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Departments of Labor , Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2008 - Continued

Floor Speech

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DEPARTMENTS OF LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, AND EDUCATION APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2008--Continued -- (Senate - October 23, 2007)

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FAMILY LITERACY PROGRAM

Mrs. CLINTON. Mr. President, I wish to speak on a program that is not just important to me and to many of my constituents in New York but to thousands of children and parents across the country. The William F. Goodling Even Start Family Literacy Program is a highly valuable program that gives economically and educationally disadvantaged parents the tools necessary to support early literacy and language development for their young children. Even Start not only coordinates with early childhood education programs and home visitation programs like HIPPYUSA to provide literacy and language development services, but also incorporates parental involvement. The program assists parents to fulfill their role as their child's first teacher by providing them with adult and parenting education, English as a second language instruction, and structured parent-child joint literacy activities that we all know are necessary for children to arrive at school ready to learn.

The Even Start Program is the only early literacy program that works with parents to serve children during the infant and toddler years, a developmental period that research shows is critical for building later reading proficiency. Moreover, Even Start has been shown to be highly effective in helping low-income parents support their children's education and breaking the cycle of illiteracy and poverty.

During recent years, Even Start has been plagued by a pervasive misconception that the program is ineffective. This has resulted in drastic funding cuts. To date, many Even Start Programs have closed down and thousands of vulnerable families have lost services. In 2005, Even Start Programs in New York were serving 3,064 families. Today, due to the Bush administration's budget cuts, Even Start is serving only 722 families. We can all agree these are dramatic cuts for a program that serves such vulnerable families. For New York, cuts to the Even Start Program have affected 2,342 families.

In order to keep the program alive, it is imperative the Senate ensure the Even Start Program receives the fiscal year 2007 level of $99 million. I am proud to be joined by my colleagues, Senators Harkin and Specter, and most of all by Senator Snowe who has spent the last 3 years championing this program with me.

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Mrs. CLINTON. Mr. President, Even Start Programs are essential to breaking down the barriers that poverty and illiteracy create by integrating early childhood education, adult literacy, or basic education, and parenting education into a unified family literacy program. That is why 35 national organizations, including the Center for Law and Social Policy, the Children's Defense Fund, the National Council of La Raza, Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters USA, and Pre-K Now. We have an obligation to our most vulnerable families to support services that they need the most.

The criticisms of Even Start have been largely based on the findings from the U.S. Department of Education's national evaluation released in May 2003. However, this study contained serious methodological flaws that call into question the accuracy of the findings. For example, the study's sample was not representative of the Even Start population. Thus, findings cannot be generalized to all of Even Start, particularly Even Start participants in rural communities or special populations, such as migrant and Native American families. Experts in assessment of limited English-proficient, LEP, individuals caution that the findings for LEP individuals, who represent 75 percent of those assessed in the study, are flawed due to inappropriate assessment protocols and measures. Of the 118 Even Start projects eligible to participate in the study in 2003, only 18 programs self-selected, meaning that researchers included programs largely based on who volunteered rather than using random selection, and such a small pool of programs overall does not allow for the study's findings to be generalized to all of Even Start.

However, the California Department of Education Even Start evaluation found that the percentage of parents who reported reading to their child on a more regular basis and involvement in activities such as parent-teacher conferences increased each year that they were served by the program.

Even Start families are the most in need. Eighty-four percent of Even Start's families are at or below Federal poverty levels. Eighty-four percent of Even Start adults do not have a high school diploma or GED, and 44 percent of the parents have not gone beyond the ninth grade. Nearly one-third of children and parents served by Even Start are limited English proficient.

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Mrs. CLINTON. I rise today with my colleagues, Senators Harkin, Warner, and Specter to talk about the importance of providing adequate funding for the Lifespan Respite Care Act. Across our country quality respite care remains hard to find. Where community respite care services do exist, there are often long waiting lists. And until the Lifespan Respite Care Act, no Federal plan focused on respite care to coordinate among disparate and fragmented services.

This legislation, enacted almost 1 year ago, is designed to expand and enhance access to respite care services to provide support and relief to families providing care; to help ailing loved ones stay in their homes longer; and to control health care costs as respite care allows families to postpone or prevent expensive hospitalization and nursing care.

Family caregivers provide 80 percent of all long-term care in the U.S.--work that is virtually always unpaid but valued at more than $300 billion annually. That is more than the entire amount we spent on Medicare in 2004.

Because of their responsibilities at home, studies have shown us that it is much more difficult for caregivers to find and maintain jobs. Many caregiving families are struggling to stay afloat. The cost to businesses is estimated in the tens of billions of dollars, including the cost for employees who leave jobs due to overwhelming responsibilities at home.

This labor of love often results in substantial physical and psychological hardship. Research suggests that caregivers often put their own health and well being at risk while assisting loved ones. Many caregivers are exhausted and are more prone to illness themselves. One study found that caregivers are 51 percent more likely to experience sleeplessness and 61 percent more likely to experience depression.

Often, this incredible struggle--with little support despite the heroic efforts of the organizations advocating for and providing respite care--leads to more costly out-of-home placements as a family's only alternative.

Like Senator Warner, I also ask the chairman and ranking member of the Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee to try to provide $10 million in funding for the Lifespan Respite Care Act.

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Mrs. CLINTON. Mr. President, I rise today to express my support and gratitude for the $55 million included in this legislation to support our continued efforts to address the health impacts of Ð9/11. I would in particular like to thank Senator Harkin, Senator Byrd, Senator Specter, and their colleagues on the Senate Appropriations Committee for their efforts to help the many responders, recovery workers, residents and others who have been suffering from persistent adverse health effects resulting from exposure to the toxins released during the attacks on the World Trade Center.

When the towers collapsed, thousands of tons of coarse and fine particulate matter were released into the air--including cement dust, glass fibers, asbestos, lead, hydrochloric acid, and other toxic pollutants. The combustion of jet fuel after the attacks created a dense plume of black smoke, filled with other toxic substances like benzene and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Fires at Ground Zero continued to burn underground for several months after the attacks.

Thousands worked and lived by this Ground Zero site, amidst the dust, smog, and toxic mix of debris. People also worked at Fresh Kills, the landfill in Staten Island, where workers sifted through the debris in an attempt to discover evidence and recover human remains. And in the first few months following the attacks, we began to hear reports of persistent coughing among rescue workers. These reports were among the first indications of the multiple physical and mental health impacts we have identified among workers, responders, and residents following 9/11--chronic respiratory illness, anxiety and depression, and musculoskeletal injuries, among others. I believe we have a moral obligation to take care of those suffering from 9/11 related illnesses, and I would like to commend the Appropriations Committee for helping to meet that obligation.

I have been working with my colleagues on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to develop a long-term solution to address these health care needs, and I am pleased to note the bipartisan support from my colleagues there. As we continue our efforts to develop this solution, the cooperation of the appropriators in maintaining funding for existing programs is greatly appreciated.

In the wake of the attacks, I have been proud to work again and again with Senators Harkin, Byrd, Specter, and others to secure funding to establish necessary screening, monitoring and treatment programs to address the health care needs of those impacted by 9/11. Through our joint efforts, we have allocated funding to establish Centers of Excellence at the Fire Department of New York and Mt. Sinai Medical Center, as well as its affiliated institutions. These institutions have been working on these issues as the early reports of illness appeared, and providing care and medical guidance to the responders and recovery workers who were at Ground Zero and Fresh Kills.

In partnership with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, these Centers of Excellence have engaged in efforts to treat those suffering these attacks, as well as research and monitoring to allow us to understand more about the ways in which these exposures do result in disease. And in addition to these efforts, I also want to highlight the work of the City of New York, which has established another Center of Excellence at Bellevue Hospital with city funds to meet the needs of residents, office workers and others who were exposed to these toxins.

The $55 million included in this legislation will go towards continuing these programs to carry out the screening, monitoring and treatment activities administered by NIOSH. It also includes language requiring the Department of Health and Human Services, again working through NIOSH, to expand its efforts to address the needs of residents, office and commercial workers, students, and other individuals who were exposed.

With this funding, we will ensure that those who responded in our hour of need are helped in their hour of need. We will continue to expand our understanding of the ways in which exposure to environmental hazards adversely impact human health. We will be helping the previously healthy detectives, firefighters and construction workers--people in good physical shape before the attacks who now have difficulty breathing and who experience mental health concerns. For these individuals, their illnesses are a constant reminder of that terrible day, and evidence of the sacrifices made to assist our country after a terrorist attack.

Again, I would like to thank Senator Harkin, Senator Byrd, Senator Specter, and others on the Appropriations Committee for helping to support these programs.


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