June 16, 2009 - Volume VI Edition VIII

Jun 16, 2009
June 16, 2009 - Volume VI Edition VIII To E-Newsletter Archives
 

Dear Neighbor,

It's
been a busy two weeks. Much has happened in Congress since my last
E-newsletter which celebrated the signing of my credit card reform bill
by President Obama (seen in the photo below right):

--My
legislation that would provide federal employees with four weeks of
paid parental leave after the birth or adoption of a child passed the
U.S. House of Representatives by a margin of 258-154.

--The
Joint Economic Committee, which I chair, issued a report on the impact
the recession is having on working women; and also heard tesimony-- in
seperate hearings-- from Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke, Obama
Council of Economic Advisers Chair Christina Romer, and Congressional
Oversight Panel Chair Elizabeth Warren.

--I joined
with House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank and Financial
Institutions Subcoimmittee Chair Luis Gutierrez in calling on the
Federal Reserve to more effectively curb overdraft abuses at the
nation's banks.

Those and other items of interest are explained below.

This
week, President Obama will be releasing a plan to restructure financial
services regulation and Congress will begin to roll out health care
reform proposals-- more on those in upcoming enewsletters.

I
must note with sadness the passing of journalist Lambros Papantoniou in
late May. As a journalist covering issues important to the Hellenic
community for over 20 years, Mr. Papantoniou was a prominent voice in
Washington, D.C. His journalism was characterized by integrity and
tenacity, and he was relentless in his quest for the truth from
government officials on their positions on FYROM, Cyprus, the
Ecumenical Patriarchate, and other issues of great importance to the
Hellenic community. His presence will be sorely missed by those who
have come to know and work with him over the years. Our sincerest
condolences go out to his family and friends.

In this E-Newsletter:

Maloney's paid parental leave bill passes House

Last
week, the House showed it doesn’t just talk about family values—it
values families by passing my bill, H.R. 626, the Federal Employees
Paid Parental Leave Act, which would provide four weeks of paid
parental leave for federal employees with a newborn, newly-adopted, or
a new foster child.

The majority of the private sector--
including 75 of the Fortune 100- have some form of paid parental leave
in place-- as do 168 other nations. My bill sets in place policies that
invest in employees and their children.

Federal
employees currently receive no paid time off specifically to care for
an infant or newly adopted child. If they have a new child and want
paid time off, they have to cobble together accrued sick days and
vacation time.

Some say that we shouldn't be spending
federal dollars in this way, but as more and more families are relying
on just one paycheck in these times, I believe we can’t afford NOT to
help them.

It’s just unacceptable that right now the
U.S. is the only industrialized country that does not provide support
for federal workers with a new child-- we are now tied with Lesotho,
Liberia, Papua New Guinea, and Swaziland in this area. The bill will
now go to the Senate, where Senator Jim Webb (VA) has introduced
companion legislation (S. 354).

For additional
information on “The Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act,”
including a comprehensive background memo on the legislation, please click here.

Maloney introduces Family and Medical Leave Inclusion Act

I
have re-introduced the “Family and Medical Leave Inclusion Act,” which
would amend the landmark 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act to permit
leave to care for a domestic partner, child of a domestic partner,
same-sex spouse, parent-in-law, adult child, sibling, or grandparent if
that person has a serious health condition.

Tens
of millions of American workers have been granted leave under the terms
of the original Family and Medical Leave Act; it’s become a system that
works. What FMLA did not do was recognize that there are all kinds of
families in America, and the law should keep up. Whether you need to
care for a child, a parent, a grandparent or an in-law, the ability to
help them through their crisis is the essence of family values.

The
Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender civil rights organization, praised the bill. “No one should
be forced to choose between their family and their paycheck. This bill
will fulfill the mission of the FMLA by protecting all working
families, and we urge Congress to pass this legislation swiftly,” said
Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign in a statement.

To read the full text of H.R. 2132, click here.

Maloney bill calls for Greece's inclusion in the State Department's Visa Waiver Program

Along
with Representative Gus M. Bilirakis (FL-09), I have reintroduced
legislation that would designate Greece as a program country in the
Visa Waiver Program.

The Visa Waiver
Program permits nationals from certain countries who are traveling to
the United States for tourism or business to stay for ninety days or
less without obtaining a visa. Currently, thirty-five countries are
included in the Visa Waiver Program. To participate, countries must
meet several criteria including reciprocal visa-free travel for U.S.
citizens, secure machine-readable biometric passports, and a less than
3% refusal rate of U.S. non-immigrant visitor visa applications.

Of
the original fifteen European Union nations, Greece is the only member
not to belong to the Visa Waiver Program. However, Greece has met the
current criteria mandated for entry into the Visa Waiver Program,
including the 3% refusal rate. Since January 1, 2007, Greek nationals
have been traveling with improved, machine-readable passports that are
produced using state-of-the-art biometric technology to meet the
highest possible security standards and specifications.

Greece’s
application to join the Visa Waiver Program has been pending since
September 2007 when Greece was formally nominated by the U.S. State
Department.

Greece is a crucial ally of the
United States; I believe that this legislation is an important reminder
of the congressional support for Greece’s entry into the Visa Waiver
Program.

Click here to view the bill’s complete text.

JEC report reveals recession’s devastating impact on working mothers

A
new report entitled, “Women in the Recession: Working Mothers Face High
Rates of Unemployment,” was released by the Joint Economic Committee of
Congress, which found that the increases in unemployment during this
recession have been especially steep for female heads of household –
mothers who are solely responsible for maintaining their families’
economic security.

Using unpublished and
newly released data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the JEC report
shows that, in particular, minority women have suffered some of the
worst effects of the current recession. The JEC report reveals that
families are relying more and more on women’s employment, but the trend
of rising job losses among women will put an even greater strain on
households struggling to make ends meet in this downturn.

The
recession is having a devastating impact on our nation’s most
vulnerable families. Nearly a million single moms are out of work and
their families are suffering. The fact that they are receiving pink
slips in greater numbers than in prior recessions has serious
implications for family economic well-being. Working mothers are having
a tough time sheltering their families from the current economic storm,
with women of color faring the worst. The recovery measures that are
starting to kick-in will help families in need, create or save jobs in
healthcare and education fields which are dominated by women, and
provide job training for displaced workers. We need to do all this and
more to help women and their families weather this downturn.

Highlights from the report include:

·
In 2008, seven out of ten mothers with children under 18 years old were
in the labor force. Over half of all mothers usually worked full time
last year.
· As of April 2009, nearly one million working-age female heads of household wanted a job but could not find one.
· One out of every ten women maintaining a family is unemployed, which
exceeds the highest rate (9.0 percent) experienced during the 2001
recession and the “jobless recovery” that followed.
· The ranks of female heads of household who are unemployed or
“marginally attached” to the labor force has grown across all
demographic groups, with women of color faring the worst. Black and
Hispanic women in this group are currently experiencing unemployment at
rates of 13.3 percent and 11.0 percent, respectively.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) will temper the
effects of the current recession for these families right now and over
time, according to the report. Extended unemployment benefits,
nutrition assistance programs, preserving Medicaid benefits and tax
cuts will bring immediate relief for these families. In addition, ARRA
invests in job creation in education, healthcare, and child care that
tend to disproportionately employ women. This will help to ensure that
female-headed households will not be left behind in the recovery.

Maloney calls for curb of bank overdraft abuses

Now
that the President has signed my credit card reform bill, I'm turning
to other areas of the financial services sector that are ripe for
consumer protections.

I have already
introduced HR 1456, Consumer Overdraft Protection Fair Practices Act,
and last month joined with fellow members of the Financial Services
Committee-- Reps Barney Frank (MA) and Luis Gutierrez (IL)-- in writing
the Federal Reserve and calling on them to strengthen its proposed
regulation of bank overdraft fees.

In our
letter to Federal Reserve Chair Ben S. Bernanke we said, “Overdraft
fees… often take consumers completely by surprise… and {are} usually
vastly disproportionate to the amount of the overdraft itself. It is
only fair, then, that institutions be required to obtain consumers'
affirmative consent before enrolling them in fee-based overdraft
programs."

The Fed is on the right track
exploring overdraft reforms, but consumers simply shouldn’t be enrolled
in overdraft programs without their consent. Since Congress just
required an affirmative opt-in to over-the-limit fees in my credit card
reform law, regulations should similarly require an opt-in to overdraft
fees on checking accounts.

When overdraft
fees are $30 or more, a $5 treat at Starbucks becomes a $35 shock after
the overdraft fee is applied. And when multiple purchases in a day are
posted in a sequence that only benefits the bank—incurring multiple
fees—then something is broken in the system and must be fixed. Whenever
banks step over the line of reasonable business practices into abuse of
consumers’ trust and understanding, government needs to act.

A copy of the letter can be viewed here, and more information on overdraft reforms can be found on my website.

Maloney introduces two bills on vaccination safety

Rep. Chris Smith (NJ) and I have reintroduced legislation on vaccine
safety, that would improve the current system for vaccine safety
monitoring in this country (H.R. 2618) and ban the use of mercury in
vaccines (H.R. 2617).

Currently, the CDC has
responsibility for both vaccine safety and promotion, which I believe
is an inherent conflict of interest increasingly garnering public
criticism. H.R. 2618, "The Vaccines Safety and Public Confidence
Assurance Act'" would give responsibility for the nation’s vaccine
safety to an independent agency within the Department of Health and
Human Services.

Specifically, the Vaccine
Safety and Public Confidence Assurance Act would create and equip an
independent office to address, investigate, and head off potential
vaccine safety problems – like the use of mercury in vaccines – in an
objective and non-conflicted office whose sole purpose is vaccine
safety and evaluation. Additionally, it provides $80 million in funding
to conduct vaccine safety research and analysis.

Vaccines
have made a tremendous positive impact on public health but when the
government requires them, it must also ensure they are safe. We need
adequate, unbiased research on vaccines, and H.R. 2618 would deliver
that.

The other bill, H.R. 2617, puts in
statute definite timelines for the elimination of mercury from
vaccines. Given the increasing concerns about mercury exposures and our
ability to eliminate this particular exposure, this bill completes
actions begun several years ago to ban mercury from vaccines, building
on the policy recommendations issued in July 1999 by the Public Health
Service, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy
of Family Physicians. That policy proclaimed ‘‘[The] Public Health
Service, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and vaccine manufacturers
agree that thimerosal-containing vaccines should be removed as soon as
possible.” Yet, ten years later thimerosal remains in some childhood
vaccines as well as vaccines administered to women during pregnancy.
H.R. 2617 puts the force of law behind those recommendations.

To view H.R. 2618 click here, and for H.R. 2617, click here.

 

Please feel free to share this email with anyone who may be interested
in these issues.  As always, I appreciate your comments and invite you
to write to me through my website.

Sincerely,

CAROLYN B. MALONEY
Member of Congress

P.S. Please do not respond to this unattended email account, but instead click here if you would like to send me a message. I look forward to hearing from you!

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