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Foreclosure Complicates 2010 Census Tracking

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Census Bureau launches road tour 'Portrait of America' to raise awareness and participation in Census

By Chris Levister –

It’s hard mobilizing communities for the 2010 Census when the bulls-eye keeps moving.

Look no further for signs of that moving target than this stately looking brick home in east Riverside County where the locks on the door are rusting and the torn sign in the front yard says – ‘foreclosure – must sell’.

The 2010 Census begins in March. Foreclosures in the Inland region are making residents harder to track down.“Count them out,” said Monica Frank who lives next door. She recalled the middle class family with four kids. “They were very stable. Until the husband (a civil engineer) lost his job. In 2007 they moved out in the middle of the night,” Frank said. “The place was rented then sold to another family in 2008. That family abandoned the home in November 2009.”

The woman points out one abandoned house after another on her block - hit hard by the foreclosure crisis.

“That large brick one’s vacant. That white one with the circular driveway is vacant. The one next to it is also vacant,” she said.

It’s a familiar tale of woe the U.S. Census Bureau is grappling with less than three months before it mails out census forms to every household in March. California is home to 10 of the 50 counties nationwide with the largest numbers of people deemed hard to count because of foreclosure, high unemployment, a large illegal immigrant population and lack of home telephone service. Census officials estimate the average household size in communities hit hard by foreclosure is about 4.8 people. Before the last national census in 2000, California lawmakers approved a $25 million media blitz to increase the chances that every Californian would be counted and the state would get its fair share of federal funding and political clout in Washington, Sacramento and beyond.

At a Southern California census and redistricting conference last fall Ditas M. Katague, the state’s census 2010 director, hummed a very different tune: “You’ve got me and a couple of loaned staff.” Massive budget problems have sharply limited the state’s census spending, to just $2 million for 2009-10. The California Endowment, the Kaiser Family Foundation, other community groups and some local governments are attempting to fill the gap, but they face fiscal problems of their own.

“I’m concerned about the census. I don’t want to lose a (congressional) seat,” says Hemet Councilwoman Robin Lowe, president of the League of California Cities. Lowe sees bad news on the census front particularly when it comes to outreach.

“I think Mr. Katague is doing the best he can, considering the lack of resources, but it’s going to take an army of local grass-roots volunteers to make it successful.” There’s a lot at stake for the fast growing Inland Empire in the decennial count. Federal funds are allocated based on census results.

The census also determines the number of Congressional seats each state has. State officials say overlooking as few as 2,500 people could mean at least one seat in Congress could go elsewhere for the next decade.

State Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, (D-Chino) represents a San Bernardino based district dotted with foreclosure signs. “I think there is a concerted effort underway to raise awareness and address the lack of outreach spending because everybody understands what’s at stake.” Foreclosure is not new to the census said U.S. Census Bureau director Dr. Robert Groves.

“Operationally, we’re counting houses and whoever lives there just like we’ve always done. We know that foreclosure is happening all across the country and that we’re going to have to work harder to track people down,” Groves said. “Those people are somewhere and we need to make sure we count them somewhere.” That “somewhere” could be with family or friends, in another house or apartment, or it could be in a homeless shelter. In any case, that displacement makes it harder to get an accurate census count. So cities, ethnic, faith groups and the U.S. Census Bureau are trying to make sure that those hard to track people, whether homeless or not, understand the importance of participating in the census.

Portrait of America Road Tour Reaches Out

The 2010 Census ‘Portrait of America’ Road Tour set out January 4, 2010 from New York City’s Times Square, launching a cross-country interactive experience designed to increase awareness and encourage participation in the nation’s once-a-decade population count.

During the next four months, the tour will be part of the largest civic outreach and awareness campaign in U.S. history – highly visible vehicles stopping and exhibiting at more than 800 events nationwide. From local parades and festivals to major sporting events like the Super Bowl and NCAA Final Four, the Census Bureau will attempt to motivate America’s growing and increasingly diverse population to complete and mail back 10-question census forms when they arrive in mailboxes March 15-17. The Road Tour seeks to educate and empower, Groves said. “Attendees at Road Tour events will learn about the census, how it affects their local communities and even share their personal stories about why the census is important to them at interactive kiosks and exhibits.” The regional vehicles offer a similar user experience, including GPS technology that allows visitors to track the tour online as it happens and through daily social media postings on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Flickr and YouTube.

This constantly changing “Portrait of America” will be captured during all Road Tour events and will live online at 2010census.gov.





Ashley Named Chairman of County Supervisors

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Marion AshleyRiverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley is beginning a 1-year stint as chairman of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors.

After he was sworn-in, Ashley listed several priorities Tuesday for 2010.

“One is public safety. We will have to strive hard to maintain our deputy sheriff patrols at safe levels both for our constituents and the public safety providers, the deputies themselves.”

Ashley added fiscal stability, reduction in the county vehicle fleet, quality of life issues, improvements at the County Regional Medical Center, alternative energy and job creation including the new March Medical Campus.

IECAAC Presents 30th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast

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By Cheryl Brown –

The Inland Empire Concerned African American Churches will present the 30th anniversary of the annual Martin Luther King Prayer Breakfast on Monday January 18, 2010 beginning at 7:00 A.M. at the Inghram Community Center, 2050 Mt. Vernon Ave., San Bernardino, CA 92411.

The theme for this year’s celebration is “Pressing Toward the Mark of the Higher Calling” and will honor a breakfast founder, an educator, politicians, public service, and those who have gone above and beyond the call of duty in community service. Also returning will be speaker Rev. Manual Scott, who for many of the formative years was always the guest speaker and brought a packed crowd to the breakfast. It is advised that you get there early. Tickets are $10 this year to cover the rising cost of the event.

The late Rev. Gertrude Wetzel was instrumental in raising funds for her dream, a king statue in San Bernardino. She spent her time cooking and selling to raise the money. When a group saw how dedicated she was, they came in and raised the necessary funds to complete the project. That statue, the largest of its kind, stands proudly in front of San Bernardino City Hall. The King celebration in San Bernardino began when a group including Rev. Valerie Pope Ludlam commemorated the statue with a breakfast and a program around the statue.

The former 6th Ward Council Member will receive the Gertrude Wetzel Award. Cary Jenkins, Director of Housing and Community for the Economic Development Agency, will receive the Beyond the Boundaries award. Norm Nunez, the Community Relations Officer for the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department will receive the award for Public Service. Margaret Hill, Assistant Superintendent of County Schools is being recognized as a Trailblazer. Ms. Helen Harris, an extraordinary Missionary, is being awarded the Community Service Award for her work in the mission field both in the community and in Africa. Rounding out the awardees will be San Bernardino Mayor Patrick Morris who will receive the Patriot Award.

The annual breakfast will include a variety of activities and end with the traditional walk around the Martin Luther King, Jr. statue at City Hall located at 300 North “D” Street.

Tickets are available at T. Hughes Temple Outreach Community Center, 1777 W. Baseline, St Paul AME Church, 1355 W. 21st Street, Ecclesia Christian Fellowship, 1314 Date Street, and New Ephesians Testament Church, 17777 Merrill, Fontana.

For more information contact one of the locations or Veatrice Jews at (909) 291-0741 or email veajews@gmail.com. Tickets are first come first serve.

Ebony Magazine Matriach Remembered

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Former President Bill Clinton escorts Eunice Johnson, widow of Ebony magazine founder John Johnson, into the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel in Chicago for her late husband's funeral on Aug. 15, 2005. (AP File Photo)Eunice Johnson, 93, the widow of Ebony magazine founder John Johnson and producer and director of the Ebony Fashion Fair recently died of heart failure. In an official company statement, the Johnson Publishing Company states: “We are deeply saddened by the passing of Eunice W. Johnson, wife of the late John H. Johnson, founder of Johnson Publishing Company, Inc. As a trailblazer in fashion, Mrs. Johnson served as producer and director of Ebony Fashion Fair since 1961 and also held the office of secretary-treasurer at Johnson Publishing, home to Ebony and Jet magazines.

Mrs. Johnson has always been a woman ahead of her time. Under her direction, Mrs. Johnson made a tremendous impact on the fashion industry, showcasing the best in style on African-American models of various shapes, sizes and skin tones. It was her sheer determination and astute business sense that helped pave the way for supermodels Tyra Banks, Naomi Campbell, Iman and Beverly Johnson.

To date, Ebony Fashion Fair, the world’s largest traveling fashion show, which annually encompasses a nearly 180-city tour of the United States, Canada and the Caribbean, has raised more than $55 million for various charities.

For her commitment to community service, Mrs. Johnson has obtained several awards including honors from the United Negro College Fund, The Boys & Girls Club of Chicago, Alabama A&M, Loyola University and a host of others.

Mrs. Johnson will be sincerely missed, and her life and work will continue to be defined by her contributions to the world of fashion and design for years to come.

The publishing company is now headed by their daughter, Linda Johnson Rice.


Hope For Closing The Medicare "Doughnut Hole"

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It’s an annual 'lump of coal' for millions of seniors living on fixed income

By Chris Levister –

Retired Perris educator Everett Franklin, recently found himself pleading with his doctors for free drug samples and maxing out his credit cards when he wound up in the dreaded “doughnut hole”.

“It’s damn humiliating to have to beg for medicine,” said Franklin. He’s coping with diabetes and complications from a stroke.

The doughnut hole refers to a costly gap in the Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage plan.

The plan currently covers up to $2,700 per year in prescription drug payments, then stops.

Coverage does not begin again until the recipient’s drug costs exceed $6,100 annually, thus leaving the recipient responsible for paying all drug costs between $2,700 and $6,100.

It’s a gap President Barack Obama says “is placing a crushing burden on many Americans who live on fixed incomes and can’t afford thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses.”

Franklin entered the donut hole, this year in November. At that point his health plan stopped paying 75 percent of his prescription costs. A 90-day supply of his medications costs $2,582 when he’s in the donut hole, said Franklin. He pays a $50 annual insurance premium. His monthly income is a little over $1,700.

Advocates for seniors say the gap in coverage drives many older Americans to resort to the potentially life-threatening option of splitting pills or taking only half of their medication thus reducing the drugs’ effectiveness.

“All year you save and cut back on essentials like eating out or vacationing. You do everything right. At the end of the year, you get a lump of coal in your Christmas stocking,” said Franklin.

The prescription benefit was proposed by former George W. Bush and passed by a Republican-controlled Congress. The gap, intended as a cost saver, was unpopular from the beginning –and hard to understand. AARP, the seniors lobby, says the dreaded gap is the one issue it hears about most from its members.

“Although the benefits have proven popular, you can’t hold a town hall meeting or address seniors on Medicare without hearing complaints about the doughnut hole. It’s a major pocketbook issue,” says Nancy LeaMond, executive vice president for social impact at AARP.

Because the size of the hole is indexed to increases in drug costs, every year it grows more rapidly than the income of most seniors.

The Democrats’ plan would put that into reverse, gradually shrinking and ultimately eliminating the doughnut hole.

The gap in Medicare drug coverage was needed for the government to be able to pay for the program, says Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev. ).

“Final passage of the health reform bill will forever end this indefensible injustice for America’s seniors.”

Democrats and President Obama insist that the doughnut hole would disappear gradually over 10 years. Proponents say the government can afford to eliminate the gap because drug companies would foot the expense for the phase out. Critics argue that ‘less’ than half of the $80 billion that drug makers agreed to provide during healthcare reform negotiations over the summer, would be used to fill the gap.

Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), a ranking Republican on the Ways and Means Committee is skeptical.

“They’re shielding the true cost by phasing it in.”

Meanwhile at this Perris senior center holiday party, people like Sharon Engles are keeping up the pressure on lawmakers to close the not-so-sweet doughnut gap.

“It’s disgusting. I ran into the doughnut hole last month. I had to pay $602.03 for one prescription and did not get another one filled.

I couldn’t afford it. I need my asthma meds. But I don’t have the money.”

Tye Dean Carter also of Perris hit the doughnut hole in August.

“A July summary from my plan showed that my meds cost $432.87. My share of that was $39.00. When I went back to pick up the prescription in August, the cost to me was $900,” said Carter.

“How come when a person reaches the doughnut hole, the cost goes wacky? Even with the 50% discount I wouldn’t be able to afford my medications. In my eyes, it’s a big shell game with the drug companies at the steering wheel.”

There is help for people with limited income and resources. If you qualify, Medicare will pay for almost all of your prescription drug costs. For information call Social Security at 1- 800-772- 1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or visit www.socialsecurity.gov on the web.

Medicare seniors with low incomes are spared from having to deal with the gap. But about one-fourth of the other beneficiaries – 3.4 million people – fall into the gap.


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BVN National News Wire