Letter to the Senate urging them to include funding for the priorities in the stimulus bill markup this week
July 21, 2008
On behalf of the National Education Association's (NEA) 3.2 million members, we urge you to include funding for the following priorities in the supplemental appropriations economic stimulus bill scheduled for mark-up this week:
- The Public School Renovation and Repair Act (S. 1942), which would support the repair, renovation, and building of thousands of public schools, while leaving decision making about the schools at the local level. Funding for S.1942 will generate thousands of jobs in the construction industry, and among the many suppliers, ranging from architects and engineers to roofing contractors and other workers, who design and build our nation's schools.
- The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act. This program, which has expired, provided a guaranteed payment to rural, timber-dependent counties. Failure to reauthorize and fund it immediately will be devastating for many rural counties. In fact, impacted counties have already sent out layoff notices to school staff and other public service employees. In addition, many have closed libraries, curtailed sheriff patrols, released prisoners from jails, ceased search and rescue operations, eliminated mental health care services, and several are considering declaring bankruptcy and giving up their county status.
- Increased Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentages (FMAP). During the last economic downturn, the Federal Government temporarily increased federal Medicaid payments to states. This prevented extensive reductions in healthcare for poor children, the disabled, pregnant women, and the elderly who depend on Medicaid. If the current economic downturn continues, states will again be forced to deny Medicaid coverage and/or reduce payments to providers unless relief is provided. According to a 2005 study, every $1 million of funds invested in Medicaid generates 33 new jobs and $1.23 million in new wages annually.
- General State Fiscal Relief. In addition to increasing FMAP, Congress also needs to provide general state fiscal relief. As our nation faces a possible recession, state fiscal conditions are deteriorating. At least 29 states plus the District of Columbia, including several of the nation's largest states, faced or are facing an estimated $48 billion in combined shortfalls in their budgets for fiscal year 2009. States facing such significant shortfalls are likely to institute hefty cuts in education, health care, education, and other priorities.
- Repeal of Social Security Offsets. The Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision unfairly reduce or eliminate Social Security benefits for hundreds of thousands of retirees across the country. Addressing these offsets will provide immediate relief for retirees and will enable them to spend more money in their local economies.
We thank you for your attention to these important issues.
Diane Shust, Director of Government Relations
Randall Moody, Manager of Federal Advocacy