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In 12 days, the open enrollment period will begin for the federal Health Insurance Marketplace. Last year, over 8 million people enrolled in the Health Insurance Marketplace. While those 8 million people had 6 months to enroll last year in the Health Insurance Marketplace, Americans this year will only have 3 months, until February 15, to enroll. In addition, most individuals without insurance who were easy to target for enrollment already enrolled during the last open enrollment period, making it more difficult to enroll the same number of people this year. On top of that, a recent survey showed that nine in ten of the uninsured do not know that open enrollment begins on November 15 and 66% of the uninsured know little or nothing about the health insurance marketplace. These statistics illustrate the importance of educating Americans about the open enrollment period and the opportunities available to help the uninsured.
Earlier today, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued two new items of guidance regarding the Ebola crisis in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The first guidance offers special relief for leave-based donation programs to aid Ebola victims in the aforementioned countries. The other guidance names the Ebola outbreak in these West African countries a “qualified disaster” for federal tax purposes. The leave-based donation guidance would allow employees to donate their paid vacation, sick or personal leave and employers will make cash payments to tax-exempt organizations that are providing relief for the victims of Ebola in Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone. This program will allow for employer cash payments until January 1, 2016. For this period, the donated leave will not be included in the sum of income or wages of the employees. Furthermore, employers will be able to deduct the amount of the cash payment, also a boon for them.
The crisis at the United States’ southern border, caused by violence in Central America’s Northern Triangle region, has quieted since this summer. The gang violence there still rages on, but due to seasonal factors, the number of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum has dropped sharply. After Congress failed to give the governmental organizations stretched by the crisis any additional funding, the slowdown in new arrivals has allowed the House and the Senate to avoid another round of funding debates that would likely end in stalemate.
After a historic summer for marriage quality and the decision by the Supreme Court to deny review of seven petitions challenging state bans on same-sex marriage, 32 states and the District of Columbia now allow same-sex couples to marry. Although these marriage equality victories helped remove some barriers to same-sex couples looking to start a family, many barriers still exist to same-sex couples—in both marriage equality and non-marriage equality states—that want to raise children.
Welcome to the month of Cheshvan!
In response to the 2014 midterm election results, Rachel Laser, Deputy Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued a statement:
Yesterday, along with the US Senate and House of Representative elections and numerous elections on the state level, voters in Washington state chose not to stand silently by any longer in the face of gun violence. Ballot Initiative I-594 to institute universal background checks including for private sales in Washington passed by an overwhelming majority of 59.7% while the counter-initiative that would have prevented background checks in Washington State failed resoundingly. Laws similar to this one have been passed by other states, including last year in Maryland where the new law has already led to a significant drop in gun deaths state-wide.
By Ellen Alexander The URJ Henry S. Jacobs Camp is proud to offer a Camper Incentive Program for Jewish Military Families on Active Duty. Jacobs Camp is nestled in the beautiful state of Mississippi and has served over 10,000 Jewish children primarily from the Deep South- Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and the Florida Panhandle since opening its gates in 1970. Jacobs Camp is the only camp within the URJ Camping system that offers a military incentive to all Jewish active duty families from across the United States and beyond.
As we look forward to Congress coming back for one last session in 2014, we need to think about future actions that Congress can take to pass policies that can positively impact Americans and can ameliorate economic inequality. One potential measure is the Earned Income Tax Credit, a refundable credit. Since the EITC only benefits individuals in the workforce, the antipoverty measure is seen as helping encourage people to work and to participate in the workforce. This federal credit applies to low and moderate income workers by encouraging work, offsetting federal income and payroll taxes, and ultimately increasing family income. The EITC increases as a low-income workers’ income level rises and is slowly phased out, meaning that a worker can eventually earn too much to be able to qualify for this.
With a few days' distance from the 2014 midterm elections, we are beginning to put the results of this election in context -- for what it means for Congress, state legislatures, state laws and of course our work to advance social justice in the United States. The day after the election, Rachel Laser, Deputy Director of the Religious Action Center released a statement welcoming the resounding success of three key state ballot initiatives and noting our long history of working successfully with members on both sides of the aisle to advance shared priorities. We look forward to another exciting chapter in Washington, D.C. and in the states. On Thursday, Rachel Laser moderated a conversation between RAC Director Rabbi David Saperstein, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights Executive Vice President and Director of Policy Nancy Zirkin and RAC Senior Advisor Michael Horowitz. To watch the exciting conversation, visit our Election Day resources page, or watch it here: [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwBlxf9xu3c[/embed]