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President Obama In Maine Tomorrow To Discuss Health Insurance Reform

First, a press release from Monday:

The White House

Office of Media Affairs

For Immediate Release

March 29, 2010

NEW DETAILS: President Obama to Speak to Mainers about Health Insurance Reform

WASHINGTON- On Thursday, April 1, President Obama will travel to Portland, ME and speak directly to Mainers about how the historic health insurance reform bill he signed into law will end the worst practices of insurance companies, immediately begin to bring down costs for families and businesses, and expand coverage to 32 million Americans who are currently uninsured. He will speak at the Portland Expo center on Thursday afternoon and his remarks will be open to the public.

Public tickets will be distributed on a first come, first served basis in the Lobby of the Portland Expo Center (239 Park Ave Portland, ME) starting at 11:00 AM until tickets run out on Wednesday, March 31, 2010.    Doors to the event will open for ticket holders at 1:30 PM on Thursday.

The President’s remarks on health insurance reform will be open to pre-credentialed members of the media.

Well, THAT did it- if President Obama is willing to come this far north, then it seemed only fair to try to meet him part-way! So I sent an email request and…

 I am very pleased to announce that this afternoon the White House Media Affairs folks gave me a green light to attend the Portland Expo event as credentialed press!

You cannot imagine how antsy I have been, waiting for the past 2+ days for a confirming email…

Apparently I am by far not the only one excited about President Obama’s first visit to Maine since 2007. The line for tickets to the free event, being held tomorrow at the Portland Expo, started forming at midnight last night and by the time the doors opened at 11am, numbered in the thousands of people. Only 4500 tickets were available with people able to get only 2 each- by noon, they were all gone:

Below the fold, a released email fact sheet from the White House of how the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, signed yesterday by the President affects Maine, but by extension, all states.    As both the mom of a freshman in high school and a graduate of one of Maine’s community colleges (albeit 2 name changes ago!!) whose tuition was in large part paid for by Pell grants and scholarships, the Education Reconciliation Act is of particular interest to me. And as a Mainer, I know just how valuable the community college system here in Maine is, not just for individual students, but for the future of our state’s businesses and workforce.

Yesterday, President Obama signed the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, delivering a significant down payment on his ambitious agenda to make higher education more affordable.  Below, please find a fact sheet outlining the some of the benefits this bill will have for Maine families.

         Maine & Education in

The Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010

“We will provide the support necessary for you to complete college and meet a new goal: by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.”

– President Barack Obama

February 24, 2009

The Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 delivered a significant down payment on the President’s ambitious agenda to make higher education more affordable and help more Americans earn a college degree.  The law raises the maximum Pell Grant, makes loan payments more affordable for students with unmanageable debt, increases investments in community colleges, and extends support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority Serving Institutions, all at no additional cost to taxpayers according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. The education initiatives funded by the law are fully paid for by ending government subsidies that were being given to financial institutions making guaranteed federal student loans.

Building on existing accomplishments since the President took office-raising the maximum Pell Grant by more than $800 and tripling the largest college tax credit now known as the American Opportunity Tax Credit-the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act will help expand college access and increase graduation rates for Maine’s students.

To support Maine’s students’ success in higher education, the new law:

Increases Pell Grants: The Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act invests more than $40 billion in Pell Grants to ensure that all eligible students receive an award and that these awards will be increased in future years to help keep pace with the rising cost of college. These investments, coupled with the President’s previous investments, more than double the total amount of funding provided for Pell Grants since the President took office. The law increases the Federal Pell Grant maximum award by the Consumer Price Index from 2013 through 2017, which is estimated to raise the award from $5,550 to $5,975, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. By academic year 2020-2021, the Department of Education estimates Maine’s students will receive an additional $119 million in Pell Grants due to the changes in the new law.

Expands Income Based Repayment: Because of the high cost of college, about two-thirds of students take out college loans with an average student debt of over $23,000. This debt is particularly burdensome for graduates who choose to enter lower-paying public service careers, suffer setbacks such as unemployment or serious illness, or fail to complete their degree. To ensure that Native Americans can afford their student loan payments, the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act makes the existing income-based student loan repayment program more generous for new borrowers after July 1, 2014. They will be allowed to cap their student loan repayments at 10 percent of their discretionary income and, if they keep up with their payments over time, forgive their balance after 20 years. As under current law, public service workers-such as teachers, nurses, and those in military service-will see any remaining debt forgiven after only 10 years. According to Department of Education estimates, 1.2 million borrowers are projected to qualify and take part in the expanded IBR program between 2014 and 2020.

Increases Support for Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs): While many of today’s colleges and universities are facing a host of challenges-shrinking endowments, decreasing state appropriations, deteriorating facilities and increasing costs-many of America’s Minority Serving Institutions are feeling the pain more acutely. They do more with less and enroll higher proportions of low- and middle-income students. That’s why the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act provides $2.55 billion to Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions over the next ten years.   These dollars can be used to renew, reform, and expand programming to ensure that students at these colleges and universities are given every chance to live up to their full potential.

Funding for College Access Grants: The Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act extends and increases mandatory funding for the existing College Access Challenge Grant Program to $150 million per year over the next four years.  This program provides grants to States to help organizations provide services that increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter college and manage their student loans, such as by developing financial literacy and debt management skills. Maine is expected to receive approximately $7.5 million in additional funding due to the changes in the new law.

Investments in Community Colleges & Career Training: As the largest part of the nation’s higher education system, community colleges enroll more than 6 million students and are growing rapidly. They feature affordable tuition, open admission policies, flexible course schedules, and convenient locations. Community colleges are particularly important for students who are older, working, or need remedial classes. Community colleges work with businesses, industry and government to tailor training programs to meet economic needs like nursing, health information technology, advanced manufacturing, and green jobs. The Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act includes $2 billion over four years for community colleges. These resources will help community colleges and other institutions develop, improve, and provide education and career training programs suitable for workers who are eligible for trade adjustment assistance. Each state will receive at least 0.5 of the total funds appropriated to this program each fiscal year.

Ultimately, the education related provisions of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act are fully paid for by ending the government subsidies currently given to financial institutions that make guaranteed federal student loans. Starting July 1, all new federal student loans will be direct loans delivered and collected by private companies under performance-based contracts with the Department of Education. According to the Congressional Budget Office, ending these wasteful subsidies frees up nearly $68 billion which this new law reinvests back into students and into reducing the deficit. As a result of the savings and investments in this new law, Maine and its students are expected to receive more than $126 million by academic year 2020-2021 in additional benefits for higher education.