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Representative Tim Walberg (R-MI), chairman of the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, today introduced the Protecting Health Care Providers from Increased Administrative Burdens Act (H.R. 3633). The legislation would prevent the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) from exerting jurisdiction over health care providers through executive fiat. OFCCP Director Patricia Shiu will testify tomorrow about the agency’s recent regulatory actions, as well as its ongoing effort to unilaterally expand its jurisdiction over health care providers.
“Hospitals and doctors are already under immense pressure as a result of the president’s flawed health care law,” said Rep. Walberg. “Now they have to fear a government agency trying to meddle where it does not belong. If OFCCP expands its jurisdiction through executive fiat, hospitals will face an administrative nightmare. Administrative burdens carry costs and those costs are almost always passed along to consumers. I don’t think anyone can argue that the American people can afford higher health care costs. I urge my colleagues to oppose the administration’s overreach by supporting the Protecting Health Care Providers from Increased Administrative Burdens Ac.”
BACKGROUND: The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) enforces affirmative action and nondiscrimination employment policies affecting federal contractors. OFCCP has attempted on numerous occasions to expand its jurisdiction to include health care providers based on contractual relationships with a federal health care program. For example, in December 2010 OFCCP issued a directive that health providers reimbursed through Medicare Parts C and D may fall under its jurisdiction. While the directive was later withdrawn, OFCCP has made similar jurisdictional claims on a case-by-case basis. The agency has also exerted jurisdiction in matters regarding TRICARE (health care for service members and veterans) and the Federal Employees’ Health Benefit Program.
Health care providers, who are already subject to federal anti-discrimination law, have expressed concerns that OFCCP’s efforts to expand its jurisdiction will create significant and unnecessary paperwork, potentially raising administrative costs for providers and affecting access to care. Echoing these concerns, the Department of Defense stated in 2010, “It would be impossible to achieve the TRICARE mission of providing affordable health care for our nation’s active duty and retired military members and their families if onerous federal contracting rules were applied to more than 500,000 TRICARE providers in the United States.”
To read full text of H.R. 3633, click here.
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This hearing is the eleventh in a series designed to gain a more complete understanding of the challenges facing postsecondary students and institutions. The hearings help to inform the committee of policy changes that should be considered as part of the upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.
Over the last year these hearings have provided a forum to discuss opportunities to encourage innovation, increase transparency, enhance data collection, and improve college access and affordability. We have been fortunate to hear from a number of expert witnesses whose testimony and insight will prove invaluable as we begin crafting legislation next year to strengthen America’s higher education system through HEA reauthorization.
With roughly 71 percent of undergraduates receiving some form of federal financial aid, simplifying the complex system of grants, loans, and institutional support programs remains a central goal in our reauthorization efforts. Just last month the committee discussed proposals to help streamline student aid programs. Today we will build on that conversation by examining the Pell Grant program, which many consider to be the cornerstone of federal student aid.
When the Pell Grant program began in the early 1970s, its central focus was providing financial assistance to help low-income students access higher education. In its first year, the program provided aid to 176,000 students. Since then, Pell has grown dramatically; today more than 9 million students are Pell Grant recipients.
The sharp rise in Pell participation in more recent years has been attributed to several factors. One is the economic recession, which spurred many individuals to go back to school to learn skills needed to compete for today’s jobs. Also, Washington policymakers passed legislative changes to Pell to increase the program’s maximum grant award and weaken student eligibility requirements – allowing more students to receive larger Pell Grant awards.
Since the program guarantees aid to any student who meets the eligibility criteria, enrollment spikes threaten the Pell program’s long-term fiscal viability. Pell is one of the federal government’s largest education expenditures, costing taxpayers about $30 billion a year. As with every federal program, especially one with such a hefty price tag, Washington leaders have a responsibility to ensure the Pell Grant program is effective.
There is concern among members of the higher education community and many of my colleagues in Congress that Pell has strayed too far from its original intent. With such a large recipient pool, some worry the program could eventually become insoluble, leading to a lack of funds for our neediest students. Budget experts have projected multi-million dollar funding gaps, raising additional questions about whether the program’s current structure is fiscally responsible.
Recognizing the Pell Grant program is on an unsustainable path, leaders in higher education, business, and public policy have begun circulating proposals for reform. One proposed first step to strengthen the program is to simplify the Pell Grant application process. It has been suggested that instead of forcing families to complete overwhelming amounts of paperwork, a more streamlined process would better inform students of their options and generate a more accurate reflection of their financial needs.
Additional proposals suggest tightening eligibility requirements, increasing grant flexibility, and implementing accountability measures to ensure the program is not only helping the neediest students enroll in college, but is also rewarding and encouraging those who make progress toward completion. When hardworking taxpayer money is being spent, taxpayers deserve accountability which means that it is critical that we have the information necessary to know what is and is not working in the Pell program.
The Pell Grant program has become the epicenter of our nation’s financial aid system and we all want to make sure it meets its target of supporting low-income students who wish to earn a college degree. However, we must also be honest about the challenges facing the program and work together in good faith to enact smart policy changes that will help get the program back on stable ground.
We have a great panel of witnesses with us today, and I look forward to hearing their thoughts on ways we can strengthen the Pell Grant program through our upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.
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Ms. Patricia A. Shiu
Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs
Department of Labor
Mr. David Fortney
Fortney & Scott, LLC
Testifying on behalf of H.R. Policy Association
Mr. Thomas C. Shanahan
Vice President and General Counsel
The University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, NC
Mr. Brian Fitzgerald
Chief Executive Officer
Easter Seals New Jersey
East Brunswick, NJ
Mr. Curt Kirschner
San Francisco, CA
Testifying on behalf of the American Hospital Association
On Tuesday, December 3rd at 10:00 a.m., the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, chaired by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), will hold a hearing entitled, “Keeping College Within Reach: Strengthening Pell Grants for Future Generations.” The hearing will take place in room 2175 of the Rayburn House Office Building.
The federal Pell Grant program provides financial aid to low-income students pursuing a postsecondary degree. The program has become a cornerstone of the nation’s financial aid system, with roughly 36 percent of all undergraduates receiving Pell Grants. In recent years Congress has passed a number of bills, including the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, to raise the maximum Pell Grant award and expand student eligibility. These changes, coupled with the recent economic downturn, have resulted in major enrollment spikes for the program and led to several years of funding gaps and budget shortfalls.
As the committee continues preparing for the upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, Tuesday’s hearing will provide members an opportunity to examine proposals to improve the Pell Grant program so that it can continue to help the nation’s neediest students realize the dream of a college degree. To learn more about this hearing, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.
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Mr. Justin Draeger
President and CEO
National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators
Dr. Jenna Ashley Robinson
Director of Outreach
John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy
Raleigh, North Carolina
Mr. Michael Dannenberg
Director of Higher Education and Education Finance Policy
The Education Trust
Mr. Richard C. Heath
Director, Student Financial Services
Anne Arundel Community College
Today President Obama signed into law the Streamlining Claims Processing for Federal Contractor Employees Act (H.R. 2747). Introduced by Subcommittee on Workforce Protections Chairman Tim Walberg (R-MI) and Ranking Member Joe Courtney (D-CT), the bill moves responsibility for wage claims adjustments for federally-contracted workers from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to the Department of Labor.
“I want to thank the president for his support of this commonsense, bipartisan proposal,” said Chairman Walberg. “By working together we’ve provided greater efficiency within the federal government. Just as important, we’ve helped ensure workers employed by federal contractors receive the pay they’ve earned in a more timely manner. I hope we can build on this success and discuss additional reforms that will serve the best interests of the nation’s workers and taxpayers.”
“I am pleased to see that President Obama has signed this commonsense bill that improves efficiency and streamlines the claims process for workers,” Rep. Courtney said. “Once enacted, this law will enable federal workers to get the pay that is owed to them in a timely fashion. I want to thank Chairman Walberg for his efforts on this issue, and I look forward to finding additional common ground to enhance protections for America’s workers.”
Under the Davis-Bacon Act, federally contracted workers must be paid the “local prevailing wage” on government projects. The Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act (CWHSSA) requires federal contractors to pay workers one and one half times their basic rate of pay for hours worked in excess of 40 hours. While the Department of Labor enforces these laws, GAO has long been responsible for processing claims of workers who did not receive the appropriate wage. Since it no longer provides this service in other areas of the federal government, GAO has requested this authority be moved to the appropriate enforcement agency.
The Streamlining Claims Processing for Federal Contractor Employees Act transfers this responsibility to the Department of Labor, which oversees other aspects of the Davis-Bacon Act and the CWHSSA.
To read full text of H.R. 2747, click here.
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By Bob Kerrey and Jeffrey T. Leeds
Virtually all middle-class jobs now require postsecondary skills and credentials. Yet as many middle- and lower-income families and students adjust to the reality that college has become a necessity rather than a luxury, the luxury price tag that college commands is less and less affordable. Many students need to take on large amounts of debt, and these loans often are a real burden, particularly in a troubled economy with too few well-paying jobs.
In his desire to make college more affordable, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan this month proposed 73 pages of so-called Gainful Employment rules that no doubt will sound good when applause lines are written. The regulations basically propose to cut off federal student aid to certain colleges whose former students don't enjoy "gainful employment," as determined by the department and measured by factors such as their loan-repayment rate. In fact, the regulations are a terrible idea.
This is the department's second attempt in this area. In 2011, it promulgated a first set of gainful employment regulations, which were struck down in 2012 as arbitrary and capricious by a federal judge in Washington, D.C.
The secretary's latest proposal is more onerous, and in our view, even more arbitrary and capricious. Moreover, rather like the promises made with ObamaCare, the bad design and unintended consequences of the new proposed regs will overwhelm the stated policy objectives. And as with ObamaCare, the federal government is insisting it knows better, will do better, and gets to make not only the rules, but the decisions previously made by individuals with their families. The gainful employment rules will, in fact, make it harder rather than easier for low-income families to send their kids to college.
The rules are poorly designed. To give just one example, the proposed regulation will cap graduates' annual debt payments to 8% of their third- and fourth-year postgraduation earnings. If they are any greater, the school program from which the student graduated will lose its ability to accept federal aid—even if each and every graduate pays back his or her loans fully, and on time. As one liberal Democratic senator who almost always supports the administration recently told us, it's just absurd to penalize college programs with successful debt-repayment histories.
Another problem: Institutions are likely to admit fewer poor students who have to finance their education. The more a student borrows, the less well the program is assessed by the feds. Under the rule, a program scores well under the proposed Education Department regulations if it admits wealthy students who can pay their own way. The exact same program may fail simply by admitting students who need to borrow. Other factors that reflect a school's success in helping its students—graduation rates, job-placement rates, debt-repayment rates—don't count.
Moreover, and equally strangely, the rules only look at the income of the graduate, even though family income determines a student's eligibility for financial assistance under the department's existing lending rules. Family members often help make the decision to take on debt and often help pay off the loans. It takes a family to put a kid through school—as everyone other than the Education Department seems to know.
The rules also will work against those who need aid in order to pursue important jobs that aren't that lucrative. Think of aspiring teachers, nurses, ministers, social workers and skilled laborers, for example. If they're unlikely to earn enough money relative to their debt, they may struggle to find a program willing to accept them.Read More...
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America’s families are hurting. More than 11 million workers are searching for a job. Wages are stagnant. Pain is felt every day at the gas pump. Health care costs are rising. And now millions are losing the health care plan they like thanks to the president’s government-run health care scheme.
We should be working together to revive our struggling economy. We should be working across the aisle on solutions that will lift the middle class and spur job growth. We should set aside our differences and advance bold reforms that will raise the wages of all working Americans and create opportunity for all who seek it.
I wish we were here today to discuss a proposal by the president that would help us achieve these goals. Unfortunately, no such proposal exists. Instead, we are here to examine something that is all too common under this administration: A new regulation that will create more hardship for some of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens. Congress has a responsibility to conduct oversight of the rules put forth by the administration, especially those that do more harm than good. Today’s hearing is part of that effort.
For nearly 40 years Congress has recognized the invaluable service delivered by in-home companion care workers. In 1974 the Fair Labor Standards Act was extended to workers providing domestic services, but Congress deliberately exempted in-home companion care workers. This wasn’t because lawmakers valued these workers less than other domestic workers. Quite the opposite: policymakers realized many Americans rely upon the support of companion care workers in order to maintain a safe, healthy, and productive lifestyle in their own homes.
The need for in-home companionship care is tremendous, especially among elderly and disabled individuals. Roughly 57 percent of people receiving these services are age 65 or older and approximately 73 percent have functional limitations. The intent of Congress was to protect a vulnerable group of Americans, yet that protection is being discarded by the Obama administration.
A regulation finalized by the Department of Labor eliminates the exemption for companion care workers employed by a third-party, as well as the exemption for workers jointly employed by a third-party and the individual receiving care. Only caregivers hired directly by the person in need or a family member are eligible to receive the exemption. While that may sound like a simple rule, it is not. Under these circumstances, caregivers still have to follow a rigid set of arbitrary standards in order to receive the exemption Congress created.
For example, the caregiver can only spend 20 percent of a workweek performing personal care duties, which the department says includes dressing, grooming, feeding, and light housework. The delivery of care can only be offered in conjunction with fellowship and protection, which the rule defines – again arbitrarily – to include conversation, reading, games, errands, and walks, as well as monitoring safety and well being. The department even goes so far as to define what is acceptable and unacceptable household work.
This is a highly prescriptive, intrusive standard imposed on vulnerable Americans. How are they supposed to track and maintain records on the services their caregivers provide? Will they be subject to audit and punishment by federal authorities if they fail to follow every dictate prescribed in the regulation? Why does the administration believe it has the authority to micromanage the care an individual receives in the comfort of his or her own home?
Last year I urged the administration to offer a clear and compelling reason why this regulation was necessary, especially at a time when so many Americans are struggling to get by. To date they have failed to do so. Platitudes about babysitters and other political rhetoric don’t justify this significant departure from long-standing companion care policies. The consequences will be far reaching.
Those who directly employ caregivers will simply terminate those relationships; the costs and uncertainty of complying with the new mandates will be too great. Others will have less access to affordable in-home companion care. The daily routine and personalized care seniors and individuals with disabilities rely upon will be disrupted. Some will have no choice but to leave their homes and enter institutional living. And let us not forget that workers will also be hurt as their employers restrict hours to help manage costs.
Companion caregivers often work long hours and under difficult circumstances. The services they provide are critical. They deserve our support. They – like all Americans – deserve responsible solutions that will help grow our economy and promote the income security of their families. Regrettably, the administration’s effort to redefine companion care moves our country in the opposite direction. In fact, I’m afraid it will make the challenges facing these workers and vulnerable Americans worse. They deserve better. They deserve our support.
The House Education and the Workforce Committee, chaired by Rep. John Kline (R-MN), today held a hearing to discuss proposals to strengthen career and technical education (CTE) through a reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. The Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education held a related hearing in September to discuss challenges facing CTE programs.
In his opening remarks, Chairman Kline highlighted the importance of reauthorizing the Perkins Act to encourage enhanced coordination between schools, states, and businesses. He also acknowledged opportunities to incorporate ideas from the Obama administration's blueprint for reforming CTE in the committee's reauthorization efforts.
“However,” Chairman Kline stated, “I am discouraged by this morning’s news that President Obama plans to announce a new national competitive grant program aimed at career education – without any input from Congress. Another program will only further muddle the system at a time when we need to make smart, structural reforms to improve CTE programs under the Perkins Act.”
During the hearing, IBM International Foundation President and Vice President of IBM’s Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs Stanley Litow echoed Chairman Kline’s call for a revamped CTE system that emphasizes enhanced coordination with the business community.
“Business involvement, which is critical to connecting education and economic need, is spotty at best,” Mr. Litow said. “With very little business involvement, few CTE programs are aligned to real jobs and needed skills…Employers, educators, and government and community leaders must collaborate, with each contributing its specific expertise to solve complex employment needs and prepare the new generation of workers.”
Dr. Blake Flanders, Vice President of Workforce Development for the Kansas Board of Regents, stressed the importance of providing CTE students more opportunities to earn relevant credentials and certificates that accelerate their transition into the workforce.
“Strong connections to business and industry are the key to successful career technical education programs that produce positive outcomes for students and assist business in staying competitive,” Dr. Flanders said. “All career and technical education programs, where possible, must include industry credentials. Industry credentials provide a clear and direct connection between education and work and ensure graduates have the skills employers require in the new economy.”
Gateway Technical College President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Bryan Albrecht described how postsecondary institutions can work with secondary schools and CTE programs to ensure students earn valuable credentials that will help them advance both academically and in the workforce.
Dr. Albrecht said, “Gateway Technical College in partnership with the Kenosha Unified School District co-operates a high school and adult learning center called LakeView Technology Academy. Students beginning in grade 9 are exposed to college faculty and curriculum throughout their high school experience. Beginning their junior year, high school students enroll in Gateway courses in engineering, manufacturing and information technology, all offered in the LakeView Academy. When they graduate, students will have earned between 18 [and] 40 college credits, building a pathway to college and career success.”
Chairman Kline concluded, “We have made great progress this year in advancing proposals to modernize and reform both the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Workforce Investment Act. It’s time to build on that progress and further integrate our schools and workplaces with a reauthorization of the Perkins Act. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in hopes we can craft smart, bipartisan proposals to strengthen career and technical education in America.”
To learn more about today’s hearing, or to watch an archived webcast, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.
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House Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Chairman Todd Rokita (R-IN) issued the following statement after the Department of Justice dropped its injunction against a private school choice program in Louisiana:
We are pleased the Department of Justice has started to reverse course on its misguided lawsuit against Louisiana’s successful school choice program. At a time when we need to promote choice and opportunity in education, any effort by the Obama administration to prevent low-income and minority students from participating in these programs is extremely troubling. The House Education and the Workforce Committee will continue to monitor this case closely.
In September House Republican leaders sent a letter to the Department of Justice requesting detailed information about the department’s lawsuit, including an explanation of how its attempt to revoke scholarships and eliminate education choices will help low-income and minority children access better education opportunities. Additionally, the leaders asked for all written correspondence between the department and the administration – as well as correspondence between the department and outside interest groups – regarding the Louisiana Program. Portions of the administration’s response are still pending.To read the letter, click here.
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A few weeks ago the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education convened a hearing to examine the benefits of career and technical education, or CTE. In addition to highlighting innovative CTE programs that are helping students compete for in-demand jobs, the hearing allowed us to identify a number of challenges facing career and technical education.
For example, redundant reporting requirements and poorly aligned performance metrics can stymie the development of innovative new CTE courses. These are often the very same mandates that create hurdles for higher education institutions and K-12 schools, which we have discussed at length as part of our efforts to improve the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Higher Education Act.
Additionally, the hearing underscored the importance of ensuring students have access to hands-on training that is relevant to the area workforce. Testifying on behalf of the Louisiana Pelican Chapter of the Association of Builders and Contractors, Alvin Bargas told a compelling story about the severe lack of skilled construction workers in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Through coordination with business and education leaders, the state has since developed targeted CTE programs that are helping to rebuild the local construction industry – and the Gulf Coast.
Finally, witnesses stressed the importance of better aligning secondary and postsecondary career and technical education. To get the most out of CTE courses, students should have opportunities to earn relevant credentials and certificates at an accelerated rate through dual and concurrent enrollments. Students should also be encouraged to learn new technologies and innovative practices that will increase their value in the 21st century workplace.
As Dr. Sheila M. Harrity, principal of Worcester Technical High School in Massachusetts, noted at the hearing, “Successful technical schools require strong links to the community, business and industry, and academic institutions.” Dr. Harrity described her school as “part of the economic engine, coordinating the needs and desires of industry for a highly-trained, adaptable workforce with the needs and desires of our students to secure good paying, rewarding jobs in the fields of their choice.”
That focus on coordination is exactly what we should strive to encourage through the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. We have made great progress this year in advancing proposals to modernize and reform both the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Workforce Investment Act. It’s time to build on that progress and further integrate our schools and workplaces with a reauthorization of the Perkins Act.
We are fortunate to have with us today an impressive panel of witnesses who can share their views on the policy changes that could strengthen career and technical education, including the president of the IBM International Foundation.
As you may know, IBM serves as a lead industry partner for the Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools, known as P-TECH. Located in Chicago and New York, PTECH schools offer an integrated high school and college curriculum that focuses on the STEM subjects, science, technology, engineering, and math. Students who graduate from P-TECH earn both their high school diploma and an associate degree in applied science, and receive priority consideration for entry-level positions with IBM.
The P-TECH model has been heralded by policy and education leaders. In fact, President Obama recently visited a P-TECH school in Brooklyn to discuss the administration’s blueprint for reform of the Perkins Act. Their proposal offers a solid starting point for bipartisan negotiations, with an emphasis on industry coordination and state involvement in the development of CTE programs.
While we may not agree on every aspect of the blueprint, there are key areas that are ripe for agreement. However, I am discouraged by this morning’s news that President Obama plans to announce a new national competitive grant program aimed at career education – without any input from Congress. Another program will only further muddle the system at a time when we need to make smart, structural reforms to improve CTE programs under the Perkins Act.
I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in hopes we can craft smart, bipartisan proposals to strengthen career and technical education in America. I would now like to recognize the senior Democrat member of the committee, Mr. Miller, for his opening remarks.
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On Wednesday, November 20th at 10:00 a.m., the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, chaired by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), will hold a hearing entitled "Redefining Companion Care: Jeopardizing Access to Affordable Care for Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities.” The hearing will take place in room 2175 of the Rayburn House Office Building.
In 1974 Congress amended the Fair Labor Standards Act to cover workers who perform domestic services. Recognizing the need for seniors and individuals with disabilities to have access to affordable care in their homes, Congress created an exemption for workers providing in-home companion care. However, a regulatory proposal finalized by the Department of Labor would severely restrict a worker’s ability to qualify for this exemption, with potentially negative consequences for individuals who rely upon these services.
Under the department’s new rules, only workers employed directly by an individual (or family member) receiving companion care that comply with a number of arbitrary standards will qualify for the exemption. The regulation also eliminates the exemption for companion care workers employed by a third-party.
Tomorrow's hearing will provide members an opportunity to discuss how the department’s regulation affects those who rely upon in-home companion care. To learn more about this hearing, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.
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Mr. Joseph Bensmihen
President and Chief Executive Officer
United Elder Care Services, Inc.
Boca Raton, FL
Ms. Karen Kulp
Home Care Associates
Mr. Alexander J. Passantino
Seyfarth Shaw LLP
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