Friday, April 09, 2010

The best part of a very good week

On the heels of a very challenging week before recess, I am happy to report a series of pieces of good news. But, first I cannot help but saying the highlight of my week was telling a story about my neck tie to a four year old who asked what it was. At the very gracious invitations of their teachers, I got to spend time this week with a group of very inquisitive, cute and energetic three and four year olds at Corporate Kids, the child care center at the downtown Federal Building. I was happy to talk with the little ones about the most important issues facing them: why it is so important to listen to their parents and why they should not run off or leave the house without permission.

We then topped a productive meeting with cake. Friends, sometimes this job can really be a struggle, and then there are visits like this and it makes it all worthwhile. Thank you to some of my youngest constituents for a fantastic afternoon!

This week, I also visited the students at Hickman Mills High School who presented a check for $1,600 for Haitian relief efforts to be delivered to UMCOR an international non-profit. The young men and women at Hickman who spent their time and effort in service of those in need is, frankly, inspiring. I know their school and parents are very proud of them. I can tell you that the next time I see Secretary Clinton I will absolutely tell her of the efforts of these outstanding students. Schools in the Hickman Mills C-1 School District have raised more than $10,000 in cash and supplies for those who still struggle in Haiti. Simply awesome!

Jobs Now

National, state and local leaders representing government, business, labor and environmental groups convened today in Kansas City Wednesday for the “Clean Energy Roadshow.” The Roadshow was created to find ways to spur collaborative public-private investment in the clean energy economy and create quality green jobs for American workers. Kansas City is the Roadshow’s tenth stop in a multi-city, multi-state national tour that is expected to run through 2011.

I was pleased to highlight Kansas City’s Green Impact Zone initiative, which concentrates resources like federal and state weatherization funding into a low-income, high-unemployment neighborhood to create jobs and improve energy efficiency, as an example of success.

We know our nation must change the way we produce and consume energy, we must make our homes more efficient and we must get Americans back to work. The conversation we continued this week leverages once-in-a-lifetime federal resources to spur private commitments in remaking our economy for a sustainable future. The American labor movement has done more than any policy or politician to build the middle class. We are climbing out of a recession spurred, in part, by turning our back on the worker and valuing a quick buck over honest labor. It is time again for our economy to be based on hard work and fair pay.

The Roadshow is currently focused in large part on strengthening America’s energy efficiency retrofit industry. Part of the Kansas City Roadshow involved members of the Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA) Local 264 (pictured above) demonstrating elements of the home energy efficiency retrofits that will be done in the Green Impact Zone, including conducting an infrared scan for air leaks and blowing insulation into drafty walls.

Retrofitting energy inefficient homes in America will not only create tens of thousands of new jobs, but it will also save families an average of $440 to $600 a year on their home energy bills, and in some cases much more. In addition, it will reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil, improve quality of life for homeowners and families and reduce U.S carbon emissions equivalent to taking 615,000 cars off the road in order to help mitigate climate change.

First new business opens in Green Zone

This week I was very proud to announce some great news for the Green Impact Zone project. The Green Impact Zone is now home to ongoing research and development of new magnetic technology which will revolutionize the way we design and use electric motors and generators – providing more efficiency and power while helping consumers save money and energy.

It was my
to join P.J. Piper president and CEO of QM Power to cut the ribbon on the first business to move into the Green Impact Zone since its inception less than a year ago. More than just opening the doors on a new business, Mr. Piper announced that he is moving his corporate headquarters from Boston to The Green Impact Zone. He literally could have chosen anywhere in the country to locate and he chose the Eastside of Troost. This is a huge win and one we should all be very proud of.

At the opening Mr. Piper said, “QM Power’s investment in innovative, game-changing clean technologies aligns well with Congressman Emanuel Cleaver’s Green Impact Zone. We look forward to bringing the world’s most efficient and power dense electric motor, generator and actuator technology to Kansas City.”

Friends, these are jobs where there were previously none, and is only the start. Currently QM Power employs six people and plans to hire an additional 20 employees within the next year. By 2013, Mr. Piper said the company will likely grow to 100 employees. Along with creating several highly-skilled, high-salaried jobs, QM Power plans to collaborate with the University of Missouri System, corporate development partners, government agencies, national research labs, suppliers and customers.

In addition to providing job prospects, QM Power will sign a Memorandum of Understanding to solidify research collaborations with UMKC. For the past year, the School of Computing and Engineering faculty and students have gained research experience by assisting QM Power with controller, power electronics, wind turbine, medical robotics and cryogenic development projects.

This is a huge win for the Green Impact Zone, UMKC and Missouri’s Fifth District. Thanks to all who have helped make it a reality!

Recognizing a job well done

FRED BLOCHER/Kansas City Star

Wednesday, Congressman Barney Frank, Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, and I recognized Kansas City’s own UMB and Commerce Bank for being named the highest rated banks in the continental United States.

Each year Forbes evaluates America’s 100 largest banks. The rankings are based on criteria that measured asset quality, capital adequacy and profitability. The rankings for 2009 name UMB the second-best bank in 2009 behind Bank of Hawaii while Commerce ranked third.

The Forbes rankings confirm what we have known here in Kansas City for decades. America’s strongest and most reliable banks are not on the coasts, they are in the heartland where common sense, hard work and exceptional service have been the foundations for UMB and Commerce Bank since the day they opened their doors.

Chairman Frank and I presented both bank Chairmen framed copies of Congressional Record statements delivered on the floor of the House of Representatives in honor of the employees, officers, directors and shareholders with congratulations on a job well done.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Health Care reform

This weekend, the U.S. House of Representatives will accomplish something first proposed by Harry Truman in 1947. We will take a historic vote on health care reform legislation. This legislation will make health care affordable for the middle class, provide security for seniors, and guarantee access to health insurance for the uninsured – while reducing the federal deficit by over $138 billion over the next decade.

The Congressional Budget Office, our national independent, non-partisan “referee” that by law examines each bill considered by Congress to assess the cost, released its “scoring” of the bill we will vote on Sunday. Based on an analysis from CBO, the legislation the bill:
  • Cuts the deficit by $138 billion in the first ten years (2010 – 2019).
  • Cuts the deficit by $1.2 trillion in the second ten years.
  • Reduces annual growth in Medicare expenditures by 1.4 percentage points per year—while improving benefits and lowering costs for seniors.
  • Extends Medicare’s solvency by at least 9 years.
  • Expands health insurance coverage to 32 million Americans.
  • Helps guarantee that 95 percent of Americans will be covered.
  • $940 billion over a decade. (Americans spend nearly $2.5 trillion each year on health care now and nearly two-thirds of the bill is paid for by reducing health care costs).

But, let’s get specific to what this bill will do in our District. If passed the bill will:

  • Improve coverage for 369,000 residents with health insurance.
  • Give tax credits and other assistance to up to 171,000 families and 14,300 small businesses to help them afford coverage.
  • Improve Medicare for 98,000 beneficiaries, including closing the donut hole.
  • Extend coverage to 58,500 uninsured residents.
  • Guarantee that 12,200 residents with pre-existing conditions can obtain coverage.
  • Protect 1,500 families from bankruptcy due to unaffordable health care costs.
  • Allow 49,000 young adults to obtain coverage on their parents’ insurance plans.
  • Provide millions of dollars in new funding for 7 community health centers.
  • Reduce the cost of uncompensated care for hospitals and other health care providers by $68 million annually.

Affordable High-Quality Health Care for the Middle Class

Essential health insurance reforms. Approximately 59% of the District (369,000 residents) receives health care coverage from an employer or through policies purchased on the individual market. Under the legislation, individuals with insurance can keep the coverage they have now, and it will get better. The insurance reforms in the bill prohibit annual and lifetime limits, eliminate rescissions for individuals who become ill while insured, ban coverage denials for pre-existing conditions, and reduce the cost of preventive care. To rein in soaring insurance costs, the reforms also limit the amount insurance companies can spend on administrative expenses, profits, and other overhead.

Historic health care tax cuts. Those who do not receive health care coverage through their employer will be able to purchase coverage at group rates through new health insurance exchange. To make this insurance affordable, the legislation contains the largest middle-class tax cut for health care in history, providing middle class families with incomes up to $88,000 for a family of four with tax credits to help pay for coverage in the exchange. For a family of four making $50,000, the average tax credit will be approximately $5,800. There are 171,000 households in the District that could qualify for these credits if they purchase health insurance through the exchange or, in the case of households with incomes below 133% of poverty, receive coverage through Medicaid.

Coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions. There are 12,200 uninsured individuals in the District who have pre-existing medical conditions like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Under the bill’s insurance reforms, they cannot be denied affordable coverage.

Financial security for families. There were 1,500 health care-related bankruptcies in the District in 2008, caused primarily by the health care costs not covered by insurance. The bill caps annual out-of-pocket costs at $6,200 for individuals and $12,400 for families who purchase insurance through the exchange or who are insured by small businesses. It also eliminates annual and lifetime limits on all insurance coverage. These reforms ensure that no family will have to face financial ruin because of high health care costs.

Security for Seniors

Improving Medicare. There are 98,000 Medicare beneficiaries in the District. The legislation improves their benefits by providing free preventive and wellness care, improving primary and coordinated care, and enhancing nursing home care. The bill also strengthens the Medicare Trust Fund, extending its solvency from 2017 to 2026.

Closing the Part D donut hole. Each year, 9,300 Medicare beneficiaries in the District enter the Part D donut hole and are forced to pay the full cost of their prescription drugs. Under the bill, these beneficiaries will receive a $250 rebate in 2010, 50% discounts on brand name drugs beginning in 2011, and complete closure of the donut hole within a decade. A typical beneficiary who enters the donut hole will see savings of over $700 in 2011 and over $3,000 by 2020.

New Coverage Options for Young Adults

New lower-cost health care options for young adults. The legislation will allow young adults to remain on their parents’ policies until they turn 26. There are 49,000 young adults in the District who could benefit from this option. For individuals under age 30, the bill creates new, inexpensive policies that allow them to obtain protection from catastrophic health care costs.

Helping Small Businesses

Helping small businesses obtain health insurance. Under the legislation, small businesses with 100 employees or less will be able to join the health insurance exchange, benefiting from group rates and a greater choice of insurers. There are 16,400 small businesses in the District that could benefit from this provision.

Tax credits for small businesses. Small businesses with 25 employees or less and average wages of less than $50,000 will qualify for tax credits of up to 50% of the costs of providing health insurance. There are up to 14,300 small businesses in the District that could qualify for these credits.

Covering the Uninsured

Coverage of the uninsured. The legislation would extend coverage to 95% of all Americans. If this level of coverage is reached in the District, 58,500 residents who currently do not have health insurance will receive coverage.

Relieving the burden of uncompensated care. In 2008, health care providers in the District provided uncompensated care to individuals who lacked insurance coverage and were unable to pay their bills.

Under the legislation, these costs of uncompensated care will be reduced by $68 million.

Recovery Act dollars to improve classrooms

I was pleased to announce this week with the U.S. Department of Treasury and the Department of Education that $16,274,000 in school construction bonds authority has been awarded to the Kansas City Missouri School District.

Nationally $11 billion was allocated for qualified school construction bonds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act). Qualified school construction bonds can be used to finance the construction, rehabilitation or repair of a public school facility or for the acquisition of land where a school will be built.

This is money to help our local school districts continue to repair and invest in our schools, despite the economic hard times we are facing. At a time when the Kansas City School District is consolidating half its schools, this allocation will allow for much needed building and classroom improvements necessary to accommodate shifting thousands of students. This is a zero-interest loan authority to invest in Kansas City’s students as they adjust to their new situation.

This announcement comes at a time when the Kansas City, Missouri School District is embarking on a radical transformation plan for Teaching and Learning for a New Millennium. “This funding is just what we need to upgrade many of our facilities and provide students with the 21st century learning environments they deserve,” said John Covington, Superintendent of the Kansas City, Missouri School District. “The bonds will assist us in providing a safe, nurturing and improved educational environment that enhances and supports academic achievement.”

Created by the Recovery Act, qualified school construction bonds help state and local governments obtain low-cost financing for much needed public school improvements and construction. Investors who buy these bonds receive Federal income tax credits at prescribed tax credit rates in lieu of interest. These tax credit bonds essentially allow state and local governments to borrow without incurring interest costs.

The Recovery Act provided for the issuance of $11 billion of qualified school construction bonds by states and large local educational agencies in 2009 and $11 billion in 2010. The 2010 allocations include $6.6 billion of bonding authority to the 50 states and the remaining $4.4 billion was allocated the nation’s 103 largest local educational agencies, including Kansas City, Missouri.

Our Mobile Office

Wow, after four years of using our Mobile Office in and around the District, have we ever got some attention! We are the third Member of Congress to serve the people of Missouri’s Fifth District to have a Mobile Office. Congressman Dick Bolling and Congressman Alan Wheat both leased Mobile Offices to help serve constituents.

I use the Mobile Office instead of renting another District office. It costs less than another office would.

It allows my staff to travel to nursing homes, senior centers, schools, fairs across the District. It is particularly helpful for those with disabilities because it has a wheel chair ramp.

It is outfitted with everything the staff needs to take care of constituents on the spot: printer, computer, Wi-Fi, scanner all inside.

Overall, our office spends less on operations than the surrounding Members, both Republicans and Democrats.

The Mobile Office is outfitted to run on recycled cooking grease and promotes alternative fuels as it tours the District.

It is an expensive lease compared to a personal vehicle, but this is not for personal use --- it is to help constituents and be accessible. It is unlike anything in the country.This is a unique approach which serves a unique need. A constituent suggested that we should have pictures of the Mobile Office serving people. I thought it was a great idea and we have put a link on our front page to a web page devoted to the Mobile Office. You can even request to have it come to your neighborhood from the page.

This is just a start, we have lots more pictures to add and we will keep updating the page. The Mobile Office webpage can be found here >>>

Check it out in person next week at our monthly "Coffee with Cleaver":
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Crossroads Coffeehouse
301 Southwest Blvd.
Kansas City, MO 64108
8-10 am

Friday, March 12, 2010

Google KC

I am an avid jazz fan. I suppose that is a bit like saying I am a Bar-B-Q fan. After all, I represent the world’s home of jazz, helped build the American Jazz Museum and spent a sleepless night on the phone to Paris securing Charlie Parker’s plastic sax for Kansas City. I love jazz.

Often my colleagues in New Orleans, New York and St. Louis speak fondly of their city’s jazz heritage. And each of them play a role in the history of jazz — none as important as Kansas City.
There are many reasons for that. I used to listen to the late great Jay McShann go on for hours about the differences. But, the key to Kansas City’s pivotal, preeminent and positively particular place in American jazz history is — the jam session.

Jazz became a collaborative community exercise here unlike anyplace before or since. Driven by the Great Depression, fueled by the wide-open atmosphere and mob money of the Pendergast machine, musicians from across the country gathered in Kansas City — and nowhere else. Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong, Jay McShann, Joe Turner, Mary Jo Williams, Lester Young and hundreds more were in one place, at one time, perfecting their craft together.

Collaboration was the key to creativity.

During the time surrounding the Depression, the jazz greats had to physically come together. It is no mistake the song goes “Going to Kansas City, Kansas City here I come!”

How times have changed. Today, a student in Kansas City can work with a student in Katmandu with the click of a mouse. What hasn’t changed is our unique rhythm and ability to come together to produce something singularly unique.

Friends, we have a chance to once again collaborate, to jam at a whole new kind of gig.

Google is planning to build and test ultra-high speed broadband networks in a small number of trial locations across the country. Their plan is to deliver Internet speeds more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have access to today with 1 gigabit per second connections.
As a first step, Google is asking communities to tell them what they would do with ultra-high speed internet.

A grassroots effort in Kansas City seeks to harness the power of Google's ultra high-speed broadband network to deliver the internet in a green way to close the digital divide — bridging the gap between those with the means to be connected and those who have been left behind on the information superhighway. This has always been the great promise of the internet: equality through universal access to information. Google’s ultra-high speed plan is an opportunity for every child in every home to have the world at their fingertips.

What is being developed is a plan that will leverage the Green Impact Zone and the unique talents and capabilities of the people of Kansas City to:
  • Install broadband fiber as part of every city, federally-funded, or Recovery Act-related public infrastructure project in Kansas City.
  • In addition to fiber to the home, deploy affordable, broadband connections to every library, research & bio-science institute, arts and cultural facilities, schools and educational facilities, community health care centers, public computing centers, and affordable housing developments in Kansas City’s center city.

Imagine the world’s fastest Internet in Kansas City. Imagine what our history of creativity through collaboration could do with these connections.

Now, do much more than just imagine…let’s make it happen.

Champion the cause, join the jam and sign the petition to bring Google ultra high-speed to Kansas City. Click here to take action>>

Be sure to send your friends to

Mr. President

Yesterday afternoon, I joined several of my colleagues at the White House. I have been to the White House many times over the years. In fact, I was on President Clinton’s transition team. I say none of that to brag, only to say that I realize what a unique opportunity it is each and every time. For an American, walking into the West Wing is a privilege and, particularly when times are rough, I am struck by the awesome responsibility of the person who sits behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office.

I was there to talk with the President about job creation and concerns that I and others had about the pace and scope of efforts to put Americans back to work. As he always is, the President was thoughtful and serious about the matter and I think everyone came away from the meeting reminded of just how much work there is still left to do to turn the economy around.

As I said last week in this newsletter, the bill we just passed was much more a tax relief bill than it was a jobs bill. I expressed those concerns directly to the President. We are coming upon the summer months, when millions of high school students will be looking for summer work and finding none. A job market already flooded with unemployed workers looking for jobs will be joined by a tsunami of young people competing for much of the same work. It is a perfect storm.

There is a calm urgency about our President. His plate is full, the expectations are sky high and each of us, regardless of party needs him to succeed. The Washington Post wrote that I choked up a bit when I told them that, but it is true. Regardless of what you may hear, liberals are patriotic too. I want America to succeed no matter who sits in the Oval Office.

There may be special significance assigned to him because he is a historic first, but America needs him to succeed because the alternative is simply unfathomable. His programs have indeed brought us back from the brink, but the road ahead is still very long and dangerous. Now is not the time to let up.

Health Care Reform

New York Times columnist and winner of the Noble prize for economics, Paul Krugman, had a piece in the Post yesterday that lays out the need for health care reform and takes issue with several myths that plague our national conversation on the critical issue.

Health Reform Myths

Health reform is back from the dead. Many Democrats have realized that their electoral prospects will be better if they can point to a real accomplishment. Polling on reform — which was never as negative as portrayed — shows signs of improving. And I’ve been really impressed by the passion and energy of this guy Barack Obama. Where was he last year?

But reform still has to run a gantlet of misinformation and outright lies. So let me address three big myths about the proposed reform, myths that are believed by many people who consider themselves well-informed, but who have actually fallen for deceptive spin.

The first of these myths, which has been all over the airwaves lately, is the claim that President Obama is proposing a government takeover of one-sixth of the economy, the share of G.D.P. currently spent on health.

Well, if having the government regulate and subsidize health insurance is a “takeover,” that takeover happened long ago. Medicare, Medicaid, and other government programs already pay for almost half of American health care, while private insurance pays for barely more than a third (the rest is mostly out-of-pocket expenses). And the great bulk of that private insurance is provided via employee plans, which are both subsidized with tax exemptions and tightly regulated.

The only part of health care in which there isn’t already a lot of federal intervention is the market in which individuals who can’t get employment-based coverage buy their own insurance.

And that market, in case you hadn’t noticed, is a disaster — no coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions, coverage dropped when you get sick, and huge premium increases in the middle of an economic crisis. It’s this sector, plus the plight of Americans with no insurance at all, that reform aims to fix. What’s wrong with that?

The second myth is that the proposed reform does nothing to control costs. To support this claim, critics point to reports by the Medicare actuary, who predicts that total national health spending would be slightly higher in 2019 with reform than without it.

Even if this prediction were correct, it points to a pretty good bargain. The actuary’s assessment of the Senate bill, for example, finds that it would raise total health care spending by less than 1 percent, while extending coverage to 34 million Americans who would otherwise be uninsured. That’s a large expansion in coverage at an essentially trivial cost.

And it gets better as we go further into the future: the Congressional Budget Office has just concluded, in a new report, that the arithmetic of reform will look better in its second decade than it did in its first.

Furthermore, there’s good reason to believe that all such estimates are too pessimistic. There are many cost-saving efforts in the proposed reform, but nobody knows how well any one of these efforts will work. And as a result, official estimates don’t give the plan much credit for any of them. What the actuary and the budget office do is a bit like looking at an oil company’s prospecting efforts, concluding that any individual test hole it drills will probably come up dry, and predicting as a consequence that the company won’t find any oil at all — when the odds are, in fact, that some of the test holes will pan out, and produce big payoffs. Realistically, health reform is likely to do much better at controlling costs than any of the official projections suggest.

Which brings me to the third myth: that health reform is fiscally irresponsible. How can people say this given Congressional Budget Office predictions — which, as I’ve already argued, are probably too pessimistic — that reform would actually reduce the deficit? Critics argue that we should ignore what’s actually in the legislation; when cost control actually starts to bite on Medicare, they insist, Congress will back down.

But this isn’t an argument against Obamacare, it’s a declaration that we can’t control Medicare costs no matter what. And it also flies in the face of history: contrary to legend, past efforts to limit Medicare spending have in fact “stuck,” rather than being withdrawn in the face of political pressure.

So what’s the reality of the proposed reform? Compared with the Platonic ideal of reform, Obamacare comes up short. If the votes were there, I would much prefer to see Medicare for all.
For a real piece of passable legislation, however, it looks very good. It wouldn’t transform our health care system; in fact, Americans whose jobs come with health coverage would see little effect. But it would make a huge difference to the less fortunate among us, even as it would do more to control costs than anything we’ve done before.

This is a reasonable, responsible plan. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Secretary LaHood announces $50 million for Missouri’s Fifth District – 4,569 jobs

Secretary Ray LaHood and Congressman Cleaver announce $50 million TIGER grant to the Mid-America Regional Council for Green Impact Zone and Regional Transit

TIGER roared into town on Wednesday, when I was proud to join U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to announce that the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) received $50 million as part of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Discretionary Grant program. This money will create 4,569 jobs while providing neighborhood improvements in the Green Impact Zone of Missouri and key transit connections from the urban core to the rest of the Metropolitan area including Independence.

Last summer President Obama hailed the Green Impact Zone for “transforming a low-income community into a national model of sustainability by weatherizing homes and building a green local transit system.” Now the administration’s support of the concept is coming to fruition.

Within the Green Impact Zone, sidewalks will be constructed and repaired, street lighting improved, curbs installed and streets rehabilitated. At 39th & Prospect, bus turnarounds and shelters are planned to create a safer and more comfortable environment for residents waiting to board buses. Work will begin this spring on reconstruction of the Troost Bridge over Brush Creek which received money as part of this grant. In addition, funds are allocated for traffic signal upgrades throughout the Green Impact Zone.

This is the largest investment in infrastructure on the east side of Troost since the Bruce R. Watkins Drive and Brush Creek projects. It is far past time that these neighborhoods get what many other neighborhoods take for granted: well lit streets, curbs, roads that aren’t falling apart and sidewalks where their kids can play safely. These are essential building blocks for neighborhoods that are stable and sound. We are about 40 years overdue in installing these essentials in the urban core. With this money we will start to make amends for that injustice and put people back to work.

As Secretary LaHood said, “TIGER grants will tackle the kind of major transportation projects that have been difficult to build under other funding programs. This will help us meet the 21st century challenges of improving the environment, making our communities more livable and enhancing safety, all while creating jobs and growing the economy.”

In addition to the $26.2 million allocated to the Green Impact Zone, the TIGER award will invest millions in improved transit connections throughout the region, focused on connected urban core residents to jobs in a safe reliable way. These investments will include replacing two aging transit centers in the State Avenue corridor in Kansas City and approximately 80 bus-stop and related pedestrian improvements in the urban corridor network. The investments will focus on urban core revitalization, reinvestment to increase population and job growth. These projects will build on the success of the cost-effective bus rapid transit (BRT) service introduced on Main Street called MAX (Metro Area Express). The region’s second BRT corridor, Troost Avenue, is fully funded and currently under construction thanks to earmarks I was fortunate to have already secured.

Secretary LaHood told the crowd Wednesday that we should be very proud of our application as this was one of the most competitive grants in the entire recovery package. I can say we are very happy to be one of the 51 funded out of the more than 1400 submitted.

The Kansas City regional project was selected from more than $60 billion in requests submitted to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Awards throughout the country totaled $1.5 billion. The Kansas City Regional TIGER application will be administered by the Mid-America Regional Council. The TIGER program required that projects be shovel ready and be able to generate short- and long-term economic impacts, generate added outcomes of livability, promote safety, and involve innovative technology and financing.

The Department’s selections were based on the ability of projects to provide economic benefits, improve safety and the condition of the existing transportation system, increase quality of life, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and demonstrate strong collaboration among a broad range of participants. Congratulations to all …now let’s go put some people to work!

Federal contracts for our small and minority businesses

Continuing an exciting week focused on job creation, at my request, Chairman Bennie Thompson (MS-2) and the Homeland Security Committee staff were at Penn Valley Community College today. The capacity event focused on helping small and minority-owned businesses learn how to do business with the Department of Homeland Security.

The Chairman and I, along with 150 business owners, spent the day with one focus: connecting federal prime contractors looking for sub-contractors with local businesses looking for work.

One of the best moves I made after my election to Congress was to speak with the Speaker of the House about an appointment to the House Homeland Security Committee. I wanted an opportunity to work with this panel, and devote my time to the incredibly important agenda set forth by this Committee. In 2005, the Homeland Security Committee was made a permanent committee, and was given jurisdiction of Congressional oversight for the Department of Homeland Security. In his role as Chair, Bennie Thompson has unapologetically and repeatedly demanded that the major contractors of that huge Department, which spend billions of dollars annually with vendors, spread the dollars among small and minority businesses. This is about connecting federal dollars to local jobs and I was proud to host the Chairman.

This was truly a unique experience. We had 15 federal department procurement chiefs in one place talking to small businesses from our community. This never happens outside of Washington, D.C. and I am happy to say, because of today’s success there will be many more sessions like this.

Before today, exactly zero businesses in the Fifth District had contracts to do work for the Department of Homeland Security. As I told the crowd and the federal officials assembled, if the conversations and instruction that happened today do not lead to money contracts for Fifth District businesses, I am going to be one unhappy committee Member. We can do the work required and I hope now our businesses are first in line.

FEC Receives $5 Million Grant for Health Care Jobs

U.S. Congressman Emanuel Cleaver (left), and FEC President and CEO Clyde McQueen (right) held a news conference last Friday announcing a major grant of nearly 5 million dollars coming to the metro. The two shook hands after announcing this will add more jobs and training in the healthcare field for the metro. (Picture from KC Hispanic News)

Reprinted from KC Hispanic News

By Joe Arce and Debra DeCoster
FEBRUARY 18, 2010

Health care is a profession that is growing. As the population ages, predictions are that our society will need a large staff of health care workers to assist people who are living in managed care facilities, nursing homes, or who are in hospital. As the senior population grows, our society will have to have a growing workforce to care for their needs.

Last week, the federal government awarded a grant to the Kansas City Full Employment Council (FEC) to train the unemployed and under-employed for jobs in the health care field. “I was on the phone with Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and she was very excited about making the announcement that a significant grant was coming to Kansas City,” said Congressman Emanuel Cleaver.

The FEC was awarded $5 million in stimulus money for a new program to train individuals in the health care industry. The FEC received one of 55 awards that were given nationally. “It was awarded competitively which means that the proposal developed by Clyde McQueen and his staff was superior to just about every other proposal in the country, and when you look at the proposal that was developed and the inclusiveness you can understand why it caught the attention of the federal government,” said Cleaver.

The grant is part of the Recovery Act Initiative to fund workplace development projects that promote economic growth by preparing workers for careers.

Although the FEC received the grant it is a bi-state program that will be available to those in Missouri and Kansas. The Labor Department awarded $200 million in health care and high growth stimulus grants last week.

The stimulus money is good news to citizens in Missouri as the FEC is beginning to take names of people who are interested in enrolling in the training program for future health care professionals.

“We have a lot of people who are aging and going into managed care facilities and we are trying to address that. We have the Kansas City region, it is known primarily as a major health care hub and we want to meet those needs, and most important, it is going to be a focus for all the unemployed in our region and this is a way for us to train them for the long term,” said Clyde McQueen, FEC CEO.

The training courses for health care jobs will be on demand courses. Individuals wishing to take the course will not have to wait for a semester to begin.

The time line for the courses will depend on the health care field the individual would like to enter. As a phlebotomist or a medical technician it could take six to twelve weeks for training. A person who is currently an LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) and would like to become an RN (Registered Nurse) training could take two years.

The stimulus money will also help individuals that want a health care career with tuition. “We know that some people will have problems trying to keep their rent up or trying to figure out how they will pay their bills and care for their children. The bulk of the grant money will go to tuition payments for college or vocational schools,” said McQueen.

“This is a high growth area. What the labor department is doing is pumping $226 million into high growth areas. It doesn’t make sense for us to put money into something that is not going to be growing in the future. As Americans live longer there is going to be a greater need for health care workers and that is exactly what this project will do,” stated Cleaver.

Grant recipients are expected to work in conjunction with a diverse range of partners, including labor organizations, employers and workforce investment boards. The FEC has joined with partners Kansas City Metropolitan Health Care Council, the Kansas City Area Nurse Executives, the Kansas City Greater Chamber of Commerce, Health Care Foundation of Kansas City, the Collegiate Nurse Educators of Kansas City, and the United Services Community Action Agency Work Force and the Work Force Investment Board of Kansas City Local Area 3, along with the metropolitan area community colleges, to get the health care program rolling within a month of receiving the grant. Training will be conducted locally and it is tied to jobs that will be available to individuals entering the health care field.

“We have employers who have said we have jobs and we need to have people to meet the jobs that we have. We have employers identified, we just need to get people trained to enter the health care field,” said McQueen.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A special invitation

One of the best moves I made after my election to Congress was to speak with the Speaker of the House about an appointment to the House Homeland Security Committee. I wanted an opportunity to work with this panel, and devote my time to the incredibly important agenda set forth by this Committee. In 2005, the Homeland Security Committee was made a permanent committee, and was given jurisdiction of Congressional oversight for the Department of Homeland Security. In his role as Chair, Bennie Thompson has unapologetically and repeatedly demanded that the major contractors of that huge Department which spends billions of dollars annually with vendors, spread the dollars among small and minority businesses.

On Friday, February 19, Chairman Bennie Thompson and the Committee staff, at my invitation, will visit the Fifth Congressional District of Missouri. You are invited to attend and participate in a workshop on how to do business with the Department of Homeland Security. The event is being held at the Penn Valley Campus of the Metropolitan Community College. It will begin at 9am, with a complimentary luncheon at 12:30pm, followed by the resumption of the workshop from 1:15pm to 2:30pm.

In order us to assure a place for you at this Congressional event, please register here or email your confirmation to For further information, please call my Kansas City office at 816-842-4545 or my Washington, DC office at 202-225-4545.

Click here to go directly to the registration form >>>

Friday, February 05, 2010

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

This morning, the Department of Labor released its unemployment report for January showing the unemployment rate improved slightly. The rate may have dropped, but the economy is still not producing a net gain in jobs. So, while a step in the right direction, these numbers are nothing to beat our chest about. There is far more to do. House has already passed a job creation bill and the Senate is debating additional measures. That too is progress. Here are a few press clips that have come across my desk in the last few days:
  • According to today’s report from the Department of Labor, the unemployment rate for January was 9.7%, a slight improvement over December’s rate of 10%. And while the country lost 20,000 jobs in January, “aside from November's gain, January's job losses were the smallest since the recession began.” Today’s report included other indications that America continues on a path to economic recovery: “The report included more good news from the manufacturing sector, which is a key factor in the recovery. Manufacturers gained 11,000 jobs, its largest increase since April 2006. Retailers added 42,100 jobs, the most since November 2007, before the recession began. Temporary help services gained 52,000 jobs, the fourth month of gains in that category. That could signal future hiring, as employers usually hire temp workers before permanent ones.” [Associated Press, 2/5/2010]
  • President Obama announced plans for a new program to encourage small business lending, another important step in efforts to help businesses create jobs. “The administration's proposal would invest $30 billion from the government's Troubled Asset Relief Program in community banks to encourage them to lend to small businesses.... The lending program is part of a broad package of jobs-growth proposals that Congress will consider in coming days.” [Wall Street Journal, 2/3/2010]
  • A manufacturing report from the Institute for Supply Management indicates the U.S. economy is recovering: “a new survey showed that banks have stopped making it tougher for consumers and businesses to borrow, and manufacturing activity climbed to its highest levels in five years…. With manufacturing activity at its highest point since August 2004 and continued month-to-month gains, the sector's recovery appears more sustainable than many economists predicted just a few months ago. That bodes well for the overall economy.” [Wall Street Journal, 2/2/2010]
  • A report released by the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board indicates that the Recovery Act created 600,000 jobs in the last 3 months of 2009, “a figure in line with the administration's goals for job creation through the end of 2010.” [Washington Post, 2/1/10; White House, 1/6/10]
So the good news is that unemployment fell and temporary employment increased, which is a good sign for future job growth. This slowing of labor market losses, combined with last week’s positive GDP figures, all point to an economy that is beginning to recover. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that 20,000 jobs were still lost last month.

And the downright ugly news is that the deepest part of this recession, was even deeper than analysts thought. The reports show that the economy lost over 1 million more jobs during the recession than previously estimated. Over 14 million Americans are out of work, there are six job seekers for every available job, and 4 in 10 unemployed workers have been searching for a new job for at least six months.


In the list of odd terms thrown around the halls of Congress, the word PAYGO has been used so much that many forget what it stands for. Yesterday, the House voted to put in statute the “Pay-As-You-Go” rule.

As a bipartisan fiscal responsibility group put it: ‘PAYGO requires anyone proposing tax cuts or entitlement expansions to answer the question: ‘How would you pay for it?’ Going through this process would force an explicit trade-off between spending, taxes and debt, which is exactly the priority-setting exercise that the budget process should facilitate.’

A New York Times analysis found that 90% of our deficit is due to the policies of the previous administration, the extension of those policies, and the economic downturn. But, this is our mess now, and as was proven in the Clinton administration, PAYGO is a proven deficit-cutting tool.

Under President Clinton, PAYGO helped turn record deficits into a $5.6 trillion projected surplus over ten years. PAYGO was allowed to expire under the previous administration when my friends in the other party controlled the Congress. This led to a series of bills like the Prescription drug benefit or tax cuts for the wealthy that were passed without a single dime to pay for them. My colleagues and I in the House have been obeying PAYGO since 2006.

It is not the perfect solution, but it is a substantial step in the right direction. PAYGO can’t get us out of our fiscal hole, but it can keep us from digging it any further.

It was once again sobering that we had to raise the debt ceiling yesterday and many rushed to the floor to complain about how high our debt was. It is simply not enough to complain. We have to actually do something to control spending.

For more about PAYGO my friend Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (MD-5) has put together an informative video on the policy >>>

Friday, January 15, 2010

Community Prayer Vigil

Please join me for this community prayer vigil for the people of Haiti.

St. James United Methodist Church
5540 Wayne, Kansas City Mo.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010
at 7:00 pm

We encourage you to pass along this email to friends and family.

All are welcome.

Updates on Haiti


Learn more about the William J. Clinton Foundation's Haiti Earthquake Relief efforts. Financial Donations

Donate $10 to the American Red Cross – charged to your cell phone bill – by texting "HAITI" to "90999."

Contribute online to the Red Cross

Find more ways to help through the Center for International Disaster Information.

Get Information about Friends or Family

The State Department Operations Center has set up the following phone number for Americans seeking information about family members in Haiti: 1-888-407-4747 (due to heavy volume, some callers may receive a recording). You can also send an email to the State Department.

Haitian citizens in the U.S. can also call the Haitian Embassy in Washington, D.C., (202)-332-4090, or the Haitian Consulate in New York City, (305)-859-2003.

Please be aware that communications within Haiti are very difficult at this time.

Our office can also be of assistance in contacting the State Department for residents of Missouri’s Fifth District: 816-842-4545

The Response
  • The first waves of rescue and relief workers are on the ground and at work.
  • Yesterday, a survey team worked to identify priority areas for assistance, and shared the results of that review throughout the United States government.
  • Search and rescue teams are actively working to save lives.
  • Injured Americans are being quickly moved out of Haiti and efforts are continuing to ascertain the status of all 45,000 Americans in Haiti.
  • The US military has now secured the airport and are restoring communications and air traffic control so heavy equipment and resources can be delivered as part of the international airlift.
  • The airlift has begun to deliver high-priority items like water and medicine.
  • Right now in Haiti roads are impassable, the main port is badly damaged, communications equipment is beginning to arrive.
  • Several Coast Guard cutters are already off the coast and are beginning to provide basic services.
  • Elements of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division arrived late last night.
  • The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit has now left port in North Carolina today aboard the ships USS Bataan, USS Fort McHenry and USS Carter Hall. Over 2,000 Marines and sailors will be on board as part of the deployment.
  • The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson will arrive in the early hours of this morning, it was outfitted with 19 additional helicopters and supplies while in route.
  • The Navy's hospital ship, the USS Comfort is underway from Baltimore to Haiti.
  • The President announced yesterday an immediate investment of $100 million to support our relief efforts.
  • Vice President Biden will meet in South Florida this weekend with members of the Haitian American community.

The latest on the health care negotiations

There are many sticking points yet to be hashed out, but there does appear to be a plan emerging on how to deal with what has been called the tax on “Cadillac” health plans that the Senate added to its bill. All of us are just now reading the potential compromise, so this is a very early report on what I am hearing.

Essentially insurance plans that are a result of collective bargaining would be exempt through 2018. It is important to note, this is a tax on insurance companies that market and sell high-cost plans. The tax will hit only 3 percent of the premiums of the plans that they sell, and they can avoid it by selling a more affordable health care plans.

The threshold at which the tax on so-called “Cadillac plans” has been adjusted as a result of this deal — increasing from $23,000 a year for a family policy, to $24,000.

The threshold is even higher for certain plans with older workers and women, a move to benefit unions with a high proportion of female membership.

The agreement on the high-premium excise tax would:
  • Include permanent adjustments based on age, gender and high-risk professions – factors that affect the cost of health plans regardless of the generosity of the benefits they provide. This makes good sense, as it focuses the impact on plans that provide the highest-cost benefits – not those that happen to cover the highest-cost workers.

  • Exempts the cost of dental and vision plans from the cost of coverage. These benefits are outside the core health spending which this provision is aimed at slowing.

  • Provide transition relief to help employers, insurers and workers adjust to the permanent provision. This includes a transition period for high-cost states, as well as providing health plans for state and local workers and collectively bargained plans a 5-year transition window before being subject to the tax. This is similar to the approach in other areas of the bill – including insurance market reforms and the insurer fee – where transition periods are built in to give stakeholders time to adjust.
More talks on other elements of the bill are underway, but this was one of the large differences between the House and Senate plans.