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Monthly Archives: May 2013

Work from home soars 41% in 10 years

By Emily Jane Fox @emilyjanefox

At home workerAbout four million more Americans work from home than did in 1999, a new report says.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

The number of Americans working from home has soared 41% in the last decade.

About 13.4 million people currently work from home in the United States, according to a Census Bureau report out Thursday. That’s about four million more Americans since 1999.

The availability of high-speed Internet and services like Skype, that allow for at-home virtual meetings, has made working from home easier.

A challenging economy has also forced employers to cut back on costs, such as office expenses, and let people work remotely. There’s also evidence that others, who haven’t been able to find jobs, are earning a living by starting businesses from home.

“As communications and information technologies advance, we are seeing that workers are increasingly able to perform work at home,” said Peter Mateyka, a Census Bureau analyst and author of the report.

The number of people who work at home at least one day per week has increased to 9.5% of all workers in 2010 from 7% in 1999.

The largest jump was among government workers, the report said. The number of state government employees working from home jumped by 133% between 2000 and 2010, and by 88% for federal government workers. The government’s effort to cut back real estate costs was the main driver behind this shift, according to the Census Bureau.

For private companies there was a 67% increase.

Seniors were also more likely to work from home: About 1 in 10 people working exclusively from home were over the age of 65.

Not all at-home jobs are created equal. The median salary for those who worked both at home and in an office was over $20,000 higher than that of workers who worked either exclusively at home or at an off-site job.

The higher paid roles tend to be in management and business, according to the report, and often pay more than jobs held by people who work exclusively in the office or at home.

 

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JAMAICA NEWSWEEKLY For the week ending May 31st, 2013

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THIS WEEK”S SUMMARY
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MORRIS MAKES HISTORY AS SENATE PRESIDENT—05/25/13
Floyd Morris, the newly appointed president of the Jamaican Senate, has made history by being the first visually impaired individual to hold this position. He is also a member of the Adventist Church and has been active as an advocate for the disabled community. During his swearing-in ceremony, Morris said he believed his appointment was “proof of God’s faithfulness.”

SIMPSON TRAVELS TO AFRICAN UNION SUMMIT—05/25/13
Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller will travel to Ethiopia to attend the Special 50th Anniversary Summit, which marks the creation of the Organization of African Unity/African Union. Accompanying Simpson Miller is A.J. Nicholson, Foreign Minister; Onika Miller, Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, and others. Simpson Miller is scheduled to give a keynote address and will speak about Jamaica’s development plans and shared interests with Africa.

JAMAICAN GOVERNMENT TO ENHANCE PRODUCTIVITY THROUGH EDUCATION—05/26/13
Jamaica’s government plans to make the nation’s citizens more aware of the critical nature of productivity to the development of the country by instituting a series of public education campaigns. According to Derrick Kellier, Minister of Labor, able-bodied Jamaicans lack sufficient commitment and make inadequate contributions to the country. The public education initiative will raise the public’s level of awareness about productivity and enable greater output overall.

JAMAICAN TV CENSORSHIP OF GAY PSA GOES TO HIGH COURT—05/27/13
Two major television stations in Jamaica declined to run paid Public Service Announcements (PSA) in October 2012. These PSAs asked the island’s population to respect their fellow Jamaicans who are gay. Maurice Tomlinson, legal advisor for AIDS-Free World, decided to sue the stations in court for breach of his constitutional rights. Tomlinson also appears in the PSAs. Jamaica’s Constitution guarantees the right to “seek, receive, distribute, or disseminate information, opinions and ideas through any media,” and also mandates that corporations respect this right.

HEAD OF INVESTIGATION CENTER TOUGH ON POLICE—05/28/13
Superintendent Gladys Brown, who is the head of the Center for the Investigation of Sexual Offenses and Child Abuse (CISOCA), says that more police officers are facing accusations of rape than initially thought, and she has warned the members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) that they will not receive special treatment in regard to such charges. Brown says she will “name and shame them.” Her position results from reports that a sergeant with the JCF is under investigation for the alleged rape of his female companion on the grounds of a police station in the Corporate Area.

POPULATION OF JAMAICA RAPIDLY AGING—05/29/13
According to a report from Mona Ageing and Wellness Center, Jamaica’s population is growing older very rapidly, as is the entire Caribbean region. Over 71 percent of the senior citizens in Jamaica own their homes, however, and most are financially independent. The “older population” is defined as comprising people aged 60 and over. In this group, more than 65 percent suffer from diabetes or hypertension, while 22 percent have both chronic conditions. The report’s findings were made public by Professor Denise Eldermire Shearer, director of the Center.

JAMAICA WORKS TO REDUCE NUMBER OF DEATHS AT SEA—05/30/13
Jamaica is joining with the Secretary General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to reduce the number of deaths at sea by 50 percent by 2015. Koji Sekimizu, head of the organization, has focused on reducing maritime casualties since taking office. In 2012, the IMO estimates the number of people who died at sea at about 1,000, 500 of them in international shipping.

WEST DEFENDS ANTI-GAY COMMENTS, SAYS THEY ARE “RATIONAL”—05/31/13
Dr. Wayne West, chairman of the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society (JCHS), believes that it is not “homophobic” to say that homosexuality is fundamentally at odds with nature. According to West, to call some “homophobic” is to say that person is mentally ill, since homophobia refers to a mental illness in his view. He believes that homosexual behavior “does not serve the common good” and has a negative impact on society overall, giving the example of AIDS to support his position.

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JAMAICAN DIASPORA NEWS
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MAYOR OF MONTEGO BAY VISITS ATLANTA—05/26/13
Glendon Harris, the major of Montego Bay, along with a delegation of other Jamaicans, visited Atlanta, Georgia, to learn from that city’s fire department and to find additional ways to strengthen the ties between Montego Bay and Atlanta, its sister city. The two cities have had formal tie for over 40 years, and thousands of Georgians visit Jamaica every year. Montego Bay is the fifth-largest travel partner of Atlanta, and almost 100,000 passengers move between the two locations each year.

LONDONERS PROTEST IN SUPPORT OF INTERNATIONAL TIVOLI INVESTIGATION—05/27/13
Cecil Gutzmore, historian and former university lecturer, has written a letter to Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, requesting an independent international investigation to the May 2010 incidents that occurred in Tivoli Gardens and left over 70 people dead. Gutzmore headed a group of protestors to the Jamaican High Commission in London to deliver the letter to Jamaica’s High Commissioner to London Aloun Assamba. The group of protestors was small due to very cold and rainy weather, but Gutzmore said they will return when the weather improves.

ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES TO BE EXPLORED AT DIASPORA CONFERENCE—05/28/13
Arnaldo Brown, Jamaica’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, plans to explore all the economic potential available at the 2013 Jamaica Diaspora Conference in Montego Bay in June. According to Brown, the government can take the Diaspora-homeland partnership to a new level that goes beyond monetary resources and include expertise, ideas, innovation, and drive.

JAMAICAN TEEN IN UK GETS LIFE IN PRISON FOR MURDER—05/29/13
Travis Bowman, a 16-year-old living in the United Kingdom but born in Jamaica, received a life sentence for a gang-related murder of another teen in 2011. Bowman and three other teenagers who were members of the Enfield EN3 Get Money Gang (GMG) were convicted for stabbing Negus McClean to death. Bowman will serve at least 12.5 years of his sentence before being eligible for parole.

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CARIBBEAN NEWS SUMMARY provided by Caribbeantopnews.com
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FAO TO FIGHT HUNGER IN CARIBBEAN—05/26/13

U.S. TAX INSPECTOR FOCUSES ON CARIBBEAN BANK—05/27/13

BIDEN SIGNS TRADE AGREEMENT, SPEAKS WITH LEADERS IN CARIBBEAN—05/28/13

SENATOR IN GRENADA WANTS REVIEW OF ANTI-SODOMY LAWS—05/29/13

CARIBBEAN VOLLEYBALL ATHLETES COMPETE FOR LARGE PRIZES—05/30/13

FAST FERRY SERVICE IN CARIBBEAN NEEDS PRIVATE INVESTORS—05/31/13

 

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BUSINESS NEWS SUMMARY
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JAMAICA PLANS TO AMEND CARICOM SKILLS LAW—05/25/13
The government of Jamaica will table amendments to the Caribbean Community (Free Movement of Skilled Persons) Act to expand the categories of skilled nationals who will be able to access jobs in other nations in the region. According to Derrick Kellier, Minister of Labor and Social Security, categories of workers who are able to apply for a CARICOM skills certificate need to be enlarged. Currently, artistes, musicians, individuals how have degrees from recognized tertiary educational institutions, media workers and journalists, and athletes are covered by the CARICOM skills certificate in Jamaica. The proposed amendments will expand the group to include nurses, teachers, and workers with specific vocational qualifications.

LOCALS CALL FOR LIMITS ON AGRI-IMPORTS BAN—05/26/13
Peter McConnell, the managing director of Worthy Park Estate Limited, believes the first step to mitigate Jamaica’s increasing import bill is to limit the imports that come into the country. He says that not enough is being done to ban imports of anything that can be grown locally. In 2012, Jamaica spent US$959 million on exports and US$1 billion on imports. McConnell named imports of Irish potatoes, cabbage, and lettuce products in particular. All of these can be grown on the island.

NEW ECONOMIC ZONE CREATED BY MERGER OF PETROCARIBE, ALBA—05/27/13
Jamaica’s Minister of Energy, Phillip Paulwell, brought some reassuring news to Jamaicans following a meeting with PetroCaribe in Caracas, Venezuela. Agreements have been made to expand Venezuela’s PetroCaribe oil arrangements with participating nations in the Caribbean. After the death of Hugo Chavez, there was some concern that PetroCaribe would no longer be in business, which would be devastating for Jamaica, since nearly 66 percent of Jamaica’s crude oil imports depend on Venezuela.

LOGISTICS HUB IN JAMAICA TO CREATE JOB OPPORTUNITIES—05/28/13
Anthony Hylton, Jamaican Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, said that the Logistics Hub Initiative is like to create many job opportunities for Jamaicans at all skill levels. Hylton said that there will be a wide range of opportunities opening up as a result of the Hub.

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CARIBBEAN TECHNOLOGY NEWS SUMMARY provided by Caribbeantopnews.com
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LIME JAMAICA SEES GROWTH IN MOBILE ARENA—05/25/13

ST.LUCIA DIGITAL ECONOMY DEPENDS ON IXP—05/26/13

PUBLIC INTERNET ACCESS EXPANDED IN CUBA—05/29/13

CARIBBEAN SUPPORTS PROTECTION FOR COASTAL, SEA RESOURCES—05/30/13

 

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ENTERTAINMENT
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CRAWFORD PLANS TO CERTIFY ENTERTAINMENT PRACTITIONERS—05/26/13
Damion Crawford, Jamaica’s Minister of State in the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment, wants to certify and register what he calls “entertainment practitioners.” The registration would be accomplished under an entity led by his Ministry in partnership with JAMPRO, the trade and investment unit of the government. This would bring accountability to the entertainment industry, Crawford believes. Currently, he says that the global community is unsure about who are professional entertainers. The registry would provide validity, according to Crawford.

PRODUCER PREPARES TO PUT “NEW SOUND” ON THE MARKET—05/27/13
Winston “Ninety” Holness, a veteran music producer and part of the Observer Soundbox Studio, has announced that he will present a new sound to Jamaica’s music marketplace. According to Holness, the new music will be somewhere “between reggae and something else.” He has been experimenting with older rhythms and new acts, he says, and he is hoping to obtain support from private investors and the government to promote his new sound.

RHODEN STAGES CONCERT IN JUNE—05/30/13
Orrett Rhoden, Jamaican concert pianist, is scheduled to give a benefit garden piano recital on June 2, 2013, at his home in St. Andrew. The event is designed to provide support for the chemotherapy for his mother, Norma. She has been ill for 12 years with a rare blood disorder. While admission to the concert is free, donations will be accepted for her treatment and for the acquisition of a concert grand piano for the Orrett Rhoden International Music Festival of Jamaica.

KINGSTON PON DI RIVER HAS NEW HOME—05/31/13
The third staging of Kingston Pon Di River will be held at Hope Gardens on June 30, 2013. Numerous literary artists and musicians who have succeeded in their arts due to a reinvigorated underground culture movement will be showcased at the 2013 Kingston Pon De River Literary Arts and Music Festival. The event is held to help make Kingston the hub of culture in the Caribbean, bringing top literary artists to the venue and creating a market to complement Kingston’s other offerings.

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SPORTS
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FOWLER LOOKING FOR MVP TITLE—05/26/13
Jhaniele Fowler, Jamaica’s top-shooting member of the Sunshine Girls basketball team, wants to win the 2013 Most Valuable Player prize. Fowler, 23, is playing her first season with Southern Steel, a New Zealand team. She is the leading scorer in the ANZ tournament, having 412 goals.

SAMUELS IS COMFORTABLE WITH HIMSELF—05/27/13
Marlon Samuels, Jamaican right-hander, is key to the regional West Indies batting, but he also notes that he is more able now than at any other time of his life to handle the pressures and demands of international cricket. He is unfazed by the responsibilities given to him, saying that he is now comfortable with who he is. This has made his time on the cricket field must easier than in the past, he says.

WILLIAMS FIRST JAMAICAN TO RUN 100 METER HURDLES UNDER 13 SECONDS—05/28/13
Danielle Williams, a former sprint hurdler at Queen’s School, is the first Jamaican to run the 100-meter hurdles in under 13 seconds. She achieved this feat for Johnson C. Smith University at the NCAA Outdoor Division II Track and Field Championships at Colorado State University. She ended the competition with two individual golds, one relay gold, an individual silver, and two championship records. She ran the 100-meter hurdles in 12.89 seconds.

WHITMORE SAYS DROPPING SHELTON WAS A HARD DECISION—05/31/13
Theodore “Tappa” Whitmore, head coach of the Reggae Boyz, has decided to support his strikers in his explanation of his dropping Luton Shelton, Jamaica’s record goal scorer, from the team right before the final round of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers. Shelton’s elimination means that goals will have to come from a group of strikers who have little experience at the international level. Shelton is the top goal getter with 35 goals. Whitmore will now depend on Ryan Johnson, Jermaine Beckford, Darren Mattocks, and Theo Robinson, none of whom have yet scored a goal for Jamaica.

 

 

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CARIBBEAN NEWS SUMMARY for the week ending May 31st, 2013

FAO TO FIGHT HUNGER IN CARIBBEAN—05/26/13
The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is recommitting itself to sustainable agriculture and the fight against hunger in the Caribbean region. Dr. J. R. Deep Ford has been appointed sub-regional coordinator of the agency, which has headquarters in Rome. Dr. Ford is a Guyana national with a PhD in agricultural economics. He has worked with FAO for the past 13 years and is optimistic about how the organization can improve food security for Caribbean citizens.

U.S. TAX INSPECTOR FOCUSES ON CARIBBEAN BANK—05/27/13
A Caribbean bank, formerly owned by Barclays, is the focus of tax authorities in the United States, which have requested information about alleged American tax evaders since 2004. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) filed its request on an unknown number of U.S. taxpayers who have offshore accounts at the FirstCaribbean International Bank. The agency suspects they use these accounts to illegally evade taxes.

BIDEN SIGNS TRADE AGREEMENT, SPEAKS WITH LEADERS IN CARIBBEAN—05/28/13
United States Vice President Joe Biden met with political leaders of 15 Caribbean nations in Trinidad and Tobago to sign a trade agreement and talk about issues including security, investments, and energy. The trade agreement provides a framework for trade and investment between the U.S. and the Caribbean Community. Biden said he knew that the Caribbean countries faced unique challenges and noted that the U.S. wants to ensure that its economic growth

SENATOR IN GRENADA WANTS REVIEW OF ANTI-SODOMY LAWS—05/29/13
Lawrence Joseph, the president of Grenada’s Senate, believes that the island should reconsider the laws in has enacted to prohibit sodomy. Joseph said that “the day is fast approaching” when Grenada and other nations in the English-speaking Caribbean must amend their anti-sodomy laws to be part of the mainstream culture. He also said that there is a trend toward acceptance of homosexuals around the world, and wealthier countries could decide to impose sanctions or withhold aid from the Caribbean region in protest of local anti-sodomy laws.

CARIBBEAN VOLLEYBALL ATHLETES COMPETE FOR LARGE PRIZES—05/30/13
Many of the best volleyball players in the Caribbean will compete for huge prize money at the second Caribbean Volleyball League tournament at the Sports and Physical Education Center (SPEC) at the University of the West Indies’ St. Augustine campus. Four men’s’ teams and four women’s’ teams will battle for the championship in their section, with the winners to be awarded US$5,000 each.

FAST FERRY SERVICE IN CARIBBEAN NEEDS PRIVATE INVESTORS—05/31/13
St. Vincent Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves believes that the creation of a fast ferry service in the southern part of the Caribbean requires investment from the private sector. He also recommended government assistance for the endeavor. Gonsalves says that it takes a significant amount of money to implement a fast ferry service, and it is the private sector that needs to take some risk. Gonsalves has the responsibility for transportation in CARICOM and noted that governments should help private investors through a variety of concessions.

HEAD OF INVESTIGATION CENTER TOUGH ON POLICE—05/28/13
Superintendent Gladys Brown, who is the head of the Center for the Investigation of Sexual Offenses and Child Abuse (CISOCA), says that more police officers are facing accusations of rape than initially thought, and she has warned the members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) that they will not receive special treatment in regard to such charges. Brown says she will “name and shame them.” Her position results from reports that a sergeant with the JCF is under investigation for the alleged rape of his female companion on the grounds of a police station in the Corporate Area.

POPULATION OF JAMAICA RAPIDLY AGING—05/29/13
According to a report from Mona Ageing and Wellness Center, Jamaica’s population is growing older very rapidly, as is the entire Caribbean region. Over 71 percent of the senior citizens in Jamaica own their homes, however, and most are financially independent. The “older population” is defined as comprising people aged 60 and over. In this group, more than 65 percent suffer from diabetes or hypertension, while 22 percent have both chronic conditions. The report’s findings were made public by Professor Denise Eldermire Shearer, director of the Center.

JAMAICA WORKS TO REDUCE NUMBER OF DEATHS AT SEA—05/30/13
Jamaica is joining with the Secretary General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to reduce the number of deaths at sea by 50 percent by 2015. Koji Sekimizu, head of the organization, has focused on reducing maritime casualties since taking office. In 2012, the IMO estimates the number of people who died at sea at about 1,000, 500 of them in international shipping.

WEST DEFENDS ANTI-GAY COMMENTS, SAYS THEY ARE “RATIONAL”—05/31/13
Dr. Wayne West, chairman of the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society (JCHS), believes that it is not “homophobic” to say that homosexuality is fundamentally at odds with nature. According to West, to call some “homophobic” is to say that person is mentally ill, since homophobia refers to a mental illness in his view. He believes that homosexual behavior “does not serve the common good” and has a negative impact on society overall, giving the example of AIDS to support his position.

 

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CARIBBEAN TECHNOLOGY NEWS SUMMARY for the week ending May 31st, 2013

LIME JAMAICA SEES GROWTH IN MOBILE ARENA—05/25/13
LIME Jamaica’s parent firm, Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC) earned US$20 million from the local subsidiary as of March 2013. This is about 33 percent less in operating profit received from Jamaica in 2012. The decline was attributed to the period of revenue and subscriber increases and also due to the fact that Jamaican currency was losing value against hard currencies at the time. LIME Jamaica saw considerable mobile revenue growth totaling nine percent and a 16 percent increase in number of subscribers, however.

ST.LUCIA DIGITAL ECONOMY DEPENDS ON IXP—05/26/13
An Internet exchange point (IXP) in St. Lucia would go a long way toward facilitating the development of the nation’s digital economy. According to Bevil Wooding, Internet strategist with Packet Clearing House (PCH), St. Lucia already has considerable human resource talent in its information and communications technology (ICT) sector, and it could enhance its development by locating IXPs on the island.

PUBLIC INTERNET ACCESS EXPANDED IN CUBA—05/29/13
Cuba plans to expand its public Internet services on June 4, 2013, through approximately 118 cyber centers that will operate throughout the nation. Internet services will be provided in all commercial offices of the Cuban Telecommunications Company. The new facilities have Internet access, international email services under the “nauta.cu” domain, and rates set by a resolution issued by Cuba’s finance and price ministry. These centers join the other 200 cyber centers that already operate in Cuban hotels and post offices.

CARIBBEAN SUPPORTS PROTECTION FOR COASTAL, SEA RESOURCES—05/30/13
Government representatives and entrepreneurs of 15 nations in the Caribbean met on Necker Island and agreed to be the second stage of the “Caribbean Challenge.” The initiative is designed to protect 20 percent of the coastlines and marine resources in the Caribbean region by 2020. Meeting participants pledged $64 million to protect these environments and to facilitate a transition to renewable sources of energy.

 

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Second Segment of Fiber Optic Cable Connects to Cuba

 

Written byElaine Díaz
Translated byMarianna Breytman

The fiber optic cable, which is expected to improve Cuba’s connectivity to the Internet, is of utmost importance to the country, and every piece of information continues to clarify the current state of this technological infrastructure. In the past days, U.S. company Renesys announced on its blog that during this week they “observed a second non-satellite connection established for the Cuban state telecom, ETECSA [Cuban State Telecommunications Company]“.

In January of this year, Renesys stated that the ALBA-1 submarine cable had begun to bring Internet traffic in the segment that connects Cuba to Venezuela.

According to Doug Madory, a Renesys employee:

esta vez un segmento diferente del cable submarino ALBA-1 se utiliza para conectar Cuba a la isla vecina de Jamaica. A las 15:04 UTC del 13 de mayo de 2013, se observó que ETECSA comenzó a recibir el servicio internacional de Internet a través de Cable & Wireless Jamaica

this time a different segment from the ALBA-1 submarine cable is being used to connect Cuba to its neighboring island, Jamaica. At 15:04 UTC on May 13, 2013, it was observed that ETECSA began receiving international Internet service through Cable & Wireless Jamaica

Madory also confirmed that two weeks ago, during a presentation by LACNIC 19 [es] in Medellín, Colombia, ETECSA representatives confirmed the initial statements from Renesys. According to the employee, “it was a pleasure meeting some of the people involved in this historic activation.”

The description of the project [es] on the Cuba-Venezuela International Telecommunications Systems confirms that the Cuba-Jamaica segment will be used for “the purpose of restoration.” As a result, Renesys believes the activation could “help alleviate some minor connectivity problems recently experienced by ETECSA.”

Image of the connection between Cuba, Venezuela, and Jamaica through the ALBA 1 fiber optic cable. Taken from the Renesys blog.

Image of the connection between Cuba, Venezuela, and Jamaica through the ALBA 1 fiber optic cable. Taken from the Renesys blog.

Following the Cuban State Telecommunications Company’s initial statements in January 2013 regarding the operational nature of the fiber optic cable and the start of several tests, a group of resident users on the island took to social networks to discuss computerization and increased Internet access in the country.

According to Daniel Salas [es], professor at the University of Havana:

Para irnos montando en el debate sobre cómo extender Internet en Cuba, podríamos empezar por ir teniendo claro cuál es la situación de la infraestructura nacional de comunicaciones, qué nodos enlaza la fibra óptica nacional, cuál es la saturación de las centrales telefónicas y los pares de cobre, qué tipos de soluciones tecnológicas estarían disponibles y sus costos, y no estaría de más saber un poquito de las cuentas de ETECSA.

In order to continue participating actively in the debate on how to extend Internet in Cuba, we could start by clarifying the current situation of the national communications infrastructure, which nodes the fiber optic cable links, the saturation of central operator exchanges and copper pairs, the types of technological solutions that would be available and their costs, and it would not hurt to know a bit about the ETECSA accounts.

Meanwhile, Cuban professor and researcher Milena Recio considered [es]:

Según la nota de ETECSA, se derivan dos posturas de política: 1) habrá que sacar divisas de algunos servicios para repartir gratuidad en otros. Dice: “aumentar los recursos en divisas, destinados a pagar el tráfico de Internet”. Es decir, se mantiene el esquema gratuidad; 2) se multiplicarán las posibilidades de acceso, aunque no “automáticamente”, pero se multiplicarán. Es decir, no solo mejorarán las actuales. Ahora bien, preguntas posibles ¿conectividad social, implica necesariamente gratuidad? ¿qué parte de la infraestructura interna de telecomunicaciones se priorizará en función de qué objetivos?

According to ETECSA’s announcement, there are two political positions: 1) currency will have to be taken from certain services in order to deliver free services in others. It says: “increase foreign exchange resources, intended to pay for internet traffic.” This is to say that it maintains the free-of-charge scheme; 2) Access possibilities will multiply, though not “automatically,” but they will multiply. This is to say that not only will the current ones improve. Now, possible questions – does social connectivity necessarily imply a free-of-charge service? which part of the internal telecommunications infrastructure will be prioritized depending on which objectives?

The Cuban telecommunications company’s late statement also motivated a number of criticisms among bloggers. Blog Fanal Cubano reflects it as follows [es]:

El sólo hecho de divulgar cuatro días antes esta propia nota, escueta, pero rotunda, habría despojado a ETECSA de la responsabilidad de darle un sesgo confirmativo al hecho, y nuestra entidad, cubana ciento por ciento, hubiese emergido como fuente portadora de una noticia de alcance mundial por su significado, en tanto victoria de la integración regional sobre la política de cerco económico, comercial y financiero practicada por los Estados Unidos contra Cuba desde hace más de medio siglo.

The mere fact of divulging this very brief yet emphatic announcement four days earlier, ETECSA would have been stripped of the responsibility of giving it a confirmatory bias, and our entity, one hundred percent Cuban, would had emerged as the source for news of global reach because of its significance, as much as it would have been a victory of regional integration over the economic, commercial and financial siege of the United States against Cuba for over half a century.

Cuba currently has a bandwidth of 323 Mbps (megabits per second) via satellite for the entire island. A website can take several minutes to open and even hours to see a video.

 

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Book explores history of African-American entrepreneurs

Only 7 percent of U.S. businesses are owned by African-Americans. Among firms that are big enough to have employees, the proportion drops to 1.8 percent.

King Taylor Jr., a St. Louisan who’s among that 1.8 percent, thinks the number ought to be bigger.  So he has written a small, self-published book on the history of African-American entrepreneurs, and he is embarking on a lecture and book-signing tour to promote the idea that more African-Americans should emulate their successful ancestors.

The book is “Pennies, Nickels & Dimes: A historical perspective of the African-American entrepreneur and the African-American economy.” At 81 pages, it’s a quick read and not a comprehensive history, but it contains short sketches of people including Madam C.J. Walker, who built a cosmetics empire in the early 20th century, and the owners of the Negro Leagues baseball teams. One chapter tells the history of “Black Wall Street,” a section of Tulsa, Okla., where 600 black-owned businesses thrived until a 1921 riot orchestrated by the Ku Klux Klan.

Taylor also offers some thoughts on why African-American entrepreneurs are rare today; his explanation boils down to a lack of capital and business education.

Taylor, who owns Comet Medical Supply, says he’s working on a second volume, and I hope he’ll go into more depth in telling the stories of past and present entrepreneurs.

He’ll discuss the book at noon this Saturday at the Monsanto YMCA, 5555 Page Boulevard, and at noon June 15 at Community Women Against Hardship, 3963 West Belle Place. He has a few more speaking engagements scheduled in St. Louis in July, and will make a tour of historically black colleges this fall.

 

 

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The Facts on Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income for Workers with Disabilities

by Shawn Fremstad and Rebecca Vallas
SOURCE: AP/Jacquelyn Martin

Allen Robinson and his wife Nancy King Robinson pose for a portrait in their store, Books and Other Found Things, in Leesburg, Virginia. King Robinson, who has multiple sclerosis, receives Social Security disability.

Endnotes and citations are available in the PDF of this issue brief.

Nearly one out of every six working-age Americans—29.5 million people—has a disability, making them much more likely to experience economic hardship than people without disabilities. Many people with disabilities are able to work, although they face greater challenges finding work than people without disabilities. But many individuals with severe and long-lasting disabilities have no or only limited capacity to work and are particularly vulnerable to economic hardship.

For roughly 12 million people with disabilities, Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income, both core components of our nation’s Social Security system, provide critical lifelines. The modest but vital assistance that Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security provide makes it possible for individuals with severe disabilities and health conditions to live independently, keep a roof over their heads and food on the table, and pay for needed, often life-sustaining medications and other basic expenses.

This issue brief answers some of the common questions about Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security. Our focus in this brief is on nonelderly adults with severe disabilities. It is important to note, however, that Supplemental Security also provides vital support to some 1.2 million children with severe disabilities, as well as more than 2 million low-income seniors.

How many people currently receive Social Security disability benefits, and what is the value of the benefits they receive?

About 8.8 million workers with disabilities currently receive Disability Insurance. The amount of Disability Insurance benefits that a disabled worker receives is based on his or her earnings before becoming disabled. As Table 1 shows, Disability Insurance benefits typically replace less than half of a disabled worker’s previous earnings.

As of March 2013, the average monthly benefit for a disabled worker was about $1,129, with male workers receiving $1,255 per month and female workers receiving $993 per month on average. About 1.9 million children of disabled workers and 160,000 spouses of disabled workers also receive supplemental benefits from Social Security—roughly $300 a month on average.

For most beneficiaries of Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security, disability benefits make up most or all of their income. For the vast majority of Disability Insurance beneficiaries—about 71 percent—half or more of their income comes from Disability Insurance. And for nearly half of beneficiaries, 90 percent or more of their income comes from Disability Insurance. Given the modest extent to which benefits replace lost earnings and the limited sources of other income upon which they can depend, people who receive Disability Insurance are rarely able to maintain the same standard of living they had before becoming disabled. Disability Insurance provides a floor, however, that moderates the decline in their living standards.

About 4.9 million nonelderly adults currently receive Supplemental Security. Nearly one-third—31.3 percent in 2011—also receive very modest Disability Insurance benefits. On average, nonelderly adults who receive Supplemental Security currently receive a Supplemental Security benefit of $525 per month. Most of them have no other source of income.

People who receive disability benefits are generally eligible for public health insurance. People who receive Disability Insurance are eligible for Medicare but only after a two-year waiting period. And in most states, people who receive Supplemental Security are automatically eligible for Medicaid. Some states, however, use more restrictive eligibility criteria for Medicaid coverage than those used by Supplemental Security.

How are Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security benefits funded?

Disability Insurance is funded by payroll tax contributions from workers and their employers. Workers currently pay a tax of 0.9 percent of their wages up to $113,700, and their employers pay an equal amount. These tax contributions go into the Disability Insurance trust fund. Funding for Supplemental Security comes from the federal income tax and other federal revenues.

The Social Security Administration administers both of these programs. State agencies, usually called disability determination services, make the initial determination of whether applicants meet the disability standard. These state agencies are federally funded and follow federal guidelines.

What is the disability standard for Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security?

Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security are reserved for workers with the most severe disabilities and conditions, and both use the same strict disability standard: inability to engage in “substantial gainful activity”—defined as being able to earn $1,040 a month in 2013—due to one or more severe physical or mental impairments that are expected to last at least a year or could result in death. A worker’s impairment or combination of impairments must be so severe that the applicant is not only unable to do his or her previous work but also unable—considering his or her age, education, and work experience—to engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy.

Medical evidence is the cornerstone for the determination of disability in both programs. To qualify, there must be medical evidence from a doctor, specialist, or certain other licensed or certified medical sources that documents a severe impairment. Evidence from other health care providers—such as nurse practitioners or clinical social workers—is not sufficient to document a severe medical impairment. And statements from the applicants themselves, their families, co-workers, friends, or neighbors are not treated as medical evidence.

Most applications for Disability Insurance are denied under this strict standard, and many workers with significant disabilities do not qualify. Between 2006 and 2008 only about 40 percent of applications were ultimately approved. The level of severity required by the disability standard is apparent when one considers how poorly workers who have been denied Disability Insurance subsequently fare in the labor market. A recent study found that among people whose Disability Insurance applications were denied by the Social Security Administration, the vast majority—70 percent to 80 percent—did not go on to work in jobs with annual earnings above the substantial gainful activity level.

Further underscoring the strictness of the disability standard are the considerably elevated mortality rates for disabled workers found eligible for benefits. One in five men and nearly one in six women die within five years of being approved for benefits. Disability Insurance beneficiaries have death rates at least three times higher than other people their age.

What other requirements are beneficiaries required to meet?

In order to receive Disability Insurance, a worker must have worked during at least one-fourth of his or her adult lifetime and during at least 5 of the 10 years before disability onset. There is also a five-month waiting period before a worker can qualify for benefits.

Supplemental Security provides assistance to people with severe disabilities who have very low incomes and assets and who either lack sufficient work history to be covered for Disability Insurance or receive only a very small Disability Insurance benefit. It is important to note that many Supplemental Security beneficiaries, although lacking the sustained work history necessary to be insured under Disability Insurance, have worked and paid into the Disability Insurance system. And others, particularly women, are not eligible for Disability Insurance because they took time out of the paid labor force to care for children or other family members.

Workers must apply for and exhaust all other available benefits before qualifying for Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security. Accordingly, Social Security’s disability programs serve as a true last resort for people with severe disabilities and little to no ability to work.

How common is it for beneficiaries to return to work?

Both Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security provide incentives for beneficiaries to work. Disability Insurance beneficiaries are encouraged to work up to their full capacity and can earn an unlimited amount for up to 12 months without losing any benefits. Beneficiaries who work for more than 12 months and have earnings above the substantial gainful activity level cease to receive a monthly benefit. If at any point in the next five years their condition worsens and they are not able to continue working above the substantial gainful activity level, however, they are eligible for “expedited reinstatement” of their benefits. This means they do not need to repeat the entire, and typically lengthy, disability-determination process that they initially went through to qualify for benefits.

Supplemental Security beneficiaries who are able to work are encouraged to do so as well. Their benefits are reduced based on their earnings—after the first $85 of earnings each month, which is not counted against the benefit—but by only $1 for every $2 of earnings. Beneficiaries who are able to do some work will therefore always be better off with both earnings and a reduced benefit than just the benefit alone.

Supplemental Security beneficiaries who are able to sustain work above the program’s income limit can generally do so without risk of losing the health insurance that they receive through Medicaid. Moreover, if their condition worsens and they no longer have earnings above Supplemental Security’s income limit, they can start receiving benefits again without having to go through the initial disability-determination process.

These incentives are helpful for beneficiaries who are able to do some work or whose conditions improve. Due to the program’s strict disability standard, however, most beneficiaries have such severe impairments and health conditions that they are not able to work at all—and most beneficiaries do not have earnings.

The best available data on annual employment rates among working-age beneficiaries of Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security come from a recent report that linked Social Security data and earnings records in 2007, before the onset of the Great Recession. This report found that 16.9 percent of all disability beneficiaries worked at some point during the year. Disability Insurance beneficiaries were somewhat more likely to have worked than Supplemental Security beneficiaries: 19.5 percent of the former worked during the year, compared to 12.6 percent of the latter. The vast majority of beneficiaries who did work had extremely low earnings—just 2.9 percent earned more than $10,000 during the year.

How have the number and share of people receiving disability benefits changed over time, and what accounts for these changes?

There has been little change over the past two decades in the share of nonelderly adults receiving Supplemental Security due to a disability. In 2011, 2.4 percent of nonelderly adults received Supplemental Security for a disability, compared to 2.1 percent in 1996. This comparison does not, however, take into account demographic and economic changes, particularly the aging of the population and the increase in poverty, which both have increased the number of people who are potentially eligible for Supplemental Security.

Controlling just for income, participation in Supplemental Security by working-age adults who are potentially eligible because of low income has actually declined over the past decade and a half. In 2011 there were 17.6 nonelderly adults receiving Supplemental Security for every 100 nonelderly adults with incomes below 100 percent of the poverty line, compared to 18.5 nonelderly adults in 1996. In other words, the number of nonelderly adults receiving Supplemental Security grew at a slower rate than the number of nonelderly adults with very low incomes.

The share of nonelderly adults receiving Disability Insurance has increased over time. This is largely due to demographic factors, including:

  • The aging of the Baby Boom generation: Disability risk increases considerably with age—an individual is twice as likely to be disabled at age 50 as he or she is at age 40, and twice as likely at age 60 as at age 50. As a result, a workforce with a greater share of workers in their 50s and early 60s will include many more workers with severe disabilities.
  • The long-term increase in women’s employment, which means more women are meeting the work-history standard required to qualify for Disability Insurance: Since 1980 the share of working-age women who meet the work-history standard for Disability Insurance has increased considerably, from 50 percent to 68 percent.

Because these demographic factors are so important, the preferred way to assess trends in Disability Insurance is by looking at the “age-sex adjusted disability prevalence rate” used by actuaries at the Social Security Administration, since it controls for changes in the age and sex distribution of the insured population. The disability-prevalence rate, adjusted for age and sex, was 4.5 percent in 2011, compared to 3.5 percent in 1995.

A number of factors account for this one-percentage-point increase in the disability-prevalence rate after accounting for the changes in the age and gender distribution of the workforce, including the following:

  • The increase in the Social Security retirement age means that more people who would have received Social Security as retirees under previous rules are now receiving Disability Insurance. About 5 percent of Disability Insurance beneficiaries are now ages 65 or 66.
  • Among workers who are insured for Disability Insurance, the gender gap in rates of receipt of Disability Insurance has closed. Until the mid-1990s women who met Disability Insurance’s work-history test were substantially less likely than men to receive benefits on their own work records. Since then the gender gap has narrowed steadily and now no longer exists. A factor here may be the overall increase in female “breadwinners”—women who earn as much as or more than their husbands.

Finally, declining job opportunities for older workers, particularly older workers with severe physical limitations, have likely contributed to the increase. Currently, the number of U.S. jobs is roughly 10 million below the number we need to reach prerecession employment levels while also absorbing the people who enter the labor force each month. It is important, however, to not overstate the impact of the Great Recession or of economic recessions generally. While the economic downturn is believed to have led more unemployed workers to apply for Disability Insurance, the program’s stringent disability standard bars the door to benefits for most of them.

Why is there a shortfall in the Disability Insurance trust fund, and what can be done about it?

As described above, Disability Insurance is funded by a dedicated share of payroll tax contributions—0.9 percent of taxable wages paid by workers and the same amount by employers. Since the mid-1990s the Social Security Administration has consistently projected that the Disability Insurance trust fund would have sufficient reserves to cover all scheduled benefits until 2016, but that after that date, additional funds would be needed to avoid a shortfall in the necessary funds to continue paying full benefits. If no action is taken to address the shortfall, the Disability Insurance trust fund will only be able to pay 80 percent of scheduled benefit levels after 2016.

Congress has addressed similar shortfalls—in both the Disability Insurance trust fund and the Old Age and Survivors Insurance trust fund, which pays retirement benefits—nearly a dozen times in the past by temporarily reallocating the share of overall payroll tax revenues that is dedicated to each trust fund. In some cases, they have reallocated funds from the Disability Insurance trust fund to the Old Age and Survivors Insurance trust fund; in others, they have reallocated funds from the Old Age and Survivors Insurance trust fund to the Disability Insurance trust fund.

According to the Social Security Administration, the current shortfall could be closed through 2033 by temporarily reallocating a modest share of funds from the Old Age and Survivors Insurance trust fund to the Disability Insurance trust fund. Alternatively, the shortfall could be closed over the long term by a small—0.2 percent—increase in the payroll tax rate paid by both employers and employees.

Absent increased revenues or decreased costs, both the Disability Insurance and Old Age and Survivors Insurance trust funds face shortfalls in the mid- to late 2030s. Long-term—75-year—solvency for both programs could be achieved through an increase in the payroll tax rate from 6.2 percent for workers and employers (12.4 percent in total) to 7.6 percent each (15.2 percent in total). Another frequently discussed option is raising or eliminating the cap on earnings that are taxed for Social Security. This would mean that the 5 percent of workers who currently earn more than the cap—$133,700—would pay into Social Security through the entire year, as other workers do.

How does the United States compare with other countries?

According to a recent analysis by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD, the United States has the least generous disability-benefit system of all OECD member countries except Korea. The OECD describes the U.S. disability-benefit system, along with those of Korea, Japan, and Canada, as having “the most stringent eligibility criteria for a full disability benefit, including the most rigid reference to all jobs available in the labor market and the shortest sickness benefit payment duration.” In addition, the United States spends less as a share of its economy on incapacity-related benefits than other nations. In 2009 public expenditures on incapacity-related benefits comprised just 1.5 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, or GDP, compared to an average of 2.4 percent for all OECD nations.

Proponents of cutting disability benefits in the United States sometimes point to particular elements of disability program reforms in Europe—particularly in Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom—as potential models for changes to the Social Security disability programs. In general, however, such proposals fail to take into account that these nations have much more generous disability systems, less rigorous disability standards, higher levels of social expenditures—not just on incapacity benefits but on social assistance generally—and more regulated labor markets than the United States.

How can the Social Security disability programs be improved to increase economic security and work opportunities for beneficiaries?

Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security increase economic security for millions of disabled workers. For beneficiaries whose conditions improve, the programs also provide important incentives and supports for returning to work. Still, the programs could be further strengthened to increase disabled workers’ economic security and provide a more seamless transition for those who are able to return to work.

Modernize Supplemental Security

The value of Supplemental Security benefits has eroded considerably since the program’s inception in 1972, as the program’s income exclusions and asset limits have not kept pace with inflation and living standards. The current maximum benefit is equivalent to just three-quarters of the also-outdated federal poverty line for a single person. The general income exclusion ($20 per month) and earned income exclusion ($65 per month) have never been increased. To address this erosion, H.R. 1601, the Supplemental Security Restoration Act, sponsored by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and introduced in Congress in April 2013, would increase the monthly maximum benefit to $937, which is 100 percent of the current federal poverty line, and would increase the general income disregard to $110 per month and the earned income disregard to $357 a month. Increasing the income exclusions and indexing them to inflation going forward would restore the monthly benefit amount to its intended value and significantly increase beneficiaries’ economic security.

Additionally, Supplemental Security’s asset limits—$2,000 for a single person and $3,000 for a couple—have only been increased once, in 1989, and are not adjusted for inflation. These out-of-date restrictions make it impossible to maintain even a modest amount of savings, forcing beneficiaries to remain asset poor and unprotected in the event of an unexpected dental bill, leaky roof, or other unforeseen emergency expense. H.R. 1601 would address these out-of-date restrictions as well, increasing the asset limit to $10,000 for a single person and $15,000 for a couple.

Support a more seamless transition for beneficiaries able to return to work

Many disabled workers who receive disability benefits have made repeated attempts to work in spite of their impairments before finally turning to Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security as a last resort. Due to the strictness of the disability standard, many beneficiaries are terminally ill, and most are in poor and declining health. As discussed above, however, for beneficiaries whose conditions improve, the Social Security disability programs encourage beneficiaries to work up to their capacity and return to work if and when they are able, with protections in the event of failed work attempts.

But more should be done to ensure that beneficiaries are aware of the work incentives, supports, and protections that Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security provide. Additionally, consideration should be given to further enhancing these incentives, supports, and protections. Options include:

  • Make work pay more for Supplemental Security beneficiaries: Permitting Supplemental Security beneficiaries who work to keep more of their earnings by reducing benefits by $1 for every $3 of earnings, rather than the current reduction of $1 for every $2 of earnings, would provide enhanced support and encouragement for beneficiaries who are able to do some work.
  • Simplify work incentives: The disability programs’ work incentives are complicated, and it can be difficult for beneficiaries to understand how working will impact their benefits. This is especially the case for “concurrent” beneficiaries, who receive both a small amount of Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security. Demonstration projects such as the Work Incentive Simplification Pilot, or WISP, hold promise for testing major simplifications to the Disability Insurance work incentives, which would make them easier for beneficiaries to understand and less costly for the Social Security Administration to administer. The Social Security Administration’s authority to test the WISP, however, as well as other proposed demonstration projects related to Disability Insurance, expired in 2005 and has not yet been renewed by Congress. This authority, which already exists in Supplemental Security, should be renewed for Disability Insurance.
  • Support benefits counseling for disability beneficiaries: The Work Incentives Planning and Assistance, or WIPA, and Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security, or PABSS, programs provide crucial support for disability beneficiaries who are considering employment and should be reauthorized on a multiyear basis. These programs inform beneficiaries about how employment will affect their disability income and medical coverage and address many of the real fears that individuals have about going to work at the risk of losing health coverage. They offer a wide range of services to beneficiaries, including information and advice about obtaining vocational rehabilitation and employment services, information and referral services on work incentives, and advocacy or other legal services that a beneficiary needs in order to secure, maintain, or regain gainful employment.
  • Provide the Social Security Administration with sufficient administrative funding to process disability beneficiaries’ earnings reports in a timely fashion: Currently, when beneficiaries report earnings, it can take the Social Security Administration several months—and sometimes even years—to adjust benefits based on the report. This late adjustment often results in beneficiaries being told that they have been overpaid benefits in past months, which they may then be required to repay. Many individuals are wary of attempting work for fear of incurring this kind of overpayment.

Shawn Fremstad is a consultant on social policy and a senior research associate at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. Rebecca Vallas is an attorney and policy advocate specializing in disability law and policy at Community Legal Services in Philadelphia.

 

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