Archive for June, 2012|Monthly archive page

Weekly Address: An All-Hands-On-Deck Approach to Fighting the Colorado Wildfires

In Uncategorized on June 30, 2012 at 8:18 pm

President Obama speaks to the American people from Colorado, where he toured areas impacted by the devastating Waldo Canyon fire and met with first responders as well as families affected by the fires. The President thanks the brave firefighters and countless volunteers who are providing food, water, and shelter to those in need, and makes clear that his administration will continue to bring all resources available to assist efforts to combat the fires.

Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

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Sears offering vacation packages on layaway

In Uncategorized on June 30, 2012 at 2:17 pm


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Sears launched last week, a full-service travel web site that allows customers to put everything from cruises to the Bahamas to golf trips in Hawaii on layaway.

Through the SearsVacations’ layaway plan, customers put down at least 10% for a cruise or a vacation package and pay off the rest in self-determined increments that must be paid in full before the trip.

“[I]t’s a natural fit for Sears,” said Shannelle Armstrong, the company’s director of public relations. “We have a layaway at Sears, the store, so our customers are used to more flexible payment options.”

Other contract terms, such as the exact payment deadline and the refund policy, vary with the company offering the trip. Unlike Sears (SHLD, Fortune 500)’ in-store layaway program, there is no initiation fee in the layaway plan.

Layaway programs regained popularity during the recession when many retailers revived them, especially around the holidays. However, Sears is one of the first major retailers to offer such a program for vacation packages.

Similarly, warehouse club Costco (COST, Fortune 500) offers vacation packages with the option of paying off the trip later, but few other major retailers offer options like this. Most travel companies give customers the choice to pay a down payment and then make a final payment before embarking on the trip, although some allow for payment plans.

Think twice before booking: Certified financial planner Lauren Lyons Cole said consumers should think twice before putting a vacation on layaway.

“I always encourage people to prioritize travel into their financial plan,” Lyons Cole said. “That said, putting it on layaway is something I would never recommend.”

She advises that cash-strapped vacationers seek out the best possible deals and set a budget. Once that’s established, the personal finance expert says to start saving for the trip in a separate bank account, so in case there’s an emergency — like a broken car or an unexpected visit to the hospital — you can always dip into the travel funds.

“Hopefully they’ll get to their goal, but if something else came up, they can use that money toward something that they actually needed… as opposed to being stuck paying for this vacation at Sears, which becomes less important,” Lyons Cole said. “It’s good for people to have control over their own money.”

When looking at layaway options in general, the Federal Trade Commission advises reading the fine print. Look at the terms of the plan, such as possible fees and the refund policy. To top of page

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Real People Speak Out: The Affordable Care Act Is Helping Me

In Uncategorized on June 30, 2012 at 8:09 am

The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold President Obama’s health reform law, the Affordable Care Act, ensures hard-working, middle class families will get the security they deserve and protects every American from the worst insurance company abuses. In fact, many Americans are already seeing benefits from the Affordable Care Act, from mothers who no longer have to worry about their children with pre-existing conditions losing their health coverage, to young adults who can stay on their parent’s insurance plans until age 26, to seniors who are saving money on their prescription drugs.

Check out the videos below to hear from people all over the country who are benefitting from health reform.

Women Families  |  Young Adults |  Seniors  |  Small Business Owners

Women and Families

The protections and reforms in the Affordable Care Act have given families across the country peace of mind. In addition to offering free preventative services, insurance companies can no longer impose a lifetime cap on the amount of care they cover, and young adults under age 26 can stay on their parents’ plan. In these videos, women talk about the relief from stress and crippling expenses that health reform has brought their families. Read more about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act for women and their families.

JudyCare: Focusing on Fighting Cancer, Without Fear of Lifetime Insurance Caps

Judy Lamb from Colorado is an inspiration. Despite fighting breast cancer that has spread to her bones and liver and undergoing weekly chemotherapy, she has a positive outlook on life. She is able to maintain her positive attitude partly because the Affordable Care Act has removed a tremendous burden: the fear that her health plan would stop paying for her treatments.

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Read more about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act for women and their families

Young Adults

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more than 3.1 million people under the age of 26 have health insurance through their parents’ plan. Watch as some of the young adults who have benefited from this policy explain how this security has impacted the plans they are making for the future. Read more about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act for young adults.

AshleyCare: Health Care Coverage Without Stress for a Young Adult

Ashley, a young woman from Scarborough, Maine, was born with Cystic Fibrosis, a life-threatening chronic disease. She spends a lot of time in hospitals getting special IV antibiotics, respiratory therapy and physical therapy to clear her lungs and fight infections. One month in the intensive care unit cost her about $144,000; her last stay was for three months.

Because of the health care law, the Affordable Care Act, young adults under the age of 26 may be able to stay on their parents’ health insurance, and for Ashley, this has made all the difference. Staying on her parents’ insurance allowed her to pursue her education to become a music teacher and to study instrumental conducting – at a pace she could handle with her health condition – and not worry about how to make sure she had coverage.

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Read more about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act for young adults


Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more than 3.6 million seniors have saved $2.1 billion on their prescription drugs and more than 32.5 million people on Medicare have received a free preventive service. In these videos, you can see how these benefits are given seniors peace of mind about their health care. Read more about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act for seniors.

HelenCare: Giving Seniors Peace of Mind and More Money in Their Pockets

From helping her grandson with his education to assisting other seniors at a West Philadelphia senior center, Helen knows there are lots of people counting on her. That’s why it’s a relief to Helen that she can count on the Affordable Care Act to get the care she needs at an affordable cost.

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Read more about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act for seniors

Small Business Owners

The Affordable Care Act has enabled many employers across the country to offer health benefits to their workers. Watch as they explain how that has helped their business. Read more about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act for employers and small business owners.

MarkCare: Creating Jobs with the Help of Health Care Tax Credits

The Affordable Care Act allows employers to claim a tax credit for up to 35 percent of their health insurance premiums. Mark says that while his insurance rates have skyrocketed over the past 10 years, the tax credit gave him the ability to hire another employee to his current staff of twelve.

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Read more about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act for employers and small business owners

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Landmark Court Decision Upholds EPA’s Actions to Protect Families

In Uncategorized on June 30, 2012 at 8:09 am

Earlier this week, the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit affirmed – via a unanimous ruling – several important steps taken by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect the health of American families, save consumers money at the pump, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. 

This was a landmark decision with several key components: 

  • The Court upheld EPA’s science-based finding that carbon pollution endangers the public’s health and welfare, noting the “substantial record evidence.” 
  • The Court protected the Administration’s historic fuel economy standards for cars and trucks, adding that EPA’s implementation of the Clean Air Act was “unambiguously correct.” 
  • Finally, the Court dismissed several petitions challenging a requirement for some of the nation’s largest polluters – starting with new power plants – to install widely-available and cost-effective pollution control technology, while shielding smaller emitters, arguing that “no petitioner had standing.” 

This decision constitutes an important victory in the Obama Administration’s broader efforts to build a stronger, more innovative economy, create new jobs, and protect American families from harmful pollution. We believe these goals go hand in hand.

For example, take the Administration’s fuel economy standards. Taken together, the standards we have proposed span model years 2011 to 2025 and will save families more than $1.7 trillion at the pump, reduce oil imports by 2.2 million barrels a day, and cut greenhouse gas pollution by 6 billion metric tons – roughly equivalent to all such emissions from the United States last year.  

Moreover, these standards will catalyze innovation in the manufacturing sector and create new jobs throughout the supply chain. That includes companies, both big and small, that make everything from advanced engines and transmission systems to cutting-edge batteries and more efficient tires. 

The ruling made by the D.C. District Court earlier this week will help move our country towards cleaner energy future and build on the Administration’s work to create new jobs and protect the health and welfare of the American people. You can read the Court’s decision in full here.

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President Obama Tours Wildfire Damage in Colorado

In Uncategorized on June 30, 2012 at 8:09 am

Helping responsible homeowners


See how your federal tax dollars are spent

Calculate Your Federal Taxpayer Receipt

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More Than 2.3 Million Records Released

In Uncategorized on June 30, 2012 at 8:09 am

In September 2009, the President announced that—for the first time in history—White House visitor records would be made available to the public on an ongoing basis. Today, the White House releases visitor records that were generated in March 2012. Due to a technical constraint, additional records from March 2012 will be included in the July 27, 2012 disclosure. Today’s release brings the total number of records made public by this White House to more than 2.3 million—all of which can be viewed in our Disclosures section.

Ed. note: For more information, check out

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Partnership for Sustainable Communities Marks Three Years Helping Communities Build a Foundation for Prosperity

In Uncategorized on June 30, 2012 at 8:09 am

Ed. note: This is cross-posted from

Building strong, resilient communities starts with having a great team. In 2009, President Obama challenged us to improve how our agencies work together to help communities around the country better meet their housing, transportation, and environmental goals, laying the groundwork for an economy that provides good jobs now and creates a strong foundation for long-term prosperity.

Americans have made it clear they are ready for a new vision for their communities – one that cleans up and reuses neglected brownfields for economic development, reduces traffic congestion, and provides affordable transportation and housing choices that have been missing during these tough times. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have forged a partnership to streamline resources, better collaborate with local stakeholders, and achieve superior results for communities. By coordinating federal investments and technical assistance, we are meeting economic, environmental, and community objectives with each dollar spent.

For three years our agencies have been coordinating their work through the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. The Partnership has funded 744 projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico with approximately $3.7 billion in assistance. And demand for Partnership assistance has been extraordinary — as of April 2012, Partnership agencies have received more than 7,700 applications requesting almost $102 billion in funding.

These efforts are making a real difference in communities and neighborhoods. In Bridgeport, Connecticut, the Partnership agencies are working together to help meet sustainability goals. In 2010, Bridgeport received $11 million in TIGER multimodal transportation funding from DOT to upgrade roads around the East Side’s Steel Point Peninsula in preparation for redevelopment. These funds build on an EPA Environmental Justice Showcase Community Grant, which led to many improvements in Bridgeport’s distressed East End and East Side neighborhoods, including a new fishing pier and renewed access for residents who had been unable to get to the waterfront.

At the same time the Partnership has helped residents and neighborhoods in Bridgeport better connect to one another, it’s also helped Bridgeport connect to the broader regional economy.  Indeed, Bridgeport is also a partner in the New York-Connecticut Sustainable Communities Consortium, a large stakeholder group of city, county, and regional representatives that received a 2010 HUD Regional Planning Grant. As part of this grant, the consortium is studying whether Barnum Station, a proposed rail station in Bridgeport’s East End, can anchor the redevelopment of the city’s East Side, leading to new business investment, mixed-use, transit-oriented development, and affordable housing.

“The Partnership’s efforts have helped further a vision of the future of Bridgeport to become New England’s greenest city,” says Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch. “By the federal government coordinating resources and technical expertise, we have a chance of realizing a vision such as the Barnum Station project.”

But what makes the Partnership unique is that it allows communities to use these funds in ways that best fit their needs and visions – not what Washington thinks is best.

For instance, in Alabama we are helping communities along the 54-mile Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail grow and develop, while celebrating their history and creating new opportunities for residents. Designated in 1996 by Congress, the trail commemorates the 1965 Voting Rights March along U.S. Highway 80, beginning in the small town of Selma and ending in the historic Peacock neighborhood in Montgomery. Communities near the trail want to preserve its history for future generations while reviving the struggling neighborhoods surrounding it.

To build on this unique federal, state, and local collaboration, partners used the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the march to catalyze the process. Revitalization began with 18 brownfield site assessments done by the state and EPA to determine the best sites for redevelopment in the rural and underserved communities along the trail. Nine community visioning sessions supported by EPA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the National Park Service helped draft plans to connect historic points of interest in preparation for the 50th anniversary of the march. The City of Montgomery conducted community outreach sessions with HUD Community Development Block Grant funds to create a collection of plans with strong local support in the city and rural communities along the trail. Funding and assistance from the Partnership and other federal agencies was used for stormwater infrastructure, construction of a greenway and an attractive community park with an entrance to the trail, streetscape improvements, affordable homes for police and teachers, and repairs to the historic Mount Zion Church, where the march concluded.

Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange says of the trail, “It’s fitting that this stretch of land—that demonstrated to the world the great things that can be accomplished when people unite to strive for a common purpose—is illustrating the dramatic results that can happen when federal agencies combine their talents and resources with state and local governments to transform areas of blight and neglect to places of natural beauty and sustainable viability. We are proud of what has been accomplished here by working together.”

As the Partnership enters its fourth year, HUD, DOT and EPA are working to align our efforts for localities even further – by streamlining the application process for our grants and identifying other grant programs that can be part of the Partnership for the future. And we will continue to encourage further collaboration with each other and other partners to consider housing, transportation, and environmental policy as they exist in the real world—inextricably connected.

All this work is based on a simple idea: when agencies talk regularly and listen to localities, we can help communities address some of their toughest challenges and create an economy built not on individual projects, but on collaboration and a shared vision. An economy built to last.

For more information, please visit the Partnership for Sustainable Communities website. The Partnership has also released Partnership for Sustainable Communities: Three Years of Helping Communities Achieve Their Visions for Growth and Prosperity, a report featuring case studies of Bridgeport, Montgomery, and several other communities, available on the Partnership’s website.

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A Reflection of Our Values

In Uncategorized on June 30, 2012 at 8:09 am

Here’s a quick glimpse at what happened this week on

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Time to Move Forward:Yesterday the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, ensuring that hard-working, middle class families will get the security they deserve and protecting every American from the worst insurance company abuses. This comprehensive reform enables young adults, seniors, small businesses, and families to better afford health care benefits.

Jobs for Heroes and their Families: On Monday, Vice President Biden announced new Vets-to-Cops hiring grants for cities and counties across the nation, which will create approximately 600 law enforcement jobs for post-9/11 veterans. On Tuesday, First Lady Michelle Obama was in Chicago to announce that Illinois has signed the Military Family Licensing Act into law, making it easier for military spouses to transition jobs when they are forced to move by removing restrictions on the transfer of professional licenses.  Illinois became the 23rd state to adopt pro-military spouse license portability measures. 

Do You Qualify? This week the White House released an interactive tool that helps homeowners determine if they would be eligible to refinance their mortgage. With interest rates at historic lows,  refinancing could mean an average saving of $3000 a year. President Obama is urging Congress to pass legislation that would allow homeowners who don’t have federally backed loans to cut through the bank’s red tape, avoid costly processing fees, and refinance even if their home is under water.

We Come Together: This past week Colorado Springs has been dealing with some of the worst forest fires in Colorado’s history. The President traveled to the state today to see the devastation and commend firefighters and other first responders, “We’ve got to make sure that we have each other’s backs.  And that spirit is what you’re seeing in terms of volunteers, in terms of firefighters, in terms of government officials.  Everybody is pulling together to try to deal with this situation.”

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Major Step Forward for Gulf Coast Restoration

In Uncategorized on June 30, 2012 at 8:09 am

Today Congress took a major step in our efforts to restore the Gulf Coast and support the important communities that rely on it everyday. Earlier today, Congress enacted the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act (RESTORE Act).

This Administration recognizes that a strong and vibrant ecosystem is the key to the Gulf’s future – that’s why the President established the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force in 2010. As Chair of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force and a New Orleans native, I can tell you that a healthy ecosystem is vital to the economy and the way of life for the Gulf Coast. There’s a lot at stake in this region: the economies of the five Gulf States supported more than 19 million jobs and nearly $2.5 trillion of the U.S. GDP in 2008. In addition, millions of people visit the Gulf Coast each year – to vacation, to sail, to swim, to fish, and to enjoy this great waterbody. In 2008, national and international tourists spent about $145 billion in the 5 coastal states and around 1.7 million people were employed in travel and tourism.

During the oil spill, we essentially “lost” the Gulf for a period of time, and natural resources in the Gulf were extensively damaged. We lost the use of valuable fishing grounds, incredible recreational opportunities and all of the other benefits of a thriving, vibrant ecosystem. That loss helped show folks who aren’t from the Gulf Coast just how important it is to our nation.

But our goal and commitment is not simply to address the damage caused by the spill – it is to ensure the long term improvement and restoration of the Gulf Coast and its unique ecosystems.

The RESTORE Act is a critical part of that effort. The bill ensures that 80 percent of Deepwater Horizon civil and administrative penalties under the Clean Water Act will go to Gulf Coast restoration, and sets up a framework that can ensure coordination between the Gulf States and the Federal government. This approach was first recommended by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus in his September 2010 recovery plan and subsequently embraced by President Obama.

The Administration will work to ensure coordination between the states and Federal government to ensure that BP and the other responsible parties fully pay for the damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and that dedicated Clean Water Act penalties are utilized in a way that serves the goal of long-term ecosystem restoration economic health of the Gulf.

This is an important moment for the Gulf Coast and we commend Congress for doing its part to ensure that the communities and ecosystems of the Gulf Coast recover stronger than before Deepwater Horizon. I know how deeply the spill impacted the lives of everyone in the Gulf – passing the RESTORE Act and continuing work on Gulf Coast restoration is, simply put, the right thing to do.

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Congress extends low student loan rates

In Uncategorized on June 30, 2012 at 2:07 am

Congress is expected to approve a one-year extension of low 3.4% rates on subsidized student loans Friday.

Congress is expected to approve a one-year extension of low 3.4% rates on subsidized student loans Friday.

WASHINGTON (CNNMoney) — Congress voted Friday to extend low 3.4% interest rates on federally subsidized student loans for another year, barely beating a July 1 deadline when the rates would double.

The House voted 373 to 52 to pass the bill. The Senate voted 74 to 19 to follow suit, and President Barack Obama was expected to sign it into law.

With that larger bill still days away from reaching his desk, Obama on Friday signed into law a bill that temporarily — from June 30 through July 6 — assures there will be continued funding for certain transportation projects and halts student loan interest rate hikes, according to a news release issued by the White House shortly after 8 p.m. Friday.

The president is expected to sign the larger legislation at a later date, presumably by the end of next week before the stopgap bill expires.

That initiative to extend student loans is wrapped up in a bigger bill that spends more than $100 billion to continue funding for programs that pave roads and improve bridges. (Details on the highway portion of the bill) The bill also extends for five years the federal flood insurance program, which insures families against flood damage to homes.

The vote on student loan rates is good news for more than 7 million students taking out loans for the next school year who won’t have to dig deeper to pay off higher interest rates.

Obama brought national attention to the issue of student loan interest rates and started campaigning for it back in April. After the Republican candidate for president Mitt Romney also said he supported the extending low rates, Congress got serious about looking for ways to make it happen.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers for months have said they agreed the interest rate should hold steady. The big sticking point has been how to pay the roughly $6 billion price tag to extend the low rates for another year.

During negotiations this week, lawmakers decided that the revenue to extend the 3.4% rates should come from changes to the way companies fund pension programs. The deal would also limit how long undergraduate students can go to school without accruing interest on student loans to six years.

The interest rate for subsidized student loans used to be 6.8%. But when Democrats took over the House in 2007, they phased in lower rates. The rates fell to the current low of 3.4% for subsidized Stafford loans this past school year, but are scheduled to revert back to 6.8% for the 2012-2013 school year.

And with unemployment just below 24% for teenagers and 14% for ages 20 to 24, more young people are going back to school or staying in school, according to recent data by Equifax.

Additionally, more students struggle to pay back those loans. Student loans that are three months late rose 14.6% in 2011 from the year before, according to Equifax.

“Congress listened to students and their families, and delivered a bill that stops student loan interest rates from doubling,” said Rich Williams, a higher education advocate with U.S. Public Interest Research Group. “Today’s victory is another important step in getting rising student loan debt under control.”

President Obama is expected to tout the extension of current low rates on the campaign trail.

And Congress will be faced with the exact same decision next year, as rates would double on July 1, 2013.

– CNN’s Ted Barrett and Deirdre Walsh and CNN Wires contributed to this story To top of page

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