2015-11-25 / Political Page

Crowley Files Bill To Establish Child Savings Program

CROWLEY FILES BILL TO ESTABLISH CHILD SAVINGS PROGRAM: In a move to address our nations’ savings and retirement crisis, Congressman Joseph Crowley has introduced legislation “to help every American child start a financial future on the right foot.”

Crowley, the Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, was joined by Congressman Keith Ellison (D–MN) in filing the legislation “to help hard-working American families build savings for their future. It builds on their earlier efforts to attack this problem.

Crowley (D–Queens/The Bronx) said this bill will “create a new savings program called USAccounts, a long-term savings account” that will put young people on the right road to financial success.

“The bill also authorizes an expansion of the successful Child Tax Credit in order to give low-income families the opportunity to contribute to the savings account,” Crowley explained. The USAccounts bill is the first part of Crowley’s “Building Better Savings, Building Brighter Futures” plan to address the savings and retirement crisis in America.

“We know Americans want to save, and they know they should save – but the reality is, for many families, putting aside money while meeting immediate needs isn’t just difficult, it’s impossible,” said Crowley.

“Saving has to start on day one, and our legislation will give every American child the tools and knowledge they need to start their financial future on the right foot. USAccounts will help put the ability to save back in reach for millions of American families and their children.”

The Crowley-Ellison legislation directs the U.S. Department of the Treasury to create a new savings program called USAccounts. USAccounts will be funded through a combination of federal seed money, matching funds, and family contributions, Crowley said.

Upon the birth of a child, Crowley continued, a USAccount will be established in the child’s name, and the federal government will contribute $500 in seed money for the first year. The child’s family will be allowed to deposit up to $2,000 into the account annually. For families at the lowest income levels, these contributions will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the government up to $500 per USAccount, per year, directly into the child’s USAccount.

In addition, to aid families who want to save, yet have trouble getting started putting money toward their child’s USAccount, the legislation includes another match through the Child Tax Credit. Families who are eligible for either the Child Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit and make a contribution to their child’s account will receive another matching amount, up to $500 annually per account, as an increase in their credit when they file their taxes the following year.

Crowley said that while USAccounts will be established through the Treasury Department, parents will have the option of keeping the account within the government or moving it to an approved financial services institution. Contributions in these accounts can later be withdrawn tax-free to fund higher education. Once the child is no longer a dependent, the funds will be rolled over to an IRA, providing an opportunity to continue to save for retirement, or to access funds penalty- and tax-free when needed to pay for medical expenses, buy a home, or start a small business.

Based on legislation first introduced by Crowley and Ellison in 2014, under this bill the funds in the account will invest in U.S. treasuries, ensuring a safe investment that won’t go down in value. Additionally, Crowley said, this legislation improves the Internal Revenue Service outreach on the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), by requiring the IRS, when processing tax returns, to determine which taxpayers are owed the EITC but are not claiming it. The IRS would process the EITC on the family’s behalf and then deposit these earned funds into the child’s USAccount.

The bill is supported by the Asset Building Program, New America and Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), Crowley said.

Announced in April, Crowley’s “Building Better Savings, Building Brighter Futures” plan will make Americans more financially secure throughout their lifetimes by creating new financial options that encourage personal saving, expanding employer-provided retirement plans, and strengthening Social Security. Crowley released a detailed blueprint for the plan, which can be found online at : www.crowley.house.gov/sites/crowley.hou se.gov/files/Building Better Savings%2C Building Brighter Futures_ 0.pdf

CITY COMPTROLLER PLAYS SANTA – PREMATURELY: City Comptroller Scott Stringer is pushing the 2015 Christmas season slightly, delivering the Quarterly Economic Report news that “despite the national slowdown, local busi- nesses help city’s economy outpace the country’s in the third quarter.”

Stringer declared: “The city’s economic growth is outpacing the country’s, and citywide unemployment is down to 5.4 percent, the lowest since 2008.” In fact, he says, “57.6 percent of New Yorkers are working – that’s a record high.”

But “In Queens,” Stringer said, “the unemployment rate is even lower, at 4.6 percent, down from 6.2 percent in the third quarter of 2014.”

Continuing, Stringer reported: “The city’s private sector added 24,700 jobs in Q3 (the third quarter). “73 percent of those (18,000) jobs come from locally-supported sectors such as retail, education and healthcare. Sectors dependent on the national economy (like legal and accounting firms) are also producing jobs, but make up only a quarter of new jobs in Q3. Boroughwide, he emphasized, “Each borough saw lower unemployment rates compared to [the] same time last year.”

Turning to citywide figures, Stringer said, “Personal income tax (PIT) revenues rose to 8.7 percent on a year-over-year basis to over $2.2 billion in the third quarter, the highest third quarter level on record.”

In other categories, the Comptroller said, “Income taxes withheld from paychecks rose 7.9 percent more than this time last year to about $1.7 billion, also the highest third quarter on record.”

Stringer said “average hourly earnings of all NYC private employees, another proxy for personal income, rose 3.8 percent in the third quarter on a year-over-year basis after rising 2.9 percent in the second quarter.

GIANARIS GETS TOP SCORE AGAIN ON ENVIRONMENTAL VOTING: For the second consecutive year, state Senator Michael Gianaris has earned a high score on the EPL Environmental Advocates’ Environmental Scorecard, he reports. Each year, Environmental Advocates tracks the environmental voting records of the entire New York State Legislature, including bills that could help or harm our air, land and water, the high score designation is earned by supporting proposals that would help our environment and opposing those that would harm it, Gianaris (D–Western Queens) explained.

Reflecting on the high honor, Gianaris stated: “I hold great pride in doing my best for our climate and the overall environment. I will continue to be a fierce advocate for our environment and sponsor bills that will improve our air and water quality at this critical moment in history.”

Gianaris noted that his high score is reflective of his advocacy for enhanced environmental protections and the need to reshape New York’s energy policy.” He said that he wrote the state’s Clean Energy Law, which encourages the private sector to utilize modern technologies to reduce pollution while increasing productivity.

Additionally, Gianaris has sponsored legislation aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions to fight climate change.

HOUSE SPEAKER RYAN BACKS NEW ZADROGA, BUT OBSTACLES REMAIN: PROSPECTS FOR ZADROGA BRIGHTEN AS GOP SUPPORT INCREASES: As Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney continued her tireless efforts to make the new Zadroga bill benefits permanent for 9/11 victims, prospects for the legislation’s passage still faced obstacles last week, even after newly installed House GOP Speaker Paul Ryan announced his support for the bill.

In doing so, he instructed two key Republicans who head Congressional committees that would deal with the Zadroga legislation to work with Long Island’s Republican Rep. Peter King to assure passage of the bill. King had co-sponsored the original Zadroga bill with Democrats Maloney and Jerrold Nadler (both Manhattan). One part of the original bill expired on October 1, and another section will expire next October.

Maloney and her co-sponsors are working furiously to make the Zadroga benefits permanent, but Republicans have resisted that. A key Republican, Congressman Robert Goodlatte (R–Virginia), who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, which has bottled up the bill, introduced a bill recently which would only reauthorize the bill for five years.

As Maloney and her supporters continued their campaign to get Zadroga reauthorized permanently last week, Ryan came out with his surprise announcement of support for the legislation. Ryan stated: “I favor reauthorizing the program. I have asked our committees of jurisdiction to work with Congressmember King to come up with a solution to this program so that by the end of the year we have reauthorized the program.”

Ryan had issued his statement last Thursday, but it made no reference to time limits, which is what places Maloney’s and Goodlatte’s versions far apart. Last Wednesday, Maloney, Nadler and King issued a statement saying:

“With more than 250 House cosponsors, and 66 Senate cosponsors, it is clear that a strong bipartisan majority of Congress supports a permanent reauthorization of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.

The two following paragraphs in the statement both contained references to “permanent” bills.

But other stories on the new Zadroga bill repeated that Goodlatte refused to meet with Maloney’s group which now includes another GOP co-sponsor beside King.

In fact, Goodlatte reportedly would expand the Zadroga bill to include Americans who were harmed by other acts of terrorism and who had won judgements in lawsuits. So it appears that both sides are digging in and King appears to be in the middle since Ryan, the new speaker, designated King to be his emissary in these discussions.

CROWLEY VOTES ‘NO’ ON GOP BILL BLOCKING SYRIAN REFUGEES: Congressman Joseph Crowley, citing the United States’ unblemished record of welcoming “those fleeing violence and persecution,” voted “no” last Thursday on Republican-sponsored legislation “that could effectively end the admission of Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the United States.”

Republicans easily passed the controversial bill by a 289 to 137 count, with 47 Democrats crossing party lines to support the legislation. The GOP’s action was sparked by fears ignited by last week’s killing spree in Paris and fears that if we accept refugees terrorists could more easily sneak into our country posing as refugees.

Crowley (D–Queens/The Bronx), the Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, stated:

“The first and foremost duty of our government is to protect the people of the United States, and it is a responsibility that must be met with thoughtful, bipartisan policy making. The measure considered today failed on both fronts, while also neglecting to truly strengthen our national security.

“I opposed this legislation because its sole outcome would be to substantially delay or even end the admission of women and children fleeing Syria and Iraq into the US. These are innocent people who have been brutalized by both their own government as well as Daesh. Protecting the American people from terrorism and providing protection to thoroughly vetted refugees are not mutually exclusive. The US has long stood with those fleeing violence and persecution, and I believe we can – and must – stay true to our values while ensuring our national security.”

The bill was also opposed by President Obama, who has also said he will veto it.

GOLDFEDER PUSHES ROCKAWAY RAIL LINE: In what he described as “a major step forward to reactivate the Rockaway Beach Rail Line,” Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder traveled to City Hall recently and spoke in support of a Council Resolution calling on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to conduct a feasibility study of the abandoned Rockaway transit facility and other cityowned railroad rights-of-way.

Goldfeder (D–Rockaway) told the Council, “There is no greater asset to our transit network than existing rights-of-way. With the Rockaway Beach Rail line and other under-utilized rights-of-way throughout the city, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make lasting improvements to our transportation network and meet the demands of our growing populations. As Queens residents, we are not asking for more than others, but rather for a fair share, to give our families the opportunity to thrive and grow.”

Goldfeder’s testimony centered on proposed Council resolution 903-2015 calling on the MTA to study the possible use of the abandoned rail lines to improve transit in the city. The lawmaker pointed to recent growth in southern Queens and Rockaway, arguing that existing travel facilities were not prepared to serve the increasing ridership.

Goldfeder has long advocated for the reactivation of the Rockaway line. In 2014, he said, he joined a broad coalition of elected officials in announcing the release of a Queens College study of the old Rockaway line which estimated the cost of reactivating it at approximately $1 billion and predicting it could serve about 250,000 riders each day.

Last year, Goldfeder coordinated a joint letter which a “majority” of his Queens Assembly colleagues signed on in support of asking the MTA for the feasibility study into reactivating the now shuttered line, and he also said he plans to follow up on that during the coming session.

At the recent Council hearing which he addressed he was joined by Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, the Chair of the Transportation Committee and author of Resolution 903-2015 and Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D–Manhattan/Brooklyn). Rodriguez spoke in support of the resolution and Nadler also spoke in favor of reactivating the Rockaway line, saying it would provide a true “one-seat ride from Kennedy Airport to midtown Manhattan.”

ADDABBO BACKS INSURANCE FOR VETS NEEDING PROSTHETICS: State Senator Joseph Addabbo has announced he is supporting legislation authorizing insurance coverage for war veterans needing artificial limbs and other prosthetics after being seriously injured in military service.

Under the legislation, Addabbo (D–Howard Beach) explained: “Medical, major medical and other comprehensivetype insurance policies would be required to provide insurance coverage for artificial limbs and other prosthetics that are deemed medically necessary for injured servicemen and women. The injury must have been sustained while on active duty.”

When asked aren’t these services, provided by the US government, Addabbo responded: “The answer is yes, definitely, when the injury results while on active duty. But as time passes, the repairs if they become damaged, or you experience wear and tear or it no longer fits properly, or when changes in a veterans’ condition necessitate its replacement then the coverage would be covered under our bill.”

Addabbo also pointed out, “While we may never be able to make our injured military veterans truly whole again after they have suffered such grievous injuries, we still have an obligation to do everything in our power to help them recover, access rehabilitative services and regain their normal lives and activities as much as possible. So in this sense our bill becomes an extension of the care they got while in the military service.”

Addabbo said the need for insurance coverage and the legislative coverage grew out of discussions at a recent Queens Legislative Breakfast hosted by the Queens County Council VFW.

Addabbo, who is the highest ranking Democrat on the State Senate Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs, is lending his support to the legislation regarding authorizing insurance coverage for the prosthetics. “I intend to continue pushing for this important proposal, which I am now co-sponsoring, when the new legislative session in Albany begins in January.”

Addabbo said a very similar bill (A.7545) has been approved by the Assembly. Eventually both houses in the state legislature would have to pass the totally identical measure and have it signed by the governor for it to become a law. Addabbo said he was sure this would happen.

CROWLEY: ‘GOP’S BLIND EYE TO GUN VIOLENCE IS SICKENING’: Following House passage of Republicans’ Syrian refugee legislation, Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx), Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, called on House Republicans yesterday to now focus on preventing gun violence:

“A mere six days after the attacks in Paris, House Republicans brought up legislation in response – proving they have the capability of bringing bills to the floor. But you wouldn’t know it if you looked at their track record on the priorities of the American people.

“On issues from health care for 9/11 first responders to comprehensive immigration reform, House Republicans have refused to act. It’s particularly sickening that Republicans have turned a blind eye to gun violence, an issue that affects the security of the American people every day.

“Following the tragedy in Newtown, Senate Republicans spent five months fighting gun control legislation and ultimately defeated it entirely. Meanwhile, in the ‘People’s House’, Republicans refused to even consider legislation in the wake of the tragedy. Not even legislation requiring background checks, which has the overwhelming support from gun-owners and would help keep guns out of the hands of the most dangerous individuals – including those on terrorism watch-lists – has seen the light of day. It’s hard to believe that a known or suspected terrorist can purchase a gun in the United States without a background check, and almost harder to believe that Republicans have not been willing to address this.

“When you compare that to how quickly they moved this week, I am just baffled. Republicans are preoccupied with hypothetical threats from refugees, but are ignoring the very reality of gun violence in America.

“Now that we know Republicans can move quickly, I hope they will. It’s time to act on commonsense measures that will address the very real threat of gun violence. After all, it’s what millions of mothers and fathers have asked Congress to do.”

CROWLEY URGES GOP TO KEEP IMMIGRATION REFORM PROMISES: Rep. Joe Crowley released the following statement regarding the first anniversary, November 20, of President Obama’s announcement of new executive measures “to help fix our nation’s broken immigration system,” Crowley said. The measures include establishing a Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program and expanding the current Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Together, these steps will help millions of families stay together.

While earlier this month, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled 2-1 to uphold a preliminary injunction temporarily blocking the President’s actions, the Obama Administration and Department of Justice are moving to file an appeal to the Supreme Court, opening the door for the Supreme Court to rule this term on allowing these programs to go forward.

“Today should be a day to celebrate the enormous and positive impact the President’s measures have on families across the country,” Crowley stated. “Instead, we are once again reminded of how partisan politics has permeated immigration reform – an issue that, until recently, always seemed to enjoy bipartisan support.”

Crowley continued, “Despite the history of this issue, and their repeated promises, Republicans in Congress failed to move on the critical issue of reforming our immigration system. In this absence of action, last year, President Obama took decisive steps to help American communities stay strong and American families stay together. When opponents try to stop these programs – when they file lawsuits, and hold up funding bills over it – they’re really stopping families from being able to live their lives.”

“The President’s actions were important, valuable steps forward, and I am confident that the Supreme Court will agree and remove the remaining barriers to helping millions of parents and children,” he added, concluding, “Yet, there is nothing that can take the place of a comprehensive immigration reform package from Congress. Democrats have been willing to work in a constructive, bipartisan way and I hope that we’ll see our counterparts finally be willing to step up and do what needs to be done. Every day without a solution is a day that hurts us as a nation.”

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