Political briefs – Aug. 16


Staff report



Ohio politics


FOLLOWING HIS URGING, BROWN ANNOUNCES USDA WILL RELEASE $5 MILLION TO PROTECT LAKE ERIE FROM HARMFUL ALGAL BLOOMS – Following his urging, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) has released $5 million in additional Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) funding to help protect the western Lake Erie basin from Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) and improve water quality. In a letter sent last month to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Brown urged him to release additional EQIP funding to aid farmers wanting to plant cover crops. After months of significant rain in portions of the watershed, tens of thousands of acres went unplanted this year. With the additional funding, more farmers can use EQIP funding to plant cover crops, helping reduce potential phosphorus runoff, a contributing factor in harmful algal blooms.

“Protecting Lake Erie will require a long-term investment in the region, as well as strategic treatment and prevention efforts,” Brown said. “We need to stop runoff before it starts. EQIP ensures that farmers can take actions to preserve water quality and prevent runoff that can cause harmful algal blooms.”

Brown has taken a multifaceted approach to ensuring that all Ohioans have access to clean, safe, water. Last week, Brown’s bipartisan legislation to protect Ohio’s drinking water was signed into law. The Drinking Water Protection Act will direct the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop and report to Congress a strategic Algal Toxin Risk Assessment and Management Plan within 90 days. The Plan will evaluate the risk to human health from drinking water provided by public water systems contaminated with algal toxins and recommend feasible treatment options, including procedures and source water protection practices, to mitigate any adverse public health effects of algal toxins.

As the first Ohioan to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in nearly 50 years, Brown helped to establish the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) in the 2014 Farm Bill which created voluntary partnerships between agricultural and conservation groups aimed at helping farmers improve soil health, protect water quality, and restore wildlife habitats.

In September 2014, Brown reintroduced the Clean Water Affordability Act, which would direct additional funding to communities in Ohio to eliminate combined sewer overflows, which are a contributing factor in harmful algal blooms. Brown plans to continue to push for this legislation this Congress.

NEW MARKETPLACE ENROLLMENT STARTS NOV. 1 – The next open enrollment period for Marketplace coverage begins on Nov. 1 for coverage starting on Jan. 1, 2016. Some people can sign up for health coverage outside of open enrollment, before Nov. 1, because they qualify for a special enrollment period (SEP). A consumer can qualify for a SEP for such circumstances as loss of health coverage, losing Medicaid eligibility, changes in family status (for example, marriage or birth of a child), or other exceptional circumstances.

This snapshot provides information about consumers who selected a plan between Feb. 23 and June 30 through the HealthCare.gov platform, which includes 37 states with Federally Facilitated Marketplaces, State Partnership Marketplaces, and supported State-Based Marketplaces.

Nearly 950,000 new consumers selected a plan through the HealthCare.gov platform using a SEP between Feb. 23 and June 30.

“Life changes are often impossible to predict, but access to affordable and quality health care coverage should never be. So far this year, nearly 950,000 people have gained the peace of mind that comes with access to coverage by taking advantage of a special enrollment period, providing us with further evidence that the Health Insurance Marketplace is working for America’s families,” said Kevin Counihan, CEO of the Health Insurance Marketplace. “We want people to know that if they lose a job, get married, have a baby, or experience other life changes, we’re here to help them find coverage they can afford.”

Ohio politics
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