Leslie Sipers is an Advocacy Specialist for AARP Massachusetts
It’s been a busy fall so far at the State House and AARP Massachusetts has been equally busy advocating for you on the federal, state and local level. Here’s a quick update on the work that that has been done this week.
House Passes $94M Budget Bill; Tacks on $20M for for Low-Income Heating
On Wednesday, House lawmakers unanimously passed a $94.6 million spending bill—officially closing the books on fiscal year 2013—after adding $20 million to fund low-income heating assistance (LIHEAP). The State House New Service reports that Chairman Brian Dempsey of the House Ways and Means Committee said that the money for heating assistance was necessary to help families who cannot depend on the federal government to come through within the next few weeks. This spending bill came one day before the federal government came to a resolution to reopen the federal government.
According to Representative Shelia Harrington of Groton, more than 200,000 Bay State families rely on heating assistance. Harrington filed one of three amendments to authorize the state to fill the immediate need for low-income heating assistance before the Nov. 1 program start date. “We hope to be reimbursed but we don’t have the luxury of waiting,” Harrington said, according to the State House News Service.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo said that the Legislature would usually wait until after the New Year to supplement the federal LIHEAP program with state money, however he felt that the state could not risk further federal delays to funding the program.
October 16th Shutdown Resolution and Debt Ceiling Agreements
The federal government hung an “Open” sign on the door this week, after Democrats and Republicans in Congress finally came to a budget resolution. President Obama signed a measure on October 17th that reopened the federal government and preempted a default. “For now, Social Security and Medicare are protected,” said David Certner, AARP legislative policy director, in a statement to the AARP Bulletin.
AARP is pleased that the President and Congress temporarily averted an economic crisis that threatened our members’ access to Social Security and Medicare, but we are deeply concerned that harmful cuts to these vital programs are on the table for a new round of budget negotiations. Certner stated that “the deal calls for further negotiation, and some want Social Security and Medicare cuts to be on the table in the next round.”
Already there are reports that some lawmakers want to trade cuts to Medicare and Social Security benefits to pay for other government spending. Others are calling for cuts to these vital programs to reduce the deficit. The American people, on the other hand, across all ages and party lines, are strongly opposed to cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Across party lines, a large majority of 50+ voters (84%) oppose reducing Social Security benefits in order to reduce the deficit. In fact, 73% of 50+ voters strongly oppose this, according to AARP.
Take Our AARP Survey: Congress made a short-term deal to temporarily extend government funding and delay the debt ceiling deadline to early next year – buying some time to negotiate a new budget deal. We want to know what you think. After all the debt ceiling drama, please take our 1-question survey and tell us how confident you are that members of Congress will reject efforts to cut your hard-earned benefits?
Enjoy the wonderful autumn weekend!
Leslie Siphers is the Advocacy Specialist for AARP Massachusetts.