USWCC Weekly: Washington Rep, Seed Federal Credit Union, The Budget, Fair Pay, Equal Pay
USWCC Weekly: 11/23/15
As we turn our attention to family and friends during this Thanksgiving week, we want to say thank you to all of our members and those who have supported us during the years. Please know that this week for us is no different than any other, as we continue our vital work on behalf of women and small businesses. Please take a moment to read this important update.
Margot Dorfman, CEO – U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce
USWCC Hires New Washington Representative
On behalf of the members of USWCC, we have signed a contract with a new lobbyist to represent the interests of women-owned businesses on Capitol Hill, with the White House, and at federal agencies. Janet Kopenhaver, President of Eye on Washington, will be responsible for managing our DC program to enhance USWCC’s visibility, as well as respond to opportunities for us to have our voices and concerns heard. She also will be initiating a proactive grassroots advocacy website and campaign to assist us achieve our legislative goals. Stay tuned for its launch later this year.
Janet Kopenhaver has over twenty-five years of experience in the public policy and government relations field. She founded her consulting firm – Eye on Washington – in 1997, and has worked on a multitude of issues including women’s issues, healthcare, labor, international trade, the environment, and energy.
Throughout her career, she has developed numerous contacts both on Capitol Hill and in US Federal government agencies, including the US departments of Labor, Commerce, Agriculture and State, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Office of the US Trade Representative. Among her many areas of expertise are lobbying of both legislators and Administration officials; grassroots development and management; arranging and preparing attendees for meetings with Members of Congress and Administration officials; drafting newsletters, background papers, action alerts, and other materials; monitoring and analyzing legislative and regulatory developments; and writing public policy releases and correspondence.
USWCC Announces Game Changer for Women – Establishes Seed Federal Credit Union™
Last week, the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce announced the association is establishing a national federal credit union to provide access to capital, ensure fair lending practices and deliver low cost business and savings solutions to members all across the United States. The USWCC has stepped up end the decades old issue of discrimination of women and lending, by putting women in the driver’s seat to control and operate our own national financial institution.
“The U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce Seed Federal Credit Union empowers us to leverage the economic strength of women, government and private sector grant opportunities to provide affordable loans for businesses, teach women to be more astute with the capitalization of their businesses and develop our own savings and loan products specifically tailored to the needs of women and business owners,” states U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce CEO Margot Dorfman.
Special Report: The Budget Deal - the Specifics
by Janet Kopenhaver, USWCC | Washington Representative
Congress passed a budget deal to suspend sequestration for two years, provide increases to military and domestic spending, and avoid the United States from defaulting on its financial obligations by lifting the $18.6 trillion debt ceiling. The most pressing concern in the negotiations was the debt limit issue because the U.S. was scheduled to hit the limit on November 3, 2015. In 2011, a similar scenario occurred and the result was the enactment of the sequestration caps. If the United States had faulted on its obligations, the fallout could have resulted in a total breakdown of our financial systems and our inability to pay our nation’s bills. The House passed the bill by a vote of 266-167; the Senate by a vote of 64-35.
The agreement basically ends the contentious budget battles between congressional Republicans and President Obama by pushing the next round of fiscal decision-making past the 2016 election when there will be a new Congress and a new President. However, Congress still has to pass appropriations bills before December 11, 2015 to actually distribute the funds among the many federal agencies. It is anticipated that they will pass another omnibus appropriations bill and not twelve separate measures.
Specifically the budget deal lifted the sequestration caps by including an $80 billion increase in defense and non-defense spending over the next two years. The increase was offset by an equal amount of mandatory spending cuts and increased revenue, including making changes to Medicare and Social Security programs, auctioning off wireless spectrum controlled by the government, selling crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and tightening tax rules for business partnerships.
The legislation also fixed a serious problem for Medicare Part B recipients by protecting them from a sharp increase in premiums. These recipients were poised to see a 52 percent rise in premiums starting next year due to a lack of inflation. Under the “hold harmless” provision of the Social Security Act, the dollar increase in Medicare Part B premiums is limited to the dollar increase in an individual’s Social Security benefit. Without a 2016 cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for Social Security benefits, about 70 percent of beneficiaries are held harmless from any increase in their Medicare Part B premiums so the premiums will remain stable at $104.90 per month for most beneficiaries.
However, the remaining 30 percent of Part B beneficiaries who are not held harmless, including federal retirees who do not receive Social Security benefits, were on track to shoulder the full cost of the 2016 premium increase. As projected by the Medicare Trustees, these individuals would have seen their premiums rise 52 percent, from $104.90 to $159.30 per month. If the hold harmless provision did not exist, all beneficiaries would see a much smaller increase of 15 percent, to $120.70 per month.
Per the budget agreement, the standard Medicare Part B premium baseline is projected to be $120.70 per month for 2016, meaning premiums will remain at $104.90 in 2016. For most beneficiaries who are not held harmless, premiums will rise to $120.70, plus a surcharge.
Finally, the agreement will prevent a potential 20 percent across-the-board cut to Social Security Disability Insurance benefits scheduled to take place next year by transferring resources from the main Social Security fund and making changes to the program. The cost-saving revision includes allowing some recipients who can still work to receive partial payments while earning outside income and expanding a program requiring a medical expert to weigh in on whether an applicant is legitimately disabled.
USWCC Signs Coalition Letter Against Weaker Fair Pay Bill
USWCC signed a women’s coalition letter urging Senators not to support the “Workplace Advancement Act” (S. 2200) - a much weaker fair pay bill than the Paycheck Fairness bill. This inadequate bill suggests that there is just one solution to address the gender pay gap: a very weak non-retaliatory provision that is so narrowly drawn it would do more harm than good. In addition, the bill includes a sense of the Congress that recommits to the legal principles previously passed in the Equal Pay Act of 1963, a law that no longer has the teeth necessary to make meaningful strides in closing the gender pay gap.
The letter urged Senators instead to support the Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 862) which thoroughly addresses non-retaliation protections while making a host of other overdue revisions to the Equal Pay Act of 1963. The gender pay gap is a real problem that deserves a comprehensive solution.
Equal Pay Resolution for Soccer Athletes Blocked
Senate Republicans blocked a resolution authored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) calling on the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) to eliminate gender discrimination between male and female athletes. Leahy first introduced the resolution in July after the United States women’s soccer team was awarded just $2 million after beating Japan in the Women’s World Cup championship. By comparison, the 2014 Men’s World Cup winner, Germany, was awarded $35 million for its win over Argentina. Leahy’s measure calls for FIFA to end its discriminatory prize structure and provide equal awards for male and female athletes.
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