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NEIGHBOR TO NEIGHBOR PROGRAM ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS FOR WINTER HEATING ASSISTANCE THRU APRIL 30TH

The Ohio Neighbor to Neighbor Program will continue to accept applications for utility assistance grants for the 2016-2017 winter heating season through April 30th. The program will accept applications from households seeking heating assistance on a first-come, first serve basis while funds are available.

Through a partnership between AEP Ohio, a unit of American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP), and Dollar Energy Fund, eligible AEP Ohio customers who need help during the winter months, can apply for assistance to maintain or restore their electric service.

Dollar Energy Fund’s Hardship Program – one of the largest in the country – provides one-time annual assistance to families facing an immediate utility crisis. With help from the Neighbor to Neighbor Program, families in need can receive a grant that’s applied directly to their AEP Ohio account and prevents the termination or restores the electric service.

To apply, customers may contact one of the Neighbor to Neighbor Program network of more than 120 Ohio community-based organizations. To qualify, an applicant’s total gross household income must be at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Income Guidelines.

For example, a family of four earning up to $48,600 per year is income eligible for the program. Households must have made a sincere effort of payment on their electric bill in the last 90 days and have a back balance. Full eligibility guidelines and application instructions can be found at AEPOhio.com/helpaneighbor.

AEP Ohio and Dollar Energy Fund launched the Ohio Neighbor to Neighbor Program in May 2009 and have helped more than 46,000 Ohio families with more than $11.8 million in utility assistance grants.

“We all know Ohio winters can be brutally cold, very unpredictable and extremely challenging for many people, especially the elderly and those with health problems,” said Julie Sloat, president and chief operating officer for AEP Ohio. “For many Ohio families, heating their homes during this time can also pose a difficult financial burden. Being a good community partner and neighbor is who we are and what we do, and we are committed to giving our neighbors, who may struggle to make ends meet, a helping hand to ensure their electric service continues.”

For more information about Dollar Energy Fund and how to apply for the Hardship Program or donate to the organization, visit www.dollarenergyfund.org.

BROWN OUTLINES BIPARTISAN LEGISLATION TO KEEP FENTANYL OUT OF U.S.

Brown’s Bill Would Provide Law Enforcement with Additional Screening Equipment, Lab Resources to Detect Deadly Opioid before It Enters U.S.

WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today (March 22) outlined his bipartisan legislation to help U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) keep the deadly synthetic opioid, fentanyl, out of the country. Brown’s bill, the INTERDICT Act, would provide CBP with additional hi-tech screening equipment and lab resources to detect fentanyl before it enters the U.S. According to a report from the Ohio Department of Health, fentanyl-related overdose deaths in Ohio more than doubled from 503 in 2014 to 1,155 in 2015.

During his weekly news conference call, Brown was joined by Jay McDonald, President of the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio, and Chief Deputy Rick Minerd from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office.

“Fentanyl has taken far too many lives across Ohio, and this is one concrete step we can take right now to help stop it from entering our communities and destroying any more Ohio families,” said Brown. “It’s not enough to treat overdoses as they happen – we must do more to stem the tide of deadly synthetic opioids flooding the country. We know hi-tech screening works and we need to give CBP agents the tools they need to keep fentanyl from entering the U.S.”

Brown’s bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV). The Senators developed the legislation in consultation with CBP based on their guidance about the best way to way to cut down on fentanyl entering the country.

At some port locations along the southern border, CBP is successfully using hi-tech chemical screening devices to safely detect fentanyl entering the U.S. through mail or ports of entry. But the agency does not have enough screening equipment to cover all ports of entry nor enough scientists and lab support to interpret the results.

Brown’s bill would authorize $15 million for hundreds of new screening devices, laboratory equipment, facilities, and personnel for 24×7 lab support. The money will be used to:

Provide more portable chemical screening devices at ports of entry and mail and express consignment facilities and additional fixed chemical screening devices available in CBP laboratories.

Provide CBP with sufficient resources, personnel, and facilities — including scientists available during all operational hours — to interpret screening test results from the field.

Providing CBP with more screening devices and lab support will not only stop more Fentanyl from coming into the U.S., it will also protect more agents in the field from exposure to dangerous substances.

“Fentanyl and carfentanil are killing thousands of Ohioans, in fact it kills more people in Ohio than car crashes. Law enforcement is finding fentanyl and carfentanil in other drugs beside heroin, as drug traffickers are looking for ways to expand their sales of these extremely dangerous drugs. Most of the fentanyl found in the United States is sourced from China and shipped into the United States or to Mexico. If shipped to Mexico, it is repackaged and trafficked into the United States. Stopping the flow of fentanyl and carfentanil into the United States will save lives, there is no doubt about that,” said McDonald.

“Illicit drug manufactures abroad continue to find even more dangerous ways to exploit Americans with substance abuse disorders. Law enforcement officials are desperately searching for tools to respond to the unprecedented threat of rogue distributors, in places like China and Mexico, from conveying deadly substances such as Fentanyl and Carfentanil onto the streets of U.S. neighborhoods,” said Minerd.

Meet These Americans Who Would Lose Coverage Under GOP Bill

A new poll shows that only 17 percent of Americans support the GOP bill that will cause 24 million people to lose their insurance and drive up premiums for older Americans.

These Americans are not part of that 17 percent.

Read these personal stories of Americans across the country terrified of having Trump and the GOP take their coverage away:

Alabama:

Anniston Star: Residents fear losing insurance under GOP health plan

When Pam Howard and her husband started their business in Jacksonville in 1999, they took a chance not just with their money, but with their health.

The couple bought health insurance for their kids, but not for themselves.

“Then I got really sick and we lost our home and car, we lost everything,” Howard, 58, said referring to the costly medical bills. “And after the bankruptcy, I couldn’t get anything through insurance because I had a pre-existing condition.”

Howard now has insurance she bought on the insurance exchange through the Affordable Care Act, but she worries that she won’t be able to afford it under the House Republicans’ plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.

At 28, Matt Tyson of Anniston is at the young end of the health insurance pool. With a wife and three kids, he’s not interested in going without insurance, or buying a pared-down plan.

“I really don’t have another option for insurance … this is the most affordable plan I could find with the best coverage,” said Tyson, who pays $69 per month for an ACA plan. “Any plans with lower cost than that and you get into lower quality of health care.”

Arizona:

NPR: Repeal Of Health Law Could Force Tough Decisions For Arizona Republicans

Connie Dotts is a big fan of her insurance.

“I like that we can choose our own doctors,” says the 60-year-old resident of Mesa, Ariz. “They also have extensive mental health coverage.”

Dotts isn’t on some pricey plan, either. She’s among the nearly 2 million people enrolled in Medicaid in Arizona and one of the more than 400,000 who have signed up since the Republican-led state expanded Medicaid in 2013.

Her eight prescription drugs are cheap, Dotts says, and she has no copays or premiums. The Medicaid benefits have allowed her to stay on top of her emphysema, depression and osteoarthritis.

“I have torn ligaments in my ankles and I can’t take the time off work to go to physical therapy or surgery,” she says. So she’s grateful to be able to manage her other conditions.

Dotts works retail and lives paycheck to paycheck. Without Medicaid, she says, she wouldn’t be able to afford to see a doctor. “It’s just barely above what they consider livable income. Any extensive medical issues would put an excessive burden on me,” she says.

She wouldn’t be eligible for Medicaid, except that Arizona started accepting extra funding from the federal government via the Affordable Care Act in 2014 to raise the income threshold for Medicaid in the state. That enabled Arizona to expand Medicaid to cover more people.

The replacement plan the GOP leaders in Congress have proposed would cut off the federal funding for that sort of expanded eligibility after 2020.

California

Los Angeles Times: He’s Devoted His Life to Caring for L.A.’s Neediest Patients and TrumpCare Has Him Very Nervous

As the suits get rich at the top of the healthcare food chain, there was trembling last week at L.A. County-USC among patients who fear they’ll lose coverage.

“I’ve just been nervous, hoping it doesn’t happen,” said Mercedes Greer, 26, a behavioral therapist who was waiting on an MRI to see if she has a torn knee ligament. The hospital arranged temporary Medi-Cal for her, but it expires in a month, and those kinds of plans could end up on the block.

The Daily Beast: How TrumpCare Will Crush Millennials and Their Boomer Parents

Amina, a 29-year-old California woman, counts herself lucky. She and her 26-year-old sister moved back into their childhood home when their parents’ care needs exceeded their ability to take care of themselves. Amina’s mother is on a cocktail of medications to address a problem with her heart and must get blood transfusions every two years to deal with her anemia. Amina’s 70-year-old father has osteoporosis and needs help getting in and out of the shower. All of Amina and her sister’s paychecks go to supporting their parents.

ABC7: PATIENTS AT ANTELOPE VALLEY CLINIC FEAR NEW GOP HEALTH BILL COULD MEAN LOSS OF INSURANCE

“I’m absolutely terrified of Trumpcare or whatever it is they’re calling it,” she tells The Daily Beast. “The one statistic that keeps getting trotted out, the 64-year-old making $26,500 paying $14,600, is absolutely insane. We simply won’t be able to afford to pay an increase like that.”

Since the Affordable Care Act allowed for the expansion of MediCal, resident Lori Perlin gets to see her doctors regularly as she suffers from asthma, diabetes and heart disease.

“If I can’t get the coverage that I need, I don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said. “I get excellent care here.”

The same goes for Maria Santos. She and her daughter both have diabetes, and she’s worried her care will be cut off.

Florida:

Orlando Sentinel: Trumpcare critics share fear, anxiety

Susanna Perkins, 63, agreed, saying she had finally been able to get health insurance through Obamacare after five years of going without. The Altamonte Springs resident had even moved with her husband to Panama for that nation’s low cost of living and cheap health care after she lost her employer-provided plan during the recession — just as her husband was finishing a master’s degree and hoping to go into teaching.

“He got his diploma just in time for Orange and Seminole [school districts] to lay off 3,000 teachers,” she said. “He finally got a job at the age of 62, riding his bicycle as a courier in downtown Orlando. It was a very dangerous job. He had three accidents … and I never knew when he left in the morning if I’d see him again at night. We blew through his IRA, and … we ended up selling everything we had, except the house, which we couldn’t sell in that market anyway.”

They only returned from Panama in 2014, when they were able to get coverage through the insurance exchange set up under the ACA.

“If they shred [the current plan] like they’re supposed to, we’re going to be hightailing it out of here,” she said, “because dealing with the health care [costs] and insurance makes you sick.”

LAT: She voted for Trump. Now she fears losing the Obamacare plan that saved her life

Kathy Watson was anxious about her health coverage even before she woke up gasping for breath last month and drove herself to the emergency room with a flare-up in her heart condition.

After struggling for years without insurance, the 55-year-old former small-business owner — who has battled diabetes, high blood pressure and two cancers — credits Obamacare with saving her life.

Watson, a proud, salty woman who was uninsurable a few years ago, isn’t ready to renounce Trump. But she’s increasingly frustrated by his vague promises to replace Obamacare with something better.

“I’ve been through enough,” Watson said recently, sitting on the patio outside her mobile home, down a sandy road in a rural corner of northern Florida. “I don’t want to go back.”

Georgia

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Trump voters in South Georgia come to terms with GOP health plan

Kenneth Peek had a rough year. The South Georgia farm where he and his wife grow corn, wheat and soybeans faced a drought and lost money in 2016. So he’s working construction jobs to make ends meet.

The 64-year-old hoped to catch a break on his health care costs. He has insurance through the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, but the premiums and bills keep going up and up. That’s one reason he voted for Donald Trump, hoping “he gets this old country straightened out.”

But like many older Americans and people with limited means, Peek is learning that the Republican plan to replace Obamacare doesn’t give him a break. It gives him a thumping.

Right now, Peek is paying $281 a month for his health policy through Obamacare. That’s $3,372 a year. He’s receiving $11,172 in government tax credits. (His wife, Debra, is on disability.)

Under the proposed new plan, his tax credit would shrink to about $4,000, a drop of $7,172 or 64 percent.

Illinois

WTTW (PBS) – Chicago, IL: GOP Congressman Roskam’s Constituents Outraged By TrumpCare

“It’s a lot of people that are going to feel stressful that they don’t have health insurance. It’s a lot of people who are just one major medical illness away from bankruptcy or death. because they could not afford the cost of treatment. That’s not right.”

Indiana

Associated Press: ‘Scared to death’: GOP health care overhaul leaves states in limbo

Among those benefiting from Indiana’s expansion is Michael Boone, a 55-year-old cook from Gary.

Boone said it was the first time he has had health coverage as an adult, and it allowed him to get treatment for medical problems he didn’t know he had. They included high cholesterol, high blood pressure and a hernia.

His coverage could be a casualty if the Medicaid cuts take effect and Indiana cannot find a way to pay for a larger share.

“I really don’t have a full grasp of the situation yet,” Boone said. “But right now, I’m scared to death.”

Kentucky

ABC: In Kentucky, a Trump stronghold, many fear losing Obamacare

“If I didn’t have health insurance, I wouldn’t be alive today,” she said. “I’m on an every three week regimen of medications … that’s about $40,000 a month … so I’m very concerned about the issues that are taking place right now.”

Briemer is one of the millions of Americans who are insured under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Former President Obama announced in March 2016 that an estimated 20 million Americans had gained health insurance since ACA was signed into law six years ago.

But now with the new administration and a Republican-led Congress, the program could be in its last days because current lawmakers say they can come up with a better health care plan.

Maine

Portland Press-Herald: Mainers would pay up to 7 times more in premiums under House Republican ACA replacement bill

Ken Voorhees, 61, a self-employed Litchfield builder, earns between $30,000 and $40,000 per year, depending on how much work he gets. He said he currently pays $344 per month in premiums for a plan with a $2,500 deductible. Under the House Republican plan, which would go into effect in 2020 if approved, his premiums could increase to about $900 per month – about one-third of his annual income.

Michigan

The Current: ‘I really think people will die’: Americans fear losing health care under Trump’s plan

Mark Jenkins, a retired priest in Michigan, is not yet old enough to qualify for insurance under Medicare, which provides it to seniors. He pays for a plan under the Affordable Care Act.

Jenkins tells The Current’s Anna Maria Tremonti, he’s done the math and figures the Republican proposal would see his insurance bill jump much higher.

“They say they don’t want to pull the rug out from underneath us, but I don’t know how else you could define it,” he says.

“I think that they’re reckless, and I think that they’re rushed,” Jenkins says of politicians in Congress pressing ahead with health-care changes.

“People are going to find themselves without care. Lower-income people are already having more health problems than upper-income people because they can’t afford to eat as well,” he explains.

“I don’t like to exaggerate, but I really think people will die.”

Montana

The Missoulian: Tribes have had better access to health care under ACA; GOP health plan could change that

“We would not be able to continue to build the capacity that the Affordable Care Act was allowing us to do, which essentially took care of the underfunding of the health care system for Indians in the first place,” said Northern Cheyenne President Jace Killsback, who had previously worked as health director and served on a federal committee to advise enrollment efforts in Indian Country. “It essentially stops the momentum, the progress and growth. … Our tribes will continue to have some of the highest health disparities and the most negative health outcomes.”

Nebraska

Associated Press: Nebraska among states hardest-hit by GOP health care bill

Lisa Schwetschenau, of Omaha, fears the proposal could open the door to her losing coverage for some of her multiple sclerosis treatments. The 48-year-old relies on her husband’s employer-based insurance plan for physical therapy and used it to get mental health treatment.

Schwetschenau said she’s worried the GOP proposal would eliminate the employer mandate to provide coverage and let states pick the “essential benefits” that plans must cover. Both her physical therapy and mental health treatment are considered essential benefits under the ACA.

“I feel very vulnerable at the moment,” Schwetschenau said. “There’s no guarantee that they’ll have to provide it on an ongoing basis. My husband’s employer could come back one year and say it’s too expensive, and they won’t provide it anymore.”

New Hampshire

New York Times: Addiction Treatment Grew Under Health Law. Now What?

Chad Diaz began using heroin when he was 12. Now 36 and newly covered by Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, he is on Suboxone, a substitute opioid that eases withdrawal symptoms and cravings, and he is slowly pulling himself together.

“This is the best my life has gone in many, many years,” Diaz, a big man wearing camouflage, said as he sat in a community health center in Manchester, New Hampshire.

If Congress and President Donald Trump succeed in dismantling the Affordable Care Act, he will have no insurance to pay for his medication or counseling, and he fears he will slide back to heroin.

“If this gets taken from me, it’s right back to square one,” he said. “And that’s not a good place. I’m scary when I’m using. I don’t care who I hurt.”

New York

CNN: Grieving father: ‘I don’t play Trump songs anymore’

Last year, Kraig Moss sold the equipment for his construction business in upstate New York and stopped making mortgage payments so he could follow Donald Trump on the campaign trail.

The amateur country crooner sang pro-Trump ditties while strumming a guitar emblazoned with Trump campaign stickers, earning him the moniker “Trump Troubadour.”

International media dubbed him “the voice of unheard America.”

But now, Moss refuses to play the guitar with the Trump decorations. He’s soured on the President because of the newly proposed Republican health care bill.

That legislation, which the president supports, could result in dramatic cuts in addiction treatment services.

Three years ago, Moss found his son, Rob, dead in his bed from a heroin overdose. He was 24.

“The bill is an absolute betrayal of what Trump represented on the campaign trail,” he said. “I feel betrayed.”

Esquire: Disabled Americans Have the Most to Fear Under RepubliCare

Namel Norris, a paraplegic gun violence survivor who performs with hip-hop group 4 Wheel City, lives in the Bronx and is eligible for Medicaid coverage to help him manage health care needs associated with his injury. “Every month and every day,” he says, “I rely on Medicaid.” He needs Medicaid-covered medical supplies to leave his house, he says, so without it, he’d be trapped.

Not having to worry about lifetime limits also enables his art, Norris says: Instead of being caught in a struggle to survive, he can focus on youth outreach and education and making music. It’s hard to imagine doing that, he says, with threat of Medicaid being pulled out from under him. “My life would just change,” Norris says. “Drastically.”

North Carolina

Associated Press: For many older Americans, costs rise under health plan

Retired factory worker Bob Melton, 63, said the projected cost increases for older Americans mean he and his wife Tammy, 58, would be unable to continue to afford coverage. They now pay $225 a month after the subsidies they receive through the Affordable Care Act.

He was staggered by a projection that the couple’s premiums could go up by nearly $17,000 under the GOP plan.

“It’ll put me and my wife out — out of insurance. There’s just no way,” he said.

Melton saw a doctor for the first time in 12 years after he and his wife bought a policy through the federal health insurance exchange in 2014. After three appointments and blood tests ruled out more serious ailments, Melton said he learned the nagging pain he suffered in his hands was caused by arthritis.

The Meltons live in Morganton, North Carolina, about 75 miles northwest of Charlotte, in a county that has seen an exodus of manufacturing jobs. Trump won more than two-thirds of the vote here.

Bob Melton himself used to be a staunch Republican. Now he blames Republicans in North Carolina for what he views as efforts to obstruct the Affordable Care Act from working as intended, by refusing to expand Medicaid coverage.

“There’s no justification for it except for spite. That’s just the way I feel about it,” said Melton, who voted for Clinton.

New York Times: Millions Risk Losing Health Insurance in Republican Plan, Analysts Say

Martha Brawley of Monroe, N.C., said she voted for President Trump in the hope he could make insurance more affordable. But on Tuesday, Ms. Brawley, 55, was feeling increasingly nervous based on what she had heard about the new plan from television news reports. She pays about $260 per month for a Blue Cross plan and receives a subsidy of $724 per month to cover the rest of her premium. Under the House plan, she would receive $3,500 a year in tax credits — $5,188 less than she gets under the Affordable Care Act.

“I’m scared, I’ll tell you that right now, to think about not having insurance at my age,” said Ms. Brawley, who underwent a liver biopsy on Monday after her doctor found that she has an autoimmune liver disease. “If I didn’t have insurance, these doctors wouldn’t see me.”

Ohio

New York Times: G.O.P.’s Health Care Tightrope Winds Through the Blue-Collar Midwest

James Waltimire, a police officer on unpaid medical leave, has been going to the hospital in this small city twice a week for physical therapy after leg surgery, all of it paid for by Medicaid.

Mr. Waltimire, 54, was able to sign up for the government health insurance program last year because Ohio expanded it to cover more than 700,000 low-income adults under the Affordable Care Act. He voted for President Trump — in part because of Mr. Trump’s support for law enforcement — but is now worried about the Republican plan to effectively end the Medicaid expansion through legislation to repeal the health care law.

“Originally the president said he wasn’t going to do nothing to Medicaid,” Mr. Waltimire said the other day after a rehab session. “Now they say he wants to take $880 billion out of Medicaid. That’s going to affect a lot of people who can’t afford to get insurance.”

Oklahoma

Associated Press: For many older Americans, costs rise under health plan

Anna Holloway of Norman, Oklahoma, who takes daily medication for an auto-immune disease, said she is fearful the GOP plan will price her out of the market for health insurance.

“I am conscious of just how desperate this is,” said Holloway, 60, fighting back tears. “I try not to let myself feel this way, but to live this way with real terror, real fear that the universe is going to fall apart around me.”

She takes home about $1,150 per month working four part-time jobs. That’s only $250 more than the monthly premium for a health care plan that includes Holloway and her 23-year-old daughter. Without the government subsidy that makes the policy affordable, she would have to drop it.

The Kaiser analysis estimates a family plan in Norman under the current Republican proposal would cost as much as $20,000 more for someone in Holloway’s income and age bracket.

“I’d go without health care. I would get sicker, and that would make it more difficult to work. I would eventually have to stop working,” said Holloway

Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Provision in ACA replacement plan would hit older consumers hard

When the Republicans’ proposed replacement for the Affordable Care Act came out last week, GeorgeAnne and Dan Muchnok read it over very carefully.

They realized quickly that they would be among the biggest losers if the replacement plan is approved as is.

They currently pay $664 a month for their joint insurance coverage, plus a $350 subsidy from the government. Under the current proposal, they project their monthly premium would possibly double, to more than $1,200 a month.

Philadelphia Inquirer: Why the GOP health plan could be especially hard on Pa. Medicaid patients

“Somebody is going to lose,” said Joan Benso, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children. “The notion that we would trade children’s needs for pregnant women’s or the disabled or the elderly,” she said in an interview, “that is an untenable set of choices that no policymaker wants to be a part of.”

South Dakota

Argus Leader: Trump’s biggest supporters could be hit hardest by health plan

Dana Palmateer, 55, worries the changes would chip away at her nest egg, if not knock it out entirely.

The former police officer and early retiree said she was diagnosed with colorectal cancer last year after a colonoscopy. Without insurance Palmateer would have had more than $150,000 in medical bills to pay, she said. Instead, she said she pays a $40 monthly premium and occasional fees for medications and treatments.

“It’s a pretty small price to pay for saving my life,” she said. “And that didn’t just save my life physically, it saved my life financially.”

Texas

Longview News Journal: For older East Texans, costs rise under proposed GOP health plan

“I am scared to death” of the Republican plan, said Edd Pamplin, a self-employed Longview resident who went 12 years without health insurance until being able to purchase coverage in 2014. The Affordable Care Act, he said, made that possible. Without it, health insurance would have cost thousands of dollars a month more than he could afford to cover him and his wife, Adrianne, who reached Medicare age in 2016.

Washington

The Spokesman-Review: Hundreds attend pro-Obamacare vigil in Spokane park

Sara Letellier, who works with clients at Pioneer Human Services, said she’s among the people who have gotten help thanks to Obamacare’s coverage of treatment for addiction and mental illness. She’s one year sober and on a treatment plan for bipolar disorder because she was able to get insurance. Now, she works with clients who struggle with the same challenges.

“I have gotten a chance to reclaim my life. I am a functioning member of our society,” she said.

Letellier finished her speech speaking directly to Trump and McMorris Rodgers.

“Your support of repealing the Affordable Care Act equivocates to looking me in the eye, shaking my hand and telling me my life doesn’t matter,” she said.

Marie Claire: Losing Obamacare Could Kill Me

“I’m still in shock that this all happened in the relatively tiny period of time I was covered by Obamacare. I was just so fortunate. The doctors and the insurance company didn’t hold back any treatment or say, “She’s on Medicaid so don’t give her the best drugs.” I got the best treatment and the best care. I wish that for everyone in this country: that they can get the treatment they need when they need it.

“On March 8, my daughter’s 18th birthday, my surgeon called to say I was clear. It looks like the cancer is gone. It was pretty cool to tell my daughter that on her birthday. And now she wants to be an oncologist. That’s her new life goal because she’s seen firsthand what medicine can do.

“But the day before, on March 7, Republicans announced their new plan: the American Health Care Act (AHCA). This Thursday, the House of Representatives will be voting on it.

“If they outright repeal the Affordable Care Act without replacing it, which they’ve discussed as an option, that would be the worst case scenario for me. Medicaid expansion would go away. The mandate to cover pre-existing conditions would go away. It would be devastating.”

Rep. Brenner Announces Passage of Legislation to Protect Ohio’s Vulnerable Populations

COLUMBUS—State Representative Andrew Brenner (R-Powell) recently announced that the Ohio House has passed legislation to help protect Ohio’s seniors and other unsuspecting populations against deceptive marketing practices. House Bill 52 makes several reforms to regulate the solicitation of real property deeds.

House Bill 52, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Rezabek (R-Clayton), comes in response to deed solicitation scams plaguing many Ohioans, whereby companies outside of Ohio will send official looking notifications to homeowners informing them that they need a copy of their property deed. Further, the notices will request up to $90 for the deed, preying on individuals who are unaware that they can receive a copy of their deed from the county recorder’s office for a minimal fee.

“Deed solicitation scams adversely affect the quality of life of our friends and neighbors both monetarily and mentally. Answering the phone in this digital age has become increasingly risky on both of those fronts as it is our identities that are at risk,” said Rep. Brenner. “As a former county recorder, I believe this legislation will work to deter individuals from taking advantage of all Ohioans, but especially our senior citizens who are unfairly targeted by these shameful tactics. I commend Rep. Rezabek on this legislation and for working to protect Ohio’s senior citizens.”

The provisions under the legislation require that specific disclosures be made to consumers when they are solicited a fee for real property deeds, including the cost to obtain the deed from the county recorder, the contact information for the county recorder, and the name and address of the person soliciting the fee. Other reforms prohibit the charging of a fee more than four times the cost to obtain a copy of a deed from the county recorder. A violation of these requirements falls under the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act and may result in a fine.

House Bill 52 is a part of the Buckeye Pathway, the policy platform of the Ohio House Republican Caucus, as it seeks to protect our vulnerable populations and strengthen families and communities. The bill now awaits consideration in the Ohio Senate.

BROWN URGES PRESIDENT TRUMP TO PROTECT ENERGY SECURITY PROGRAMS FOR OHIOANS

Bipartisan Letter Highlights Effectiveness of Programs Eliminated from Trump’s Budget Blueprint

WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today (March 28) joined a bipartisan group of Senate colleagues in a letter to President Trump, urging his support for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), which were both eliminated from the president’s budget blueprint released earlier this month. Last year, LIHEAP provided more than $145 million in assistance to Ohio.

“We remain committed to supporting funding for both programs that serve our nation’s most vulnerable citizens and are deeply concerned that the 2018 Budget Blueprint released earlier this month proposes to eliminate this funding,” the letter said. “As you prepare a more detailed budget submission for later this spring, we again urge you to include funding for LIHEAP and WAP. By doing so, we can strengthen these vital programs that provide energy security to our most vulnerable citizens.”

According to a 2011 study from the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association, 72 percent of LIHEAP households have at least one member with a serious medical condition, 26 percent of LIHEAP households have medical equipment that requires the use of electricity, and 20 percent of LIHEAP households include a veteran.

The letter was also signed by Sens. Jack Reed (D-RI), Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Edward Markey (D-MA).

Text of the letter to President Trump is included below.

Dear Mr. President:

Earlier this year, we joined a bipartisan group of 45 Senators representing states from Maine to Florida to Alaska urging your support for two successful federal programs that address the energy needs of low-income households throughout the United States: the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP). Attached is a copy of that letter. We remain committed to supporting funding for both programs that serve our nation’s most vulnerable citizens and are deeply concerned that the 2018 Budget Blueprint released earlier this month proposes to eliminate this funding.

In 2016, more than six million households relied on LIHEAP for their heating, cooling, and electricity needs. LIHEAP is the only federal program that responds to energy emergencies such as heat waves or extreme cold snaps that place an extreme burden on seniors and others living on fixed incomes. The federal investment, coupled with effective state-level decision making, targets limited resources to those most in need. Indeed, more than 70 percent of households receiving LIHEAP have a member under the age of five, over the age of 60, or with a disability. A 2011 study by the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association showed that 72 percent of LIHEAP households have at least one member with a serious medical condition, and 26 percent of LIHEAP households have medical equipment that requires the use of electricity. The same study showed that 20 percent of LIHEAP households include a veteran – and that number is increasing.

A critical partner for LIHEAP is WAP. WAP has served more than seven million eligible households across the country and leads the nation in making residential energy upgrades cost effective, safe, and comprehensive for low-income families and seniors in all 50 states. Weatherization of homes to improve their efficiency can reduce heating costs an average of 30 percent, which represents permanent savings for low-income households who typically spend a far greater percentage of their total annual income on energy than other households. State energy offices use the energy efficiency expertise and aid provided by WAP to implement conservation measures that stretch limited dollars even further. In fact, in 2015, utilities and states supplemented WAP federal funding by providing an additional $883 million, which represents a $4.62 investment for every dollar of federal funding.

As you prepare a more detailed budget submission for later this spring, we again urge you to include funding for LIHEAP and WAP. By doing so, we can strengthen these vital programs that provide energy security to our most vulnerable citizens.

Thank you for your attention to, and consideration of, this important matter.

Sincerely,

District 14 Voters Deliver Petition to Rep. David Joyce’s Twinsburg Office on the 7th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (March 23)

Nearly 1 million Ohio residents have healthcare today thanks to the ACA. Meanwhile, the Republican plan for healthcare fails the most basic litmus test – it raises out of pocket costs, leaves millions uninsured, and shifts the financial burden of healthcare onto the backs of hard working and poor Ohioans who are already struggling.

On February 2nd Rep. Joyce said “There’s a belief that (Washington) is going to pull the rug out from underneath people. It’s not going to happen.” and yet Rep. Joyce is silent while that exact plan is being pushed through congress.

BROWN SPEAKS OUT AGAINST ELIMINATION OF GREAT LAKES RESTORATION INITIATIVE ON SENATE FLOOR

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) took to the Senate floor today (March 21) to continue speaking out against the President’s budget blueprint, which completely eliminates the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI).

For the floor speech, Brown took with him a photo of the Great Lakes with a massive algae bloom. In 2014, a bloom left the Greater Toledo area without safe drinking water. Brown referenced the photo saying: “Algal blooms leave our lake looking like this. Would you want to fish here? Would you take your children out on water that looks like this? Does this water look like what you want coming out of your faucet?

“Taking an ax to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative will cost Ohio jobs and jeopardize public health. It would put our drinking water at risk, and reverse all the progress we’ve made. This is unacceptable, and I will fight like hell to protect Lake Erie and the entire Great Lakes,” Brown continued.

Brown has worked to strengthen the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative – a highly successful program that has targeted the most significant problems in the region and jumpstarted restoration efforts to protect, maintain, and restore the chemical, biological, and physical integrity of the Great Lakes. Last Congress, Brown cosponsored the Great Lakes Ecological and Economic Protection Act of 2015 (GLEEPA) – a bill would reauthorize the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and codify the program into statute. In December Brown successfully fought to include authorization for GLRI in the Senate water bill.

Tiberi and Neal Introduce the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act

Today (March 21), Congressman Pat Tiberi (R-OH) and Ranking Member of the Ways and Means Committee Richard E. Neal (D-MA) introduced the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act, legislation that strengthens the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit. The Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act would give states additional flexibility, make the financing of affordable housing more predictable and streamlined, facilitate housing credit development in challenging markets like rural and Native American communities, increase the housing credit’s ability to serve extremely low-income tenants, and support the preservation of existing affordable housing.

“The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit is a vital and effective tool to address the affordable housing crisis in America,” said Congressman Tiberi. “Since 1987, Ohio has used the LIHTC Program to facilitate the development of over 100,000 affordable rental housing units. It is a great example of how the private sector can work with government to help families, individuals and seniors find a safe and decent place to live and call home. I look forward to working with Congressman Neal and the rest of the Ways and Means Committee as we reform our tax code to ensure that this incentive to provide affordable housing remains strong.”

“The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit is a powerful tool for leveraging private investment for affordable housing. Thanks to the Housing Credit, more than 100,000 low-income families now have affordable homes in Massachusetts. I’m pleased to once again be teaming with my colleague, Pat Tiberi, to further strengthen the Housing Credit program – and I call on my colleagues to support these commonsense reforms,” said Congressman Richard E. Neal.

Ohio Bill Seeking Safety Limits on Number of Patients Assigned to RNs Gets First Hearing

Proposed Law Would Also Set Whistleblower Protection for Nurses

On Tues. March 21, S.B. 55, the Ohio Patient Protection Act—a bill by National Nurses Organizing Committee-Ohio/National Nurses United (NNOC/NNU) which sets specific limits on how many patients Ohio nurses can care for at once—will get its first hearing, with testimony by sponsor Senator Michael Skindell.

“Ohioans may not realize that there’s currently no limit to the number of patients Ohio nurses can be assigned at one time, although studies clearly show that safe nurse-to-patient staffing ratios save lives,” said Michelle Canfora, RN, of Affinity Medical Center in Massillon, Ohio. “Without mandatory regulations, hospital corporations are free to staff at bare bones levels, but nurses are standing up to say that saving money on staffing cannot be more important than saving patients’ lives. We applaud Senator Skindell for moving this critical issue forward because it’s a public safety issue.”

The Ohio Patient Protection Act establishes minimum nurse-to-patient ratios for every hospital unit at all times. It also provides whistleblower protection to assure that nurses are free to speak out for enforcement of safe staffing standards. Skindell is joined on his bill, initially, by co-sponsor Senator Sandra Williams.

The bill is modeled on a California law that studies have documented has saved patient lives, improved the quality of care in multiple other ways, and reduced nurse burnout, keeping the most experienced RNs at the patient bedside.

“These policies will help ensure that patients get the best medical care based on need and will provide nurses with safeguards to ensure that they are protected from retaliation for whistleblowing and refusals to follow potential violations of the law,” said Senator Skindell. “Genuine and enforceable safe-staffing standards will save money and lives by ensuring that patients obtain excellent nursing care.”

“As nurses, it is our duty to protect our patients from harm, and that’s why we are urging Ohio senators to stand with us in supporting S.B. 55,” said Debra McKinney, RN, of Affinity Medical Center. “It’s not an overstatement to say this bill impacts the safety of every resident of Ohio—including the senators themselves—because we are all potential hospital patients at some time in our lives. Nurses need a mandatory, non-negotiable limit to our patient load so that we can provide the kind of focused care all patients deserve, and so that we can avoid burnout and stay healthy ourselves.”

Decades of studies document link between improved RN staffing and safer care:

  • A 2016 study (Aiken et. al) found that with each 10 percentage point reduction in the proportion of professional nurses, there was an 11 percent increase in the odds of patient death.
  • A 2015 study in the Journal of Advanced Nursing also found that preventing understaffing was critical in improving the quality of care for hospitalized patients—highlighting the cost savings of safe staffing to the hospital, patients and the community, given that adverse events were estimated to increase costs by $8000 per admission and lengthen the stay by seven to eight days on average.
  • And California hospitals, which have had safe staffing laws in place since January, 2004 have shown that limiting the number of patients assigned to nurses saves lives. A 2013 study in the International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health showed that the California safe staffing law was associated with 55.57 fewer occupational injuries and illnesses per 10,000 RNs per year, a value 31.6 % lower than the expected rate without the law.

National Nurses Organizing Committee-Ohio is part of National Nurses United, the largest union of registered nurses in the country, representing over 150,000 RNs nationwide.

Secretary of State’s Office to Honor Marysville Business “Patty Beery’s Energy Arts”

COLUMBUS– A representative of Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted will be on-site at “Patty Beery’s Energy Arts” in Marysville on March 22 to present them with a certificate in recognition of their being a featured business in the Secretary of State’s Ohio Business Profile Program. Secretary Husted recognized March as “Women-Owned Businesses” month.

Patty Beery’s Energy Arts has provided performing arts training to students of all ages and abilities since opening in 1990. They are dedicated to not only teaching students how to dance, but also witnessing them develop mentally, physically, emotionally and artistically.

Statement from Agriculture Acting Deputy Secretary Michael L. Young on National Agriculture Day

WASHINGTON, March 21, 2017 – Acting Agriculture Deputy Secretary Michael L. Young today released the following statement:

“Today is National Agriculture Day, set aside to pay tribute to the farmers and ranchers of our nation. The work of American producers and growers ensures consumers in our country have plenty of safe food and a wide variety at a cost lower than much of the world.

“Through their efficiency, they are able to produce more food and fiber than is demanded in our country, generating a trade surplus in agricultural products for the United States. As President Trump noted in the Presidential Proclamation declaring today National Agriculture Day, ‘American agriculture is the largest positive contributor to our Nation’s net trade balance, providing 10 percent of our exports and millions of jobs.’

“Farmers and ranchers also play a role in helping sustain rural communities in the face of shifting populations and economic challenges. In these and many other ways, agriculture is a key part of the American economy.

“So today, the employees of USDA thank our farmers and ranchers for all they do to feed our nation and the world, for their work conserving and preserving the land, and for being actively engaged in their local communities.”

Home Health Aide Accused of Identity Theft, Stealing from Elderly Client

CHILLICOTHE — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Ross County Prosecutor Matthew S. Schmidt today (March 27) announced that a Chillicothe woman is facing charges of identity theft and theft from the elderly for allegedly stealing from an elderly woman while serving as the woman’s home health aide.

Beth Meyers, 34, of Chillicothe, was arraigned today in the Ross County Common Pleas Court after being indicted by a Ross County grand jury on March 10 on the following seven counts:

  • Identity fraud, third-degree felony (four counts)
  • Theft of an elderly person, fourth-degree felony (one count)
  • Misuse of credit cards, fourth-degree felony (one count)
  • Identity fraud, fourth-degree felony (one count)

According to investigators, Meyers used an elderly client’s Social Security number and address to open and use several lines of credit in the elderly victim’s name between July 2015 and August 2015, while Meyers worked as a home health care provider for the elderly woman. Meyers also is accused of using the victim’s ATM card to steal over $1,000 in cash.

The case is being prosecuted by an attorney with the Ohio Attorney General’s Economic Crimes Unit, who was appointed as a special prosecutor by the Ross County Prosecutor.

The case was investigated by the Attorney General’s Economic Crimes Unit with the Ross County Sheriff’s Office.

Ohio Awards Certifications for Adopting Standards

COLUMBUS – The Fredericktown Police Department (Knox County) and the Clinton Township Police Department (Franklin County) has adopted and implemented state standards established by the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board as part of the state’s efforts to strengthen community and police relations.

More than 500 agencies employing over 27,000 officers (in all 88 counties representing 79 percent of all law enforcement officers in Ohio in most of Ohio’s metropolitan areas) are either certified or in the process of becoming certified by meeting standards for the use of force, including deadly force, and agency recruitment and hiring.

The standards are the first of their kind in Ohio and were developed by the Collaborative in August 2015.

The state has partnered with the Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association and the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police to help certify Ohio’s nearly 960 law enforcement agencies on a process to ensure that they are in compliance with Ohio’s new standards.

The first list of all Ohio compliant agencies will be published by the end of March.

For more information on the Ohio Collaborative, the certification process for law enforcement and the complete list of agencies who have been certified, please visit: http://www.ocjs.ohio.gov/ohiocollaborative/

BROWN TO PRESS NEW COMMERCE SECRETARY ON PLANS TO BOOST STEEL INDUSTRY, GO AFTER TRADE CHEATS

Senator Supported Confirmation of Ross Last Month, Vowing to Work with Ross on Steel

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has invited Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to his office this evening (March 21) to discuss how they can work together and with President Trump to negotiate better trade deals for Ohio workers and boost Ohio’s steel industry.

“Secretary Ross understands the importance of a strong U.S. steel sector and I hope we can find common ground to provide relief to the steel industry and steel workers,” said Brown. “We can start by working together to reduce China’s steel overcapacity – which idled another line of steel production in Lorain earlier this month. Workers in Lorain and across Ohio deserve better than our failed trade policies, and I expect Secretary Ross and President Trump to work with me to strengthen enforcement and overhaul our trade policy.”

In the meeting, Brown will raise several of his priorities for working with the Commerce Department. Immediately after President Trump’s election, Brown reached out to his transition team to offer his help on retooling U.S. trade policy. Brown wrote to Trump in November offering specific steps to work together on trade and Trump responded with a handwritten note.

Brown will raise the following priorities:

Addressing steel overcapacity

Brown has called on past Administrations and the Trump Administration to help reduce China’s steel overcapacity, which leaves U.S. steelworkers and companies at a competitive disadvantage. Brown will specifically raise the recent permanent idling of U.S. Steel’s quench and temper line earlier this month.

Brown raised Chinese steel overcapacity last week at a hearing to consider the nomination of Robert Lighthizer to serve as U.S. Trade Representative. Video available here.

Brown has worked to boost the U.S. steel industry. Brown’s legislation, the Leveling the Playing Field Act, cosponsored by Portman and signed into law in June 2015, has restored strength to antidumping and countervailing duty statutes that allow businesses and workers in the United States to petition the Commerce Department and the International Trade Commission (ITC) when foreign producers, including China, sell goods in the U.S. below market price or receive illegal subsidies. The law led to key wins for Ohio steel companies in major trade cases last year on cold-rolled, hot-rolled, and corrosion-resistant steel, including U.S. Steel, Nucor, ArcelorMittal, and AK Steel, which together employ more than 8,200 Ohio workers.

Addressing currency manipulation

In his November letter to President Trump, Brown specifically asked Trump to instruct the Commerce Department to investigate currency manipulation in countervailing duty cases when alleged by U.S. petitioners to give American manufacturers additional ways to fight back against countries like China who do not follow the rules. Last month, Brown called on President Trump to act quickly following reports that the Administration was considering plans to crack down on Chinese currency manipulation.

Maintaining China’s nonmarket economy status

In his November letter to Trump, Brown asked President Trump to maintain China’s nonmarket economy status until the country as fully transitioned to a market economy. The Chinese government still has significant control over its economy, particularly its steel and aluminum sectors. Granting the country market economy status would limit American manufacturers’ ability to use trade remedy law to seek relief when Chinese competitors dump goods or sell illegally subsidize products into the U.S. market.

Take precautions to prevent mosquito bites when traveling to areas with active Zika transmission

The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) is reminding Ohioans to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites if you are traveling to areas with active Zika virus transmission. Zika has spread to about 62 countries and territories that include popular Spring Break destinations such as Mexico, the Bahamas and Puerto Rico. For the latest list of the current CDC travel advisories click here.

“Zika virus is primarily spread through the bite of an infected mosquito, and if you are traveling to an area with active transmission, make sure you take appropriate steps to avoid mosquito bites,” said Sietske de Fijter, ODH State Epidemiologist and Bureau Chief of Infectious Diseases. “Pregnant women should not travel to Zika-affected areas because a Zika infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects.”

There have been 5,139 travel-associated Zika virus cases across the United States since January 2015. Ohio had 94 confirmed travel-associated Zika cases and 1 sexual transmission Zika case in 2016 and 2 cases so far in 2017. The primary mosquito that transmits Zika virus is found in the tropics and southern U.S., but it is not known to be established in Ohio. A relative of this mosquito is established in Ohio and may potentially transmit the Zika virus.

Zika virus can be passed through sexual transmission, even if the infected person does not have symptoms. Men who have traveled to an area of active Zika virus transmission should use a condom every time during sex or abstain from sexual activity if their partner is pregnant. Women who have had possible exposure to Zika virus should wait at least eight weeks before having unprotected sex.

“As a precaution, be on the lookout for Zika virus symptoms after you get home from traveling to a Zika-affected area, and contact your healthcare provider if you believe that you are having Zika-like symptoms,” de Fijter said.

Take these steps to avoid mosquito bites when traveling to Zika-affected areas:

· Use EPA-registered insect repellent and use it per the product label.

· Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.

· Use air conditioning or window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.

There is no indication that the Zika virus can spread from person to person through casual contact. Of people infected with the Zika virus, 80 percent do not have any symptoms. When symptoms occur, they are often mild, lasting from several days to a week, and include fever, rash, joint and muscle pain, conjunctivitis (red eyes), and headache. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon.

Go to the ODH website at http://www.odh.ohio.gov/zika for more information about Zika virus.

Hooray for Gurdon and Yamanaka, Nobel Prize Winners for Pro-life Medicine

(Letter to the Editor)

The research studies carried out by John B. Gurdon (Anglo-Saxon) and Shinya Yamanaka (Japanese) were awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine. These two scientists are considered of being the fathers of cellular reprogramming. They have achieved to create cells that behave identically to embryonic cells, however, without having to destroy human embryos. The Swiss Academy declared that both Gurdon and Yamanaka have revolutionized the current knowledge of how cells and organisms are developed, which has led to the perfection of the absurd methods of diagnosis and therapy.

Jhon Bertrand Gurdon, professor of the Zoology Department of the University of Cambridge, admitted of feeling extremely honored for such a spectacular privilege.

Moreover, Shinya Yamanaka discovered the so called “induced pluripotent stem cells” (iPS), which have the same proprieties of the embryonic ones and are able to turn into whatever other type of body cell. He asserted that he will continue to conduct research in order to contribute to society and medicine. For him that is a duty.

Yamanaka created four types of genes that supply cells with their pluripotentiality, in other words, the same capacity that embryonic stem cells have. If implanted in differentiated cells, for example of skin, they become pluripotent stem cells. The iPS supply a vast amount of plasticity just as embryonic stem cells do, however, without requiring the extermination or cloning of human embryos, since the initial cells can be obtained from the same patient. In this aspect, these cells have the same status as adult stem cells do, with the advantage of their versatility.

The dilemma that has been stirred by the iPS is being resolved due to recent studies carried out by Leisuke Kaji (Universidad de Edimburgo) and Andreas Nagy (Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute of Mount Sinai Hospital of Toronto).

The created iPS perennially retain their pluripotentiality. There is still the need of research to be conducted concerning the control of the difference between these cells in order for them to create the tissue that is necessary for each case. As Kaji affirms in “The Guardian”, it is a step towards the practical use of reprogrammed cells in the field of medicine, which could eventually lead to eliminating the need of counting on human embryos as the main source of stem cells.

The Episcopal Subcommittee for the Family and Defense of Life of the Episcopal Conference, beliefs that no Catholic could support practices such as abortion, euthanasia or the production, freezing and/or manipulation of human embryos.

Moreover, the Dictionary of Bioethics stated that the use of embryonic stem cells for therapeutic purposes is gravely illicit. (Translated by Gianna A. Sanchez-Moretti)

Housing inventory drops further in February

There were 2,528 central Ohio homes and condos added to the market in February, which is a 16.5 percent increase over January, although a 3.6 percent dip from February 2016. This leaves inventory at 4,286, which is a whopping 21.1 percent decrease from the same month last year according to the Columbus REALTORS® Multiple Listing Service.

“If you thought inventory couldn’t possibly get any lower, it definitely did,” Gordon said. “However, spring is just around the corner and there are bound to be more homes hitting the market as the temperatures begin to rise.”

There were 1,678 central Ohio homes and condos sold during the month of February, a 5.3 percent increase from January and a .5 percent rise over the same month a year ago.

Central Ohio saw 2,754 homes go into contract during the month of February, up 11.4 percent from the previous month although down 9 percent from February 2016.

A pending sale or a sale “in contract” is when the buyer and seller agree on terms of the sale of a home and have a signed purchase and sale agreement, but have yet to close and be recorded as such.

The average sales price of a home in February was $190,659, up 3.4 percent from last year. The median sales price was $161,900 a 5.1 percent increase over February 2016.

“The upside down or under water remnants of the Great Housing Recession are fewer and fewer with each passing month as values continue to climb and mortgage balances continue to be paid down over time,” Gordon said. “If you were in that position with your home and want to know if this market has changed your circumstance, call your REALTOR® and find out!”

During the month of February, central Ohio homes and condos spent an average of 52 days on the market, this is eight days fewer than a year ago and just two days longer than January.

Seventy-five percent of central Ohio REALTORS® said they’re noticing a slight to substantial increase in the number of millennials expressing interest in purchasing a home, according to the latest Housing Market Confidence Index by the Ohio Association of REALTORS

When asked specifically about the low number of entry level homes available for sale, 33 percent said it’s a slight hindrance and over half (54 percent) said the low inventory is substantially hindering the millennials’ ability to purchase a home.

“Millennials are a large segment of the population and, if they don’t have an adequate selection of affordable housing to choose from, that’s definitely a problem we need to focus on solving,” Gordon said.

Columbus REALTORS® is comprised of over 7,600 real estate professionals engaged in residential sales and leasing, commercial sales and leasing, property management, appraisal, consultation, real estate syndication, land development and more.

The Columbus REALTORS® Multiple Listing Service (MLS) serves all of Franklin, Delaware, Fayette, Licking, Madison, Morrow, Pickaway and Union Counties and parts of Athens, Champaign, Clark, Clinton, Fairfield, Hocking, Knox, Logan, Marion, Muskingum, Perry and Ross Counties.

To view commercial properties for sale or lease in central Ohio, visit www.COCIE.org.

To view residential properties for sale, visit www.Realtor.com.

Ohio Weekly Fuel Update and Outlook

gasnews@gasbuddymail.com

Ohio, March 27 — Average retail gasoline prices in Ohio have fallen 6.1 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $2.12/g yesterday, according to GasBuddy’s daily survey of 5,345 gas outlets in Ohio. This compares with the national average that has fallen 0.9 cents per gallon in the last week to $2.28/g, according to gasoline price website GasBuddy.com.

Including the change in gas prices in Ohio during the past week, prices yesterday were 18.8 cents per gallon higher than the same day one year ago and are 0.8 cents per gallon higher than a month ago. The national average has decreased 0.6 cents per gallon during the last month and stands 24.0 cents per gallon higher than this day one year ago.

According to GasBuddy historical data, gasoline prices on March 27 in Ohio have ranged widely over the last five years:

$1.93/g in 2016, $2.43/g in 2015, $3.62/g in 2014, $3.64/g in 2013 and $3.89/g in 2012.

Areas near Ohio and their current gas price climate:

Akron- $2.08/g, down 2.0 cents per gallon from last week’s $2.10/g.

Dayton- $2.12/g, down 8.4 cents per gallon from last week’s $2.21/g.

Columbus- $2.11/g, down 10.8 cents per gallon from last week’s $2.22/g.

“Remarkably, for a third straight week, average gasoline prices have declined. In fact, for just the first time since 2009, average gasoline prices today stand cheaper than on February 15th- traditionally the day of the lowest gasoline prices of the season,” said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com.

“This feat has been accomplished for several reasons. First, weak gasoline demand which has kept inventories of winter gasoline far more than adequate. Second, there have been few large scale unexpected refinery outages, and third, crude oil inventories and rising U.S. production have kept oil prices under pressure over the last month. All three of these factors are actively at play and will continue to keep pressure on prices from spiking. More alarming, however, is that while gasoline prices have drifted lower, the gas price spread between stations has been rising, and stands 5% higher nationally versus last year. So while motorists may be feeling less pressure with stable gas prices, that false sense of security may be getting in the way of finding a gas station selling at a far lower price. As always, motorists should be shopping around to be aware of lower priced offerings,” DeHaan added.

For LIVE fuel price averages, visit http://FuelInsights.GasBuddy.com.

About GasBuddy

GasBuddy is the technology company changing the way more than 60 million consumers find, purchase, and save money on gasoline. Founded in 2000, the original GasBuddy website was a pioneer in crowd-sourced information, leveraging technology, big data, and a passionate community that now connects more than 60 million users with real-time, accurate fuel pricing information as well as reliable reviews of gas station amenities and services. The app and website have the most accurate and real-time fuel prices at over 140,000 unique stations in the United States, Canada, and Australia and is the most comprehensive money-saving companion while on the road. GasBuddy is available on all mobile platforms. For more information, visit www.gasbuddy.com.

BROWN INTRODUCES LEGISLATION TO EXTEND HIGHER EDUCATION OPPORTUNITIES FOR TROOPS

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, introduced the Educational Development (ED) for Troops and Veterans Act, legislation to improve higher education opportunities for troops and military families.

“We need to make it as easy as possible for Ohio service members to use the education benefits they’ve earned,” said Brown. “This bill supports our men and women in uniform by helping more service members earn and use their education benefits and protecting those who volunteer to serve from getting hit with student loan bills before going on deployment.”

The ED for Troops and Veterans Act will:

  • Ensure reservists activated on specific mobilization orders receive 9/11 GI Bill benefits
  • Though mobilized reservist can be deployed for months at a time, too often these missions are not credited toward Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. While on mobilization orders, reservist encounter hostile or dangerous environments, including Sinai for peacekeeping missions or Nigeria for counter-Ebola response efforts. The ED for Troops & Veterans Act would ensure time spent on these orders count toward eligibility for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.
  • Protect servicemembers from financial hardships
  • The bill will allow servicemembers to defer student loan payments up to 180 days prior to deployment.
  • Establish, maintain, and improve veteran education centers
  • The bill creates a grant program at the Department of Education to establish and support veteran education centers, which support servicemembers and their families as they transition to campus. Veteran education centers will serve as one-stop-shops for academic support, networking opportunities, peer mentorships, mental health counselling and career services.
  • Perseveres Montgomery GI Bill for the Selected Reserve benefits at current levels
  • The bill makes sure Montgomery GI Bill benefits keep pace with the average cost of tuition nationwide. Upon joining the military, National Guardsmen and Reservists are automatically entitled to a monthly rate for full-time study and training at a set rate of $362. However, this rate is not consistent with the rising cost of education.

The bill is also cosponsored by U.S. Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) ,Tim Kaine (D-VA), Gary C. Peters (D-MI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH).

Hotel LeVeque opens in downtown Columbus as part of Autograph Collection hotels

Just as LeVeque Tower has been an iconic star on the Columbus skyline since 1927, Hotel LeVeque will deliver a magical starry night experience to welcome guests

COLUMBUS – Hotel LeVeque opened its doors on March 24 in downtown Columbus, greeting guests with a modern, starry take on the sophistication of the building’s art deco pedigree. Part of Autograph Collection Hotels, Hotel LeVeque joins the distinguished portfolio of more than 100 independent hotels around the world that are exactly like nothing else. Bringing the brand’s values of vision, design and craft to Columbus, the esteemed hotel marks the collection’s second hotel in Ohio.

With its sweeping views of the Columbus skyline and the new the Scioto Mile riverbank, the 149-room boutique hotel occupies floors five through 10 of the striking and iconic LeVeque Tower – the most iconic star on the Columbus horizon since the historic tower opened in 1927 as the nation’s fifth largest building. Rosemont, Ill.-based First Hospitality Group, Inc. owns and operates Hotel LeVeque under a partnership agreement with Robert J. Meyers and Don Casto of Tower 10.

“Bringing this incredible architectural treasure back as a beacon of hospitality was a natural fit for our depth of expertise in adaptive reuse,” said First Hospitality Group CEO Bob Habeeb. “In a city that’s grabbling international attention for its outstanding arts, culture, fashion and culinary offerings, Hotel LeVeque will be an exciting part of that cultural experience for guests.”

The hotel’s dramatic period architecture sets the stage for a one-of-a-kind arrival experience. On the first night of their stay, guests will be invited to enjoy a starry night in the hotel’s gleaming lobby, as the hotel’s mammoth sculptural chandelier dims, twinkling star patterns spark across the ceiling. Guests will receive a welcome cocktail and a special quote designed to inspire meaningful memories, along with a special invitation to enjoy a themed cocktail menu that awaits them in the Hotel LeVeque bar, The Keep. The experience continues when guests return to their room to find starry nightlight glittering against the dimly lit ceiling, as well as a turndown card tucked alongside specialty treats, one sweet and one savory, crafted by a talented local pastry chef.

“We’ve created a graceful good night that will help our guests relax and unwind as they escape the frenetic pace of daily living,” said Geri Lombard, General Manager, Hotel LeVeque. “Hotel LeVeque is part of Autograph Collection Hotel’s distinct portfolio of strikingly independent hotels, each carefully selected for its quality, bold originality, rich character and uncommon details that embody a unique sense of place. The Starry Night Experience at Hotel LeVeque will bring that to life for our guests.”

Originally built in 1927 as the American Insurance Union Citadel, the LeVeque Tower was architect Charles Howard Crane’s masterpiece. At the time, the LeVeque Tower was the tallest skyscraper between New York City and Chicago, and the fifth tallest building in the world. It was home to the graceful Deshler Wallick Hotel and later became known as the Lincoln LeVeque Tower, then simply the LeVeque Tower after its purchase in 1945. Clad in unusual terra cotta relief tiles, the LeVeque Tower’s spectacular art deco architecture remains the city’s most recognizable feature and is among Columbus’ most photographed and revered architectural treasures. Illuminating the night skyline as a soaring tower bathed in light, its architectural beauty is carefully preserved and highlighted in elegant design by Columbus-based Schooley Caldwell architects.

For more information about Hotel LeVeque and Autograph Collection Hotels, visit www.autographhotels.com.

About First Hospitality Group

First Hospitality Group, Inc. (FHG) is a leading hotel management, acquisition and development company with more than 30 years of award-winning experience. FHG’s unique people-driven professional culture fosters a team of highly skilled and motivated hospitality experts who consistently deliver outstanding property level performance, as well as memorable and engaging guest experiences. Headquartered in Chicago, FHG’s portfolio features 19 brands and 42 properties throughout the Midwest. Recognized in Forbes America’s Best Midsize Employers 2016, FHG received a #28 ranking out of the 250 best midsize employers in the country, #1 in the travel category, and #3 amongst all of America’s best travel companies. For more information, visit, www.fhginc.com. Follow FHG on Facebook at @FHGinc and Twitter at @FHGroup_Inc.

About Autograph Collection Hotels

Autograph Collection Hotels celebrates individuality by curating one-of-a-kind travel experiences at more than 100 luxury lifestyle hotels found in the world’s most desirable destinations. Exactly like nothing else, Autograph Collection properties are hand selected for their rich character and uncommon details. A personal realization of an individual founder’s vision, these hotels are defined by unique design, differentiated guest experiences and their meaningful role in locality. For more information, please visit www.autographhotels.com, and explore our social media channels on Instagram Twitter and Facebook to learn more about championing the independent spirit that is #ExactlyLikeNothingElse. Autograph Collection Hotels is proud to participate in the industry’s award-winning loyalty program, Marriott Rewards®, in which members can link accounts with Starwood Preferred Guest® and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® for instant elite status matching and unlimited points transfer.

Marriott International, Inc. (NASDAQ: MAR) is the world’s largest hotel company based in Bethesda, Maryland, USA, with nearly 6,000 properties in 120 countries and territories. Marriott operates and franchises hotels and licenses vacation ownership resorts. The company’s 30 leading brands include: Bulgari®, The Ritz-Carlton® and The Ritz-Carlton Reserve®, St. Regis®, W®, EDITION®, JW Marriott®, The Luxury Collection®, Marriott Hotels®, Westin®, Le Méridien®, Renaissance® Hotels, Sheraton®, Delta Hotels by MarriottSM, Marriott Executive Apartments®, Marriott Vacation Club®, Autograph Collection® Hotels, Tribute Portfolio™, Design Hotels™, Gaylord Hotels®, Courtyard®, Four Points® by Sheraton, SpringHill Suites®, Fairfield Inn & Suites®, Residence Inn®, TownePlace Suites®, AC Hotels by Marriott®, Aloft®, Element®, Moxy® Hotels, and Protea Hotels by Marriott®. The company also operates award-winning loyalty programs: Marriott Rewards®, which includes The Ritz-Carlton Rewards®, and Starwood Preferred Guest®. For more information, please visit our website at www.marriott.com, and for the latest company news, visit www.marriottnewscenter.com and @MarriottIntl.

BROWN INTRODUCES LEGISLATION TO SECURE EDUCATION BENEFITS FOR VETERANS, SERVICEMEMBERS, AND THEIR FAMILIES

YSU President Jim Tressel Joins Brown to Highlight Importance of Veterans Programs in Higher Education

WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) outlined bipartisan legislation today to ensure that veterans, servicemembers, and surviving spouses and children of servicemembers who have died in the line of duty can take full advantage of their education benefits. Brown was joined on the call by Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel to discuss the importance of securing these benefits for veterans.

“The GI bill’s education benefits are critical to our returning servicemembers, veterans, and their families” said Brown. “It’s our duty to ensure that when the men and women who sacrifice for our nation return home, they and their families have the education and the training they’ve earned.”

The Veterans Priority Enrollment Act of 2017, cosponsored by Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), would extend priority enrollment for college courses to veterans, servicemembers, and eligible dependents who are utilizing GI education benefits. Expanding priority enrollment would allow servicemembers and veterans to plan their semesters so that they can finish their degrees before their benefits expire.

All public higher institutions in Ohio, including YSU, currently extend priority registration to veterans when signing up for classes. Brown’s bill would expand this practice nationwide and would also include private schools with existing priority registration programs. The bill would not require colleges or universities to change their existing priority enrollment systems.

“YSU values the service of our student veterans. We were a pioneer when offering student veteran services on campus in 2009 and continue to provide and upgrade our services to veterans in 2017. Priority registration is one of many benefits offered student veterans at YSU. The Office of Veterans Affairs at YSU strives to be a ‘one stop shop’ for all student veteran needs and will continue to offer world class service to our student veterans for years to come,” said President Tressel.

Brown also discussed the Yellow Ribbon Improvement Act of 2017, cosponsored by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Tillis, which would expand eligibility for the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Yellow Ribbon Program to recipients of the Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry scholarship. The Yellow Ribbon Program helps students avoid out-of-pocket tuition and fees for education programs that cost more than the allowance set by the post 9/11 GI Bill.

Currently, spouses and children of servicemembers who died in combat may not participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program, while veterans and the spouses and children of servicemembers who elected to transfer their benefits may do so. This forces some military families to pay out-of-pocket for their education.

BROWN CALLS ON TRUMP TO HOLD CHINA ACCOUNTABLE ON TRADE DURING UPCOMING SUMMIT

During Campaign, President Trump Promised to Get Tough on China, Brown has Offered to Work with Him

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined 11 of his colleagues in a letter today (April 5) calling on President Trump to hold China accountable on trade during his upcoming summit with Chinese President Xi. During the campaign, President Trump promised to get tough on China and Brown has offered to work with him. For workers with the deck stacked against them due to China’s cheating, the Senators called on President Trump to deliver on specific areas of trade.

“Since joining the World Trade Organization in 2001, China has consistently failed to comply with its international trade obligations. And workers across the U.S., including workers in our home states, have paid the price,” said Brown and the Senators in the letter. “You pledged to support American workers and go after trade cheaters, and we hope you take this opportunity with your first one-on-one meeting with Chinese President Xi to keep this promise to American workers and strongly affirm these priorities.”

The letter was also signed by U.S. Sens. Robert Casey Jr. (D-PA), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Al Franken (D-MN), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Gary Peters (D-MI).

Immediately after President Trump’s election, Brown reached out to his transition team to offer his help on retooling U.S. trade policy. Brown wrote to Trump in November offering specific steps to work together on trade and Trump responded with a handwritten note.

The full text of the Senators’ letter can be seen below and a PDF is available here.

April 5, 2017

President Donald J. Trump

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Trump:

We write in advance of your meeting with Chinese President Xi to encourage you raise several trade issues of regional and national importance, including overcapacity, China market economy status, currency manipulation and industrial espionage. Since joining the World Trade Organization in 2001, China has consistently failed to comply with its international trade obligations. And workers across the U.S., including workers in our home states, have paid the price. You pledged to support American workers and go after trade cheaters, and we hope you take this opportunity with your first one-on-one meeting with Chinese President Xi to keep this promise to American workers and strongly affirm these priorities.

Overcapacity

China’s excess aluminum and steel production capacity is causing global market distortions and has forced the idling of numerous steel facilities and the layoffs of thousands of U.S. workers. Chinese steel production is up 530 percent from 2000, while American steel mills operated at an average of only 71 percent of capacity in 2016. As a result, U.S. imports of steel increased by 36 percent in 2014, capturing 28 percent of the finished steel market, and a record 29 percent of the total U.S. steel market in 2015. Between January 2015 and December 2016, over 14,000 U.S. steelworkers lost their jobs. Similar trends have been seen in the aluminum sector.

We ask you to urge President Xi to live up to China’s previous commitments to reduce its net aluminum and steel production capacity or face strong trade enforcement action by the U.S. against Chinese imports in those industries.

China Market Economy

Despite agreeing to commitments in its WTO accession protocol to transition to a market economy, China remains a nonmarket economy. For example, the government provides trade-distorting subsidies to its industries, causing uncompetitive market conditions, and market concentration. China also exercises significant control over their factors of production through state owned enterprises and other measures. Reclassification of China as a market economy before it has fully transitioned to one will have significant adverse consequences for American companies, workers and communities, and encumber efforts to receive adequate and timely trade relief.

We urge you to reaffirm the position of the United States that China is a nonmarket economy. We also urge you to express your commitment to aggressively defend U.S. treatment of China as a nonmarket economy before the WTO.

Currency Manipulation

Currency manipulation continues to be a significant concern to manufacturers across the country. The Chinese government has a long history of undervaluing its currency to boost exports. When this occurs, American manufacturers pay the price. China continues to intervene in its exchange rate. Data published on March 7, 2017 by the People’s Bank of China, show foreign exchange reserves rose by $6.92 billion, during February, this is counter to expectations that reserves would fall by almost $3 billion.[1] We urge you to make clear to President Xi that the U.S. will hold China accountable when they are found to manipulate currency to the detriment of American manufacturers.

Industrial Espionage

In 2015, President Obama and President Xi reached an agreement that neither government would “conduct or knowingly support” cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property. Following that agreement, instances declined, however, we must remain vigilant that China is adhering to their past agreements, and work to expand these obligations. Industrial espionage is not a new concern, but new avenues to employ old tactics significantly increased the modes of access to and the vulnerabilities of intellectual property and trade secrets.

These risks go hand in hand with the widespread piracy we continue to see in China, which inhibits innovation and harms distributors and copyright holders. Theft and violations of intellectual property rights affect all forms of industry, from producers of raw inputs to finished goods. Sales of counterfeit, low-quality merchandise hurt companies across the nation as well as the value of the Made in America brand. We urge you to build on the commitments agreed to between President Obama and Xi and in the future, should it become necessary, use all available resources to protect American companies and interests from theft by nation-states of intellectual property and trade secrets.

When you meet with President Xi, we urge you hold firm on your promises to workers in our states and across the country and advance our mutual goal of holding cheaters accountable, bringing home better paying jobs, and fairer markets in which US businesses and workers can compete.

BROWN, COLLINS INTRODUCE BIPARTISAN BILL TO SUPPORT POLICE, FIREFIGHTERS, TEACHERS

Bill Would Ensure Firefighters, Teachers, and Police Officers Get Full Social Security Benefits

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced bipartisan legislation that would ensure that public sector workers and their families can receive their full Social Security benefits. Right now, the law results in many of these workers or their spouses receiving reduced benefits.

“These workers have taught Ohio children and kept Ohio communities safe, and it’s up to us to make sure police, firefighters and teachers can retire with their full Social Security benefits,” said Brown. “It’s not just about the workers – their families suffer the consequences of reduced benefits, too. This small fix will help these workers and their families have the peace of mind that their Social Security benefits will be there for them when they retire from a life dedicated to serving our communities.”

“I have heard from numerous public servants, such as retired teachers and police officers, who have dedicated their professional careers to public service and whose retirement benefits are reduced due to the Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision,” said Collins. “I held the first Senate oversight hearing on this issue and have continued to work to correct it. Our bipartisan legislation would eliminate these unfair provisions that have enormous financial implications for many federal, state, and local employees.”

The Social Security Fairness Act would eliminate provisions of the Social Security Act that significantly reduce benefits for more than two million Americans and 225,000 Ohioans – including many teachers, firefighters, and police officers. The Social Security Fairness Act would repeal these provisions so public sector workers receive full Social Security benefits.

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Staff Reports