Wednesday, July 18, 2012

FLTI Graudation Class of 2012

By Jill Gedeon,  AmeriCorps VISTA
Graduation-- the day that we’ve all been waiting for is finally here. After 20 week long sessions meeting one night per week, our parents, teens and children have been given the tools necessary to become strong advocates for their children, neighbors and their fellow citizens of Miami-Dade county to implement change and to inspire others to take on the same path. The graduation took place at the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens and the institute has graduated 12 parents, 3 children, and 5 teens.

The evening started out with some encouraging words from our CEO & Chair Daniella Levine by congratulating our graduates and in honoring Janet Pereyra the founder of F.O.F (Federation of Families) in collaborating with her in being a part of our PLTI curriculum. The atmosphere during the event was very joyful and nobody in the room could not stop smiling and congratulating one another solidifying the fact that everyone in the room made it here with the support from their fellow classmates, Catalyst Miami, Federation of Families, PLTI and The Children's Trust to make it all a reality. During the ceremony, we also honored Gina Ha, Lizabeth Vejano, Abby Asgaralli from Catalyst and other facilitators who made it possible each and every week in obtaining supplies and/or assist with facilitating the program. Before the graduation procession began, the Youth Move choir performed 3 different songs in 3 different languages: English, Spanish and Haitian Creole to reflect the common languages that are heard in Miami and represents the cultures of the parents, children and teens. 

While during the graduation procession I was happy to see all of my young adults transition into knowledgeable Youth Advocate Leaders as they grace the stage with confidence, when receiving their diploma. Even though I myself had the pleasure of being a facilitator for the second half of Soundout weekly program. It was a great feeling to see so much hope, inspiration, and collaboration.

Congratulations to the 5th year and 7th FLTI class of 2012!

Friday, July 13, 2012

ReServists in action: Woodie Pagan

Contributed by Islara B. Suoto, Alliance for Aging Director of Planning & Special Projects

The workshop planned for a recent Tuesday in Little Havana was to train 15 elders in safe-walking behaviors. All arrangements had been made and materials prepared: 15 Certificates of Completion were printed for each "older graduate" and 15 Safety Kits assembled as a graduation gift. The room was set up, the attendance sheet ready, curriculum module loaded on the laptop, a new light bulb in the projector, and all systems a "go."

The trainer for the workshop, a ReServist named Woodie Pagan, called my cell phone the night before the Little Havana event. "Hi. Guess how many participants are coming to the workshop tomorrow?" he asked. "Oh, the 15 we planned for," I responded. 

"Nope," he continued, "there will be more than 300 elders at the workshop in the Little Havana Activity & Nutrition Center!"  

I gasped, caught my breath and said, "Woodie, do you want to do this?" He quickly responded, "Yes."

I asked him, "Can you do this?" He replied with a simple, "Yeah, sure, no problem."

That, in essence, is Woodie Pagan--lawyer, ex-New York Traffic Court Judge, former high school football coach, college baseball and football player, HUD developer--and now, in his encore career through ReServe, a Project Specialist for the Alliance for Aging. There is nothing too big or too small for this exceptional person to tackle when he commits and believes in what he is doing.

Woodie is proving to be an invaluable employee who has embraced the opportunity to make our diverse elders throughout Miami-Dade County safer. His inimitable and friendly style makes everyone around him feel at ease, and his approachability transfers into the community as he trains hundreds of older people how to be more careful about walking on the streets of Miami. His experience base includes years of diplomacy, a teaching background, practical understanding of nonprofit operation and programs, and a keen legal mind. More importantly, though, this ReServist exemplifies how the "right fit" between a person and a job--no matter what stage of life--can revitalize and invigorate both.

To learn more about ReServe Miami, please visit

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Supreme Court Healthcare Decision: What Does it Mean for Florida?

Contributed by Greg Mallowe, Florida CHAIN
On June 28, the two-year legal challenge brought by Florida and 25 other states to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), reached its dramatic conclusion with a (split) decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In two sentences, what did the Court decide?

They upheld the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA) as constitutional*. So the ACA is the law of the land and is fully in effect.

Why the asterisk (*) though?

  The Court did identify one problem related to the Medicaid expansion component of the ACA that would make most Americans up to 138 percent of the poverty level Medicaid-eligible as of 2014. Because the expansion is such a significant change to the Medicaid program, the Court said, it would be unconstitutional for the feds to enforce an older Medicaid law that would have allowed withholding of all federal funds for a State's existing Medicaid program if it refused to expand. Bottom line: Florida can't beforced to expand Medicaid (but see below).

When Governor Scott stated his intent not to do anything to comply with the ACA, what was he talking about?

Although it seems unlikely that the Governor has any immediate plans to change his practice of rejecting all ACA-related funding and taking no action to implement the law, he was mainly referring to two main ACA components. First, he said Florida would likely: 1) not expand Medicaid, and 2) not launch a Florida-based Health Insurance Exchange where Floridians could find and buy quality, affordable coverage - with assistance available to households up to 400% of the poverty level to ensure affordable coverage.

Was the Governor specifically threatening to break the law or ignore federal authority?

Although the Governor appears ready to break his pledge to implement the law if upheld by the Supreme Court, so far he has not discussed anything that would be illegal. Here's why:
1) As a result of the Supreme Court's decision, Florida could reject Medicaid expansion without fear of losing federal funding for its current Medicaid program. So such a decision would be legal, but extremely foolish. Medicaid expansion would provide desperately-needed coverage for a million very low-income Floridians, while bringing in almost ten federal dollars for every State dollar invested in the next decade.
2) If Florida did nothing to set up its own "state-based" Exchange, Floridians would still have access to a "federally facilitated" exchange. That wouldn't necessarily mean that the federal government would run the whole thing. The Exchange could take the form of a federal-state partnership, where the state would perform some function and the feds perform others.

Who will make the financial decision about what to do and by when?

If the State plans any involvement in the initial operation of an Exchange - either on its own or as part of a federal-state partnership - it would need to tell the feds in writing and submit a detailed plan by November 16. The Exchange must be ready to perform a wide array of complex functions by next fall, and Florida is still at "square one." Significant federal involvement seems inevitable. The Legislature will have a say, but unless there is a special session, their input may come too late, at least for Round 1. As for Medicaid expansion, the Legislature could decide that question next spring, but that really doesn't allow enough time to prepare, even if the feds determine eligibility.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Voting Just Got Easier with TurboVote!

Written by Jennifer Villaroel, Catalyst Miami Summer Intern

In 1790, the United States voting law only permitted white adult property-owning males to 
cast their to vote. Today however, thanks to the tireless efforts of trailblazers of
the past 
who fought for increased suffrage, all American citizens over 18 years old may vote regardless their race, color or gender. The work is not yet done however to make sure all voices can be be heard. For example, thousands of African-Americans and Latinos who are eligible to vote are underrepresented in local and national elections every year. Additionally, new Florida laws make it harder for community-based organizations to register people to vote.

One way Catalyst Miami is trying to tackle the problem of voter disenfranchisement is by promoting “TurboVote,” a free and easy-to-use technology that allows users to register to vote online, as well as sign up for election reminders, so you never miss an election! 

We believe that promoting and facilitating the use of TurboVote within our community can create change, and we hope you will help us spread the word to increase the number of voters in Florida. Together we can build a more democratic nation.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

President Obama Proposes New Home Refinancing Program

Recently, I had the opportunity to listen in on this month's White House conference call that addressed home mortgage refinancing. The purpose of this call was to spread the word about President Obama's new proposal to enact three streamline home refinancing programs: Responsible Owner Refinancing Act, Expanding Refinancing Opportunities Act, and Rebuilding Equity Act. Americans who bought houses before the financial crisis and are locked in at high interest rates will benefit from these streamline refinancing programs because it cuts through the red tape that is attached to modifying mortgages and help home owners make affordable payments. Individuals who are not behind on their mortgage payments but have been unable to get traditional refinancing because the value of their home has declined, individuals may be eligible to refinance their own loan through MHA's Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP). Click here for a more detailed eligibility criteria.

Why streamline refinancing?
Individuals may be eligible to refinance through the
Home Affordable Refinance Program
Increased competition amongst lending services will give borrowers better deals and lower fees on their loans. In addition, the programs allow automatic appraisal that will remove the additional cost of manual appraisal. The Rebuilding Equity Act will also offer aid to families whose loans are underwater-- the mortgage is higher than the value of the house. Short term loans allow people to recover from their loans quicker. Lower monthly payments mean lower foreclosure rates, helping property values in your community. 

The conference ended with a question and answer segment where several realtors from South Florida called in to make their enquiries. Overall, my first experience with a White House conference call was a positive one-- however, I left the conversation still feeling confused about the specificities each program would provide within President Obama's proposal. Let's hope that the U.S. Senate will quickly add this to their calender and considers this proposal with the attention it deserves. I believe there should be a greater effort to keep an open dialogue between the administration and the American public and explain the proposal in easy to understand terms. On the same token, Americans who think they might be eligible for home refinancing should proactively educate themselves on the various programs to see which one suits their financial situation the closest. Home loan refinancing is a tedious and complex process that effects many Americans and I think it's a matter of public concern that should be addressed sooner rather than later.