2017-08-02 / Political Page

Reps Blast Trump Adminstration Decision To End Retirement Savings Program

House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-NY), left, and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), right, issued the following statement after the Treasury Department said it will end myRA (my Retirement Account), a program established by the Obama Administration to help American workers save for retirement:

“Secretary Mnuchin’s decision to end the myRA program is just the latest in a series of stunning attacks by the Trump administration to dismantle critical retirement security lifelines that affect millions of workers. Make no mistake, America is in the midst of a very real and serious savings and retirement crisis,” said Congressman Crowley. “Every American deserves the opportunity to save for their future and achieve much-needed financial security. The myRA program empowers workers to save their own money, in their own account, for their own retirement. This misguided decision hurts hardworking families and will take us back to the days when workers faced the often-impossible challenge of saving for their golden years.

“Americans deserve a secure retirement, yet half of workers do not have access to a retirement plan at work,” said Congressman Ellison. “That is why the federal government should fill a gap in the market and provide a free, accessible retirement plan that enables people to start investing. The myRA program has been a success, which is why we need the Administration to continue it.”

One out of every two Americans going to work today does not have access to a retirement plan at work, and nearly two-thirds of workers earning less than $35,000 a year are not saving any money for retirement.

Crowley and Ellison are the authors of the Making Your Retirement Accessible Act (myRA Act), legislation that would codify into law the myRA program. Established in 2014 by the Obama Administration, the myRA program addresses key barriers to saving, including the inability to meet minimum contributions, concerns about fees and fluctuations in the market, worry over not being able to tap into funds in an emergency, and not having access to an employer-sponsored savings plan. The program allows a worker to open an account with as little as $1, and gives them the ability to make automatic payments every pay period. The funds invested go solely into U.S. savings bonds, ensuring these accounts remain stable, not at risk in the market. Further, the accounts do not have any associated maintenance charges or fees, which means every dollar that is invested will be returned, plus interest, to the account holder.

Crowley first called for making the myRA program permanent in his Building Better Savings, Building Brighter Futures plan to address the savings and retirement security crisis in the United States.

GOP LOSES LATEST ACA REPEAL ATTEMPT: Republicans lost the most recent attempt to kill former Democratic President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act by a single vote in the Senate, but the despair among the GOP, from Washington and throughout the U.S., was like “game’s over, we blew it,” and the hatred for the ex-president goes on and on.

Problem is, for some Republicans, their dislike of Obama and his 8-year-tenure is so great that every attempt they have to even the score against him, vote by vote, is a monumental defeat for them when they fail. Instead of just experiencing a political setback, they seemingly are suffering another personal defeat.

In this case, where the battle directly affects every American, many of whom will be confronted with urgent health experiences in their lifetime, we would hope there would be more compassion in judging the outcome. And while we may be judging the Republicans somewhat harshly in this instance, the shoe is on the Democrats foot some other times in other columns.

CHAIRMAN CROWLEY APPLAUDS SENATE REPUBLICANS’ HEALTH CARE VOTE: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-NY) issued the following statement after Senate Republicans had voted to move forward with legislation that would undermine health care coverage for millions of Americans, before it was ultimately rejected by Senator John McCain’s (R-AZ) decisive vote:

“Congressional Republicans have sought for years to undo the protections and support Americans receive under the Affordable Care Act. Today, they are one step closer to destabilizing health care in our country. I’m dismayed that instead of responding to the overwhelming voices of their constituents who urged them to vote against a repeal, 50 Republicans opted to allow the Senate to move forward and vote on legislation that would strip millions of their access to affordable care. What’s worse, they don’t even know which version of the bill they’re voting on.

“Americans are watching, and Democrats will not back down in our efforts to protect them. I urge all Americans to continue to make their voices heard as the Senate now considers the actual legislation that would kick millions off of their health insurance, punish Americans with pre-existing conditions, cut billions from the Medicaid program, and impose a crippling tax on seniors.

CROWLEY APPLAUDS HOUSE VOTE ON RUSSIAN SANCTIONS BILL: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-NY) issued the following statement after the House approved legislation curtailing President Trump’s ability to weaken congressional sanctions against Russia:

“Vladimir Putin’s interference in our 2016 elections was a blatant attempt to undermine and weaken American democracy – threats that have been met with disregard from the Trump administration. I’m glad my colleagues in the House voted to impose stronger sanctions on the Russian government and make it harder for the White House to lift existing sanctions. House Republicans should have moved on this long ago, as this is an important step forward to ensure that Russian leaders will face consequences for their actions.

“This vote will hopefully also allow Congress to get back to work for the American people. The numerous scandals emanating from the Trump White House on Russia are a distraction that has kept Congress from focusing on the issues Americans want to see.”

CROWLEY STATES REPUBLICANS SIDE WITH BIG BANKS OVER CONSUMERS: House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley (D-NY) issued this statement after House Republicans voted to roll back critical consumer protections that shield working families from fraud, deceptive practices, and other wrongdoing by big banks and lenders:

“Today, Republicans had a clear choice: stand on the side of American consumers, or protect the big banks who brought our economy to the brink of disaster. Unfortunately, they opted to protect Wall Street and special interests over hardworking American families. House Republicans’ insistence on making it harder for consumers to seek recourse when harmed by big banks and lenders shows just how fervently Republicans are seizing on every opportunity to support the super-rich at the expense of the rest of us. In contrast, Democrats are fighting every day to give Americans a better deal by creating well-paying jobs, bolstering the middle class, and fighting for a brighter future for all Americans. I hope my colleagues in the Senate will employ common sense and maintain these critical consumer protections that stop deceptive and predatory financial practices.”

SENATOR GIANARIS ON JOE LHOTA’S MTA PLAN: “As every New Yorker already knows, the problems identified by Joe Lhota are real, but what’s lacking are real solutions from the state. My ‘Better Trains, Better Cities’ plan would raise the funds necessary for the MTA to conduct critical repairs and maintenance. The MTA has been neglected and underfunded for too long. It’s past time for the state to step up.”

ASSEMBLYWOMAN MALLIOTAKIS ON MTA’S SUBWAY ACTION PLAN: Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis stated: “The New York City Subway Action Plan, announced today (July 26) by MTA Chair Joe Lhota, is a comprehensive first step in the effort to put our subway system back on track. Governor Cuomo and Chairman Lhota have shown leadership and have taken positive action, unlike Mayor de Blasio, who has done nothing except gripe to the media and hold photo-ops on the subway as he plays the blame game while New York straphangers suffer.

“I will extend a hand to Governor Cuomo and work in partnership to fix the system to increase capacity, improve reliability and accommodate population and economic growth.” Republican Malliotakis announced her bid for the office of Mayor last April.

ADDABBO ANNOUNCES STATE PAID FAMILY LEAVE PROGRAM: NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. announced on July 25 that New York state has recently adopted regulations to implement the state’s landmark Paid Family Leave program. Senator Addabbo was a prime sponsor of Senate legislation on the issue and one of the leading advocates for the program in Albany. The new regulations will outline the responsibilities of employers and insurance carriers in implementing one of the most comprehensive Paid Family Leave programs in the nation.

Beginning January 1, 2018, Paid Family Leave will provide employees with wage replacement and job protection to help them bond with a child, care for a close relative with a serious health condition, or help relieve family pressures when someone is deployed abroad on active military service. Employees are also entitled to be reinstated to their jobs when their leave ends and to the continuation of their health insurance during their leave.

“At times, it is important to be there for a loved one in need,” Addabbo said. “This new state program will allow increased flexibility for those employees who suddenly find themselves dealing with vitally important family matters, while not financially affecting their employers. That is why I have found it so important, over many years, to ensure that New York State enacts and implements one of the strongest Paid Family Leave programs in the entire country.”

Addabbo (D-Ozone Park) added, “Private employers must secure Paid Family Leave insurance coverage or self-insure in time to provide coverage on January 1, 2018. Paid Family Leave premiums will be funded by employees through payroll deductions.

Regulations address eligibility, coverage, the phase-in schedule for Paid Family Leave, and more information on how employees, employers and insurance carriers will interact to pay benefits. To find out more, visit the Paid Family Leave website at www.ny.gov/paidfamilyleave or call the Paid Family Leave helpline at (844) 337-6303 with any questions.

VALLONE ANNOUNCES HISTORIC LAND PURCHASE BY BAY TERRACE COOPERATIVE: Councilman Paul Vallone has announced that the Bay Terrace Cooperative Section 1 has purchased from Cord Meyer the 10 acres of land on which its buildings are situated, on July 24. This marks the end of a 60-year land lease held by Cord Meyer Development. By the end of 2018, all leaseholders in all the Bay Terrace Cooperative Sections will own their land as Cord Meyer works with them to finalize these purchases. Prior to Councilman Vallone taking office, this major issue facing seniors and the over 1,800 families that live in Bay Terrace had remained neglected and unresolved. Vallone brought Cord Meyer and all the Bay Terrace Section presidents together to finally tackle this problem. Monday’s announcement “represents the success of once again working with all interested parties to achieve a monumental community victory,” Vallone (D-Astoria) noted.

Vallone continued, stating that in the City of New York, the purchase of expiring land leases is exceedingly rare, and these purchases by the Bay Terrace Cooperative Sections are a historic win for the families and shareholders of Bay Terrace. These shareholders will receive an enormous benefit as a result of owning their own land. Their apartments will rise in value significantly, and they will be easier to sell without the many issues that are created by an existing land lease. It will also make it easier for buyers to receive a mortgage from financial institutions who are no longer hesitant and encumbered by the rules and regulations a land lease holds. The co-op board will also now have much greater freedom in performing improvement projects and other construction for the benefit of the shareholders, Vallone pointed out.

“This is a historic land purchase, not just in Northeast Queens but the whole city. Once all the other sections have finalized their land purchases, the over 1,800 families of Bay Terrace will have complete control of their destiny and future for the first time,” said Vallone. “As some of the only true affordable housing that exists in my district, the Bay Terrace co-ops will continue to thrive as they become more attractive to buyers and provide greater financial security to their current shareholders.

“The land purchase represents a major milestone in the history of Bay Terrace Cooperative Section I that will benefit both current shareholders and future generations of shareholders to come,” said Warren Schreiber, President of the Bay Terrace Cooperative Section I. “This would not have been possible without the involvement of Council Member Paul Vallone, who brought everyone to the table, which was instrumental in finalizing an agreement.”

“Since I started in Cord Meyer in 1983, we have been working with the leaseholders in all nine Bay Terrace sections,” said Anthony J. Colletti, Chief Operating Officer of Cord Meyer Development Company. “It wasn’t until Council Member Vallone put us all in a room together that we finally got it done.”

PERALTA OPPOSES SMALL HOTEL IN JACKSON HEIGHTS: In response to media reports indicating that a developer plans to build a 22-unit hotel at 37-38 73rd Avenue in Jackson Heights, NYS Senator Jose Peralta issued the following statement:

“Plans to construct a hotel on a small lot located in a very congested area of Jackson Heights has one too many unanswered questions, especially since the developer is describing the project as a residential hotel. Since the area already has limited public services available, bringing more people into the community will put an extra burden on these limited resources. It is my hope the developer seeks input from the community board and community based organizations to study if a seven-story, 22-unit hotel in this overcrowded area is needed. What impact will this hotel have on the quality of life of the neighbors and the neighborhood? What about extra garbage pickups once it opens its doors? Are there going to be extra cleaning services on the streets in the area? How is it going to affect traffic? Clearly, there are a lot of questions that need an answer.”

ADDABBO PRAISES FERRY SERVICE:

“Since its launch on May 1, the NYC Ferry has served thousands of New York City residents providing them affordable, reliable transit between Rockaway Beach to ‘The Big Apple,’” said NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. “I think it is a true testament to transportation alternatives citywide, now in just three months, the Rockaway ferry has already served 221,000 passengers. This successful mode of transportation will have a direct economic benefit to the Rockaway peninsula.”

CROWLEY, MALONEY BLAST TRUMP’S BAN ON TRANSGENDER PEOPLE IN MILITARY: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-NY) issued the following statement after President Donald Trump said on July 26 that his administration will institute a ban on transgender individuals from serving in the military “in any capacity”:

“This is an extremely offensive decision by the Trump administration. Capable, motivated, and talented Americans who want to serve their country should be welcomed into our military as patriots – not shunned because of who they are. President Trump and his administration should be ashamed. This decision is even more disgusting given that the Trump administration has indicated this ban was put in place for purely political reasons. Our military is made stronger when adept men and women, including the courageous transgender individuals who want to serve, are able to contribute to our national security and safety.

“This is a sad day, but par for the course from an administration focused on advancing divisive and hateful politics rather than focusing on issues that truly benefit all Americans. I will continue to do everything within my power to ensure that any brave individual who wants to serve their country has the opportunity to do so free from the threat of discrimination and hate.”

In response to President Trump’s announcement Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY- 12), member of the LGBT Equality Caucus, also released a statement:

“The President’s announcement that he will ban all transgender Americans from serving in this country’s armed forces is blatant discrimination and, frankly, un-American.

“This egregious action is a cruel affront to thousands of transgender personnel currently serving in our nation’s military. To top it off, the White House has declared this week to be American Heroes Week, yet with this decision, the President has disrespected countless veterans and current service members.”

CROWLEY: HOUSE FORCED THROUGH FUNDING FOR TRUMP’S BORDER WALL: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley issued the following statement after the House approved a spending package that includes funds for an “immoral and ineffective border wall:”

“A wall along the U.S.-Mexican border will not make the United States safer nor more secure. It is a massive waste of taxpayer money and will exacerbate problems with our already broken immigration system. There is no one more dedicated to our national security or ensuring that the men and women serving in uniform have the resources they need to keep our country safe, but this bill doesn’t accomplish that and I cannot support it.”

MENG DECLARES DEFIANT ‘NO’ TO BORDER WALL FUNDING: U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), a first-term member of the House Appropriations Committee, voted against the “minibus,” a package of four appropriations bills that included Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies; Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies; Defense; and Legislative Branch Appropriations bills.

Meng declared defiantly: “H.R. 3219, the so-called ‘security minibus,’ far from keeping us secure, abandons our morals and priorities. Not only will it waste $1.6 billion on a senseless border wall, funding that could instead be used for other programs such as Meals on Wheels or LIHEAP that millions of Americans count on, it will devastate investments in clean energy, hinder pollution prevention efforts, and ultimately trigger spending cuts across government agencies that will deeply hurt American families. The American people expect and deserve responsible and principled spending legislation, and this minibus does not fit the bill. I could not in good conscience support it.”

MENG, GILLIBRAND BILL TO IMPROVE CHILDCARE SERVICES FOR MILITARY PASSES HOUSE: U.S. Representative Grace Meng (D-NY) and U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Tom Cotton (R-AR) announced that the House has passed their legislation to improve childcare services for military families.

The measure passed the House and Senate as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the annual legislation that sets funding levels and policies for the U.S. Department of Defense. Gillibrand introduced the original Senate provision with Cotton to give military families with children better support and more flexibility when they use child care facilities on military installations or seek child care from community providers. The House passed the bill on July 14 and the Senate is expected to take up the measure soon. The Meng companion provision would enhance the hours of operation for Department of Defense childcare development centers, and establish childcare coordinators for military installations.

“Those who serve our nation must be afforded the resources they need to care for their families and that includes important child care services,” said Meng. “Our provision would ensure that members of the military have access to the flexible child care options they need and I applaud my colleagues in the House for approving it. I look forward to our measure now being passed by the Senate.”

“Our military families sacrifice an enormous amount for our country, but their unique needs are not being met by our military’s current approach to child care,” said Gillibrand, the Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee. “This bipartisan provision would help boost our military’s readiness and retention by making sure our military families have access to child care that actually meets their needs. I am urging my Senate colleagues to maintain this provision in the NDAA, to make sure our extraordinary military families always have the resources and support they need and deserve.”

“I’m very pleased to see our child care provision was included in the House NDAA bill. We’re one step closer to giving military families the support they deserve,” said Senator Cotton.

Also included in the House-passed version of the NDAA were two other amendments sponsored by Meng that seek to improve the lives of women in the military. The provisions would:

1) Require the Secretary of Defense, as recommended by the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, to issue a single guideline for pregnant service members that outlines decisions, actions, and requirements relating to pregnancy, the postpartum period, and parenthood.

2) Require the Secretary of Defense, as recommended by the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, to review the design, material, sizing, price, availability, quality, and utility of maternity uniforms for pregnant members of the military.

POE, MALONEY MOVE TO IMPROVE HOSPITAL TREATMENT OF RAPE VICTIMS: Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney joined Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) this week to introduce H.R. 3415, the bipartisan Megan Rondini Act, to require that hospitals have a Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE) available at all times or have a plan in place to transport patients to a nearby hospital with an available SAFE. The bill is named in honor of Megan Rondini, a rape survivor who committed suicide after feeling failed by investigators, the University of Alabama, and the hospital where she was treated.

“No rape survivor should ever feel so let down and abandoned by the very people charged with assisting survivors that the only way out seems to be suicide,” said Maloney. “Rape victims have a right to proper care and need to know that the individuals gathering evidence and testing their rape kits are well-trained. Megan’s story is tragic, and unfortunately not one-of-a-kind, and we need to do better.”

CROWLEY ON 52ND ANNIVERSARY OF MEDICARE AND MEDICAID: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-NY) issued the following statement on the 52nd anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid:

“For 52 years, Medicare and Medicaid have been more than just a safety net – they have provided a lifeline to millions of Americans. With Medicare and Medicaid, the United States made a promise to take care of those who need health care the most – a promise Democrats are fighting each day to see fulfilled. Today, as we celebrate these vital programs, we renew our commitment to oppose any harmful legislation attacking our country’s most vulnerable.”

GIANARIS CALLS TO END CASH BAIL FOLLOWING HERNANDEZ CASE: NYS Senator Michael Gianaris on July 31 reissued his call for an end to monetary bail and for the passage of his legislation that would reform pretrial detention in New York by eliminating bail. The bill would remove any form of monetary bail as an option for a judge to impose on a defendant pending trial. Instead, judges would have three alternatives to bail: release on recognizance (which would be presumed in misdemeanor cases), conditional release with pretrial monitoring, or remand to a correctional facility in the most extreme cases.

Senator Gianaris’s call comes on the heels of the case against Pedro Hernandez, who “remained behind bars awaiting trial for over a year on $250,000 bail for crimes he likely did not commit. Pedro was arrested in connection with a 2015 shooting in the Bronx and was charged with criminal possession of a weapon and firearm, reckless endangerment and assault. Eight witnesses, including the victim, have come forward to state that Pedro was not the perpetrator. Pedro maintained his innocence throughout this process, including by rejecting a plea offer that would have kept him out of jail, in exchange for a guilty plea.”

Yesterday, Pedro Hernandez was finally released from Rikers Island after his bail was paid for by the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization. His trial is set for September 6.

Gianaris said, ”Pedro Hernandez is the latest example of a system that discriminates on the basis of wealth. New York cannot be a truly progressive state while men and women await trial on Rikers Island only because they cannot afford to purchase their freedom. The best solution is to scrap the bail system and start over.”

It is estimated that the cost of pretrial detention in New York exceeds $1 billion annually, which means the enactment of Senator Gianaris’ proposal would result in significant taxpayer savings.

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