1. Letters to the Editor

Saturday's letters: Here's a better plan for workers who need family leave

Published Aug. 24, 2018

Rubio outlines paid family leave plan that lets people take from Social Security | Aug. 2

Here's a better way to pay for leave

Sen. Marco Rubio has introduced a bill, the Economic Security for New Parents Act, to allow new parents to receive income for up to 12 weeks from their own Social Security. But if they do, they have to delay retirement to make up for drawing on the fund. While many might take this chance, they would regret it later when retired: a little more economic security now, poverty later.

We already have too many retired people in Florida who are not able to meet living expenses, particularly women. Recent research conducted for the American Association of University Women (AAUW) in St. Augustine and Jacksonville found that the median Social Security income for Florida men in 2016 was slightly over $16,200, while women had a median Social Security income of $11,587. This is a 28.6 percent difference in income. And women also tend to take caregiving leave more often throughout their lifetimes.

There is a better alternative: the Family and Medical Insurance Leave, which would provide for paid family and medical leave not just for new parents but for all workers without draining their Social Security. Modeled on successful state programs, the FAMILY Act would establish a sustainably funded, national paid leave insurance program to guarantee workers some pay when they need time to recover from their own serious illness or care for a new child or a sick family member. According to the Center for American Progress, 75 percent of workers take paid or unpaid leave to care for themselves or other family members.

By focusing just on new parents, the Rubio bill would exclude the bulk of workers who need paid leave. If our members of Congress are to truly help workers in our state, they must support comprehensive, inclusive paid leave and oppose a risky proposal that asks new parents to trade their retirement security later for parental leave today.

Patricia DeWitt, Jacksonville

The writer is director for public policy of the American Association of University Women of Florida.

Pier work ties up ferry spots | Aug. 22

The final mile matters

The disappearance of parking space for riders on the St. Petersburg/Tampa ferry highlights the Achilles' heel of Tampa Bay area transit planning: Whether ferry or light rail, how do people get to the system, and what are their options once they exit? To date, ground transportation systems in Hillsborough and Pinellas alike are not capable of getting passengers to and from their destinations on either end of a new line. Who is figuring that element out, because it seems to be a top secret plan.

Stephen Phillips, St. Petersburg

Dark days for
the presidency | Editorial, Aug. 23

Going down, down, down

My dad was an alcoholic. He stopped drinking cold turkey when I was 14. He saw a psychiatrist, who said something that made the situation register: "Friend, you are on an elevator that is going down. It is your choice when to get off." My dad never drank again. My question to Republicans is this: With President Donald Trump, we're on an elevator that is going down. When are you going to decide it is time to get off?

Stephen McNutt, St. Petersburg

Buyer to keep Habitat loans | Aug. 22

Firm acted prudently

Our law firm represents Southeast Properties Acquisitions since its acquisition of a portfolio of zero-interest, small-dollar and delinquent loans from the Hillsborough affiliate of Habitat for Humanity. Habitat is a tremendous charity that has helped low-income Americans become homeowners. Those homeowners spend hundreds of hours helping build their houses in return for a deed and a zero interest mortgage. Because Habitat is reluctant to foreclose on those who receive these homes, classified loans are sold in portfolios at times. SPA is a highly reputable private investment firm that has acquired portfolios of this kind in the past. There is absolutely nothing illegal, actionable or unethical for Habitat to sell a loan portfolio, or for SPA to purchase a loan portfolio in an arms-length transaction.

Unfortunately, the press has provided a platform for misleading information. Habitat's Hillsborough affiliate also says it violated its policy by selling mortgages to SPA, even though it has done nothing wrong. Presumably, Habitat has "apologized" in hopes of stemming misleading press.

A creditor holding a valid debt can approach the problem loan scenario in a number of ways. SPA and its consumer law firm assigned to this portfolio have acted prudently in all respects. One-third of the loans in question have been cured in terms of payment default since assignment. While it is easy for self-styled community activists to blame Habitat or SPA for the fact that valid loans have not been repaid, the solution is more difficult. SPA and Habitat should be congratulated for finding a way to get Habitat some return on a classified portfolio without immediately turning to foreclosure as an option. Anyone who says otherwise is either uninformed or has other motives.

John A. Anthony, Tampa

The writer is an attorney who represents Southeast Property Acquisitions.

Catholic response has
a new candor | Editorial, Aug. 21

A sinning priest helped me

Though it may be lost as the proverbial needle in a haystack of anger and discouragement, I wish to give humble testimony in support of the embattled Roman Catholic Church. Without the vision of three priests that I did not find in any teacher, friend, counselor or even my parents, I might have committed suicide, and I might not have gotten rid of the demons of resentment that I carried from infancy. One of these priests was Robert Schaeufele, who went to prison for years for sex crimes with children. Inspired by legitimate outrage, the people who threaten to cut their support to the church may succeed in withering the sacrament through which God has consoled us for 2,000 years.

Lodovico Balducci, Tampa


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