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Tarpon Springs Widow of Tuskegee Airman Honored
Monday, 27 July 2009

Over the weekend, Gus who serves on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, presented Mildred Wilson, widow of Staff Sergeant Elmer Wilson, with a bronze Tuskegee Airmen Congressional Gold Medal in honor of her husband's courageous service during World War II.

Photo Courtesy: Klint Lowry/The Suncoast News

The St. Petersburg Times has more:

St. Petersburg Times

For Mildred Wilson, it was just another opportunity to speak about her late husband's contributions during World War II.

So as the guest speaker at a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. birthday celebration in Pasco County in January, she talked of Staff Sgt. Elmer H. Wilson's efforts as a member of the 332nd Fighter Group of the U.S. Army Air Forces.

After her January speech, she was contacted by someone who had read about it in the newspaper. She was told that her husband, who died in 1995, was eligible for a Congressional Gold Medal.

"I didn't call," said Wilson, 89. "But a few days later, I got a call from Congressman (Gus) Bilirakis' office asking me if I wanted to be presented the medal on my husband's behalf."

The Wilsons were married six months before Pop Wilson was drafted in 1941. Mildred went on to earn a master's degree in education and taught home economics in the Philadelphia school district for 19 years. The two had four children and retired to Tarpon Springs in 1988.


The Suncoast News was in attendance to cover the presentation:

"He was so proud that they exceeded the expectations of everybody," Mildred said. And yet he always downplayed his military service. When it came time to board a ship and head back home, he literally left it all behind, leaving his duffel bag sitting on the dock. My husband never talked about it," Mildred said. "He just went there and did what he had to do."

"Less than 150 of these congressional medals have been awarded in our country's history," Bilirakis said. "The airmen certainly deserve it for what they went through. What great patriots, despite the fact that they were segregated at that time."

Bilirakis called Elmer, "a quiet hero," and said it was an honor that he resided in Tarpon Springs. Mayor Beverly Billiris delivered an official proclamation making July 25, 2009, "Elmer H. Wilson Day" in Tarpon Springs.

 Veterans Military
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Bilirakis Sends Health Care Reform Warning
Monday, 20 July 2009
Tampa Bay Business Journal

Tampa Bay Business Journal | Bilirakis Sends Health Care Reform Warning
Bilirakis: Health care reform could increase unemployment

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, is using the most recent high unemployment rates in Florida to blast a proposed health care plan that has the support of Democrats in Congress.

“At a time when Floridians are facing double-digit unemployment for the first time in decades, Congress should not be pushing through a government takeover of health care that will be paid for by a tax hike on small businesses,” Bilirakis, who has been in Congress since 2007, said in a statement. “Simply put, the proposed plan places a stifling new tax of up to 5.4 percent on small businesses. In a recession nearing double-digit unemployment nationally, this misguided health care experiment will discourage job growth and creation, leading to even higher unemployment.”

The health care plan, which would insure nearly 95 percent of the nation, could cost more than $1 trillion over 10 years, according to published reports. Supporters of the measure have suggested cutting other items off the budget as well as a $540 billion increase in taxes to the top 2 percent of wage earners — those making at least $280,000 a year individually or $350,000 for families — to fund it.

“While I agree that we need to take action to make health care more affordable for all Americans, I don’t believe that we should replace our current system entirely and put the government in control of the nation’s health care,” Bilirakis said. “Instead, we should embark on responsible reform that addresses the shortcomings of the current system while bringing health care costs under control.”

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Gus talks Health Care
Thursday, 09 July 2009

On Thursday Gus was a guest on WTBN 's Drive Time with Bill Bunkley. He joined a panel discussion on Health Care reform with Dr. Jim Rowsey, Legislative Aid for Medical Legislation for U.S. Senator Tom Corbin.

 Health Care
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Gus honored for his work on behalf of seniors
Thursday, 02 July 2009

On Thursday, Gus received a plaque from the National Silver Haired Congress and the Florida Silver Haired Legislature for his work on the Silver Alert legislation.

Norm Bungard, a Silver Senator from St. Petersburg, presented the award and had this to say of Gus's efforts:

“It is a question of leadership. We appreciate the Congressman stepping forward and providing the leadership for national legislation on behalf of seniors. It provides a level of comfort not only to seniors, but to their families, friends, and neighbors. The Congressman is promoting awareness for elder issues through his work and we are so very grateful.” 
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Foreclosure Assistance Workshop Recap
Monday, 22 June 2009

On Saturday morning over 500 people attended Gus's Foreclosure Assistance Workshop in Palm Harbor. Gus brought together leaders in home finance to aid families and individuals in navigating these uncertain times. The event provided an opportunity for families to meet with their lenders one on one to discuss their options.

The workshop also featured presentations which included guidance on how to work with lenders and housing counselors as well as refinancing and loan modification options and information about HUD's loss mitigation program for FHA mortgages.

 housing mortgage foreclosure
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Gus meets with Art Competition Winner
Monday, 22 June 2009

This morning, Gus met with last year's Congressional Art Competition winner, Lindsey Rapp, of Safety Harbor. Her painting, “Borders” has spent the past year hanging in the walk way to the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

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Veterans outpatient clinic growing
Wednesday, 10 June 2009

The Tampa Tribune | Veterans outpatient clinic growing
Published: June 10, 2009

NEW PORT RICHEY Veterans in West Pasco proudly served their country. Now it's their turn to get better medical care through the Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic here, officials say.

With more than 54,000 veterans calling the county home, the clinic has added three satellite offices for specialty care in mental health, home-based primary care visits and dental disabilities.

The clinic at 9912 Little Road will get an addition of about 4,000 square feet to its main building, now about 40,000 square feet. Parking lot expansion will add up to 60 more spaces to the overcrowded main lot.

Several thousand veterans get help each year, according to William Miller, chief medical officer for the outpatient clinic. The facility registers some 14,000 trips by patients.

Funding for the improvements was arranged through U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, Miller emphasized.

"The congressman has been very instrumental," Miller remarked about the aid from Bilirakis. He and his staff are "very concerned about helping us … to maximize" the services at the clinic.

"The VA recognized there needs to be more health care," Miller commented about the addition of the satellite offices.
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Gus meets with Veterans Administration Secretary Eric Shinseki
Thursday, 04 June 2009

This morning Gus visited with Veterans Administration Secretary Eric Shinseki , during a special meeting of the Military Veterans Caucus. Gus who is a co-chair of the caucus, along with Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Ca.), invited Secretary Shinseki to speak about his plans for the Veterans Administration and then engage in Q & A with Members.

 Veterans Troops Veterans Benefits
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Gus holds a Q & A w/ Seniors in Palm Harbor
Wednesday, 27 May 2009

On Wednesday morning Gus visited the monthly Men's forum at Stratford Court of Palm Harbor, a Sunrise Senior Living Retirement Community.

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Hurricane Season Begins June 1
Thursday, 21 May 2009

Today, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued the 2009 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook. National Weather Service forecasters expect a "near-normal'' hurricane season this year, with a 70 percent chance of nine to 14 named storms:

So don't let your guard down, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said.

“Today, more than 35 million Americans live in regions most threatened by Atlantic hurricanes,” Locke said. “Timely and accurate warnings of severe weather help save lives and property. Public awareness and public preparedness are the best defenses against a hurricane.”

The Climate Prediction Center released its forecast today. It calls for a 50 percent probability of a near-normal season, a 25 percent probability of an above-normal season and a 25 percent probability of a below-normal season.

Competing climate factors worldwide makes this year's forecast more uncertain than usual, forecasters said.

They include enhanced rainfall over West Africa, warmer Atlantic waters and reduced wind shear. But if an El Niño develops in the Eastern Pacific this summer or if ocean temperatures in the eastern tropical Atlantic remain cooler than normal, things could change, the season could become less active.

On Saturday May 30, Tampa Fire Rescue along with Hillsborough County Emergency Management will host the Tampa Bay Hurricane Expo at MOSI… 

 Hurricane Season FEMA Hurricane
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Widow of Tuskegee Airman to be Honored Saturday
Friday, 24 July 2009

PALM HARBOR, Fla. (24 July)  – On Saturday July 25 U.S. Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis (R-Fla.), member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, will salute the courage of the Tuskegee Airmen by presenting Mildred Wilson, widow of Staff Sergeant Elmer Wilson, with a bronze Tuskegee Airmen Congressional Gold Medal for her husband's valiant service during World War II. The presentation will take place at 1:00 p.m. at the Church on the Bayou Presbyterian Church, 409 Whitcomb Blvd., Tarpon Springs, Fla.

The Tuskegee Airmen were a dedicated group of African Americans who enlisted to become America's first black military airmen during World War II as part of the 332nd Fighter Group of the U.S. Army Air Corps. While the group was praised for their work flying combat aircraft against the Nazis, they faced discrimination at home.

“The perseverance and courage exhibited by Staff Sergeant Wilson played an important role in the liberation of millions of people,” said Bilirakis. “I am honored to have the opportunity to help recognize his intrepid service as well as the support and resolve of his wife Mildred, who served as a constant pillar of strength back home.”
In 1942 Elmer H. Wilson, a Philadelphia native, was inducted into the U.S. Army Air Corps.  His high test scores and previous mechanical experience led to his selection to the Tuskegee Army Air Field's 99th Pursuit Squadron in Tuskegee, Alabama, where he trained in armament and camera technology.  Staff Sergeant Wilson, known to his friends as "Pop Wilson", earned two Bronze Stars and a Good Conduct Medal during his service.

His wife Mildred Wilson is the seventh of 10 children and married Elmer during the summer of 1941. Six months later, Elmer was drafted into the U.S. Army Air Corps. Mildred eventually earned a master's degree in education and taught high school for 19 years while raising four children before retiring. The couple moved to Tarpon Springs in 1988, where Elmer died eight years later. Mildred is still giving piano lessons at the age of 89.

Mildred said her husband never said much about the time he spent as a camera technician in the U.S. Army Air Corps. "They got called all kinds of names," Mildred Wilson said of the Tuskegee Airmen. "But it didn't bother (Elmer).”

This event is open to the media. All media inquiries should be directed to David Peluso at (202) 225-5755. For event information or directions, please contact Congressman Bilirakis’s Palm Harbor office at (727) 773-2871.

 Military Veterans
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House Health Care Bill Will Increase Florida’s Soaring Unemployment
Friday, 17 July 2009

WASHINGTON (17 July)  – U.S. Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis (R-Fla.), representing Florida’s 9th Congressional District, today issued the following statement regarding Florida’s unemployment rate as it continued its upward trend, with the seasonally adjusted rate for June hitting 10.6 percent:

“At a time when Floridians are facing double digit unemployment for the first time in decades, Congress should not be pushing through a government takeover of health care that will be paid for by a tax hike on small businesses. Simply put, the proposed plan places a stifling new tax of up to 5.4 percent on small businesses.  In a recession nearing double-digit unemployment nationally, this misguided health care experiment will discourage job growth and creation, leading to even higher unemployment.

“While I agree that we need to take action to make health care more affordable for all Americans, I don’t believe that we should replace our current system entirely and put the government in control of the nation’s health care. Instead, we should embark on responsible reform that addresses the shortcomings of the current system while bringing health care costs under control. Specifically, we can start reducing costs through encouraging preventative care to treat conditions before they become more serious and costly, and passing meaningful medical liability reform to keep prices down while eliminating waste and fraud in the federal health care system. In addition, we can strengthen associated health care plans to allow more groups to pool risk so they can join together and provide affordable heath coverage while increasing transparency in pricing so people can more accurately comparison shop.”  

“Reform should be about establishing a framework to improve people's purchasing power and access to quality care, not more government bureaucracy.”

 Health Care Small Business Economy Taxes
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Bilirakis: Don’t Raise Taxes & Cut Medicare to Pay for Government Run Health Care
Tuesday, 14 July 2009

WASHINGTON (14 July) – U.S. Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis (R-Fla.), representing Florida’s 9th Congressional District, today issued the following statement after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and other Democratic leaders held a news conference to discuss the introduction of their health care legislation, which raises taxes on small businesses and cuts Medicare to pay for government run health care:

“I agree that we need to take action to make health insurance more affordable for all Americans. But I completely disagree with the notion that we should raise taxes and cut health care for seniors to put the government firmly in control of the U.S. health system. We must make certain that while we address the current shortcomings we don’t erode the quality and individual freedom of our nation’s health care system. Instead, we must build upon the high quality care we currently have while expanding access to those who cannot afford health insurance.

“Unfortunately the proposal presented today will do nothing more than drive people into a one-size-fits-all government run system that will shift health care decisions to federal bureaucrats and drive innovation from the marketplace ultimately limiting choices for families. Additionally, proposed Medicare funding cuts will jeopardize the care on which many of the seniors in my district rely.”

 Health Care
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Rep. Bilirakis Questions FEMA’s Fugate on Tampa Bay’s Hurricane Preparedness
Wednesday, 08 July 2009

WASHINGTON (8 July) – During a House Homeland Security Committee hearing Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) questioned FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate on how prepared Florida, and specifically, the Tampa Bay area is for a major hurricane.

Recently a report published by the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council titled "Economic Analysis of a Hurricane Event in Hillsborough County, Florida" suggested that a category 3 storm, which is considered major, could result in nearly $20 billion in estimated property damage in the first year after the storm. In addition, the report projected 150,000 job losses and a $9 billion dollar decrease in gross regional product.

During Wednesday's hearing, Bilirakis asked about the most effective actions families and individuals can take to help federal and state emergency management officials in their efforts to minimize life and property loss that could result from a major hurricane.

“One of my greatest concerns during hurricane season is that a major storm will hit the Tampa Bay area, resulting in loss of life and wide-scale property damage that could cripple our state’s economy,” said Bilirakis. “What are the most effective actions my constituents can take to help federal and state emergency management officials in their efforts to minimize life and property loss that could result from a major hurricane?”

Fugate emphasized that the general public must play an active part in the effort to prepare and respond to a hurricane by having a plan in place, being familiar with first aid, and finally checking on neighbors to determine if they need assistance. He also stressed the importance of heeding calls by local officials to evacuate promptly in the event of a major storm, noting that Tampa Bay area residents would face significant traffic congestion in an evacuation scenario.

“Since this hurricane season has already begun, it is imperative that we all do our best to prepare for what is expected to be a ‘near-normal’ storm year,” Bilirakis added after the hearing. “Disaster readiness should not solely lie on the shoulders of the government. Individuals must properly prepare themselves for the worst case scenario.”

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Rep. Bilirakis Opposes National Energy Tax
Friday, 26 June 2009

WASHINGTON (26 June) – U.S. Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis (R-Fla.), representing Florida’s 9th Congressional District, today issued the following statement after opposing the House "Cap & Trade" plan – H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009:

"As Floridians face double digit unemployment for the first time in 34 years, the last thing we need is an energy tax that will drive energy costs through the roof for families and hamstring small businesses who are trying to survive and create jobs. This deeply flawed bill will severely disadvantage American businesses and shift jobs to other nations like China and India who do not cap emissions. We must balance the need to protect our environment with the need for economic growth and job creation. Unfortunately this bill fails to effectively strike that balance and will do more harm than good.

“Congress should instead increase domestic energy production, promote energy efficiency, and encourage private investment in renewable energy technologies as part of a comprehensive plan to address our energy needs.”

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Defense Bill Passed by House Contains Free Postage for Troops
Thursday, 25 June 2009

WASHINGTON (25 June) – On Thursday, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) supported the passage of H.R. 2647, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2010. This legislation authorizes defense-related funding for the fiscal year 2010, including a provision specifically advocated for by Bilirakis to provide free postal benefits for care packages sent to our nation's warfighters overseas.

"Tough economic times have made it increasingly difficult for those who send care packages to troops to pay the shipping costs," said Bilirakis. "The inclusion of the postal benefits provision will help to alleviate that burden and recognizes the extraordinary sacrifices made by service members and their loved ones back home."

In January, Bilirakis joined with Representative Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) in introducing H.R. 707, the Home Front to Heroes Postal Benefits Act, which would provide free monthly coupons for charities and military families attempting to ship care packages to our troops stationed abroad.

Bilirakis plans to press for passage by the Senate and enactment into law.

 Troops Support Our Troops Military Postal Benefits
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House Approves Bilirakis Measure to Expand Overseas Terrorist Detection Program
Thursday, 25 June 2009

WASHINGTON (25 June) – Late Wednesday evening the U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 2892, the Fiscal Year 2010 Department of Homeland Security Act, which included an amendment sponsored by U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) to enhance our nation’s visa screening capabilities overseas to keep terrorists out of the United States.

“We must be proactive in strengthening our homeland security efforts,” Bilirakis said. “I have long been concerned about inadequacies in the screening process and background checks conducted on those seeking temporary admission to our country.”

The Bilirakis amendment, which the House approved by a vote of 422 to 6, increases funding for the Visa Security Program by $1.7 million, which is an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) program that places security officers at high-risk overseas posts to carefully investigate and scrutinize visa applicants. Currently, Immigration and Customs Enforcement operates 14 visa security units around the world. The Visa Security Program is a vital terrorist detection tool which allows ICE to aggressively examine visa applications to identify potential terrorists before they gain entry to the United States.

“The increased funding will provide ICE with the necessary resources to establish an additional visa security unit immediately, and accelerate the addition of several new units overseas in the coming years,” Bilirakis added.

In December of 2007, Bilirakis introduced the Student Visa Security Improvement Act, which would improve the background checks conducted on student visa applicants and enhance America’s ability to ensure, once in the country, foreign students are abiding by the terms of their visas.

 Homeland Security War on Terror Visa
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Department of Homeland Security Awards Over $70 Million to Florida
Thursday, 18 June 2009

WASHINGTON (18 June) – U.S. Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis (R-Fla.), the only Florida member on the House Homeland Security Committee, today announced the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has awarded more than $73 million in federal security grants to the state of Florida to bolster emergency preparedness and protect critical infrastructure. The funding includes nearly $8 million to the Tampa Bay area through the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) to aid local law enforcement in keeping our neighborhoods secure.

“Security and preparedness begins in our local communities, and I am pleased that the Department has provided this important funding to the state and cities, especially as we enter Hurricane Season,” said Bilirakis. “Distributing these funds to the areas that need them the most will provide direct support for preparedness, security and medical response efforts in our state.”

 Homeland Security FEMA
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Rep. Bilirakis to Host Home Foreclosure Assistance Workshop – June 20
Friday, 12 June 2009

PALM HARBOR, Fla. (12 June) – U.S. Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis (R-Fla.), representing Florida’s 9th Congressional District including portions of Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, will be hosting a home foreclosure assistance workshop on Saturday, June 20, 2009.
The event will be held at Cypress Woods Elementary, 4900 Cypress Woods Blvd. Palm Harbor, Fla., from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

According to RealtyTrac, the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area had 16,464 foreclosure filings in the first quarter of 2009, representing one in every 80 housing units. This represents a nearly 40 percent increase from a year ago, ranking 23rd in the nation among metropolitan areas.

"Homeownership is one of the cornerstones of the American dream. Given the current downturn in the housing market, many families are insecure about their most important investment," said Bilirakis “This event will provide information to families facing foreclosure or who are concerned about their current housing and financial situation."

Among the topics to be discussed include guidance on how to work with lenders and housing counselors as well as refinancing and loan modification options and information about HUD's loss mitigation program for FHA mortgages.

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House Approves Bilirakis Security Initiatives as Part of TSA Authorization
Thursday, 04 June 2009

WASHINGTON (4 June) – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 2200, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Authorization Act of 2009 which included two measures sponsored by U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) to enhance pipeline security and fund explosive detection equipment at our nation’s airports.

Over the past six years, there have been multiple instances of individuals rupturing pipelines in the Tampa Bay area. Most recently, in November 2007, a 30-mile-long anhydrous ammonia pipeline in Riverview, Florida, was vandalized which led to the release of a poisonous chemical cloud and the evacuation of 300 local residents. The authorization included a provision Bilirakis authored to clarify federal pipeline safety and security procedures and determine whether additional measures are necessary to protect our nation’s critical pipelines.

“The rupturing of pipelines in the Tampa Bay area in recent years should serve as a reminder that federal agencies must remain vigilant to ensure residents are not at risk,” Bilirakis said. “We must do all we can to make certain our nation's pipeline infrastructure is protected from possible terrorist attacks as well as acts of vandalism.”

In addition, the bill included a Bilirakis authored provision that will ensure that airports that took early action to protect travelers by purchasing explosive detection equipment after the September 11th terrorist attacks will receive the reimbursement they were promised by TSA and Congress.

"Tampa International Airport has spent more than $100 million for equipment and deserves to be reimbursed in as timely a manner as possible for its willingness to spend scarce resources to protect the flying public," Bilirakis added. “I expect that this provision will result in Tampa and other airports around the country finally receiving the funds they were promised years ago, which will ultimately allow for further security enhancements."

 TSA Homeland Security
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Rep. Bilirakis Calls for Clean Troop Supplemental Bill
Thursday, 04 June 2009

WASHINGTON (4 June) – U.S. Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis (R-Fla.), representing Florida’s 9th Congressional District, today issued the following statement amid reports that House and Senate Democrats have reached a tentative deal to include billions in aid for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank in a troop funding bill intended for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan:
"One of the most fundamental duties that we are charged with in Congress is to provide timely and ample funding for our troops. At a time when our nation’s spending is raging out of control, the Majority has decided to attach unnecessary expenditures to a bill that should focus solely on funding our soldiers who are currently engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We simply cannot afford to give billions of borrowed dollars to the IMF and World Bank which, in many cases, provides assistance to some of the world’s worst regimes such as Iran. Congress must pass a clean supplemental appropriations bill to fund our war fighters, and I urge my colleagues to strip the IMF and World Bank funding from the final conference report.”

Note: On May 14, Bilirakis supported the House-passed version of the Supplemental, which contained no funding for the International Monetary Fund and no language authorizing additional funding of the International Development Association, an arm of the World Bank. On Tuesday, Bilirakis signed a letter to House Appropriations Committee Chairman, David Obey (D-Wis.) urging that he ensure any funding for the IMF or World Bank that may ultimately be included in the conference report prevent these institutions from granting assistance to countries under U.S. sanctions for supporting terrorism, nuclear proliferation or significant human rights abuses, most notably Iran.

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Rep. Bilirakis Supports Expanded Veterans Small Business Programs
Wednesday, 20 May 2009

WASHINGTON (20 May) – On Wednesday U.S. Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis (R-Fla.), a member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and Chair of the Veterans’ Affairs Task Force for the Republican Policy Committee, supported the passage of the Job Creation through Entrepreneurship Act, which would expand entrepreneurial opportunities for veteran-owned small businesses. 

“This legislation will improve the educational opportunities, grants and resources available to small business owners who have served in our nation’s armed forces," said Bilirakis. “We have over 35,000 wounded warriors that have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan and we must do all we can to ensure they have every opportunity to succeed. Creating incentives for transitioning service members to start their own business is a perfect way to assist with that process." 

H.R. 2352 reauthorizes the Small Business Administration's (SBA) entrepreneurial development programs, creates a new small business assistance program for veterans, and authorizes the SBA to establish a distance learning program and online networking forum for existing and potential entrepreneurs. Additionally this bill includes funding for capital grants, procurement assessment grants, and grants tailored to service-disabled veterans.

The bill also authorizes funding for the SBA to create a Veterans Business Center program which would provide veterans and their surviving spouses with entrepreneurial training and counseling.

For more information on SBA initiatives for veterans click here.


 Military Veterans Troops
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Bilirakis Joins Bi-Partisan Demand for Answers on Extremism Report
Tuesday, 19 May 2009

WASHINGTON (19 May) – U.S. Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis (R-Fla.), Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Management, Investigations, and Oversight, today joined the entire Homeland Security Committee in supporting a resolution that would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to detail the process by which an intelligence assessment about "right-wing" extremism was created.

Bilirakis made the following statement at the committee markup of the resolution this morning:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

“I support your amendment and want to thank you for recognizing just how serious this issue is and for supporting our efforts to obtain the information we need to determine just what went wrong at the Department in its production of the so-called right wing extremism report.

“I was greatly disturbed by the Department of Homeland Security’s view that returning military veterans are potential terrorist recruits and that people who are pro-life, support the Second Amendment, and oppose illegal immigration may be more likely than others to commit terrorist acts.  That certainly describes me, many of us in Congress, and many of our constituents.

“The Department must aggressively pursue all appropriate efforts to stop terrorism here at home, regardless of what political or ideological beliefs individuals may hold.  But federal homeland security officials should focus on specific, verifiable, and actionable intelligence to stop potential terrorist threats to our country instead of engaging in political and ideological profiling of certain people.

“As Ranking Member of the Management, Investigations, and Oversight Subcommittee, I am especially troubled since we have learned that this report was produced and approved over the objections of its own Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.  We then discovered that the Office of Intelligence and Analysis had produced another report, the domestic extremism lexicon, which was recalled the very next day because it had not been properly vetted by the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

“I am pleased that Secretary Napolitano has acknowledged that mistakes were made and has said she has instituted new protocols to ensure that this won’t happen again, but as our bipartisan support for moving forward on this resolution shows, we cannot simply take her word for it.  We must be able determine for ourselves how and why these breakdowns occurred and whether the Secretary’s new protocols are sufficient.

“Our Committee must exercise its oversight authority over the Department to get a full accounting of the facts surrounding this matter to determine how it happened, stop it from happening again, and ensure that future intelligence assessments of this nature are providing state and local law enforcement with the best and most accurate information to protect our constituents.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I yield back the balance of my time.”

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Bilirakis Calls on Vitter to Release Hold on FEMA Nominee
Friday, 08 May 2009

WASHINGTON (8 May) – U.S. Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis (R-Fla.), the only Florida member on the House Homeland Security Committee, today released the following statement in support of the confirmation of former Florida emergency management director Craig Fugate as administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA):

"With hurricane season just days away, it is imperative that FEMA have a proven leader at the helm. There is no question that Craig Fugate is the right man to head the agency that is so critical to my constituents in Florida as well as those residing in other Gulf Coast states.

"I understand that Senator Vitter has important questions about housing in southern Louisiana, but I believe these concerns would be best addressed with a tested emergency manager in place guiding the agency.

"We must ensure that our nation’s disaster preparedness and response plans provide clear and consistent guidance to state and local officials as we enter into this critical time of year. We can achieve this by allowing the Senate to confirm Mr. Fugate as FEMA administrator."

 FEMA Federal Emergency Management Agency Fugate Hurricane
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Bilirakis Announces USDA Disaster Assistance for Farmers
Wednesday, 29 April 2009

WASHINGTON (29 April) – Today U.S. Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis (R-Fla.), representing Florida’s 9th Congressional District, announced that federal disaster assistance is available for eligible farmers in the Tampa Bay Area. 

Pasco County is among the 24 counties designated for natural disaster assistance by the U.S. Department of Agriculture due to crop losses caused by cold weather and freezing temperatures during January and February. Producers in both primary and contiguous counties such as Pinellas and Hillsborough are eligible to be considered for Farm Service Agency emergency loans and the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program.

“Florida’s growers are a vital cog in the state’s economy,” said Bilirakis.  “This federal assistance will ensure that growers in Florida can recover from the losses suffered earlier this year and continue to provide a safe and abundant food supply for consumers.”

For more information, affected farmers should contact local Farm Service Agency offices.

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