Posts Tagged ‘liheap’
I always want to hear your ideas for improving state government. After all, I work for you. You can e-mail or call me any time.
You may also want to check out “Public Input: Improving State Government” on the Iowa Legislature’s website: www.legis.iowa.gov. This public comment page was set up in 2009 for Iowans to submit ideas or view the suggestions of others.
Every two years, a State Government Efficiency Review Committee, made up of 10 legislators, meets to review state government operations and consider ways to modernize processes, eliminate unnecessary work, reduce costs and increase accountability.
The public comment page is one of the resources legislators use to come up with recommendations for making state government more efficient and responsive to Iowans’ needs.
STATE GOVERNMENT IS WORKING FOR YOU
During the federal government shutdown, I get many questions about how things are working at the state level. I’m proud to say the state of Iowa is open for business.
Legislators are focused on making state government work for Iowa citizens. We’re always looking for ways to ensure government runs efficiently and offers good service to Iowans.
In fact, Iowa is considered the fifth best run state in the country, according to 24/7 Wall Street. Our strong agricultural economy, falling unemployment, excellent credit rating and well-managed budget give Iowa its good financial health, standard of living and government services.
This year, legislators continued our push for a leaner, more transparent government that is responsive to Iowans’ needs by:
1. Balancing the state budget without raising taxes. Iowa has a budget surplus of about $721 million. We also have $649 million in our reserve funds. That’s the largest amount in state history and the eighth best in the country, according to a national report by the Tax Foundation.
2. Cutting taxes to create jobs and spur economic growth. The tax reforms we approved this year include reducing commercial property taxes for all Iowa businesses while helping small businesses the most. We also voted to put some of our budget surplus back into the pockets of Iowa taxpayer and help low-income Iowans work their way out of poverty by boosting the state Earned Income Tax Credit.
3. Standing up for citizens’ right to know. Iowans now have a free, efficient method to ensure government officials comply with Iowa’s open meetings and records laws. The newly formed Iowa Public Information Board helps citizens with questions and concerns about their rights to information. In addition, we’re developing an online database that will allow Iowans to search the state’s budget expenditures and tax revenue to see how their tax dollars are spent.
4. Improving customer service and saving money through efficiencies. New initiatives include an online driver’s license renewal system and giving Iowans the option to show proof of insurance on their electronic driving record rather than carrying the documentation. These and other cost-saving efforts at the Iowa Department of Transportation are freeing up more of your tax dollars to fix our roads.
GROW MIDDLE CLASS BY KEEPING COLLEGE AFFORDABLE
One of the best ways we can expand Iowa’s middle class is by making higher education more affordable.
That’s why the Legislature approved funding to freeze tuition this fall. It was the first time in more than 30 years that tuition didn’t increase for Iowa undergrads at our state universities—University of Iowa, University of Northern Iowa and Iowa State University. In September, the Iowa Board of Regents agreed to continue the tuition freeze next year if state support increased significantly. I’m also keeping my eye on community college tuition and fees, which increased by an average of 2.8 percent this fall.
During the recession, tuition costs and student debt both skyrocketed in Iowa while the state’s investment in higher education fell by almost 25 percent. Iowa ranks sixth in the nation when it comes to the debt load of our college graduates, according to new data from College InSight. Today, 72 percent of college students in Iowa borrow to finance their education. By the time they graduate, they’ve racked up an average of $28,753 in debt.
Freezing tuition by controlling costs and increasing state investment is much better than asking struggling families to take out even more student loans. For the last three years, Senate Democrats have led the push to invest more in our state universities and community colleges. I hope we can again reach a compromise that will allow us to extend the tuition freeze at our state universities and keep our community colleges affordable.
NEWS YOU CAN USE
Apply for Rural Arts Grants
Through November 1, the Iowa Arts Council is accepting applications for Rural Arts Development Grants, which provide up to $5,000 to arts projects in rural Iowa. Eligible applicants include nonprofit organizations, schools, tribal councils, and local, county, state and federal government agencies. Complete details and an application are available at www.iowaartscouncil.org.
Apply for health care coverage
You can now explore your new health care options and apply for insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace at www.HealthCare.gov. Coverage starts as early as January 1, 2014. The Marketplace will automatically tell you if you qualify for discounts or state programs based on your income.
You can choose the health plan that’s right for you through the online plan comparison tool. If you don’t have access to a computer or need assistance, dial the 24/7 call center at 1-800-318-2596.
Tips for staying safe online
Throughout October, Iowans are encouraged to increase their cyber security. Cyber Security Awareness Month is a national campaign to educate the public, businesses, schools and government agencies about avoiding cyber security threats, as well as ways to secure their part of cyber space, computers and our nation’s critical infrastructure.
At www.us-cert.gov/home-and-business, the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team offers helpful ideas and resources for keeping your home and work computers safe. You’ll get the information you need to:
• Stay safe on social networking sites
• Choose and protect passwords
• Prevent and respond to identity theft
• Effectively erase files
Need help with your heating bill?
As the weather turns colder, low-income Iowa homeowners and renters can get help paying their heating costs. The 2013-14 Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provides assistance based on household income, household size, type of fuel and type of housing. For complete details, call 515-281-0859 or go to www.dcaa.iowa.gov/bureau_EA/app_acceptance.html.
State parks are open for fall fun
Good news: State parks are OPEN during the federal government shutdown!
Fall in Iowa is a great time to enjoy the outdoors. Take advantage of the beautiful days by heading to one of our state parks. For a listing of state parks, go to www.iowadnr.gov/parks.
Keep in mind, anything under federal control—facilities run by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Monuments, Federal Refuges and other federal areas—are closed during the federal shutdown.
Des Moines, IA 50319
2609 Clearview Drive
Burlington, IA 52601
On Saturday, July 27, Rep. Dave Loebsack (IA-02) and Rep. Collin Peterson (MN-07), ranking member of the house agriculture committee, held a farm bill forum at the Johnson County Extension Office. Over 40 people attended, and a lot of ground was covered related to the farm bill, how the U.S. Congress works (or doesn’t), and during an open question and answer period with discussion of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), change in the agriculture committee makeup after the 2010 election, crop insurance, conservation, rural development, LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program), the renewable fuel standard and target prices for direct payments for wheat, corn, soybeans, cotton and rice. The forum was a primer for anyone who wanted to learn the recent history of the farm bill.
Rep. Loebsack said, “last year was the time to pass the farm bill.” Congress extended the 2007 farm bill for a year, and that extension expires on Sept. 30. Representatives of the Iowa Farm Bureau and the Iowa Corn Growers Association present at the forum indicated they did not want another extension. One audience member pointed to a $50,000 direct payment he would receive this year he didn’t need and didn’t want. Loebsack attributed the situation to the failure of congress to pass a new farm bill last year.
Rep. Peterson said the agriculture committee members had reached a bipartisan agreement last year, but the problem was (and remains) the Republican leadership. He was more specific, saying “it wasn’t Speaker Boehner… he never got in the way.” He added, Eric Cantor is the problem, “he’s the guy who screwed this thing up in the house.”
Mike Owen, executive director of the Iowa Policy Project, entreated the congressmen to take the political spin out of SNAP because it was destructive to families who depend upon the $1.30 per person per meal the program provides. A food pantry volunteer added, “it’s not just SNAP.” The farm bill impacts food pantries, meals on wheels and other nutrition programs people rely upon. Rep. Peterson was direct, “there will be more SNAP cuts (in order to pass a farm bill).”
The clock is ticking on getting a farm bill passed by Oct. 1. After this week, congress begins the August recess, reconvening on Sept. 8 or 9. The U.S. Senate has formally requested a conference committee, but house members have not been appointed. According to Peterson, they may not be until after the recess. There is time, but not any extra.
The framework for the farm bill has been set by the U.S. Senate version, for which the entire Iowa delegation voted. Passing the farm bill comes down to the U.S. Congress doing their work, something at which they have been less than effective. Also something could go wrong between now and Oct. 1 to stop the farm bill from moving, according to Peterson.
After the farm bill failed last year, Peterson said, speaking of the Republican house majority, “you guys have finally made me a partisan.” If SNAP is cut completely by the conference committee and replaced with block grants, as some conservatives want, the Democratic house delegation is expected to walk away, and the farm bill would expire. Well funded groups like the Heritage Foundation, Club for Growth, the Wall Street Journal and others have lobbied hard to cut SNAP, get rid of conservation and rural development programs, and crop insurance.
If readers are interested in more information about any of these topics, please post a comment below, and I’ll reply with any relevant information from the forum.
Paul Krugman in his blog says what many people have been waiting for someone to say:
“I mean, is there anything at all in Romney’s stump speech that’s true? It’s all based on attacking Obama for apologizing for America, which he didn’t, on making deep cuts in defense, which he also didn’t, and on being a radical redistributionist who wants equality of outcomes, which he isn’t. When the issue turns to jobs, Romney makes false assertions both about Obama’s record and about his own. I can’t find a single true assertion anywhere.”
Couldn’t agree with him more.Sometimes I have wanted to scream at some reporter “Are you just going to let him lie and not say a thing? What is your job? Secretary?
The human costs of Republican administrations
Seems like every Republican administration moves the clock for equality backwards in this country. Well, at least since Nixon who signed the Title IX provisions that have given young women many opportunities that never would have happened left to their own devices.
I simply can’t understand why taking citizenship rights from groups of people is not only tolerated, but voted for. Why can’t gays have the same rights as others? Why can’t all citizens vote?
We fall further behind every year
In a poll released the other day, Americans overwhelmingly stated they believescience is the key to the future.
Yet at election time, from school boards to the state house and the US congress, they continue to vote in candidates who cut the hell out of education and try to force schools to equate science with religion.
As our youth is less and less educated in science, America’s once formidable lead in this area has drastically shrunk. The telling point may not come for another 25 years, but we all know this will cost us dearly.
Sears going ….. going …..?
Thursday Sears was put in the position of essentially paying up front for vendor shipments. The ability for vendors to make ‘loans’ was cut off.
Maybe I am wrong but it looks like that vaunted staple of America free enterprise – competition – is about to take another shot in the chops. Slowly we will be forced to shop in stores like Walmart and Target. It is sad.
She sold the WHAT? And she wants to BUY IT BACK???
Governor Jan Brewer may have hit a new high (low?) in fiscal mismanagement in Arizona. First they sold the state capitol to pick some quick cash ($81 million) and now, little over a year later she wants to buy it back. And it will cost a cool $105 million. That is a $24 million mark-up in a year. Take some more money out of education.
You need to read this
And now to endear himself with Latinos
Mitt Romney got an endorsement from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Koback. Koback is the author of model anti-immigrant legislation fro ALEC after which Arizona’s repugnant SB1070 and Alabama’s new anti-immigrant laws are modeled. Despite trying, Romney was unable to get the endorsement of Maricopa County, Arizona’s notorious Joe Arpaio. Arpaio went for Rick Perry.
Winter is finally cold and LIHEAP is won’t be helping much
I heard Jerry McKim speaking about LIHEAP on IPR yesterday. Real winter cold is just settling in. LIHEAP money has been slashed by congress and on down the line awards for those who apply will be cut. McKim said there will be something for all that apply, but with less money, higher costs for fuel and now real winter temps it probably won’t help the way it was intended. (See here for previous story)
Since no one can have their heat cut until April 1, most people will be okay. The problem comes next year when anyone who has an outstanding debt to whoever sells them heat will not be allowed to be hooked up again. Reminder that much of the so-called debt reduction is on the backs of those it will hurt most.
Gas going higher?
Let’s face it, if one thing could kill any recovery and at the same time kill an Obama run for re-election, it would be a huge spike in the price of gas. And the rumors are already floating about a major run up in price this spring. I have believed that much of the pricing of oil has been manipulated for many years. No one has yet had the political will to take on the oil companies assertions on their prices. This could really blindside Americans and make voters quite angry.
A few weeks ago, I made a reference to LIHEAP in my story concerning my experiment in heating with corn. The reference was only a passing thought after I had pretty much written the body of the story. So I followed my curiosity and made some calls to see what I could find about LIHEAP and its current status.
What I found was as expected somewhat depressing. While Boehner, Cantor and McConnell whine and cry about the impoverished multi-millionaire “job creator,” real Iowans will be facing a real winter with bone-numbing cold without enough money or aid to pay for a winter’s worth of heat.
‘LIHEAP’ is the acronym for Low Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program.” LIHEAP was established in 1981 to help low income Americans pay for heating and cooling bills that at that time were causing shock due to the quickly rising cost of energy. Since then we have learned that purchasing power of most households has remained static while cost of energy has continued rising to record levels. So LIHEAP has become an increasing necessity for many low income households. However, the trend since 2000 has been to cut safety net programs such as LIHEAP to pay for tax cuts which have been mostly geared to high income or high wealth households.
This year of course the budget battle has stressed debt reduction without accompanying tax raises, thus placing the reduction on program cutting. Programs being cut are mostly those which are of the safety net variety.
With that background, LIHEAP for fiscal 2010 – 2011 was funded at ~ $5 billion. This budget year that funding has been greatly reduced. The Obama Administration proposed cutting the funding in half. That was even too much for congress. While a budget has yet to be passed the continuing resolutions have allowed some LIEAP money to be released to the states. At the pace LIHEAP is being funded on the continuing resolutions the cut will be ~$1.3 billion or about 25%.
Much of the information I have comes from Jerry McKim who is Iowa’s LIHEAP Director. Mr. McKim was quite forthcoming with information. It was pretty obvious that he was quite frustrated by the cutbacks and delays in funding. He deals with the people who feel the pain of the cold.
LIHEAP comes to the states as a block grant and is then portioned on a first come, first served basis. Assistance is offered to those meeting poverty guidelines. Last year Iowa received ~ $71 million. It currently looks like Iowa will be receiving ~ $50 million this year.
Each award is based on various factors such as poverty level, personal factors (such as age, children, health etc.) and fuel type. No award would cover the whole cost of heat for a winter. It currently looks like that award will be reduced by the percentage less that Iowa gets. For example, if a person received $500 last year, this year’s award would be about 25% less or about $375. Since the cost of the heat has gone up, the gap between the assistance and the actual bill must be paid by the individual.
Fortunately, it is against the law for a customer to be disconnected until March 31st. Unfortunately, if the payment is still in arrears come the next November 1st, there is no law that says those that are disconnected must be reconnected for the winter. This leads to a certain number of households disconnected through the next winter. Mr. McKim said this number of Iowa households without heat in a given winter is around 8,700. My guess is that that is about equal to a small city like Marshalltown. To me this is a disgrace. The Iowa Utility board disconnection/ reconnection numbers can be found here.
Here are some sobering facts to think about as you sit in front of the TV this weekend. This is from a press release passed on by Mr. McKim:
State LIHEAP Directors Release 2011 National Survey
Contact: Mark Wolfe, 202-320-9046
November 1, 2011
Record Heating Oil Prices Place Millions of Poor Families at Risk
New Study Shows Finds that LIHEAP Families are Disproportionally Poor Elderly, Disabled and have Young Children
The National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association (NEADA) representing the state directors of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) released the results of their annual survey of LIHEAP recipients.
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is the most comprehensive federal program that helps low-income families meet their immediate home energy needs. The average LIHEAP benefit covers about half the cost of home heating, or $450 per year per household. Approximately 8.9 million low-income families received assistance in FY 2011; approximately 10 million households are expected to apply for assistance in FY 2012.
Both the House and Senate appropriation bills would cut LIHEAP between $1.1 billion (Senate) and $1.3 billion (House) from the FY 2011 level of $4.7 billion. The impact of both bills would be dramatic; an estimated 1.6 million very vulnerable households would be cut from the program.
In order to obtain a comprehensive demographic picture of LIHEAP recipients and the characteristics of those who are helped as well as who would be hurt by the program cuts, NEADA conducted a survey of approximately 1,800 households that received LIHEAP benefits in FY 2011. The results show that LIHEAP households are among the vulnerable in the country.
In fact, nearly 90 percent of LIHEAP recipient households have at least one vulnerable member—defined as someone age 60 or older, age 18 or younger, or disabled.
Additional findings underscore the fact that, for these households, a loss of heat or electricity in the winter could have serious health and safety implications.
LIHEAP Households Are Among the Most Vulnerable in the Country
· 40 percent have someone age 60 or older
· 72 percent have a family member with a serious medical condition
· 26 percent use medical equipment that requires electricity
· 37 percent went without medical or dental care
· 34 percent did not fill a prescription or took less than their full dose of prescribed medication
· 19 percent became sick because the home was too cold
· 85 percent of people with a medical condition are seniors
Other key facts reported by the study:
· 45% reported that their energy bills were more than $2,000 in the past year.
· 35% were unemployed at some point during the year.
· 52% said that energy bills were more difficult to pay than in the previous year and 48% of those who said that it was more difficult to pay their energy bills reported that the main reason was their financial situation.
· LIHEAP benefits decreased since the previous year due to the smaller appropriation in FY 2011. Mean heating benefits were $429 in FY 2011, compared to $483 in FY 2009.
· Many LIHEAP recipients were unable to pay their energy bills. 49% skipped paying or paid less than their entire home energy bill, 37% received a notice or threat to disconnect or discontinue their electricity or home heating fuel, 11% had their electric or natural gas service shut off in the past year due to nonpayment, 24% were unable to use their main source of heat in the past year because their fuel was shut off, they could not pay for fuel delivery, or their heating system was broken and they could not afford to fix it and 17% were unable to use their air conditioner in the past year because their electricity was shut off or their air conditioner was broken and they could not afford to fix it.
Like many folks, we are taking some time away to visit family for this holiday. We have one child at one end of the Mississippi and another at the other end. So we will be heading south with one set to visit the other. More than likely there will be lots of politics discussed on the trip.
VanderPlaats picks the winners
After the interviews for the Republican bishop’s — er uh — presidential candidate’s job last weekend, it looks like the VanderPlaats group had to disappoint some potential crown wannabes. So if your last name isn’t Gingrich, Perry, Bachmann or Santorum, you are not the stuff that Christian presidents are made of.
Which name doesn’t fit there?
In the previous list, does anyone notice that one peron seems to be a bit out of the stream that the others swim in? Maybe when it comes to being holy and religious and pious and humble, Newt is not only in another stream, but on another continent. Shows what a true joke Bob VanderPlaats and his puppets are playing on Iowans. VanderPlaats wants to be a king maker, and wants to be on the inside. For that purpose he is more than willing to make a laughing stock out of all that his organization, “The Family Leader” supposedly stands for. Who knows? Maybe he can be the next Mrs. Newt.
Iowa Independent closes
I was listening to the noon show on IPR Tuesday to hear the discussion of current journalism and the new media. (BTW, I do not pretend to be a journalist.) The second half-hour included an interview with Lynda Waddington of the Iowa Independent, an online news source. Lynda shocked us with the news that as of last Friday, they were no longer in business. So sad to hear that yet another independent source for news has gone. Thanks to Iowa Independent for its years of service.
A couple of weeks ago in an opening paragraph to a story I wrote on my corn stove, I mentioned LIHEAP or Low Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program. When the budget battles began in earnest last year one of the very first casualties was LIHEAP. I intend to do a full story on my conversations with LIHEAP’s Iowa director, Jerry McKim next week when I have time. But as the weather inevitably cools after Thanksgiving, I just wanted to put the thought of LIHEAP in people’s minds. The budget for LIHEAP was cut drastically while prices for energy have not fallen. Awards for help will most likely be smaller this year which will no doubt result in more disconnections next spring. More next week.
Iowa College Football
OK, I can’t help myself here. I am one who cheers for all three of Iowa’s public universities in athletic endeavors. So Friday and Saturday made for a really sweet weekend last week. We got home from a charity affair late Friday night. I had forgotten ISU was playing Oklahoma State that night. When I turned it on and saw the score (24 – 10 at the time) I thought – well, maybe it could happen. I fought sleep to see Woody go in for the score to win. What a sweet way to end the day.
Next day Iowa takes it to Purdue. And Northern Iowa wins another exciting game to move into the football championship playoffs for division 1AA. I think the Hawkeyes can beat Nebraska. Can the Cylones become the champion of Oklahoma? That would be great. And as always, the Panthers are tough come tournament time……