Trump’s Executive Order and What It Means for the Affordable Healthcare Act

Written by Tristyn Walton, Policy Intern


Since the primaries, President Trump has been intent on repealing President Obama’s Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA). If there was any doubt to the contrary, one of his first official actions in office was the signing of an executive order to “minimize the unwarranted economic and regulatory burdens of the Affordable Care Act”. Trump’s executive order grants the Secretary of Health and Human Service, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, the Department of the Treasury and the IRS all authority available under the current law of the ACA to roll back the pieces that make it work.

On the surface level, the executive order seems like nothing more than a symbolic gesture because the secretary cannot do anything beyond the bounds of the law. However, the act itself gives the incoming Secretary of Health and Human Services some broad powers that could have significant effects on the law. The executive order’s broad language gives federal agencies wide latitude to change, delay or waive provisions of the law that they deemed overly costly for insurers, drug makers, doctors, patients or states, suggesting that it could have wide-ranging impacts, and essentially allow the law to be dismantled enough to eventually destabilize health care and require a repeal and replacement of the ACA.

The order also spells out the various ways that Trump and his administration might fight specific parts of the ACA until new legislation comes forth: by writing new regulations and exercising discretion where allowed. On matters of discretion, the administration can move faster, but there are still limited places where current law gives the administration power to quickly change course. Another important area of discretion has to do with exemptions to the law’s individual mandate to obtain insurance. Under the current law, all Americans who can afford it are expected to obtain health insurance, unless they have experienced some hardship that would make it impossible. People who feel there has been such a hardship can apply for an exemption, and employees in the Department of Health and Human Services and the Internal Revenue Service can decide on their case. Under a Trump administration, it might become easier to claim hardship and get out of the requirement to buy insurance. However, doing away with the individual mandate could have significant consequences for the individual insurance markets. If fewer healthy people buy insurance, the costs of insuring everyone else will rise, causing insurance companies to raise prices or leave the market.

Trump’s executive orddoctor-563428_1920er also gives states more autonomy in directing health policy, allowing administrations more latitude under the law to decide what sort of new programs qualify. For a lot of people, Mr. Trump’s selection for the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Seema Verma, was a sign that his administration would become more open to new Medicaid rules, including possible work requirements to obtain coverage, or premiums even for very poor Americans.

Lastly, the order states what Mr. Trump made clear during his campaign: that it is his administration’s policy to seek the “prompt repeal” of the law; however, Trump and Republicans on Capitol Hill have yet to keep their promise to devise a replacement health care plan that will be “far better” than President Obama’s signature healthcare law that would also insure more people and lower their costs.

If you have a topic or idea that you think could make a great CEDAM blog post, please contact Kaylee Kellogg at kellogg@cedam.info.

Collaborative Environment Between Officials and Community – Part 1

Written by Douglas Kelsey and David Gruber of Dispute Resolution Education Resources, Inc. (DRER)

clasped-hands-541849_1920Local officials who wish to preside over a peaceful community might ask themselves how they and their constituents can create a collaborative climate in their town. In a collaborative environment, officials and citizens anticipate difficult issues and together seek solutions before a crisis arises.

A collaborative environment could change the dynamics of the following situations.

  • A homeowner uses his backyard to store junk cars. The neighbors are unhappy and vocal about it, but local officials have little enforcement power.
  • Citizens are certain that water rates are too high, even though their hometown officials, not some far off agency, set the rates. They don’t mind complaining.
  • A proposed state highway would cut through farmland and whisk travelers by your downtown tourist attractions. Local farmers and business owners ask, “Can this be stopped?”

Each situation poses a contest of interests. In the first, the enforcement of community standards versus an individual’s solution to low-cost car storage. In the second, public health and community growth versus ratepayer protection of the pocketbook. In the third, tourism development versus protection of local livelihoods and the local economy.

In a collaborative climate, public officials would:

  • Share information about community goals and standards, especially with newcomers.
  • Understand where the goals of citizens might diverge from public objectives.
  • Engage citizens in early problem solving.

All three are essential to collaborative communities, but the last is especially important. A common type of government decision making involves the government collecting public input then making the decision internally. This seems reasonable, since the community presumably elected them to do just that.

bonding-1985863_1920All to often, though, it still ends in conflict. The reason? Today’s citizens are more sophisticated in their use of mainstream and social media, referenda and the courts to promote their issues. Government may not have the last word. Many citizens today want to be part of the decision-making process. They believe they have a better chance of ensuring that solutions meet their needs.

It ultimately comes down to trust. Transparency in government is a building block, but so is the willingness to tap citizen ingenuity and turn potential conflict into creative solutions. Future blogs will discuss how this can be done.

If you have a topic or idea that you think could make a great CEDAM blog post, please contact Kaylee Kellogg at kellogg@cedam.info.

Thanking Donors the Right Way

Written by Kaylee Kellogg, Communications Intern

thank-you-515514_1280Many nonprofits, regardless of focus area, spend time fundraising. Nonprofit employees work hard to create a project and everything that goes with it – logos, blurbs and marketing materials – and when it comes down to it, money is often an important part of making these projects or events happen. They may even spend time targeting fundraising emails and writing a really great email or letter. Once we receive donations from donors, what is the next step?

Sending thank you’s, no matter the format, is an art that nonprofits often need to work on. There are many donors who simply give out of the kindness of their hearts, but don’t you believe a thank you would be appreciated? Letting people know that what they’re doing is important not only to you, but to whomever the project or event may affect, is key. Here are some tips on the best ways to say “thanks” to your donors.

Plan the Thank You Before Asking

Before even asking for donations, your nonprofit needs a solid plan. While having a basic format is usually beneficial, answering some of these questions will help move the process along much quicker.

  • What type of thank you are we going to give? (Phone calls, emails or physical letters? Will different donations types get different thank you’s? If so, who will be in charge of each type?)
  • How much information are you going to include? (i.e., Who is this event benefitting?; What sort of work or groups will this be improving?; etc.) It is also important to not be boring in your letter. Don’t dwell on unimportant information that donors will only skim – tell a story with what you’re including that will enthrall your donors.
  • Who signs the letter? Whether it is the executive director, CEO or the employee in charge of the event, knowing this will make it easy to know who to go to.

Don’t Delay

Promptness in being thanked can be key to continuing a positive donor relationship. When one knows that their gift has not only been noticed, but appreciated in a short time, will let them know that their donation is important and may create more openness to giving in the future. A good rule of thumb is to send out your thank you, no matter the format, in 48 hours.

Proofreading and Personalizingwriting-1209121_1920

No matter if it is the first thank you letter or email you are sending or the last, always proofread the letter, and in particular the donor’s name. Misspelling or grammatical errors make any professional place of work look sloppy or rushed, so always take the time. While it might seem easier to avoid personalizing each thank you, skipping this key step could be a huge misstep. A recent study showed donors feel over 70% more engaged with nonprofits that send them content specifically for them. Take the time to do it right.

Who can I reach?

Always include someone and some way to reach out to the nonprofit. Usually, the person who has decided to sign the letter is an easy choice. Attach a name, phone number, email and picture (if possible), so donors know exactly who they can call if they have any questions in the future. While receiving a call like this from a donor may not happen often, a point of contact who donors know they can reach is important.

If you have a topic or idea that you think could make a great CEDAM blog post, please contact Kaylee Kellogg at kellogg@cedam.info.

A Review of Paul Ryan’s ‘A Better Way’ Plan: Part 3

Written by Sarah Torrico, Policy Intern

calculator-385506_1920The Reagan administration drastically reformed America’s tax policy, and Paul Ryan says it’s time for another big change. Like in the eighties, Ryan suggests that the public, as well as congress, are tired of the current system. In his proposal A Better Way, the three main objectives include: simplifying the tax process, create jobs and reconstructing the IRS to better serve the public.

Much of the document is spent emphasizing the difficulties of filing taxes as both an individual and as a company. His solution to this problem is to limit the bracket system to three while making some big changes that he believes will incentivize national saving. Some of these changes include:

  • streamlining education tax benefits to make college more easily afforded;
  • end the alternative minimum tax so that taxes only need to be filed once annually;
  • improve the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to promote work;
  • improve tax incentives for charitable donations;
  • reform saving provisions so that families may more easily plan for retirement;
  • reduce taxes for products made in the USA so that producers can more easily compete in a global market; and
  • repeal the death tax.

application-1915345_1920Some other adjustments are aimed specifically at creating jobs. Taxes on businesses will be reduced to a flat rate of 25% for small businesses and 20% for large corporations – the largest corporate tax cut in our country’s history. Taxes on a company’s savings will also be cut by allowing deductions of 50% of the dividends, capital gains and interest received from stocks and mutual funds, as well as allowing immediate write-offs on tax-free returns on new investments.

The complexity of the current tax system, Ryan claims, has led to fraud by the IRS. In order to make the organization more efficient and accountable, he advises its restructuring into three branches: “one for individuals and families, one for businesses of all sizes and one that provides an independent ‘small claims court’ approach to resolving routine disputes quickly […]”. This, in addition to appointing a new commissioner with term limits and creating an Office of Dispute Resolution, is said to solve the problem of overtaxing.

The proposal as it currently stands is largely incomplete. Though it addresses some relevant issues, few solutions are made clear. Ryan addresses that his current package assumes that the Affordable Care Act has been repealed in its entirety. He also assumes that a $400 billion worth of expenditures that are set to expire will not be renewed.

If you have a topic or idea that you think could make a great CEDAM blog post, please contact Kaylee Kellogg at kellogg@cedam.info.

MLK Day 2017: What are you doing to help others?

Written by Stevie Chilcote, VISTA Leader

Legacy of Service

Watch more videos and amazing interviews.

Beloved Communitymlk2005_cncs

In 1983, after a long struggle, legislation made the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. into a federal holiday to honor a man who believed in a nation of freedom
and justice for all.  He spoke often of how non-violent resistance would lead to a “Beloved Community.”  He said that its creation would require “a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.” MLK Day became a call to action, and in 1994, Congress designated that MLK Day would be a day of service to pay homage to the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  MLK Day is our chance to empower communities, strengthen bonds, create solutions to social problems and work to better our “beloved community.”



“It is this type of understanding goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age.”

A Day On, Not a Day Off!

Dr. King asked of us, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”

Supported by the Corporation for National and Community Service, Americans across the country answer the question by committing themselves to service in honor of the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Over 5,000 organizations have already registered events.  So take the pledge to serve and work to build our “beloved community” on January 16th.

Find your service or register your event here.

You can also find lesson plans, videos, and resources here.

“You don’t have to hamlkday2015ve a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.”

If you have a topic or idea that you think could make a great CEDAM blog post, please contact Kaylee Kellogg at kellogg@cedam.info.

New Year’s Resolutions for Your Business or Nonprofit

Written by Kaylee Kellogg, Communications Intern

It’s the beginning of a new year, and all around us, individuals are making resolutions on things to do or change in 2017. Have you ever thought of using this idea within the workplace? The new year is a great time to plan out changes or updates to make not only for you and your coworkers, but for your customers or members as well! Here are some ideas that might get you started!

office-625893_1920Make it a priority to get or keep your websites up to date

It’s something all companies or nonprofits with a website come across – you forget to post about one event or product, and next thing you know, you have plenty of updates to do and no time to do them all. While sometimes not posting or updating a site may seem minor in comparison to other job necessities going on, you should also remember that your website or social media may be some people’s main way to reach out and see what you’re doing. Take the time – whether it is all in one go or scheduled out – to make sure each page is updated with the most current information. Keep it updated throughout the year by finding ways to schedule posts ahead of time or designating individuals to post on specific media types.

Learn a new skill that could help you now or in the future

Have you ever seen another business or nonprofit do something and think “Wow, I wish we could do something like that here!” Why not take the time to learn one of these skills that might help the company prosper? Video skills, becoming active on a new social media site or taking the time to attend a class or workshop are all great ways to hone in on new skills, but there are so many more that could help depending on your business!

Ask for feedback – and ask for it regularly

Asking for feedback can sometimes feel risky – while in some areas you may feel you are succeeding, other areas may feel like they’re going to be criticized. Even though this can be nerve racking, you should be regularly asking people about areas you can improve at and where you are doing things right. One great way to do this is through a yearly survey with participation from staff. Allow everyone to have input on what questions should be asked and how it will  be organized. Then, send this to your customers through whatever medium makes the most sense. While this sounds like a huge dilemma, this survey no longer has to be a harrowing experience – survey websites such as Google Forms or SurveyMonkey are great resources that will help easily organize your information into useable statistics. Once you receive answers, get with your staff again and discuss the results – use these to make attainable goals to reach for by next year. You might be surprised how much you learn about your audience and customers!

Take the time – be kind to those around yougesture-772977_1280

This one may seem simple, but it can mean so much to those around you. Coworkers, volunteers, customers and everyone you interact with should feel like they are important to the way you work. Take the time to say hello and ask people how they’re doing. Throw an office appreciation party. Let someone know they did a great job. Doing even these small things will make people happier to see you, and more motivated in working with you.

If you have a topic or idea that you think could make a great CEDAM blog post, please contact Kaylee Kellogg at kellogg@cedam.info.

A Review of Paul Ryan’s ‘A Better Way’ Plan: Part 2

Written by Sarah Torrico, Policy Intern

On Tuesday, June 7, 2016, Speaker Paul Ryan and House Republicans unveiled an agenda entitled “A Better Way”, that Ryan says demonstrates what Republicans hope to achieve with the election wins of November. In the portion entitled “A Better Way to Fix Health Care”, the proposal details proposed changes to healthcare.

Healthcare in “A Better Way”


“The fundamentals of how the system would operate calls for large changes in healthcare.”


doctor-563428_1920Set to go into effect in 2020 if passed, the “Better Way” plan would replace Obamacare entirely. The package maintains employer-based program options while those who do not have insurance from an employer, Medicare or Medicaid would receive refundable tax credits that can be used to purchase plans in the individual market. If a recipient of credits chooses a plan that is less expensive than the credit amount, the difference would funnel into an account similar to a Health Saving Account (HSA) which could be used towards paying out-pocket costs and future medical expenses.

The fundamentals of how the system would operate calls for large changes to healthcare. The Medicaid program would become block-grant funded, meaning that individual states would be responsible for management rather than remaining a centrally-run federal system. Those who are covered under Medicare would be able to choose from private plans alongside traditional Medicare options beginning in 2024. Tax credits would be flat across the board and would not adjust overtime to inflation. However, Ryan has kept the component that allows people 26 years and younger to stay covered under their parents insurance.

medicine-24399_1280The proposal states explicitly that patients with pre-existing conditions would not be turned away based on their health statuses. It also states that Medicare premium support payments would allocate more to those with conditions that have worsened. Low-income seniors would also receive extra assistance in covering out-pocket payments, which would be subsidized by higher-income seniors paying higher premiums.

Check back soon for our next post which will look at proposed changes to the tax code and financial access. You can find the entire “A Better Way” agenda here.

If you have a topic or idea that you think could make a great CEDAM blog post, please contact Kaylee Kellogg at kellogg@cedam.info.

Expect EITC Delays in 2017

Written by Ross Yednock, Program Director of the Michigan Economic Impact Coalition (MEIC)

“Everyone can begin filing their taxes as soon as tax season begins; however, due to the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act passed in December of 2015, the IRS must hold all refunds with either a EITC or ACTC claim until February 15, 2017.”


If you, or your clients, receive either the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC), there is an important change with both of these credits that begins next year. Starting in January 2017, the IRS will hold any tax refund with the EITC and/or ACTC until February 15. This means that for the many people planning to use their tax refund to help caution holiday expenses, pay essential bills or build savings, they may have to wait longer than in the past. To learn more about this delay, download this flyer for more information on the EITC and/or ACTC delay.

Everyone can begin filing their taxes as soon as tax season begins; however, due to the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act passed in December of 2015, the IRS must hold all refunds with either a EITC or ACTC claim until February 15, 2017.

The rationale for this is to prevent fraud. The reality is that some taxpayers may be caught off-guard or unprepared, especially if they are have already planned on using their tax refund for a specific or timely purpose like fixing their car, past rent or security deposit on a new apartment, getting caught up on bills or even the down payment on a new home. It does not matter if the taxpayer does their own taxes, pays a preparer or goes to a free site like those found on MichiganFreeTaxHelp.org; if the taxpayer is claiming the EITC and/or ACTC, they will have to wait until February 15 to receive their returns.

dollar-499481_1920This is why I would argue that if you, or your clients, do not use a free tax site, now is the time to change. In addition to saving money on tax preparation fees, there will be no hard-sell for any high-cost advance-refund check and you can be sure that the person who prepares your taxes is competent and certified by the IRS. In Michigan, there are no rules or regulations for paid tax preparation. Anyone can charge to prepare taxes without passing any competency or ethics test. All IRS-sponsored Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) or Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE or AARP Tax Aide sites) require volunteer tax preparers to be certified by the IRS in both tax law and ethics. In other words, it really doesn’t pay to go to paid tax preparer if you are able to get your taxes done for free!

In order to make sure you receive your refund as quickly as possible, you will want to make sure you have all the documents and statements you need to verify your income and deductions for which you are eligible before you go to any tax preparer. Once you have all the necessary documents, file your taxes. Waiting to file will only delay your refund. Finally, you may see advertisements or offers for loans or advances to access your refund faster. Be careful. Read the terms of any type of “refund advance” before accepting it and, if you feel you are being pushed into taking one out, take all your original documents to a free tax site. Remember, no one can get your refund to you any faster than anyone else.

You can learn more about the delay on the Internal Revenue Service’s website.

To find a free tax site location, dial 2-1-1 or go to the MEIC’s taxpayer website. The list of sites will be posted and update beginning in January.

For more tips on preparing for the refund delay, check out this Consumer Financial Protection Bureau blog.

If you have a topic or idea that you think could make a great CEDAM blog post, please contact Kaylee Kellogg at kellogg@cedam.info.

4 Great Tips for Nonprofit Social Media Pages

Written by Kaylee Kellogg, Communications Intern



“[…] thinking about social media from a professional aspect can shift what or how you may want certain postings to look and feel. You may also want to find ways to stay relevant or get shares to spread the word.”

In today’s world, using a variety of social media sites is important to maintain a brand and to help people connect with your nonprofit. Whether you’re just starting out on using social media or if you’re a social media professional, thinking about social media from a professional aspect can shift what or how you may want certain postings to look or feel. You may also want to find ways to stay relevant or get shares to spread the word. Here are a few tips about using social media for nonprofits that can help anyone get into the right state of mind.

Be Social

Social media is called that for a reason – it calls for people to connect. While usually people tend to associate social media interaction with friends, family or coworkers, the social aspect can also be for business pages! Ask your followers to share experiences, have them vote on an aspect of your sites and give them a chance to express their ideas. You’ll be able to learn more about your followers and see what they’d like to see more of!


Another important aspect of social media is sharing. This aspect helps others to see posts that people like or are relevant to their own friends. Nonprofits can benefit by doing the same! Whether they are a partner through your nonprofit or simply sharing in your mission, share from other nonprofits as well. Other nonprofits may share relevant posts of yours in return, as well as reaching people that may have interest in your work!

Be Useful

Social media can have many different uses – for fun, reaching out to old friends or a variety of others. When talking about a nonprofit, though, you want to make postings that are useful to your followers. Find a way to create posts that are useful and driven toward pushing your mission. This doesn’t mean posts can’t be fun or interesting though – simply try to find a way to blend between entertaining and something people can take away after reading.

Help People Visualizeblur-1867758_1920

Humans are highly visual creatures. Seeing how something is affecting others or how something works can make a huge difference in understanding it. This can be especially useful for nonprofits, as we often cover a broad spectrum of issues or missions. Use photos and videos, and use them often. Get testimonials from people you’ve worked with or simply take video during times you are actively doing your work. Helping people visualize what you’re doing can aid them in having a better grasp of your mission and can make them more understanding in the work you’re trying to do.

There are many ways of configuring your nonprofit social media pages in order to best reach an audience, and these were simply a few that will help you get started. Click here to see a post on even more ways to use nonprofit social media effectively.

If you have a topic or idea that you think could make a great CEDAM blog post, please contact Kaylee Kellogg at kellogg@cedam.info.

A Review of Paul Ryan’s ‘A Better Way’ Plan: Part 1

Written by Jessica AcMoody, Senior Policy Specialist

This is part 1 of a 3 part series.


“The policy principles lay out how the House aims to tackle a wide rage of poverty-related issues, including welfare programs, education, food access, retirement services and access to banking and credit.”



us-capitol-1273914_1280On Tuesday, June 7, 2016, Speaker Paul Ryan and House Republicans unveiled their new anti-poverty agenda (which can be found here). The document is the first piece of a larger agenda entitled “A Better Way”, that Ryan says demonstrates what Republicans hope to achieve with the election wins of three weeks ago.  The policy principles lay out how the House aims to tackle a wide range of poverty-related issues, including welfare programs, education, food access, retirement services and access to banking and credit.

The agenda aims to ensure that any work-eligible recipients of welfare benefits under programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) find or prepare for work. This would include reforms that expand work requirements to include housing benefits, like federal rental assistance under the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The agenda would also give states the freedom to experiment with their unemployment insurance programs, with the intent of reforming the system and moving more unemployed workers toward employment in a quicker fashion.

Finances, Children and Education


dollar-941246_1920Additionally, the plan calls for further accountability through a social impact financing program. In this program, the government determines a desired social outcome, and an intermediary identifies a service provider, arranges for private investors to fund the services and monitors progress. If the agreed-upon outcome is achieved, the government reimburses the intermediary (who pays investors) for his or her expenses, plus a return based on the program’s success. If the outcome is not achieved, the government does not pay.

On the topic of early childhood and primary education, the agenda seeks to improve early childhood development programs by facilitating collaboration and coordination among existing programs, eliminating those programs deemed duplicative, and expand school choice and support of charter schools. It also calls for improvements to career and technical education.

The plan calls for changes to the higher education system  including enhancing the timing and content of financial aid counselling , modernizing the Pell Grant system, streamlining financial aid programs, repealing unnecessary data reporting requirements and allowing institutions to deliver higher education in more creative, cost-cutting ways.

Nutrition, Retirement and Credit

Nutrition for students and working families is also addressed. Recommendations for these programs include seeking out better ways to run school nutrition programs, increased flexibility to state and local entities and empowering states to streamline administration and simplify operations.

The plan includes building retirement security through the private retirement system. The policy recommendations for this include preventing a taxpayer bailout of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), rejecting the Department of Labor regulations on financial advisors, and eliminating bureaucratic restrictions that prevent small businesses from banding together to offer retirement plans.

Finally, on the issue of access to banking and credit services, the plan proposes streamlining or eliminating “unnecessarily burdensome” regulations that the Dodd Frank Act placed on community banks and credit unions. It also condemns efforts by Washington to regulate short-term credit products and services, specifically calling out the restrictions placed on small-dollar lenders.

The rest of the “Better Way” agenda focuses on the issues of national security, the economy, constitutional liberties, health care and tax reform. In the coming weeks, we will be highlighting some of those topics. The entire agenda can be found here.