Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Have any of you run a full marathon? Do you have any tips for beginners? I have my first full marathon scheduled for October 30 and I am nowhere near ready. Between all the trips I took in August, my husband’s surprise birthday party, a lingering cold the last two weeks and work and other responsibilities, I have totally slacked on the running. The most I have ever run is 14 miles, and lately, I have not been motivated to even run five miles. I’d still like to run the full marathon and reclaim my mojo, but I need some motivation. Here are some tips I found at Active.com. Any additional ones would be greatly appreciated.

The New York Times had a great story on how young people up to the age of 26 are benefiting from the new health care law. Also, the New York Times published a story on unscrupulous, for-profit colleges preying on G.I.s.

In case you are not on MotherTalkers’ Facebook page, this video on Education Week was posted there. It has to do with the importance of self control in children.

As a health conscious mom and activist, you could say I was pretty disappointed to learn that the cans of Annie’s organic kid pasta contain the synthetic, toxic chemical BPA. Boo them! Here is the MomsRising petition on it.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?

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Monday Morning Open Thread


What’s up?

I am recovering from one of my crazy kid parties that had about 60 people in attendance. Eli turns 4 this Thursday, but we will be out of the country. (More on that later.) So we celebrated her birthday at our house yesterday. It was a Princess and the Frog themed party where the kids dressed up as princesses and super heroes, I dressed up as Snow White, Eli dressed up as Tiana, we had a Tiana cake, a frog piñata, and get this, I actually hired a Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen from this place.

The website was so busy that at first I wondered if it was real. Then I received a confirmation phone call and lo and behold the royal pair walked arm in arm to our house. At first Eli was completely shocked. Then I broke the ice and reminded Eli how we had missed Princess Tiana when we went to her home in New Orleans Square (Disneyland). “I cried when I didn’t see you,” Eli told the princess.

Tiana was a pro. She took Eli in her arms and then along with her prince showed the kids a really good time. They did animal balloons and then a magic show. Ari and his best buddy Jude, who were too cool to dress up, were even enthralled by the magic show. We took tons of pictures that I will post later this week. (Again, still recovering.) What were some of your kids’ most memorable birthday parties?

In other, but more sinister news: the Republican Party in Maine wants to loosen child labor laws to score even cheaper labor, according to the Huffington Post. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, a British mom was issued a citation for leaving her 14-year-old son babysitting his 3-year-old brother for a half hour while she went to the grocery store, according to the UK Express. No one was hurt, but Britain has no law spelling out when it is appropriate to leave children home alone.

What do you all make of these stories?

Our Katy over at Non-Toxic Kids covered a study showing that we can reduce our BPA body burden by limiting the amount of canned goods we consume. Bisphenol A, or BPA, is an endocrine disruptor found in many hard plastics, including the inside-lining of canned goods.  

I loved this Equal Rights Advocates update on the Wal-Mart sex discrimination case. I have more to say on that later in the week. But for now, I am grateful for a woman like Betty Dukes.

Health care reform at work: the other day I took Eli to her four-year check up and I owed no co-pay. I was paying up to $30 a visit — on top of my monthly premiums — so it was a pleasant surprise to be able to put the ATM card away. Have you noticed the law affect your lives in any way?

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?

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Not in my name, not with my dimes

In spite of all their platitudes, Republicans don’t really like democracy. They see themselves as nobility deciding what is best for us, the unwashed masses.

Have you noticed, we are slipping away from a representative government?
A representative government is one “by the people and FOR the people”.

65% of Americans polled wanted single payer healthcare system. This poll was done multiple times and the numbers never wavered that much. This was not done.

Let’s continue the grass roots movement, we started in 2008, and stop these Republican Repealers.
A petition for us all has been created.
http://progressflorida.org/…
Please take a moment, right now, to go sign the “Not in Our Name, Not on Our Dime” Join this Grassroots movement, and please consider going to a demonstration scheduled for tomorrow, April 20th, at 11AM, outside Bill McCollum’s office in Tallahassee, where the petitions will be delivered, as a coalition of nearly forty different organizations will unite with the general public to say, Cease and Desist!


Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum actions will impact the lives of millions of Floridians, and millions more nationwide.

The state’s House Rules & Calendar Council passed legislation today providing Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum greater authority to bring legal action against the Health Care Reform bill signed into law by President Obama as an unconstitutional mandate on states and individuals.

If the Republicans want to sue to stop health insurance, shouldn’t they be using their own party funds to fight for their cause, and not the monies of our cash strapped states?

Attorney General Bill McCollum, an office holder who needs to be looking after the best interests of Floridians, is trying to deny 4 million Floridians health insurance. He is joining extremist attorneys general across America in a lawsuit designed to repeal our health care reform.

• Within 6 months, insurance companies would no longer be allowed to cancel your insurance coverage because you get too sick and expensive to insure
• Within 6 months, insurance companies would no longer be allowed to place any lifetime dollar limit on what they spend for the health care your premium dollars pay for
• Within 6 months, Florida’s 4 million children could no longer be denied coverage by insurance companies because of pre-existing medical conditions
• Within 6 months, 4 million uninsured Floridians will have affordable access to health coverage for the first time, through federal subsidies and a new insurance exchange
• Starting this year, insurance companies would have to allow over one-and-a-half million young adults in Florida to remain covered by their parents’ plans until the age of 26
• Starting this year, healthcare costs for over 240,000 small businesses would be significantly reduced with 35% tax credits
• Starting this year, seniors with out-of-pocket Medicare prescription drug costs would begin having those costs reduced annually, until they are eliminated completely
• Within one year, all preventative care services for seniors (and many others) would be covered, at no cost

h/t

The Office of the Attorney General was created to advocate for and protect the people of Florida. Your lawsuit against the federal government to repeal health care reform, if successful, will do the exact opposite, including:

• Deny 4 million Floridians health insurance they currently don’t have.
• Deny 3.2 million Florida seniors access to free preventative health care services.
• Deny 565,000 Florida seniors cost savings for brand-name prescription drugs under Medicare.
• Deny 216,000 Florida small businesses tax credits they could use to insure their employees.

Your lawsuit, which will cost tens of thousands of our hard earned tax dollars, does not help the people of Florida in any way. Furthermore, your partisan grandstanding, carrying water for Florida’s radical right wing and insurance interests, is an insult to the office which you were elected to serve.

We, the undersigned, want to let you know: Not in Our Name, Not on Our Dime.

Sincerely,

______________

add your name to the list:
http://progressflorida.org/…

Exhibit A: Our voices are working
McCollumn’s healthcare attack is backfiring

“Attorney General Bill McCollum’s lawsuit against national health care may be costing him politically, as new statewide poll shows the race for governor tightening.” “McCollumn’s lawsuit against national healthcare hurting him in new poll”.

Exhibit Acheck out the facts

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Sebelius warns insurers against excluding sick kids (updated)

Following up on my last post here, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote to the head of the insurance industry’s lobbying arm yesterday warning against efforts to continue to deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions.


Excerpt from the letter, which you can download as a pdf file at Greg Sargent’s blog:

Health insurance reform is designed to prevent any child from being denied coverage because he or she has a pre-existing condition. Leaders in Congress have reaffirmed this in recent days in the attached statement. To ensure that there is no ambiguity on this point, I am preparing to issue regulations in the weeks ahead ensuring that the term “pre-existing condition exclusion” applies to both a child’s access to a plan and to his or her benefits once he or she is in the plan. These regulations will further confirm that beginning in September, 2010:

*Children with pre-existing conditions may not be denied access to their parents’ health insurance plan;

*Insurance companies will no longer be allowed to insure a child, but exclude treatments for that child’s pre-existing condition.

I urge you to share this information with your members and to help ensure that they cease any attempt to deny coverage to some of the youngest and most vulnerable Americans.

A spokesperson for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent Sargent the following statement:

The intent of Congress to end discrimination against children was crystal clear, and as the House chairs said last week, the fact that insurance companies would even try to deny children coverage exemplifies why the health reform legislation was so vital. Secretary Sebelius isn’t going to let insurance companies discriminate against children, and no one in the industry should think otherwise.

Let’s hope this works. I wouldn’t be surprised to see insurance companies challenge the new regulations in court. They must have been counting on that loophole to save them money during the next few years.

UPDATE: David Dayen is probably right about the insurance companies’ motives here:

You can pretty much figure out AHIP’s game here. With no restrictions on cost until 2014, the industry can raise their premium prices almost at will. Even the bad publicity suffered from that 39% rate hike of Anthem Blue Cross [of California] plan has not stopped that scheduled increase from taking effect in May. And when outrage is expressed by families facing double-digit rate hikes, AHIP will clear their throats and blame the pre-existing condition exclusion for children, forcing the poor insurance companies to take on a sicker risk pool and raise prices to survive.

Except covering kids is fairly cheap to begin with. And the universe of kids with a pre-existing condition who aren’t covered through SCHIP, Medicaid, or an employer plan is extremely small. So by making a big issue of this, AHIP potentially sets up large rate hikes in the 2010-2014 period that aren’t at all justified.

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Loophole in health reform bill affects kids with pre-existing conditions

Round peg inna square hole posted this diary recently about how the new health insurance reform law will help families with special-needs children.

President Obama and other Democrats have been touting the fact that beginning this year, insurance companies won’t be able to exclude children with pre-existing conditions. Unfortunately, that turns out not to be the case.


Link:

Under the new law, insurance companies still would be able to refuse new coverage to children because of a pre-existing medical problem, said Karen Lightfoot, spokeswoman for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, one of the main congressional panels that wrote the bill Obama signed into law Tuesday.

However, if a child is accepted for coverage, or is already covered, the insurer cannot exclude payment for treating a particular illness, as sometimes happens now. For example, if a child has asthma, the insurance company cannot write a policy that excludes that condition from coverage. The new safeguard will be in place later this year.

Full protection for children would not come until 2014, said Kate Cyrul, a spokeswoman for the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, another panel that authored the legislation. That’s the same year when insurance companies could no longer deny coverage to any person on account of health problems.

How interesting. Democratic Congressional staffers seem to have been aware of this issue, but for some reason, the loophole wasn’t publicized until after Obama signed the bill into law. Meanwhile, the president has been telling everybody (most recently a big crowd in Iowa City yesterday) that this year, “parents whose children have a pre-existing condition will finally be able to purchase the coverage they need.”

Over at Daily Kos, nyceve has much more about the loophole. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius claims the administrative rule-making process can fix the problem, but nyceve seems more realistic about prospects for that approach:

So, now we’re being told HHS will issue some clarifying language. Great.  Then the parents with the sick kids will attempt to enroll the kid in an insurance plan. The poor parent will be on her own, fighting the corporation to comply with the law.  And what will this insurance cost?  Does anyone think the insurers are going to stand down? Of course not, the fines for violating the law are negligible, they’ll take the fine.

Eve also quotes this article, which states:
 

 The issue mainly involves parents who buy coverage for children on the individual market and whose children have been uninsured more than two months. Federal law requires insurers to cover children who do not have a large gap in coverage.

   One thing is clear: The law does nothing to stop insurers from charging higher rates for children with pre-existing illnesses until 2014 when insurers can no longer use health status in setting premiums.

So even if your family can get a company to write you a policy, it may be unaffordable.

I wish I could say I was surprised, but unfortunately, a bad process led to a bill that was mostly written to accommodate major health care industries (insurers, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals). The law is essentially a Republican plan from 1993, because Obama jettisoned many of his campaign promises on health care reform to buy off potential corporate opponents. Democrats should be ashamed that corporate interest groups got everything they wanted in this bill, to the extent that the lobbying arm of the pharmaceutical industry spent millions of dollars running ads to support its passage.  

I would bet that the new law contains loopholes affecting most of the other supposedly tough new regulations, like the ban on rescission (canceling your policy after you get sick). The fundamental problem is that insurance companies are getting at least 30 million new customers and no new competition from a public-run health insurance plan.

I’m not saying there’s nothing good about the new law; many Americans will certainly be better off now that it has passed. However, supporters of the bill massively over-promised what it will deliver, especially to families with children who have pre-existing conditions.

By the way, I am also angry that this expansion of the Hyde amendment will lead to most private insurers dropping abortion coverage when the new insurance exchanges go into effect in 2014. That will impose a big financial burden on women facing unintended pregnancies.

Sorry to be the skunk at the garden party.

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Happy Birthday Speaker Pelosi

Friday, March 26 is Speaker Pelosi’s 70th birthday.  

I’ve been so very impressed with her – especially with her leadership on health care reform.  I do not believe the bill would have been as strong without her support.  And I believe she wants it to be even stronger and will work to improve it.  

I also am in awe of what she’s accomplished – mother, grandmother, Speaker of the House!  Wow.  I can imagine that this week has resulted in some good birthday presents for her.


I thought this was cute:

“You know what I want for my birthday?” Pelosi asked with enthusiasm.

Could it be the passage of the health care reconciliation bill, which the Senate passed this afternoon and the House will vote on tonight?

Perhaps the speaker is wishing for the Senate to pass Wall Street reforms, something the House under her leadership has already accomplished?

Nope: It turns out Pelosi wants to have a little fun on her birthday, like everyone else.

“I’ve always wanted a pool table,” she told reporters.

I also like this article on Huffington Post:

Polarizing or not, I have come to see her as a very effective leader, working behind the scenes, knowing her members, getting things done despite the odds, not allowing the angry lunatic fringe of the Tea Party to stop her, and doing it all with little or no votes from the opposing party. Even when the bill appeared dead after the special election in January of Republican Scott Brown to Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat in Massachusetts, Speaker Pelosi convinced the President to stick with the entire bill, and not piece-meal it as Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had recommended.

I think I’m going to send Speaker Pelosi a Happy Birthday and thank you note and thought perhaps other MotherTalkers might want to as well.

http://www.house.gov/…

CA residents can submit an e-mail through this link (I think this is all CA residents, not just her district):
http://www.house.gov/…

Others can send an e-mail to her at this link (according to her website):
AmericanVoices@mail.house.gov

Please let me know if you know of a better way to e-mail her/send her a happy birthday note – I’d be happy to update this.  I’d also be interested in learning more about her so please share any links or insight you have.

Thanks and Happy Birthday to Speaker Pelosi!

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Thoughts on Health Care

This is an historical moment so I will use my time slot today on…health care. This is an issue near and dear to my heart and one of three issues — education and higher education spending are the other two — that I would be willing to even add to the national deficit to support.

My parents helped me pay for almost one year of college — the first year — and then they did not pay a dime. They had no money. They were not allowed to even own a credit card. The reason? In 1991 they filed for bankruptcy after failing to pay for medical bills following the birth of my sister Nelsy’s premature birth. It haunted us in more ways than one. Bill collectors called our home in Miami all the time. Often we went without lights, electricity or phone service because my parents had no money to pay the bills. We ate rice and beans every day.

Initially, I agreed with many of the tea party protesters of today. I thought my family, who worked so damn hard, were being screwed over by people who weren’t working and got medicaid. We got social services, sure, including food stamps. But we did not get WIC or medicaid, for example, because my father had a job. Oh, I resented it.

Then I moved to a largely white and affluent area in New Hampshire, where we were the poor brown people. I listened closely to my peers, who had solidly middle class families with college degrees. They were against affirmative action, welfare, universal healthcare and “big government spending.” I listened even more closely. They did not want to pay for social services for “those people.” Initially, I agreed with them. Then I listened more closely.

It sounded like, wait a minute, “those people” were…us! They were African American and Latino and lived in inner cities. “Those people,” for them, did not work hard and live in nice suburbs like the one we inhabited. The description of “those people” sounded eerily like my parents — my Cuban mill worker father and babysitting/at-home Puerto Rican mother — who moved in from a gritty urban center to seek a better future for their kids. Yet, for my peers we were brown folks mooching off the system and looking for a handout. To this day, my pet peeves are the use of the words “those people” or “you people,” or pardon me, but white people receiving public services who say they are more deserving of it than others because they “work hard.” Last time I checked, the hardest jobs — whether it’s toiling in the fields in California or working the assembly line at the meat-packing plant in Nebraska — are held by many black and brown folks who also happen to be uninsured. Those people.

I will get off my soap box now. I know there is a lot of work to be done on this legislation. It isn’t perfect. (Then again, neither were social security or medicare when they first passed.) My husband reminded me of this last night as we watched C-Span on our computers with the volume way up. We have only one TV and the kids were hogging it up. But this first very important step left me feeling emotional and melancholic. As a mother — and I am sure I speak for my parents as grandparents — I feel relief for my children. I am confident that medical bills won’t keep us from paying for their college.  

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Monday Morning Open Thread

Hi, all. I’m still punchy about the HCR victory last night. For everything we criticized, it is also a triumph  - the Dems pulled themselves together for this vote. Now they just need to do it more and harder. Financial regulation, anyone?

Anway, to celebrate, shall we all have another virtual toast? Not that I’m the progenitor of this idea, but I’m happy to post another one. Let’s do it soon – how about US Tuesday afternoon/European Tuesday night/Australian Wednesday morning? We can agree to a mutual time in the thread. I’m going to get some fine Irish whisky and drink it in honor of the late, great lion of the Senate, Ted Kennedy.

How’s by you all?

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Health Care Vote Open Thread

Hi all,

This is too important an issue not to mention so here is an open thread on it. Congress is set to vote on a health care reform bill that would be the first of its kind since Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal program. The Democrats in the House are saying they have the votes to pass it.

To give you an idea of how intense this day is going to be, anti-reform protesters are spitting at the Democrats as they enter the Capitol building and even hurling the “N” word at African-American legislators. From CNN:

Washington (CNN) – Civil rights icon and veteran Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, said anti-health care bill protesters Saturday repeatedly yelled the “N” word at him as he left a heath care meeting and walked to the Capitol.

“I haven’t seen heard anything like this in more than 40 years, maybe 45.” Lewis said. “Since the march from Selma to Montgomery really.”

“Yeah, but it’s okay,” Lewis added. “I’ve faced this before. So, it reminded me of the 60′s. There’s a lot of downright hate and anger and people are just being downright mean.”

The incident was confirmed by Rep. Andre Carson, D-Indiana, who was walking with Lewis at the time. Protesters were yelling, “‘kill the bill, kill the bill’ and the ‘N’ word several times,” Carson said.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Missouri, released a statement late Saturday saying he too was called the “N” word as he walked to the Capitol for a vote and that he was spat on by one protestor who was arrested by U.S. Capitol Police. Cleaver declined to press charges against the man, the statement said.

You know what? Do I think this bill is perfect? No. I would have loved to see a free public option for those not satisfied with their private insurance, or those who couldn’t pay anything for it. We all pay for people to use the emergency room as their primary care physician, or those who can’t afford to get their children vaccinated, or sick people who can’t get treated and infect us all. But there are plenty of good things in this bill too: the inability for health insurance companies to discriminate based on pre-existing health conditions; the expansion of coverage to supposedly as many as 30 million people; allowing people more choices on where to buy coverage; and more regulation of the industry, which is why they are fighting tooth and nail to kill this bill. We have to start somewhere, which is why I will be praying in church this morning for Congress to pass this bill.

Feel free to use this open thread for the vote, and to discuss this issue in general.  

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Room at the Inn: the Pregnancy Assistance Fund

On the eve of senate passage of a somewhat disappointing but still historic piece of health care legislation, very little has been said about one part of the bill that could impact countless American women:  the Pregnancy Assistance Fund.

This first appeared on my radar during Senate floor debate, when pro-life Democratic Senator Bob Casey (son of the Casey of Casey v. Planned Parenthood) introduced an amendment to provide assistance for pregnant and parenting teens, students, and domestic violence victims.  No sooner was the issue raised than it was quickly swept away by further droning about Medicare Advantage and the deficit.  I had thought Casey’s amendment went nowhere. Turns out, however, it has made its way into the final version of the bill.  While some have characterized the fund as “paying teens to have babies” I think that’s a patronizing and short-sited way to view this legislation.  

I believe that women should have reproductive choice, but real reproductive choice that isn’t driven by fear of academic failure and the economic consequences of pregnancy.  


The Pregnancy Assistance Fund is a tremendous step toward a better future for young women who find themselves facing motherhood.  I almost can’t believe the congress is about to pass something with the potential to have so much practical benefit to so many American women.

Here are some excerpts from section 10212 of the Manager’s Amendment: Establishment of Pregnancy Assistance Fund.  Forgive me for the length of these excerpts, but they are written in fairly plain English.

SEC. 10213. PERMISSIBLE USES OF FUND.
(a) IN GENERAL.—A State shall use amounts received under a grant under section 10212 for the purposes described in this section to assist pregnant and parenting teens and women.

(b) INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION.—
(1) IN GENERAL.—A State may use amounts received under a grant under section 10212 to make funding available to eligible institutions of higher education to enable the eligible institutions to establish, maintain, or operate pregnant and parenting student services. Such funding shall be used to supplement, not supplant, existing funding for such services.

[...]
(B) Annually assess the performance of the eligible institution in meeting the following needs of students enrolled in the eligible institution who are pregnant or are parents:
(i) The inclusion of maternity coverage and the availability of riders for additional family members in student health care.
(ii) Family housing.
(iii) Child care.
(iv) Flexible or alternative academic scheduling, such as telecommuting programs, to enable pregnant or parenting students to continue their education or stay in school.
(v) Education to improve parenting skills for mothers and fathers and to
16 strengthen marriages.
(vi) Maternity and baby clothing, baby food (including formula), baby furniture, and similar items to assist parents and prospective parents in meeting the material needs of their children.
(vii) Post-partum counseling.

[...]
(E) If appropriate, provide referrals for prenatal care and delivery, infant or foster care, or adoption, to a student who requests such information. An office shall make such referrals only to service providers that serve the following types of individuals:
(i) Parents.
(ii) Prospective parents awaiting adoption.
(iii) Women who are pregnant and plan on parenting or placing the child for adoption.
(iv) Parenting or prospective parenting couples.
[...]
(c) SUPPORT FOR PREGNANT AND PARENTING TEENS.—A State may use amounts received under a grant under section 10212 to make funding available to eligible high schools and community service centers to establish, maintain or operate pregnant and parenting services in the same general manner and in accordance with all conditions and requirements described in subsection (b), except that paragraph (3) of such subsection shall not apply for purposes of this subsection.

(d) IMPROVING SERVICES FOR PREGNANT WOMEN WHO ARE VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, SEXUAL VIOLENCE, SEXUAL ASSAULT, AND STALKING.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—A State may use amounts received under a grant under section 10212 to make funding available tp its State Attorney General to assist Statewide offices in providing—
(A) intervention services, accompaniment, and supportive social services for eligible pregnant women who are victims of domestic violence, sexual violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
(B) technical assistance and training (as described in subsection (c)) relating to violence against eligible pregnant women
[...]
(4) ELIGIBLE PREGNANT WOMAN.—In this subsection, the term ‘‘eligible pregnant woman’’ means any woman who is pregnant on the date on which such woman becomes a victim of domestic violence, sexual violence, sexual assault, or stalking or who was pregnant during the one-year period before such date.

(e) PUBLIC AWARENESS AND EDUCATION.—A State may use amounts received under a grant under section 10212 to make funding available to increase public awareness and education concerning any services available to pregnant and parenting teens and women under this part, or any other resources available to pregnant and parenting women in keeping with the intent and purposes of this part. The State shall be responsible for setting guidelines or limits as to how much of funding may be utilized for public awareness and education in any funding award.
SEC. 10214. APPROPRIATIONS.
There is authorized to be appropriated, and there are appropriated, $25,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2010 through 2019, to carry out this part.

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