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Political Notebook

Obama promises support for social innovators

Globe Staff and Associated Press / July 1, 2009
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WASHINGTON - President Obama promised yesterday that the White House will do its part to find and support grass-roots organizations that are successful in their efforts to improve communities.

At the gathering, Obama praised a New Hampshire nonprofit that helps poor people buy fuel-efficient, reliable cars. He named Robert Chambers, president and cofounder of Bonnie CLAC, who attended the event and came up with the idea for the group after working at an auto dealership and seeing low-income individuals forced to pay high interest rates when they purchased cars. Since its founding in 2001, the group has guaranteed more than $12 million in loans for more than 1,200 clients, the White House said.

Obama paid tribute to such nonprofits, saying they hold the promise of finding solutions to persistent problems and to meeting unprecedented challenges because government can’t do everything.

“I know what you do is not easy,’’ he said. “I know that for many of you, the hours are long, the pay could be better - let’s face it. But I also know the difference that each of you make. I know the lives that you change every single day. You teach us that there’s no such thing as a lost cause if you’re willing to be creative, and challenge the conventional wisdom, and take some risks - if you’re willing to try, and fail, and then try again until you find something that works.’’

Obama also highlighted the Harlem Children’s Zone, which includes a preschool and charter school; HopeLab, a California group that uses technology to help young people with chronic illnesses; and Genesys Works, a Houston-based nonprofit that trains and employs high school students to get entry-level technical support jobs in major corporations.

Senate committee almost done with insurance option
WASHINGTON - Senators on a key committee are putting the finishing touches on a government health insurance option that they hope will win broad support among Democrats and the public.

According to a draft summary circulating yesterday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee proposal calls for a nationwide plan to be run by the federal government. An upfront loan from taxpayers would get the plan started, but it would have to pay its own way after a few months, relying on premiums collected from beneficiaries to stay solvent. The public plan would be offered alongside private coverage through new insurance purchasing pools called exchanges.

The idea of government medical coverage for middle-class workers and their families has become the hottest issue in the debate over how to overhaul the healthcare system. President Obama and most Democrats say the choice of a public plan would serve to balance the power of private insurers. But insurance companies see it as a step toward a government takeover, and many business groups and Republicans agree.

The health committee proposal will be one of at least four major options for lawmakers to consider on a government plan after they return from their weeklong July Fourth recess.