This blog has oft been a litany of what it's like to live in our Southern, Redder, States. Seems to me like it goes from one horror to another, and of course there's the insane/crazed politicians that make it all happen.
Massachusetts is blue. It's been blue for ages, and in the last couple of election cycles, we've been the "bluest state in the country." Well, we're back to that. When Elizabeth Warren heads to Washington, our entire congressional delegation will be blue, and looking over at Beacon Hill, it's much of the same. The current house is running 128/32, and the Senate clocks in at 36/4. You're all familiar with our rising governor by now, too.
But what's it like living here? While he's not my Representative, Mr. Tom Stanley of Waltham is a personal friend, and he sends out a roughly monthly newsletter with all the goings-on around here. Alas, it's not online, but you can check out Mr. Stanley here
, if you're so inclined.
So let's dive in. We'll start with a subject near and dear to me, our veterans. What happens in a blue state?
$1.5 Million in Federal Funding to End Homelessness among Veterans
The Obama Administration awarded $1.5 million to provide street level outreach, peer support services and case management to chronically homeless veterans in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Department of Veterans' Services (DVS) will use this funding to apply the 'Statewide Housing Advocacy for Reintegration and Prevention' (SHARP) model to the Housing & Urban Development - VA Supported Housing (HUD-VASH) program.
The SHARP model, which is administered by DVS, offers peer support, mental health services, psychiatric evaluation and linkages to emergency shelter to veterans recently placed in supportive housing at a veteran-centric facility. The team also identifies and enrolls new homeless veterans in the HUD-VASH program. This new funding was specifically designated to hire 9 new peer support specialists, 12 new case managers, and be accompanied by 320 new HUD-VASH vouchers.
Veteran Job Fairs & Career Events in November
In honor of "Hire a Veteran Month," the state's One-Stop Career Centers is hosting several events to give veterans direct access to potential employers. Employment activities are taking place throughout the Commonwealth with many partners participating to support our veterans. Please click here for more information.
Wonder about that societal thing about "helping the less fortunate"? What's it like in a blue state?
More than 200,000 MA families to receive help paying their heating bills this winter
Massachusetts will receive $141 million in federal funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). This is an increase of $8.2 million over the previous year's funding level. The funding will be allocated to 22 local administering agencies that will distribute benefits to over 200,000 Massachusetts households in need.
The fuel assistance funds provide eligible households with help in paying a portion of their winter heating bills. Eligibility for the program is based on household size and the gross annual income of every household member, 18 years of age or older. The maximum income eligibility for LIHEAP is 60 percent of estimated state median income. Benefit levels vary depending on household income. Nationwide LIHEAP assists more than 4.6 million low-income Americans in paying their heating bills.
Massachusetts will receive 90 percent of its allocated funding today and based on previous years the Administration anticipates the final 10 percent released by HHS in January. In September, Governor Patrick led a bipartisan letter with 13 other Governors urging Congress to fully fund the LIHEAP program, in any funding agreement for FY 2013, at last year's funding levels.
State Wants New Approach for Children's Services
Gov. Patrick recently signed a bill to revamp the way the Commonwealth helps troubled and truant children, the start of a three-year process to pull children who need help out of the court system. In July, the legislature passed a bill to shift responsibility from the juvenile courts and the probation department to the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.
The Children in Need of Services (CHINS) program is being overhauled and renamed. The new program, known as Families and Children Engaged in Services (FACES), calls for family resource centers to provide coordinated services including behavioral health, medical services, mentoring, family and parent support, along with after-school opportunities.
Healthcare Reform was invented right here in Massachusetts....so as the national leader, you'd expect us to have a multitude of programs and other support, right?
Well, what's it like in a blue state?
New Health Care Cost Containment Website
Governor Patrick launched the next phase of health care reform, signing legislation that builds on the Commonwealth's nation-leading access to care through landmark measures that will lower costs and make quality, affordable care a reality for all Massachusetts residents. The mission of the Center of Health Information and Analysis (CHIA) is to improve health care quality and contain health care costs by critically examining the Massachusetts health care system and providing objective information, developing and recommending policies, and implementing strategies that benefit the people of MA. Click here to visit CHIA's website which outlines information on the law, notice of upcoming events and a single portal for connecting with other health care related state agencies, authorities and commissions.
But that's cost....how about care?
Governor Patrick Signs Bill To Improve the Long-Term Care for Seniors
Governor Patrick joined advocates and legislators for a ceremonial bill signing of Senate Bill 2359, "An Act Establishing Standards for Long-Term Care Insurance," which ensures the availability of long-term care insurance policies, protects long-term care applicants from unfair or deceptive sales or enrollment practices, and promotes flexibility and customization according to an individual's long-term care needs. The legislation also establishes standards for long-term care insurance and facilitates better public understanding and comparison of long-term care insurance policies. Governor Patrick signed the legislation on October 25, 2012.
The legislation provides safeguards through certain provisions that are prohibited in long-term care insurance policies. For example, a policy may not be cancelled on the basis of age or deterioration of mental or physical health; a long-term care policy may not contain a provision containing a new preexisting condition limitation period when existing coverage is converted to a new one within the same insurance company; the policy may not provide coverage for skilled nursing care only; or provide significantly more coverage for skilled care than coverage for lower levels of care.
Additionally, the legislation gives people of all age's encouragement and peace of mind that they are buying a safe product and one that will provide an option for people to be cared for in their home. The bill also makes long-term care insurance policies more understandable and more portable across state lines by meeting federal standards for long-term care insurance coverage.
But all of this comes at a cost. You know Massachusetts has among the lowest unemployment rates out of the 50 states. There's still a lot more that can be done to help that. So what's it like living in a blue state?
Billions in Capital Investments for Massachusetts Communities Announced
Governor Patrick unveiled his Fiscal Year (FY) 2013-2017 Capital Investment Plan, which continues the Patrick-Murray Administration's efforts to support long-term economic growth and stimulate job creation by calling for significant investments in higher education, transportation, economic development, housing and other infrastructure and assets.
The Capital Investment Plan seeks to reverse decades of underinvestment, create jobs and improve the Commonwealth's economic future by supporting public assets - classrooms and academic buildings, roads and bridges, and public housing. The plan also invests in the Commonwealth's innovation industries to create thousands of jobs and set the stage for future economic growth.
The FY13-17 Capital Investment Plan continues to make investments in the Commonwealth public housing portfolio. In addition to the Commonwealth's yearly $170 million investment in housing, the plan will provide a $10 million expansion for housing funding.
Alas....there's pages and pages of this sort of thing on the Stanley report; far too much to post. Go back and look at the state house split again; the Republicans are powerless here, and as a result our legislature is often quite busy doing the people's work, and I think it shows.
Massachusetts is generous enough to be able to help other places nationally...another fine tradition of ours that goes back to the Halifax Explosion
and is the reason why our city Christmas Tree comes from Nova Scotia.
So what's it like when a Blue State helps?
MA Responds to Hurricane Sandy
Massachusetts is helping to enable gasoline shipments to New York and New Jersey as those states and their residents recover from Hurricane Sandy. The announcement comes at the request of New York officials, and will facilitate the distribution of gas supply throughout the region.
New York Harbor serves as a primary fuel distribution center for the East Coast, including New England. Hurricane Sandy damaged the petroleum terminals there and disrupted the regional fuel distribution network. Ships that have not been able to offload in New York Harbor can now do so in Massachusetts waters by transferring their content onto smaller barges in order to get fuel to Boston-area terminals. The fuel will then be transported by trucks between Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey.
Under the leadership of Governor Patrick, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) continues to coordinate and respond to mutual aid requests from those states most impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Governor Patrick has deployed a growing number of Massachusetts personnel and material assets to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC).
I know it's a lot of stuff for a Saturday morning....but take a look around your state legislature and their recent accomplishments. What's it like living in YOUR state today?