Discounted Lyft to the polls

Published in RINewsToday.com on November 7, 2022

Just before the upcoming mid-term elections, Lyft, a ride sharing services company announces it will offer ride redemption codes valued up to 50% of the cost of a ride to and from voting locations (up to a maximum of $10). The code can be used for discounted rideshare, as well as bike and scooter rides, making it as easy as possible for anyone and everyone to vote.

Riders can preload the code by going to VOTE22 at: https://ride.lyft.com/invite/VOTE22  by going here before Election Day for the discount code that gets applied to their ride to the polls on November 8th. When you request the Code, you have to put in your cell phone number – then you will receive a text giving you a link to download the Lyft app. Codes will be available to be used during voting hours in every time zone. Riders must have the Lyft app on their phone – you can download it wherever you download applications to your phone – or in the apps of one of the participating local bikeshare systems – or follow the link you’ll get by going to VOTE 22 link.

According to Lyft, the company’s Voting Access program was created to address real transportation barriers:  In 2016, an estimated 15 million people registered to vote but didn’t do so because of transportation issues. 

Other studies also confirmed that transportation issues keep people from voting. A study from 2020 found that individuals without access to a car vote at significantly lower rates than those who have one. These barriers are faced by individuals across the demographic spectrum from young to older voters.  An estimated 11.2 million seniors have travel-limiting disabilities that make it difficult to leave home. And 29% of young voters surveyed by Harvard University said they didn’t vote because they didn’t have a ride.

These numbers are even more severe for young people of color, who are 30% more likely to cite transportation as a barrier to voting than young white people. 

Lyft’s initiative is part of the company’s broader 2022 LyftUp Voting Access Program, first introduced last February.

When Lyft initially announced its LyftUp Voting Access Program on Feb. 22, 2022, the San Francisco-based called for strong federal legislation to counter the numerous campaigns nationwide to restrict voting rights. “That’s why we are part of the Business for Voting Rights coalition and have activity supported the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would provide federal voting protections for all.  Lyft is firmly opposed to any laws limiting voting by mail, reducing the number of days people can vote, or pushing any other restrictions on access for eligible voters — particularly those disproportionately impacting Black and Brown communities,” noted the statement announcing this new private sector voting initiative. 

According to Lyft, through the 2022 LyftUp Voting Access Program, the company will provide access to discounted rides on Election Day (Tuesday, November 8, 2022) across the nation.  The company will also donate free or heavily discounted ride codes to nonprofit partners whose communities traditionally face barriers when getting to the polls. Partners include, but are not limited to: League of Women Voters, National Federation of the Blind, Warrior Scholar Project, National Council on Aging, Voto Latino Foundation, Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote (APIAVote), and NAACP. These partners will distribute ride codes directly to people in their networks whom they identify as most in need of transportation. 

In addition, Lyft says it will also work with partners like When We All Vote, Vote.org, and the Civic Alliance to help riders and team members register and prepare to vote. The company will also provide relevant information and guidance to drivers who earn on the Lyft platform about registering to vote on time and when, where and how to vote during each stage of the election.

“Older adults want to participate in our democracy, but many do not have transportation to get to polling stations,” said Ransey Alwin, NCOA president and CEO.

Lyft’s Voting Access Program will help ensure that older adults have access to transportation necessary to make their voices heard where it matters—at the voting booth,” says Alwin.

“We believe that everyone’s voice—and vote—deserves to be heard, and transportation should never be a barrier,” said Lyft’s Director of Social Impact Lisa Boyd.

Using Lyft Voting Access Ride Codes

The Lyft promo code can be used for rides to and from voting polls. The ride code below covers a value of up to 50% of the total cost, up to $10 maximum, to polling stations. It is valid from 5am and 8pm. There are no location restrictions, and the voting access ride codes are valid through Election Day (Tuesday, November 8, 2022). https://ride.lyft.com/invite/VOTE

NOTE: Local candidates usually have convenient assistance to take voters to the polls – call your local senator or rep or candidate for help.

If you know you’ll need help with transportation on voting day – plan now for how you will get there!

Nat’l Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare in RI for Magaziner

Published on October 10, 2022 in RINewsToday

With just 28 days before the mid-term elections, Seth Magaziner, the Democratic candidate for the 2nd Congressional District seat struggles to keep Democratic and Independent voters from voting Republican Alan Fung into office, who express frustration with high gas prices, rising inflation and a slow economy.  

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Rhode Island Democratic Party, knowing that the last Republican to hold this seat was former Congresswoman Claudine Schneider in 1991, understand the importance to them of keeping this seat in the Democratic fold. Losing this seat, made vacant by the retirement of 57-year old Congressman James Langevin, in a solidly Blue state, would move the GOP one step closer to taking control of the House in the next Congress, controlling the lower chamber’s legislative agenda.

Like the strategy of many Democratic candidates facing Republicans in swing states across the nation, Magaziner has attacked positions on Social Security, Medicare, and abortion. He has also tied the former Cranston Mayor, in his  negative campaign ads, to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who could become Speaker of the House if the House turned majority Republican. McCarthy has previously supported legislation privatizing the Social Security program, and called for the cutting of Social Security and Medicare benefits. “Watch out, Fung’s no moderate Republican”, say the Democratic attack ads.

Magaziner supporters point to Allan Fung wearing a red “Make America Great Again” baseball cap – and – bringing McCarthy, a diehard Trump supporter, to Rhode Island in August to raise money for his campaign. But Fung’s campaign is aware that there were and are Trump supporters in his Congressional District, and that Democrats and Independents are disappointed with President Biden’s policy initiatives.

Magaziner Pledges to Protect Social Security and Medicare

While Magaziner has 29 Labor, Health Care, Democratic and Educational groups endorsing his campaign, last week he picked up a significant endorsement from the Washington, DC-based National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM). Since 1982, NCPSSM’s mission is to protect benefits of Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries. The Democratic House candidate, who has served as the state’s General Treasurer since 2015, got this endorsement with his pledge, if elected, to fight for strengthening and expanding Social Security and Medicare. 

Last week, at the Johnston Senior Center, Mayor Joseph Polisena, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Magaziner, and dozens of senior supporters, welcomed NCPSSM’s Max Richtman, CEO and President, who came to give his blessings to Magaziner in his bid to win Rhode Island’s 2nd Congressional District seat, and to “warn” older voters what could happen to Social Security and Medicare if the Republicans take control of the House.

The location for the event, Johnston, was no casual selection for the event, as, when the dust settled after the 2020 Presidential election, the majority of the town’s voters had voted for Donald and the Republican agenda. Johnston’s Mayor showed his support for Magaziner, and a clear message to residents to keep a Democrat in the House from the District. 

Standing at a podium surrounded by signs with messages such as “Protect our Social Security Benefits” and “No Cuts – Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid,” Mayor Polisena, 68, a Social Security and Medicare beneficiary said, “Medicare and Social Security are for the people like us, the middle class, who are hard-working people. You paid into Social Security and Medicare, and you are entitled to get benefits,” he pointed out. 

 Over the years, Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse has been a staunch advocate of the Social Security program by serving on the Defending Social Security Caucus to improve the method for calculating Social Security’s CPI. He now is active in the Senate’s Expand Social Security Caucus.

In 2006, Whitehouse remembered NCPSSM’s Richman coming to the Ocean State “to check him out” to determine if he was a solid supporter on Social Security and Medicare. Ultimately, the Social Security advocacy group would endorse Whitehouse, Jack Reed and Patrick Kennedy in their successful bids to become Congressman from the state of Rhode Island.

“Guess what, if you raise or eliminate the cap on wages that are subject to Social Security taxes it would raise a lot of money for the program”, says Whitehouse, noting it would be fairer and a smart thing to do so. “Instead, Republicans are talking about privatizing Social Security, even making cuts to the program,” he charged, noting that at the highest levels, Republicans want to damage Social Security and Medicare through formal groups like their policy committees.

“Rhode Island has to be the place where this nonsense stops,” says Whitehouse. “If Seth Magaziner is the deciding vote about who becomes Speaker of the House, you know where he will be. You also know where the opponent will be. Once you open that gate, all the monsters come cascading thru whether it be reproductive rights, Medicare, and Social Security. They’re going after it,” he warns.   

Whitehouse said:  “It is really important for our own sake that we send someone to Washington, DC to protect Social Security and Medicare, and to ultimately expand these programs.”

“I am here to endorse Seth Magaziner and send him to the U.S. House of Representatives, says Richtman, stressing that it is a “very  close and competitive race.” This election will determine the future of Social Security and Medicare, he predicted.

Historically in the House when the GOP was in the majority [when Paul Ryan was Speaker of the House] they wanted to cut Social Security, decrease COLAs,  increasing Social Security’s full retirement age, and privatizing the Social Security program,” he said.

According to Richtman, Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, recently presented a plan that called for “all federal legislation to sunset after five years,” including Social Security. That means every five years Congress will have to recreate Social Security from scratch. “We don’t need that,” he said.

Concluding the Johnston event, Magaziner noted that Fung’s campaign ads attempt to portray his higher-income parents as out of touch with the needs of Social Security beneficiaries. The Democratic candidate clearly remembered how the program helped his blue collar grandparents. “Those checks coming every month enabled them to put food on the table, to afford prescription drugs, and to even purchase an occasional birthday present or Christmas gifts for the kids,” he said.

Magaziner said Social Security is as important as ever.  “People are having a hard time to keep up with the rising cost of living.  So, this is the right time to not just protect Social Security but to expand the program to make it easier for seniors to keep up with the cost of living,” he says.

The GOP’s recently released Blueprint to Save America raises Social Security’s full retirement age and eliminates benefits to high income,” says Magaziner. “How much longer do they want people to work? We have to hold the line and not let this happen,” he says.

Concluding the press event, Magaziner stated: “My pledge is that if you elect me to the 2nd Congressional District, I will fight any one from any party who would attempt to cut and privatized the Social Security program and advocate for the expansion of the program to help seniors keep up with the rising cost of living.”

“My opponent has already pledged that his very first vote that he is going to take is to make Kevin McCarthy the Speaker of the House. The same Kevin McCarthy who was coauthor of a proposal to cut Medicare and to put Social Security on the stock market,” says Magaziner. “I want the Speaker of the House to defend Social Security and to not make cuts to the program,” he said.

Allen Fung Comes Out Swinging

“Seth is lying because he is losing,” notes Allan Fung, noting that is own mother relies on her Social Security check. “Do you think I would ever do anything to hurt my own mother?  It’s absurd,” he says.

Fung claims that the nation’s high inflation rate “is essentially cutting out an entire month’s Social Security check for seniors this year, hurting people who rely on every single penny.”

“We need to look at options that have bipartisan support – like “Scrapping the Cap” that can actually pass and will strengthen the Social Security system. In regards to Medicare, Seth is lying again – no shock to anyone. I actually want to strengthen Medicare benefits to expand coverage for dental work, vision care, and hearing aids,” he says. 

“I obviously have a long history as a moderate of taking a balanced approach and working across the aisle to get things done,” says Fung, noting that he did this during his four terms serving as Mayor of Cranston. “In Congress, I’ll take a keen look at the bills that are introduced, and have no issue with cosponsoring legislation on a bipartisan basis when it helps our families here in Rhode Island,” he says.  

US Chamber of commerce Director Nick Vaugh weighs in about Fung’s Congressional race. “The son of immigrants, Allan understands the challenges facing job creators, workers, and families in Rhode Island. Allan’s commitment to free enterprise and pro-growth solutions critical to moving Rhode Island and our nation forward has earned him the endorsement of the U.S. Chamber. We are proud to endorse Allan Fung in his election for Congress,” says Vaugh. 

Fung views himself as a likeable person who can be an effective moderate lawmaker to represent Rhode Island’s interests in a Republican-controlled House. “I’m more of a [Massachusetts Gov.] Charlie Baker type of individual. I like the work Chris Sununu is doing in New Hampshire, Gov. [Phil] Scott in Vermont, those are Republicans I model myself after,” says Fung, reported by the AXIOS, a news website based in Arlington, Virginia.  

Watching from the Sidelines

Dawson Hodgson, who served two terms as a Republican State Senator and disaffiliated from the party in 2016, came to see Magaziner get his latest endorsement from the NCPSSM and expressed his observations about this Congressional race.

“When Congressman Langevin retired, I committed to support the Democratic nominee because I believe Republican control of Congress, in today’s environment, will undermine American values,” said Hodgson, stressing that Seth Magaziner will uphold them. “He is an earnest, hardworking individual who feels a calling to serve out state and nation. While I expect to disagree with his policy views from time to time, it is clear to me that sending Seth to Congress will balance out some of the more extreme positions in the Democratic caucus,” he adds.

“I don’t think Allan Fung, or any Republican can do the same in the current environment. The past 5 years show us “moderate” Republicans must either go along, or get gone,” observes Hodgson.

While he believes Fung is a serious man and a dedicated public servant, Hodgson also views him as a talented politician who will work hard to get elected in a state that doesn’t like a lot of his party’s politics. “He’s implied that Kevin McCarthy promised him the best committees, and also gave him permission to vote against the party on certain issues (but not which ones). That’s the same game Democrats used to play at the RI General Assembly!” he says.

“GOP control of the house means a return to chaos. Expect Benghazi-style hearings attacking all things Biden,” predicts Hodgson. “Allan is a former prosecutor, so I’d expect to see him on those committees working underneath MAGA extremists like Jim Jordan of Ohio or Marjorie Taylor Green of Georgia,” he says.

While Fung says he will be an effective moderate lawmaker to represent Rhode Island’s interests in a Republican-controlled House, Hodgson expresses his concerns about this statement.  “There is no appetite for moderation in today’s GOP, says Hodson. “Allan Fung is making promises he can’t keep,” he says.

It’s coming down to the wire.  According to a new WPPRI-TV and Roger Williams University poll released last Thursday, if the 2nd Congressional District election were held today, 46% of poll respondents stated that they would vote for Fung – 40% for Magaziner – and 4% for Moderate candidate, William Gilbert. The pollsters say that 9% of those polled said they are undecided.  

This election cycle, Rhode Island’s Congressional election could have a major impact as to who controls the House and it’s legislative agenda. It’s important that YOU vote.

More resources to review on issues of concern to seniors:

The AARP RI has done a series of interviews with candidates Fung and Magaziner on issues relevant to seniors – you can view them, below:

Social Security – https://www.facebook.com/AARPRI/videos/3041377066153394/  

High cost of prescription drugs —https://www.facebook.com/AARPRI/videos/426190556280841

Medicare –  https://www.facebook.com/AARPRI/videos/662982298733782/

Caregiving – Go to https://www.facebook.com/AARPRI/videos/1233466400806542

Congress moves to fix SSA customer service issues 

Published in RINewsToday on October 3, 2022

After Sen. Joe Manchin (D- WV) abandoned his efforts to legislatively speed up the permitting process for energy projects, as part of the Senate’s Continuing Resolution, it began to get bipartisan traction. With a shutdown looming just days before federal agencies would run out of money on Oct. 1, the Senate passed a stop gap government funding bill by a vote of 72 to 25 on Thursday afternoon, sending the package to the House of Representatives for consideration on Friday. That day, passing in the House chamber by a vote of 230 to 201, the bill was sent to President Biden to be signed before midnight, the end of FY 2022.  

The continuing resolution funds the federal government through Dec. 16 and keeps spending at the same levels, giving appropriations committees in both the House and Senate more time to craft a broader budget deal for the rest of the fiscal year.

Before passage in the Senate Chamber, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called for Senators to vote for the bipartisan bill that would fund the government and avert a weekend shutdown. The bill provided Ukraine with $12.35 billion in emergency assistance and bolstered funding to LIHEAP by $1 billion dollars to help American families heat their homes this winter.

Two billion dollars in Community Development Block Grants were also provided to assist communities recovering from major disasters in 2021 and 2022.  The Continuing Resolution also contained $18.8 billion for the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund, which would bring available resources in the fund to approximately $35 billion to respond to disasters.  

To ensure passage the Continuing Resolution did not include funding that the Biden administration requested for vaccines, testing and treatment for the coronavirus or monkeypox.

Ratcheting up funding for SSA

On Sept. 2, House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman John B. Larson (D-CT) applauded President Biden for requesting additional funding for the Social Security Administration (SSA), to maintain customer service, in his proposal regarding the FY 2023 continuing resolution.

“President Biden’s request for the SSA provides much-needed funds to ensure the agency can continue to serve the public as Congress works to complete full-year appropriations bills. SSA’s mission is to help Americans access benefits they have paid for and deserve. Unfortunately, rising workloads following years of underfunding for SSA customer service have led to delays and growing wait times for services. The President’s request is a necessary down-payment that would prevent SSA services from degrading and becoming even more delayed while a continuing resolution is in place,” stated Larson.  

Six days later, Jeff Nesbit, SSA’s Deputy Commissioner for Communication, authored a “Dear Colleague” letter calling for Congress to increase funding in the Continuing Resolution to ratchet up the agency’s customer service outreach that would be voted on before Oct. 1.  Due to continual underfunding and the resulting hiring freezes, reduce staffing levels cannot keep pace with the demand,” the SSA official warned. 

“An extended or full year Continuing Resolution in FY 2023 without additional funding would be disastrous,” says Nesbit, noting that it would require SSA to absorb fixed cost increases of over half a billion dollars. “We would be unable to replace nearly 6,000 additional SSA and State DDS employees we expect to lose next year due to expected attrition,” he said.

“We would be forced to significantly cut overtime levels that we rely on to complete our workloads, like making initial disability decisions or even helping people who come into our offices at the end of the day.  These cuts would further delay important services and increase the public’s frustration,” he stated.

According to Nesbit, the pandemic has created a backlog of initial disability claims, estimated to be approaching the one-million mark (929,000 as of August 2022, an increase of 189 claims from the end of last fiscal year, Sept. 2021). 

Additional funding in the Continuing Resolution would help SSA continue to automate its work, enhance security of recipient’s information, and provide more efficient and convenient service for the public, says Nesbit.  

NCPSSM pushes for more SSA funding 

The Biden Administration has requested $14.8 billion for the SSA for fiscal year (FY) 2023 in the upcoming Continuing Resolution, says Dan Adcock, Director of Government Relations and Policy for the Washington-DC based National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM).  “Continuing Resolutions are stop-gap appropriations bills that temporarily fund day-to-day government operations while congressional appropriators draft legislation to fund government for the full fiscal year,” explains Adcock, noting that Continuing Resolutions usually fund agencies and programs based on the previous fiscal year (FY 2022) appropriated levels. 

“The Administrations’ request to Congress is that they include an “anomaly” provision in the FY 2023 Continuing Resolutions that funds SSA at a level higher than what the agency received for FY 2022.  The Biden Administration made this request because the agency is chronically underfunded and has mounting costs due to staff shortages and reopening field offices after being closed for two years,” he said.

Public outcry over the inadequate funding of Social Security Administration (SSA) that led to delays of service and long waits for disability decisions pushed the Senate to increase funding for SSA.  According to Adcock, the bill included $400 million in addition to FY 2022 funding levels for the pro-rated amount to be paid October 1 (start of FY 2023) through December 16 (expiration of funding in the bill).

“SSA had not been adequately funded, says Adcock, noting that from 2010 to 2021, the agency’s  operating budget declined by about 13 percent after inflation, while the number of beneficiaries rose by 21 percent, primarily as a result of the growth in new retirement beneficiaries as the baby boom generation reached retirement age. “These budget cuts have left SSA with its lowest levels of staffing in 25 years.,” he said. 

Call for Action 

“The level of funding in the Senate-passed Continuing Resolution will help SSA maintain current services, but it is not enough to improve services beyond what is provided now,” warns Adcock. “We’ll work with friendly members of Congress and other advocacy groups to get SSA more funding in the Omnibus Appropriations bill which would fund day-to-day operation of the federal government for the balance of FY 2023 (from December 16, 2022, to September 30, 2023),” he says, noting that Congress will try to pass the Omnibus during the lame duck session.

“The President submitted the FY 2023 budget to Congress on March 28.  Members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will be negotiating the discretionary side of the FY 2023 budget within the next few months,” adds Adcock, noting that their first step is to pass a Continuing Resolution before September 30th.  Then they will try to agree on FY 2023 appropriations in the form of an omnibus appropriations bill to be passed during the lame duck session after the elections.

“The additional funding for SSA in the stopgap spending bill is an important first step towards correcting many years of starving the agency. It is the bare minimum that Congress should provide,” adds Nancy Altman, President of Social Security Works. 

“In next year’s budget, Congress should increase funding levels to what SSA truly needs. In light of the years of underfunding, the current rate of inflation, the loss of experienced staff (necessitating not only hiring but extensive training), and the deterioration of SSA’s phone system, Congress should increase SSA’s budget by $3 billion or more, allowing the agency to spend at least $16.2 billion in the upcoming fiscal year. After all, that represents just 0.6 percent of SSA’s accumulated reserve,” says Altman.  

Final Thoughts

According to SSA, in 2022, over 70 million seniors and disabled workers received social security benefits. We’ll see who will control the levers of power in the Senate and House during the 118th Congress when the dust settles after the midterm elections.  Whether it be Democrat or Republicans, providing adequate funding to SSA for its operations to improve its customer service to these  beneficiaries MUST be a legislative priority.   

When next year’s budget debates begin, seniors must ask their lawmakers to adequately fund SSA.  Most important, they must call for the strengthening and expansion of this program, created to promote the economic security of older Americans.