Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Council Services Plus has formed a partnership with Watson and West, LLP to assist employers with nondiscrimination testing requirements. We are following the legislation and updates to keep abreast of the mandate. We have the resources and expertise to provide the testing requirements once the rules and regulations are established. It will be imperative for employers to satisfy these rules to avoid penalties under section 2716 of the Public Health Services Act (PHSA).

You are receiving this email as a courtesy to help you and your organization prepare for compliance with this aspect of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

Employers are familiar with Section 105(h) testing for retirement plans. PPACA includes similar testing for group health plans to ensure that highly compensated employees (HCE) do not receive favorable treatment in comparison to rank-and-file employees. The full picture of the impact is not yet available due to administrative reviews by the IRS and other federal government agencies; however, we can anticipate that employer groups with 100 employees or more will be required to perform nondiscrimination testing similar, but not the same as, Section 105(h). Oversight of nondiscrimination testing for health plans is shared by the US Departments of Treasury, Labor and HHS.

At this time, please be aware that nondiscrimination requirements focus on plan benefits, eligibility, premium contribution, and administration of benefits to prohibit employers from granting highly compensated employees health benefits that are more generous than the general population of employees. We anticipate clarification of regulations to be available around May. If you are interested in learning more details of the legislation, or want us to keep you informed regarding updates to the regulations, please feel fre to contact us.

For more information or questions concerning the above, please contact Cathy Connors, at (800) 515-5012 x131; or via email at cconnorscconnors@councilservicesplus.com

Monday, February 14, 2011

House Cuts Deep and Destructive for Nonprofits

House Appropriators Would Slash More than $65 billion in the Next Seven Months;
Vulnerable People Hit Hard

The House Appropriations Committee has released the cuts it will make to finish out the remaining 7 months of this fiscal year. It proposes to cut $100 billion below the President's FY 2011 budget proposal, of which $81 billion is cut from domestic and international programs, and $19 billion comes from military, homeland security, and veterans' programs. The President's proposals were higher than the level of spending that has been adopted so far in temporary spending measures. This proposal cuts about $60 billion as compared to FY 2010. Because there are increases in military, veterans' and homeland security spending, the cut to domestic and international programs is higher than the $60 billion in net reductions. There are $65.5 billion in cuts to domestic and international spending and a net $3.4 billion in cuts to military construction, homeland security, and veterans affairs. There are increases for veterans health care ($3.687 billion), homeland security ($1.2 billion) and defense spending (approximately $9 billion?).

Even though we are already five months into the fiscal year, some programs lose ALL of their regular FY 2011 appropriations (some may have remaining economic recovery or other funding).

Some terminated programs:
Reintegration of Ex-Offenders
Green Jobs Innovation Fund
Career Pathways Innovation Fund
National Health Service Corps
Family Planning (Title X)
Teen Pregnancy Prevention Discretionary Grants
Mentoring Children of Prisoners
Even Start
Striving Readers
High School Graduation Initiative
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (higher ed financial assistance)
LEAP program (for low-income college students)

There are other very draconian cuts. Here are some comparisons to FY 2010 levels. PLEASE SHARE ANY ADDITIONAL INFORMATION OR CORRECTIONS YOU HAVE ABOUT THESE OR OTHER CUTS:

$1 billion from Head Start (15 percent);

$1.4 billion from various job training programs (we're not sure exactly what is cut, but for purposes of comparison, two major job training programs, adult and youth training, were funded at $1.78 billion in FY 2010. (That does not include nearly $1.7 billion in economic recovery act funding that was available in FYs 2009 and 2010 - that is gone too.)

Community Health Centers (46 percent of regular appropriation);

Substance abuse treatment (more than $200 million cut);

Community Services Block Grant (44 percent cut);

Low Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP) contingency fund (66 percent cut);

FEMA Emergency Food and Shelter Program (50 percent cut);

Title I (K-12 education for low-income students) ($693.5 million),

IDEA (special education) grants to states: (nearly $560 million);

Commodity Supplemental Food Program (11.4 percent cut);

Community Development Fund ($2.95 billion, or 66.3 percent cut);

Project-based rental assistance ($715.5 million, or 8.4 percent cut);

Public Housing Capital Fund ($1.07 billion, or 42 percent cut);

Housing for the Elderly ($551 million, or 67 percent cut);

Housing for Persons with Disabilities ($210 million, or 70 percent cut).


The full list of cuts from the House Appropriations Committee:

A summary list by appropriations subcommittees:

The full legislative text:
This continuing resolution (CR) will be on the House floor next week (likely starting on Wednesday). Debate may proceed for several days; amendments will be permitted. However, amendments to increase funding for any program can only be allowed if they include cuts in other programs within the same subcommittee jurisdiction. Amendments to cut more deeply will be allowed; funds saved through such cuts are reserved in a "lockbox" to reduce the deficit; the money saved cannot then be used to restore funds to another program. After the bill is passed in the House, the Senate must act on it, and a final CR enacted before the March 4 deadline, when the current temporary spending measure expires.

SAVE for All: Strengthening America's Values and Economy for All

If you were wondering whether you should be part of the SAVE for All campaign, the House spending proposal is a good reason to join. Please read and sign the Statement of Principles, and join with hundreds of organizations to fight harshly short-sighted cuts - and to SAVE vulnerable people from losing services and opportunities to escape poverty.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

New Arts Advocacy Group Launches: ARTS NYS Coalition

Times Square Chronicles featured the following post on a new arts advocacy group:

New York City is the heartland of arts and entertainment including commercial and non-profit theatre. In fact, it is the cultural center throughout the country. However, the NY State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) is proposing the largest cuts of any State agency. It seems like a small part of the budget, .0003%, but in reality, with current economic times as they are, perhaps it represents a good portion. Without having a complete budget at hand and someone competent to explain it, I’m like most New Yorkers . . . trying to figure it all out. What is known, however, is that funding for the State Council on the Arts has been consistently reduced by nearly 30% over the past 4 years, representing the largest cut to any state agency. If we’re to continue our place as a major cultural arts center, we must have the funds necessary.

As a state, we have many attributes of which to be proud, but the arts are the soul of New York. Everyday, artists and arts groups throughout the state provide New Yorkers and the multitude of national and international visitors with pleasure, education, new ways of seeing the world, and enormous economic benefits.

Nonprofit cultural organizations in New York City are major contributors to the city’s economy. This sector is the second-largest component of the arts industry and is closely tied to the commercial sector. These organizations also share a labor pool of artists and other creative workers with the commercial sector and often develop artistic products that transfer to Broadway or is otherwise utilized commercially. A similarly complex interaction occurs between museums and commercial galleries and auction houses.

The nonprofit arts industry is labor-intensive. Half of the direct spending by all nonprofit cultural organizations goes to wages and benefits, and about 11 percent is for fees and services, including outside artistic fees. The majority of the employees are city residents, and many of the vendors and workers who supply goods and services to these institutions are located either within the city or in nearby suburban counties.

New York City is also a mecca for those who work in commercial theaters also apply their artistic talent and technical expertise in nonprofit theater and in the motion picture and television industry.

Who is ARTS NYS Coalition?They are a group of colleagues who joined together to ensure that the public has access to information on the state of the arts in New York State. Currently, the coalition includes the New York City Arts Coalition and the Arts Councils of Dutchess, Greene, Onondaga (Syracuse) and Westchester Counties, Huntington, Northern Adirondacks, Saint Lawrence and Southern Finger Lakes regions, Arts Alliances of Harlem and Buffalo, New York Folklore Society, NYS Alliance for Arts Education, and Museum Association of New York.

Thus far, the coalition has established this website, http://www.artsnys.org/, which will be a resource for data on the arts in New York State as well as information on pending legislation at the state and federal level. This website, in partnership with Americans for the Arts, will provide contact level providing information for elected representatives and will allow individuals to send their representatives customized messages.

ARTS New York State Coalition will also plan and coordinate state-wide advocacy events for 2011 which will provide the arts community with opportunities to meet with elected officials to discuss arts funding in the 2011/12 New York State Budget as well as other issues. A designated Arts Day in Albany is scheduled for Tuesday, February 8, 2011 in addition to many arts advocacy events planned in local districts during the week of February 7 – 13, 2011. Today we have a new governor, who is facing serious budget deficits, and we need him and his administration to be aware of the extent of the past cuts and the need for thoughtful care as they develop the budget for 2012.

It is very urgent that the Governor of our state hear from those who enjoy and treasure the arts in New York State. Send your message to Gov. Andrew Cuomo today.

Lest we forget, cuts to the arts is not only state wide, but on a Federal level as well. In addition to contacting your local representatives, do the same with State Senators and Congressional reps.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's budget plan offers a spectrum of cuts critics say go too far

The Times Union reported on the Governor's recent budget presentation:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's first budget presentation was brisk, dispensing with the laundry lists of previous years and concentrating on a few simple ideas he has been pushing for months. Key among them: State spending has become a runaway train.

In a 42-minute address at The Egg that was part PowerPoint lecture and part exhortation, Cuomo called the state's long-standing budget process "a special-interest protection program" because of the way it obscures the growth in spending on programs such as Medicaid and education.

"How anybody expected to pay for a 13 percent increase in Medicaid is beyond me," Cuomo said of the most recent built-in increases driving the $53 billion-plus program.

The slumping national economy, loss of federal stimulus funds and Cuomo's determination to rethink the way money is allocated resulted in a budget that for the first time in 15 years has actually shrunk year to year.

Cuomo's budget proposal came in at $132.9 billion, down $3.7 billion, or 2.3 percent, from the current fiscal year's adjusted budget of $136.5 billion.

As he warned, education and health care, which make up the biggest chunk of state spending, will get the largest cuts. School aid would drop $1.5 billion from $20.9 billion to $19.4 billion, based on the school year that begins July 1.

Medicaid is slated to lose $982 million, or 2 percent, while there's another $2.85 billion in "gap-closing actions" that will be coming from Cuomo's Medicaid Redesign Team.

For state workers, Cuomo is proposing a 10 percent agency cut, and seeks savings in unspecified givebacks that need to add up to $450 million. If unions don't agree, the governor warned there could be up to 9,800 layoffs.

Cuomo noted that the state was suffering from a loss of federal stimulus funds, which he explicitly compared to an addictive substance: "We inhaled it and injected it into our body," Cuomo said, and will now have to handle the withdrawal.

As usual, the blizzard of statements decrying the cuts -- from unions, advocacy groups and others -- was almost as ferocious as the snowstorm that raged outside, and kept some people from getting to the budget presentation.

"There is nothing fair nor shared in the proposed state budget," said Danny Donohue, president of the Civil Service Employees Association, which along with the Public Employees Federation, is one of two major state unions.

"The State Executive Budget proposal would cripple public services without asking any sacrifice from businesses, corporations and the millionaires and billionaires responsible for the economic crisis," added PEF's Ken Brynien.

Almost all of the advocates urged Cuomo to extend the so-called millionaires income tax surcharge set to expire at the end of 2011. Cuomo has repeatedly said he'll let the surcharge expire, and most lawmakers have agreed.

Realizing there would be pushback, Cuomo stressed that the heaviest cuts are reserved for the state operations under his control, most of which will sustain a 10 percent reduction compared to the low single digits for overall education and health care.

Much of the education and health care money goes to localities such as counties which operate Medicaid programs or to local school districts. Legislators tend to care more about funding for those locally based programs than for state agencies.

Also being de-funded is the governor's $85 million contribution toward member items, or pork barrel projects that individual lawmakers get for their districts. But Cuomo avoided attacking the Legislature, although he railed against the system of budget-building they have helped create over the years.

Cuomo wants to tie growth to a more objective measure, such as inflation or personal income growth. He also wants health care organizations and schools as well as economic development agencies to compete for money through grant applications.

Read more: http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Painful-road-to-recovery-lies-ahead-989491.php#ixzz1CpEVUUAn

Girls Inc. sells Albany building

The Business Review reported that Girls Inc. of the Capital Region has sold its Albany, New York location and now leases space from Northeastern Association of the Blind in Albany Inc.

The new arrangement is expected to save the Schenectady-based nonprofit $10,000 a year in operating costs. Girls Inc. sold its “as-is” two-story, 9,000-square-foot building at 25 Western Ave. to Fairbanks Properties LLC for $80,000, said Gail Wilson-Giarratano, CEO of Girls Inc.

Fairbanks also bought the adjoining property at 27 Western Ave., which it plans to convert to 33 apartments, said Tracy Metzger, senior director at Hunt Commercial Real Estate in Albany.

NABA, at 301 Washington Ave., is less than a block away from 25 Western Ave., in a low-income section of the city.

The Western Ave. building is about 100 years old and required between $200,000 and $300,000 in structural work, including an elevator and accessibility for disabled individuals.

“We needed to stay in the neighborhood, but as a tenant and not a building owner,” Wilson-Giarratano said. Selling to a for-profit company puts the building on the tax rolls, she said. Like most nonprofits, Girls Inc. is exempt from paying property taxes.

Girls Inc. will continue to own its building on Albany Street in Schenectady, home to its administrative offices and program space.

The organization provides programs for 200 mostly inner-city girls at sites in Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Fulton, Montgomery and Schoharie counties. It operates with a $1.8 million annual budget.

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