Ten states, however, have adopted their own laws that specify which patients, based on their income and family size, qualify for free or discounted care. Among them is Washington, where Providence is based. All hospitals in the state must provide free care for anyone who makes under 300 percent of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, that threshold is $83,250 a year.

In February, Bob Ferguson, the state’s attorney general, accused Providence of violating state law, in part by using debt collectors to pursue more than 55,000 patient accounts. The suit alleged that Providence wrongly claimed those patients owed a total of more than $73 million.

Providence, which is fighting the lawsuit, has said it will stop using debt collectors to pursue money from low-income patients who should qualify for free care in Washington.

But The Times found that the problems extend beyond Washington. In interviews, patients in California and Oregon who qualified for free care said they had been charged thousands of dollars and then harassed by collection agents. Many saw their credit scores ruined. Others had to cut back on groceries to pay what Providence claimed they owed. In both states, nonprofit hospitals are required by law to provide low-income patients with free or discounted care.

“I felt a little betrayed,” said Bev Kolpin, 57, who had worked as a sonogram technician at a Providence hospital in Oregon. Then she went on unpaid leave to have surgery to remove a cyst. The hospital billed her $8,000 even though she was eligible for discounted care, she said. “I had worked for them and given them so much, and they didn’t give me anything.” (The hospital forgave her debt only after a lawyer contacted Providence on Ms. Kolpin’s behalf.)

was a single room with four beds. The hospital charged patients $1 a day, not including extras like whiskey.

Patients rarely paid in cash, sometimes offering chickens, ducks and blankets in exchange for care.

At the time, hospitals in the United States were set up to do what Providence did — provide inexpensive care to the poor. Wealthier people usually hired doctors to treat them at home.

wrote to the Senate in 2005.

Some hospital executives have embraced the comparison to for-profit companies. Dr. Rod Hochman, Providence’s chief executive, told an industry publication in 2021 that “‘nonprofit health care’ is a misnomer.”

“It is tax-exempt health care,” he said. “It still makes profits.”

Those profits, he added, support the hospital’s mission. “Every dollar we make is going to go right back into Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, Alaska and Montana.”

Since Dr. Hochman took over in 2013, Providence has become a financial powerhouse. Last year, it earned $1.2 billion in profits through investments. (So far this year, Providence has lost money.)

Providence also owes some of its wealth to its nonprofit status. In 2019, the latest year available, Providence received roughly $1.2 billion in federal, state and local tax breaks, according to the Lown Institute, a think tank that studies health care.

a speech by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures.”

Ms. Tizon, the spokeswoman for Providence, said the intent of Rev-Up was “not to target or pressure those in financial distress.” Instead, she said, “it aimed to provide patients with greater pricing transparency.”

“We recognize the tone of the training materials developed by McKinsey was not consistent with our values,” she said, adding that Providence modified the materials “to ensure we are communicating with each patient with compassion and respect.”

But employees who were responsible for collecting money from patients said the aggressive tactics went beyond the scripts provided by McKinsey. In some Providence collection departments, wall-mounted charts shaped like oversize thermometers tracked employees’ progress toward hitting their monthly collection goals, the current and former Providence employees said.

On Halloween at one of Providence’s hospitals, an employee dressed up as a wrestler named Rev-Up Ricky, according to the Washington lawsuit. Another costume featured a giant cardboard dollar sign with “How” printed on top of it, referring to the way the staff was supposed to ask patients how, not whether, they would pay. Ms. Tizon said such costumes were “not the culture we strive for.”

financial assistance policy, his low income qualified him for free care.

In early 2021, Mr. Aguirre said, he received a bill from Providence for $4,394.45. He told Providence that he could not afford to pay.

Providence sent his account to Harris & Harris, a debt collection company. Mr. Aguirre said that Harris & Harris employees had called him repeatedly for weeks and that the ordeal made him wary of going to Providence again.

“I try my best not to go to their emergency room even though my daughters have gotten sick, and I got sick,” Mr. Aguirre said, noting that one of his daughters needed a biopsy and that he had trouble breathing when he had Covid. “I have this big fear in me.”

That is the outcome that hospitals like Providence may be hoping for, said Dean A. Zerbe, who investigated nonprofit hospitals when he worked for the Senate Finance Committee under Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa.

“They just want to make sure that they never come back to that hospital and they tell all their friends never to go back to that hospital,” Mr. Zerbe said.

The Everett Daily Herald, Providence forgave her bill and refunded the payments she had made.

In June, she got another letter from Providence. This one asked her to donate money to the hospital: “No gift is too small to make a meaningful impact.”

In 2019, Vanessa Weller, a single mother who is a manager at a Wendy’s restaurant in Anchorage, went to Providence Alaska Medical Center, the state’s largest hospital.

She was 24 weeks pregnant and experiencing severe abdominal pains. “Let this just be cramps,” she recalled telling herself.

Ms. Weller was in labor. She gave birth via cesarean section to a boy who weighed barely a pound. She named him Isaiah. As she was lying in bed, pain radiating across her abdomen, she said, a hospital employee asked how she would like to pay. She replied that she had applied for Medicaid, which she hoped would cover the bill.

After five days in the hospital, Isaiah died.

Then Ms. Weller got caught up in Providence’s new, revenue-boosting policies.

The phone calls began about a month after she left the hospital. Ms. Weller remembers panicking when Providence employees told her what she owed: $125,000, or about four times her annual salary.

She said she had repeatedly told Providence that she was already stretched thin as a single mother with a toddler. Providence’s representatives asked if she could pay half the amount. On later calls, she said, she was offered a payment plan.

“It was like they were following some script,” she said. “Like robots.”

Later that year, a Providence executive questioned why Ms. Weller had a balance, given her low income, according to emails disclosed in Washington’s litigation with Providence. A colleague replied that her debts previously would have been forgiven but that Providence’s new policy meant that “balances after Medicaid are being excluded from presumptive charity process.”

Ms. Weller said she had to change her phone number to make the calls stop. Her credit score plummeted from a decent 650 to a lousy 400. She has not paid any of her bill.

Susan C. Beachy and Beena Raghavendran contributed research.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

A New California Law Could Raise Minimum Wages

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill that will give minimum wage workers more say in their pay and work conditions.

Fast food chain workers in one state could soon be making triple the federal minimum wage. And that shift might have national ripple effects for low-wage workers. 

It comes from a recently passed law in California that gives new power to workers across the fast-food industry to set standards on wages and working conditions.  

It’s a system that could start a new way for workers in other states to fight for a living wage, but restaurant owners, fast food companies and trade associations worry it could raise food prices in an economy suffering from inflation. 

So, where did this come from? And how will it affect the fast-food industry? 

California passed AB 257, also known as the FAST Recovery Act. It’s a law that Governor Gavin Newsom signed on Labor Day. 

“We recognize there are sectors of our economy where we’re falling a bit short and one of those areas is fast food workers. A bill that empowers our workers, particularly in that sector giving them more voice, giving them more choice, creating a new council, and I’m proud on Labor Day, to sign that bill and enshrine it in law,” said Newsom.  

It creates a fast food council system that will consist of workers, industry representatives, franchise owners and state officials. They’d work together to set labor standards for workers, including the minimum wage. 

We should note we don’t know yet what number they would land on for a minimum wage, and an increase may be gradual. But the law says it can be anything up to $22 an hour.

That number on its own could be groundbreaking. It would be a 40% pay hike from the state’s existing minimum wage of $15 per hour for most workers. And it covers more than half a million employees who work at restaurants with 100 or more locations.

California is the third-most expensive state in the U.S. to live in and has half of the top ten most expensive metro areas, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.  

Anneisha Williams, a single mother of six, is an employee at Jack In The Box. She’s fighting for $15 an hour.

“That will go to my bills because my rent has gone up. You know, they talk about how minimum wage is going up. We need it because the cost of living went up,” said Williams. 

Fast food workers in California, like Los Angeles have had it especially rough in the past few years. Her challenges have led her to join the Fight for 15 Movement advocating for a higher minimum wage. 

A study earlier this year by the UCLA Labor Center surveyed fast food workers in Los Angeles. It found that in addition to limited protections from COVID-19 infection, many workers faced threats of wage theft, lost hours and a lack of paid sick leave. 

“I did lose out on wages, you know, because I had to take off for school. And they don’t pay you for taking off. I don’t have sick time to take off for work, so I had no choice but to lose out on those wages for the time that I did so. It was two, on two occasions that I had to miss out for a couple of days out on work because of COVID,” said Williams. 

Nearly two-thirds of workers experienced wage theft, including a lack of reimbursements for supplies, late paychecks and limited breaks. And nearly a third of workers, including Anneisha, said they weren’t provided with paid sick time. 

“With this bill, AB 257— that will help us be able to collect our wages that we missed out on in case, you know, things like that happen. Our kids get sick or we get sick or something, you know? That right there would have our back, you know, that would be it for us. You know, who, who wants to miss out on money when they’re sick?” she said. 

Businesses already have some worries about this. Large chains including Chipotle, Chick-Fil-A and In-N-Out are sponsoring efforts to block the bill. 

The National Restaurant Association and the International Franchise Association put out a joint statement condemning the bill for unfairly punishing small businesses and portraying restaurants as bad employers. They worry the law could lead to food prices rising too quickly.  

Jeff Hanscom is the vice president of state and local govt. relations at the International Franchise Association. 

“There’s no doubt that 257 and the wage council will ultimately, ultimately lead to higher labor costs, which will then ultimately lead to higher food costs for the consumer. And for franchisees who are already operating on very thin margins and not just franchisees, it will affect restaurant owners who are already operating on very thin margins. You have to pass the cost along somewhere,” said Hanscom. 

But the numbers seem to indicate the effects on prices may be relatively small. Michael Reich, a UC Berkeley economist and wage expert, told Newsy that a study by researchers at the Boston Federal Reserve and MIT found that a sudden minimum wage bump from $15 to $22 would increase prices, but just a pinch. 

“My calculation is that just looking at this business model, the increase in prices going up to $22 would be about 2 to 3%. So that means for something like a $2 Burger King bacon cheeseburger, is one example, or the Taco Bell burrito, that’s $2. That’s about a nickel increase. That isn’t going to really deter people from buying those items,” said Reich. 

Industry groups have also supported a referendum that could block the law from taking effect. If they get enough signatures by December 1, the law would be put on hold until a statewide referendum in 2024. 

Industry advocates warn this law targets not just large fast-food providers, but the smaller, usually locally-owned franchisee businesses that run individual locations.

“We’re talking about nearly 15,000 franchise businesses that are impacted by 257 or at least 15,000 units in California that are part of chains with 100 or more locations. But 70% of those — 70% of the franchisees in California — only own one store,” said Hanscom.  

Legal challenges could also be on the way, as there are questions about whether this setup that allows bargaining for industry-wide standards could be blocked because it’s not one covered by the existing federal law called the National Labor Relations Act. 

San Francisco-based lawyer Ellen Bronchetti works with employers in labor law cases and says that businesses could use this route in an effort to block AB 257 from taking effect. 

“There’s an argument that the NLRA is the sole and exclusive law that should govern how employees can work together collectively to force their employers to increase, to provide better wages and working conditions,” said Bronchetti. 

If the council system takes effect, this could have consequences for fast food workers in other parts of the country, if other states try a system like this that relies on bargaining agreements that cover entire industries. 

“This type of system has had various degrees of success overseas in places like Europe and South America and Canada, but it’s not recognized as a standard in the United States. This type of council proposal in the statute, in effect, does create what I would view as the first of its kind sectoral bargaining mandate that we’ve seen, and it could have a huge ripple effect if it’s successful not just on the fast food industry, but on other industries,” said Bronchetti. 

And companies are already moving forward, at least on minimum wage increases. That’s in line with data showing that the previous minimum wage increase in California, a gradual rise to $15 an hour, drove wages even higher than that. 

“Wages have been rising since just before the pandemic and through the pandemic, and especially in restaurants. And so now the actual entry wage, the starting wage is well above $15. It’s more like $17, $18 in many parts of California,” said Hanscom. 

Source: newsy.com

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Fewer People Are Continuing Their Education After High School

The amount of students in college classrooms is dropping, which could have long-term impacts for society as a whole.

Colleges are seeing more empty seats in the classroom now that school is back in session. 

There are 4 million fewer college students than there were a decade ago. Among students who graduated high school in 2016, 70% began college that fall. In 2020, that number dropped to 63%.

There are a few possible explanations for this: Some people point to the pandemic as the main factor, as many students may have pushed college off until later to avoid learning from home in their high school bedrooms. While this could be part of it, the decline of students started long before COVID was even a thought.

Other factors should be considered, though, like cost. A Georgetown report found that between 1980 and 2020, the price of tuition, fees, and room and board for undergrad students rose by 169%, while wages for young Americans haven’t increased at the same rate. Many people may simply not have the money or aren’t willing to go into debt. Student loan debt is close to $30,000 on average for four-year college graduates.

But higher education experts say it’s important to consider the long-term tradeoffs. Data from the Social Security Administration says that people with bachelor’s degrees earn between $600,000 and $900,000 more over the course of their lifetime than someone with just a high school diploma. Data is scarce on how that advantage compares to previous generations of college graduates.

Tolani Britton, a professor who studies the economics of higher education, says it’s a complex matter.

“I don’t think that it’s simply like, get those loans, you are going to be fine long term — I don’t think that’s quite the case,” Britton said. “At the same time, I also think, well, what are the other options? And, are those other options both in the short term and long term as beneficial?”

Let’s take a look at those other options: One alternative is students going to a community college for two years, then transferring to a four-year school to offset costs. However, only 8% of community college students who want a bachelor’s degree go on to achieve it. They face common roadblocks, like finding out most of their credits won’t transfer, and they’ll have to start from scratch at a four-year school to get a degree.

Another option is trade school. Programs in trades like construction, HVAC and mechanics have seen an increase in enrollment as high as 40%. The highest-paying trade jobs can make up to nearly six figures. Plus, there are apprenticeships where companies pay students to learn how to do a trade.

If a student doesn’t want to go to community college or trade school, they can also go straight into the workforce after high school. Minimum wage jobs that don’t require any degree or training have seen an increase in pay. About half of states raised their minimum wage this year, and a lot of companies decided to raise it on their own in recent years. But as those wages have risen, so has the cost of everything else due to inflation.

Experts wonder if the short-term gain from going straight into the workforce is worth it over pursing postsecondary education.  

“Some of the questions that I would ask are, ‘Are the jobs that they’re taking currently, do they have advancement potential?'” Britton said. “If we think about those same jobs in 10 years and they’re paying relatively similar salaries, would they be able to support themselves and a family? What does it mean for their potential children, for example, if they don’t necessarily return and get a college degree?”

There are also long-term benefits to getting a degree that experts say are important to consider, like better health outcomes, both mental and physical, and the lower likelihood of being unemployed.

Jason Lane, a dean at Miami University in Ohio, told Newsy that as fewer students go to college, this could have long-term impacts for our society as a whole. 

“The loss of individuals going into college will have long-term implications on the country’s innovation ecosystem, on our economic productivity,” Lane said. “It will make it harder for us as a country to compete internationally in terms of new knowledge development, new innovations, new inventions, things that the U.S. has historically led on.”

So, what can be done to get more students back to school? Education professionals say high schools and colleges can work together to close the information gap and make sure students and their families have all of the information they need to make informed decisions about postsecondary education.

There’s not only a gap in general information about college, but gaps in information about financial aid and how to get it. A study by ACT found that most students don’t understand the financial aid process.

“We also need to think about, it’s not just the traditional high school population,” Lane said. “We’ve got to be reaching out to adult populations, folks who are looking to retool, to reskill, who are looking to increase, I think, their own social mobility and economic viability and the economy. To do that, we’ve actually got to be more accessible. We’ve got to find new pathways and entry points for them to come into higher education.”

Source: newsy.com

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

The Flaw in Biden’s Pro-Labor Record: Uber Drivers Are Still Waiting for Help

As a part-time Lyft driver in 2020, Nicole Moore was listening carefully when Joseph R. Biden Jr., a candidate for president, said the refusal by ride-hailing companies to treat their drivers as employees “deprives these workers of legally mandated benefits and protections.”

Labor activists like Ms. Moore, who runs an advocacy group in California called Rideshare Drivers United, hoped that Mr. Biden, as president, would spearhead a flurry of activity aimed at forcing companies in the gig economy like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash to classify drivers as employees rather than independent contractors. Such a change would mean paying the drivers a minimum wage, giving them benefits and making them eligible to unionize.

Instead, a year and a half into Mr. Biden’s presidency, little has been done at the federal level to address independent contractors. Enforcement of existing labor laws has not been notably beefed up. And the president’s nominee to lead the Labor Department’s enforcement division was voted down by the Senate, including by several Democrats.

labor issues and unions, and that they have been hamstrung by a recent court decision that extended a Trump-era rule making it easier for companies like Uber to argue their workers should be classified as independent contractors under federal law.

In statements, the White House and Labor Department emphasized the importance of addressing worker misclassification but did not single out gig companies like Uber.

“The president ran on an aggressive and comprehensive approach to addressing worker misclassification,” said Alexandra LaManna, a White House spokeswoman who used to be senior communications executive at Lyft. She added, “The policy of this administration is to strengthen worker power and a solution to worker misclassification is a key part of that agenda.”

passed the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, which included language making it harder for companies to classify drivers as independent. The next month, Labor Secretary Martin J. Walsh suggested to Reuters that “in a lot of cases gig workers should be classified as employees,” sending shares of gig companies’ stock tumbling.

Mr. Weil would have investigated whether gig companies were violating labor law and sought retroactive minimum pay for drivers.

a judge threw it out. The companies were also stymied in Massachusetts. But without the threat of federal enforcement, their state-by-state approach got legislation passed this year in Washington, Georgia and Alabama.

Ms. Moore said she was pessimistic about Mr. Biden’s following through on his promises.

“That was certainly the hope,” she said. “I’m old enough to learn that you can’t pin all your hopes on any one politician.”

Kate Conger contributed reporting.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Rising dollar may stymie Venezuela’s efforts to combat inflation

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals!<<<<

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

CARACAS, Aug 25 (Reuters) – Efforts by the administration of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to tamp down inflation by increasing supplies of foreign currency may be at risk amid economic growth after years of stagnation, analysts said.

Maduro’s government has succeeded in lowering consumer price growth, which was 137% year-on-year through July, by increasing the supply of foreign cash in local banks, limiting the expansion of credit, reducing public spending and increasing taxes.

But in recent weeks the central bank has sold fewer dollars and the government has increased spending, raising demand and sending the official dollar exchange rate soaring by 21.7% in six days.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

“It’s impossible to think of exchange stability with the level of prices in Venezuela,” said economist Luis Arturo Barcenas. “The balance between the official rate and the non-official one was very fragile because it was based on the injection of foreign currency.”

The central bank on Wednesday proposed a new strategy to deal with demand for dollars, asking banks to share the foreign currency figure needed by businesses and propose an exchange rate that will then be evaluated by the government, two sources said.

The central bank did not respond to a request for comment.

“The changes this week (in the dollar) have been very strong and those who are disadvantaged are those of us who earn bolivares,” said 62-year-old snack seller Alicia Rodriguez, who feared the cost of her merchandise may increase by up to 30%.

The minimum wage in local currency is equivalent to some $19 per month.

Venezuela’s economy grew 17.04% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2022, the central bank said on Tuesday. read more

“All the indicators show progress in the first half of the year,” said economist Leonardo Vera, referring to food production, tax collection and other indicators.

But oil production may stagnate in the coming months, he added, which would diminish growth.

Faced with lower oil production and U.S. sanctions, Maduro in 2019 relaxed currency controls, breathing new life into certain sectors.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Reporting by Mircely Guanipa, Vivian Sequera and Mayela Armas
Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb
Editing by Matthew Lewis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Strippers At Los Angeles Club Look To Be First In U.S. To Unionize

The dancers say they’ve been seeking better protection, pay, safety and workplace conditions from their management for a long time.

Strippers who work at a club in Southern California have filed with the National Labor Relations Board in an effort to unionize. As on stage performers, they want to join the Actors Equity Association (AEA).

The performers say they have been seeking better protection, better pay, better safety and better workplace conditions from their management for a long time — but they haven’t gotten it.

“They’ve reported significant wage theft that leaves them going home often without having even made minimum wage — and physical safety — glass on the stage, being touched without consent by patrons, things you might expect, but things that we think a union contract will help protect against,” said Kate Shindle, president of the AEA.

Should their efforts succeed, the move to unionize could set a real precedent for workers all over the country.

The next step for these dancers is a formal vote, which the National Labor Relations Board will oversee. If a majority of the performers at the club do vote to unionize, they’ll start negotiating their very first contract with the AEA and their management.

Source: newsy.com

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

House Dems Set To Overcome GOP For Climate, Health Care Win

The GOP opposes the bill, but the same was true Sunday when Dems used Vice President Harris’ tie-breaking vote to power it through the 50-50 Senate.

A flagship Democratic economic bill perched on the edge of House passage Friday, placing President Joe Biden on the brink of a back-from-the-dead triumph on his climate, health and tax goals that could energize his party ahead of November’s elections.

Democrats were poised to muscle the measure through the narrowly divided House Friday over solid Republican opposition. They employed similar party unity and Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote Sunday to power the measure through the 50-50 Senate.

The package is but a shadow of President Biden’s initial vision and was produced only after a year of often bitter infighting between party leaders, progressives and centrists led by Sen. Joe Manchin,  empowered by that chamber’s even split. Ultimately, Democrats thirsty to declare victory forged a compromise on abiding goals like reining in pharmaceutical costs, taxing large companies and, especially, curbing carbon emissions. They are hoping to show they can wring accomplishments from an often fractiously gridlocked Washington that alienates many voters.

“Climate is a health issue. It’s a jobs issue. It’s a security issue. And it’s a values issue for us,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters this week. “I want more, of course, we always want more, but this is a great deal.”

The bill’s pillar is about $375 billion over 10 years to encourage industry and consumers to shift from carbon-emitting to cleaner forms of energy, hailed by experts as Congress’ biggest climate investment ever. That includes $4 billion added to cope with the West’s catastrophic drought.

Spending, tax credits and loans would bolster technology like solar panels, consumer efforts to improve home energy efficiency, emission-reducing equipment for coal- and gas-powered power plants and air pollution controls for farms, ports and low-income communities.

In a pair of top Democratic health priorities, another $64 billion would help 13 million people pay premiums over the next three years for privately bought health insurance. Medicare would gain the power to negotiate its costs for pharmaceuticals, initially in 2026 for only 10 drugs. Medicare beneficiaries’ out-of-pocket prescription costs would be limited to $2,000 starting in 2025, and starting next year they would pay no more than $35 monthly for insulin, the costly diabetes drug.

The bill would raise around $740 billion in revenue over the decade, over a third from government savings from lower drug prices. More would flow from higher taxes on some $1 billion corporations, levies on companies that repurchase their own stock and stronger IRS tax collections. Around $300 billion would remain to defray budget deficits, a fraction of the period’s projected total of $16 trillion.

Republicans say the legislation’s tax hikes will force companies to raise prices, worsening the nation’s bout with its worst inflation since 1981 that is wounding Democrats’ election prospects. Nonpartisan analysts say the measure will have negligible inflation impact one way or the other.

Echoing other culture war themes, the GOP has criticized initiatives like tax breaks for clean energy and electric vehicles as wasteful liberal daydreams. “If the Green New Deal and corporate welfare had a baby, it would look like this,” said Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, the House Ways and Means Committee’s top Republican.

Republicans say Democrats’ plan to expand the IRS budget, aimed at collecting about $120 billion in unpaid taxes, envisions 87,000 agents who’d be coming after families. Democrats called foul, saying their $80 billion IRS budget boost would be to replace waves of retirees, not just agents, and to modernize equipment, and say families and small businesses earning below $400,000 annually would not be targeted.

The GOP also says the bill would raise taxes on lower- and middle-income families. An analysis by Congress’ nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, which didn’t include the bill’s tax breaks for health care and energy, estimated that the corporate tax boosts would marginally affect those taxpayers, partly due to lower stock prices and wages.

The bill caps a fertile three months in which Congress has voted to improve veterans’ health benefits, gird the semiconductor industry, moderately strengthen gun restrictions for younger buyers, finance Ukraine’s war with Russia and add Finland and Sweden to NATO. All passed with bipartisan support, suggesting Republicans also want to display their productive side.

It’s unclear voters will reward Democrats for the legislation after months of painfully high inflation dominating voters’ attention. Though record gasoline prices have dipped, President Biden’s popularity dangles damagingly low and midterm elections have a consistent history of ending careers of lawmakers from the party that holds the White House.

Democrats’ economic bill had its roots in early 2021, after Congress approved a $1.9 trillion measure over GOP opposition to combat the pandemic-induced economic downturn. Emboldened, the new president and his party reached further.

They initially produced an ambitious 10-year, $3.5 trillion environment and social plan they called Build Back Better. It featured free prekindergarten, paid family and medical leave, expanded Medicare benefits, increases for education and housing and an easing of immigration restrictions. It sought to roll back Trump-era tax breaks for the rich and corporations and proposed $555 billion for climate efforts, well above the resources in Friday’s legislation.

With Manchin opposing those amounts, it was sliced to a roughly $2 trillion measure that Democrats moved through the House in November. Just before Christmas, Manchin unexpectedly sank that bill, citing fears of inflation and international uncertainty and earning brickbats from exasperated fellow Democrats from Capitol Hill and the White House.

With on-and-off closed-door talks between Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, seemingly dying, the two lawmakers shocked Washington and announced agreement last month on the new, pared-down package.

Manchin won billions for carbon capture technology for the fossil fuel industries he champions, plus procedures for more oil drilling on federal lands and promises for faster energy project permitting.

Centrist Sen. Kyrsten Sinema also used her leverage for late concessions, eliminating planned higher taxes on hedge fund managers and helping win the drought funds.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

States Boost Child Care Money As Congressional Effort Stalls

Although child care has seen increasing bipartisan support in recent years, some Republican leaders are cautious about expanding government aid.

Difficulties in finding affordable child care cost Enoshja Ruffin her job three years ago. The mother of six was let go from her position as a counselor for kids with cerebral palsy after she missed three shifts because she had trouble finding babysitters.

After three months on a waiting list, though, she placed her children in a day care center whose cost was covered by government subsidies and the center’s financial assistance program.

“Had I not gotten financial help, I would not be successful. I would not have a degree. I would just be another statistic,” said Ruffin, 28, of Utica, New York, who was able to take college classes while her kids were in day care. She now works as an organizer for the liberal political group Citizen Action.

Democrats in Washington had big ambitions this year to boost child care subsidies nationally as part of a broad domestic spending bill. But with those plans stalled because of a lack of bipartisan support, some states moved ahead with plans of their own.

New York lawmakers passed a state budget in the spring that calls for it to spend $7 billion to make child care more affordable over the next four years.

The legislation will double previous state support for government subsidies that help families shoulder part or all of their child care costs. Eligibility will be expanded to more middle-income families. Under the new rules, a family of four with an annual household income of up to $83,250 will be eligible for subsidies.

New Mexico last spring raised income eligibility for subsidies to the highest level of any state. A family of four with an annual household income of up to $111,000 can now qualify for at least some government aid. Until June 2023, New Mexico will also waive child care copays, which saves families $400 to $900 per month, based on their income level.

Rhode Island lawmakers passed a state budget last month that provides a one-time tax credit of $250 per child to help pay for child care, nearly doubles the number of seats available in government-funded prekindergarten programs, and provides subsidies for child care workers.

All those steps were intended to address an affordability challenge. In 2019, child care centers in the U.S. charged an average of $406 per week for children under 18 months old, $315 per week for children ages 18-35 months and $289 per week for 3- to 5-year-olds.

Ronora James, a child care provider based in Rochester, New York, said she lost staff to fast-food restaurants that offer competitive wages.

Child care workers made an average hourly wage of $13.22 in the U.S. in May 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The minimum wage in New York ranges from $13.20 to $15 per hour, depending on the part of the state.

“People have to go where the money is to survive, and that is an issue for us,” James said.

“In New York City, we have some of the highest minimum wages in the country, but a minimum wage worker has to work 26 weeks at a minimum wage to pay for the child care for their family,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, said Monday at an event promoting the state’s child care investments. “That’s asking too much of our families.”

Although child care has seen increasing bipartisan support in recent years, some Republican leaders are cautious about expanding government aid.

“I support steps to create more quality, accessible and reliable child care options, especially as costs continue to rise,” said New York’s GOP Assembly Minority Leader William Barclay in a statement. “However, as we’ve seen repeatedly in state programs, the level of spending and how funds are distributed must be closely monitored. Too often, state-run programs spiral out of control and fail to provide the intended services. Despite the governor’s lofty promises, we can’t allow that to happen here.”

New York’s legislation also increased state reimbursements to child care providers, which the industry said was necessary to help centers remain financially viable.

Since January 2020, the number of center- and family-based child care facilities in the state has shrunk by about 1,326, according to Pete Nabozny, policy director at The Children’s Agenda. Most of those programs are operated by women and people of color, he said.

Some New York lawmakers say they want to eventually make child care freely available as early as kindergarten. Sen. Jessica Ramos and Assemblymember Sarah Clark, both Democrats, said they hope to get support in the state’s next legislative session for more changes, including expanding eligibility even more and boosting pay for providers.

“I think child care is one of the few places where it’s hard to fix one piece of it. You have to fix the whole system at one time. I’m hoping we can continue to build on what we’ve done so far and do more,” Clark said.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

As Latin America Shifts Left, Leaders Face a Bleak Reality.

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — In Chile, a tattooed former student activist won the presidency with a pledge to oversee the most profound transformation of Chilean society in decades, widening the social safety net and shifting the tax burden to the wealthy.

In Peru, the son of poor farmers was propelled to victory on a vow to prioritize struggling families, feed the hungry and correct longstanding disparities in access to health care and education.

In Colombia, a former rebel and longtime legislator was elected the country’s first leftist president, promising to champion the rights of Indigenous, Black and poor Colombians, while building an economy that works for everyone.

election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico and could culminate with a victory later this year by a leftist candidate in Brazil, leaving the region’s six largest economies run by leaders elected on leftist platforms.

A combination of forces have thrust this new group into power, including an anti-incumbent fervor driven by anger over chronic poverty and inequality, which have only been exacerbated by the pandemic and have deepened frustration among voters who have taken out their indignation on establishment candidates.

sliding backward, and instead of a boom, governments face pandemic-battered budgets, galloping inflation fed by the war in Ukraine, rising migration and increasingly dire economic and social consequences of climate change.

In Argentina, where the leftist Alberto Fernández took the reins from a right-wing president in late 2019, protesters have taken to the streets amid rising prices. Even larger protests erupted recently in Ecuador, threatening the government of one of the region’s few newly elected right-wing presidents, Guillermo Lasso.

“I don’t want to be apocalyptic about it,” said Cynthia Arnson, a distinguished fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. “But there are times when you look at this that it feels like the perfect storm, the number of things hitting the region at once.”

Chile and Colombia, have shown people the power of the streets.

five of the six largest economies in the region will be run by leaders who campaigned from the left.

focused on austerity, is reducing spending.

What does link these leaders, however, are promises for sweeping change that in many instances are running headlong into difficult and growing challenges.

have plummeted.

Ninety percent of poll respondents told the polling firm Cadem this month that they believed the country’s economy was stuck or going backward.

Like many neighbors in the region, Chile’s yearly inflation rate is the highest it’s been in more than a generation, at 11.5 percent, spurring a cost-of-living crisis.

In southern Chile, a land struggle between the Mapuche, the country’s largest Indigenous group, and the state has entered its deadliest phase in 20 years, leading Mr. Boric to reverse course on one of his campaign pledges and redeploy troops in the area.

Catalina Becerra, 37, a human resources manager from Antofagasta, in northern Chile, said that “like many people of my generation” she voted for Mr. Boric because Mr. Kast, “didn’t represent me in the slightest.”

according to the Institute of Peruvian Studies — is now subject to five criminal probes, has already faced two impeachment attempts and cycled through seven interior ministers.

40 percent of households now live on less than $100 a month, less than half of the monthly minimum wage — while inflation has hit nearly 10 percent.

Still, despite widespread financial anxiety, Mr. Petro’s actions as he prepares to assume office seem to have earned him some support.

He has made repeated calls for national consensus, met with his biggest political foe, the right-wing former president Álvaro Uribe and appointed a widely respected, relatively conservative and Yale-educated finance minister.

The moves may allow Mr. Petro to govern more successfully than say Mr. Boric, said Daniel García-Peña, a political scientist, and have calmed down some fears about how he will try to revive the economy.

But given how quickly the honeymoon period ended for others, Mr. Petro will have precious little time to start delivering relief.

“Petro must come through for his voters,” said Hernan Morantes, 30, a Petro supporter and environmental activist. “Social movements must be ready, so that when the government does not come through, or does not want to come through, we’re ready.”

Julie Turkewitz reported from Bogotá, Colombia, Mitra Taj from Lima, Peru and John Bartlett from Santiago, Chile. Genevieve Glatsky contributed reporting from Bogotá.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<