraising arena by Republicans, decided to throw off their old reliance on unions and interest groups and become more “business-friendly.” Wall Street responded by flooding Washington with money, buying allies in both parties. In the 10-year period beginning in 1998, financial companies spent $1.7 billion on federal campaign contributions and another $3.4 billion on lobbyists. They quickly got what they paid for. In 1999, Gramm co-sponsored a bill that repealed key aspects of the Glass-Steagall Act, smoothing the way for the creation of financial megafirms like Citigroup. The move did away with the built-in protections afforded by smaller banks. In the old days, a local banker knew the people whose loans were on his balance sheet: He wasn’t going to give a million-dollar mortgage to a homeless meth addict, since he would have to keep that loan on his books. But a giant merged bank might write that loan and then sell it off to some fool in China, and who cared?

Read the entire article to understand what happened after AIG collapsed and the Bush Administration poured $3 trillion into trying to save Wall Street, actions with no oversight or openness.  This is very scary business and I wonder why the American masses haven’t descended on Wall Street and burned it to the ground.  Now, perhaps, you understand why Osama Bin laden targeted our financial center for his attack.  He was trying to destroy the cancer this country was hiding from the world.  I am not defending what this madman did, simply trying to educate you on his motivations.  Most Americans still have no real comprehension of why people hate us enough to launch mass attacks on our financial institutions.  How do we prevent future attacks if we don’t know why the fist ones were initiated?

HHS Using $1 Billion From Recovery Act For Child Support Enforcement

The White House has announced that Health and Human Services is releasing $1 billion authorized through the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act for child support enforcement.  This money is designed to help collect child support payments so our most vulnerable citizens don’t suffer due to parental divorce.  We had a commenter complain about this use of funds, I assume, because he refuses to take care of his children.  Once you have children you have a moral obligation to take care of them.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today announced the availability of Recovery Act funds for state programs that establish, enforce, collect and distribute child support.

Currently, the federal government provides incentive payments to states based on the strength of their child support enforcement programs.

States are required to use these incentive payments to strengthen their child support enforcement programs. Under a new provision in the Recovery Act, these incentive payments will be matched by the federal government. The change will make approximately $1 billion in new resources available to states across the country.

“Every child deserves the support of both parents,” said HHS Spokeswoman Jenny Backus. “The Recovery Act will increase resources for child support enforcement and will help parents make ends meet and children receive the money they are due.”

The Recovery Act temporarily reverses a provision in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 that ended the practice of providing federal matching funds for the state expenditure of incentive payments.

The new Recovery Act provision is effective Oct. 1, 2008 through Sept.

30, 2010. States will receive the additional match funding based on any incentive funds used during FY 2009 and FY 2010, including incentives earned and not spent in prior years.  States will access the additional funds as they currently do, through grant awards based on quarterly expenditures.

The activities described in this release are being funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).  To track the progress of HHS activities funded through the ARRA, visit www.hhs.gov/recovery.  To track all federal funds provided through the ARRA, visit www.recovery.gov.

 

White House Announces $12M For Energy Efficiency

From the inbox, more funds for Pennsylvania:

Obama Administration Announces Additional $102,508,400 for Local Energy Efficiency Improvements in Pennsylvania

Block Grants to Support Jobs, Cut Energy Bills, and Increase Energy Independence

WASHINGTON – Vice President Joe Biden and Energy Secretary Steven Chu today announced plans to invest $3.2 billion in energy efficiency and conservation projects in U.S. cities, counties, states, territories, and Native American tribes.  This includes $102,508,400 for state, county and city efforts in Pennsylvania.  A detailed breakdown is below.

Today’s announcement builds on an investment of $352,477,062 in Pennsylvania weatherization and energy funding announced by the Administration on March 12th and detailed at energy.gov/recovery.

“These investments will save taxpayer dollars and create jobs in communities around the country,” said Vice President Biden.  “Local leaders will have the flexibility in how they put these resources to work – but we will hold them accountable for making the investments quickly and wisely to spur the local economy and cut energy use.”

The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program, funded by President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will provide formula grants for projects that reduce total energy use and fossil fuel emissions, and improve energy efficiency.

The funding will support energy audits and energy efficiency retrofits in residential and commercial buildings, the development and implementation of advanced building codes and inspections, and the creation of financial incentive programs for energy efficiency improvements.  Other activities eligible for use of grant funds include transportation programs that conserve energy, projects to reduce and capture methane and other greenhouse gas emissions from landfills, renewable energy installations on government buildings, energy efficient traffic signals and street lights, deployment of Combined Heat and Power and district heating and cooling systems, and others.

To ensure accountability, the Department of Energy will provide guidance to and require grant recipients to report on the number of jobs created or retained, energy saved, renewable energy capacity installed, greenhouse gas emissions reduced, and funds leveraged.  Funding is based on a formula that accounts for population and energy use.

“The Block Grants are a major investment in energy solutions that will strengthen America’s economy and create jobs at the local level,” said Secretary Chu. “The funding will be used for the cheapest, cleanest and most reliable energy technologies we have – energy efficiency and conservation – which can be deployed immediately.  The grants also empower local communities to make strategic investments to meet the nation’s long term clean energy and climate goals.”

Funding for state, city, and county governments in the state includes:

PA:  Pennsylvania Total Sum City, County, and SEO Allocations

Total For Pennsylvania:  $102,508,400

Pennsylvania State Energy Office:  $23,574,800

Abington:  $500,400

Allentown:  $1,038,800

Altoona:  $205,700

Bensalem:  $576,600

Bethlehem:  $702,100

Bristol:  $492,500

Cheltenham:  $147,400

Chester:  $156,000

Erie:  $1,031,500

Harrisburg;  $256,200

Haverford:  $190,000

Hempfield:  $168,400

Lancaster:  $575,900

Lower Merion:  $587,600

Lower Paxton:  $185,200

Manheim:  $160,600

Middletown:  $189,200

Millcreek:  $491,600

Northampton:  $160,800

Penn Hills:  $181,400

Philadelphia:  $14,108,700

Pittsburgh:  $3,403,000

Reading:  $791,000

Scranton:  $718,500

State College:  $194,100

Upper Darby:  $695,600

Wilkes-Barre:  $192,300

York:  $190,200

Allegheny County:  $8,094,300

Berks County:  $2,973,200

Bucks County:  $3,906,600

Chester County:  $4,615,800

Cumberland County:  $2,207,300

Delaware County:  $3,668,300

Lancaster County:  $3,795,900

Lehigh County:  $2,032,100

Luzerne County:  $2,542,200

Montgomery County:  $6,183,000

Northampton County:  $2,190,900

Washington County:  $1,924,400

Westmoreland County:  $3,006,500

York County:  $3,501,800

More information on the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program is available here.

Kanjorski Remarks on Regulartory Reform

Congressman Paul Kanjorski has issued his opening statement for today’s session dealing with regulatory reform:

OPENING STATEMENT OF CONGRESSMAN PAUL E. KANJORSKI

COMMITTEE ON FINANCIAL SERVICES

HEARING ON ADDRESSING THE NEED FOR

COMPREHENSIVE REGULATORY REFORM

MARCH 26, 2009

_____________________

Good morning, Mr. Chairman.  The Committee will today consider the Treasury Secretary’s ideas related to regulatory reform, focusing in particular on his legislative proposal vesting the executive branch with a new power to wind down troubled financial institutions.  Specifically, this resolution authority would permit the administration to place into receivership or conservatorship failing non-bank entities that pose systemic risk to the broader economy.

During the last seven months, the entire global economy has often stood in the balance as our government resorted to erratic, eleventh-hour efforts to prevent a catastrophic economic collapse.  Without a guidebook, policymakers could only rely on hurried, ad hoc solutions.  Such options, however, are inherently flawed and regularly produce unintended consequences.

As we deal with the current financial crisis, we find ourselves facing the very difficult task of fixing a leaky regulatory roof while it is raining.  We therefore need to provide the administration with a bigger hammer, a larger tarp, and the other tools needed to step in sooner, when institutions are unhealthy, but not as close to death.  Establishing resolution authority for all players in our financial markets has the potential to help lessen the severity of not only the present crisis, but also to prepare us for as-yet-unknown calamities down the road.

Today’s forum must also include a discussion of what to do about those entities that presently operate in the shadows of our financial system.  Hedge funds, private equity pools, and other unregulated bodies have the potential to unleash devastating consequences on our broader economy.  Long Term Capital Management and AIG Financial Products are two obvious examples here.  And while the extent of regulation required is debatable, we must begin this crucial examination today and we must include them in the resolution authority.

We must also consider how the creation of a new federal power to wind down troubled financial institutions will affect insurance, which is currently only regulated at the state level.  Insurance is part of our financial services system and is increasingly part of a global market, especially when it comes to products like reinsurance.  Because insurance is a piece of the puzzle that we must have in order to complete the picture, I am very interested in discerning how the Treasury Secretary currently envisions the resolution authority working in this market sector.

In sum, we now expect regulatory reform to be a play with at least three acts:  establishing resolution authority, creating a systemic risk regulator, and overhauling our regulatory structure.  As we play out each scene in each act, we must think about the other two and the interplay among the three.  Further, we should move cautiously.  The gravity of this situation requires that the Congress deliberate and exercise patience so that we lay a thoughtful regulatory structure that will establish the basis for a strong economy for many years to come.

Time for Arlen Specter To Listen To Us

Yesterday, Arlen Specter decided to turn his back on Pennsylvania’s hard-working middle class, and instead knuckle under to Big Business, by choosing to vote against cloture and prevent the Employee Free Choice Act from even coming up for discussion.

The Employee Free Choice Act allows workers to form a union free of harassment and intimidation. Having a union, in turn, allows workers to bargain for higher wages, affordable health care, and a secure retirement. Aren’t these all things that people who play by the rules should get?

Senator Specter said he doesn’t think we should give employees free choice at work until the economy improves. That’s shocking, and frankly, I don’t get it. It’s precisely backwards. The Employee Free Choice Act would help almost 1 million Pennsylvanians with good union jobs, and pump nearly $2 billion into the state’s economy every year. He’s denying Pennsylvania those jobs by refusing to allow debate on the Employee Free Choice Act.

That’s why Senator Specter, and his office, need to hear from you. Please take five minutes out of your day, and call his office to let them know you aren’t happy with his decision.

Arlen Specter has stood up for working people his entire career. He knows how hard it is for folks to join a union. That’s why I’m stunned that someone who’s supported democracy so strongly in the past would refuse to debate this issue meaningfully. If you support democracy, then you’ve got to support the right to debate legislation.

Call his office right now. Now’s the time to make a quick, free call that could go a long way towards changing his mind.

We need Congress to act as swiftly on real economic recovery for working people in America as they did to bail out Wall Street. Senator Specter can bring this change – but he needs to hear from you now.

This is our time. Together, we can hold people like Arlen Specter accountable, not just to a select few, but to the great majority of us that voted for change last November.

Please make this call.

Thanks!

Raf Noboa

SEIU Change that Works

Pentagon Frets About Chinese Power

The DoD is warning about the increasing threat militarily from China’s military.  This would be serious if it weren’t for the massive dichotomy between theirs and ours.  We spend nearly a billion dollars per year on our military while China, a much larger country, spends about $50 billion.  What a crock.

The threat to world peace isn’t from China it is from us.  It is America which launched two wars in the past eight years along with Israel.  Both were wars of enormous waste and out of all proportion to the threats.  George W. Bush doubled the Pentagon budget without even factoring in the costs of Iraq and Afghanistan.  The cost of veteran’s benefits from these wars must also be factored in meaning what we spend annually on military expenditures dwarfs China’s.

China can topple us anytime they want without firing a shot because they own us.  They’ve been underwriting our deficits so long they can completely collapse our economy with the stroke of a pen.  They hardly need to do so militarily when they can destroy America by dumping all their Treasury bonds on the world markets.  That would make the depression seem like a picnic.

Robert Gates is drumming up fear to protect his bloated budget.  You could add up all the military expenditures from the rest of the world combined and they might equal ours.  Might.  This is insane.