Newswire : Dr. Barber ‘surprised’ by Moral Monday fame in Rome


By Cash Michaels. Wilmington Journal
barber pope visit.jpg
 Bishop William J. Barber II poses with the Vatican guards in Rome during his visit.


( – Rome, Italy is over 4,600 miles away from Raleigh, NC. But when it came to “Moral Mondays,” the massive yet peaceful demonstrations held in North Carolina’s capital city, and led by the former president of the NCNAACP, no distance was too far as far as admirers attending a recent international conference on labor at the Vatican were concerned.
“I was …surprised by how many leaders from around the world had been inspired by Moral Monday, the moral revival last year, and the Poor People’s Campaign plans,” Bishop Dr. William Barber, leader of the social justice group, “Repairers of the Breach,” said by text from the Vatican shortly after the visit.
Dr. Barber was one of 300 participants from around the world attending the conference which addressed the conditions of working people, and the working poor on Thanksgiving. Representing the upcoming Poor People’s Campaign in the United States, Dr. Barber’s social justice reputation from the 12 years he led the NCNAACP preceded him, with an invitation already given him to attend and preach at another world gathering about labor rights and the poor in Liverpool, England next June. He has also been invited to Brazil next year.
As a birthday present, Dr. Barber took his mother, who had turned 84 the week before, along with his wife and one of his son, all part of an eight-person delegation.
In an exclusive telephone interview from Washington, DC, Dr. Barber recalled two “long, intense eight-hour days” of deeply committed religious and labor leaders working together. From countries like France, Sudan, England and others, Dr. Barber said he was greeted warmly by all.
Even the Vatican guards saluted him because of his title of “Bishop.”
During his presentation at the conference, Dr. Barber said, “Rightfully, the Pope has noted at the start of the twenty-first century that religious leaders must play a leading role in the struggle for justice in dialogue with all social and political actors. We must articulate a way of thinking that brings together the complexity of the current situation and proposes an action strategy for the construction of a just society. Not only is democracy at stake, but the wellbeing of world itself.”
Later in his remarks, Bishop Barber continued, “I believe Pope Francis’ call for a moral vision of the common good connected to a call for solidarity within the labor union economy and ethos is most important. I join you today as President of Repairers of the Breach and Co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for a Moral Revival in the United States. We have identified five areas–five moral diseases that must be addressed if we are to be a people able to address the common good, promote the general welfare, and ensure the common defense, with liberty and justice for all. We must address systemic racism, systemic poverty, ecological devastation, the war economy, and the immoral narrative of extreme religionism.”
Before he left, Dr. Barber was satisfied with how his presentation was accepted by other religious and labor leaders. “Many of the points that we raised were in the final document produced by the conference as a guide to the way forward,” he texted.
And what about that much anticipated Thanksgiving Day meeting between Dr. Barber and Pope Francis that was scheduled during the two-day gathering? It got cancelled at the last minute,” Barber says.
“Up until 4 p.m. yesterday the Pope was scheduled to come and be with us,” Bishop Barber texted last Friday. “[But] we were informed around 4:15 p.m. that due to challenges around his trip to Malaysia, and other world events (like the mosque [terrorist] shootings in Egypt), he had to change [his plans].”
“[The Pope] sent a personal note to us and a papal letter,” Dr. Barber added. Indeed, Pope Francis walked a fine, and some say diplomatically peril less line during his visit to Myanmar and Bangladesh. Myanmar has cracked down on Rohingya Muslims in what some are calling an “ethnic cleansing.” Reports say villages are being burned and women and children are being raped, as over 600,000 refugees have fled to Bangladesh.
But before he left Italy, Pope Francis issued a letter at the conclusion of the international conference. In that papal letter, the Pope warned of “the money god” that leads to the exploitation of the working poor globally.
“Work must serve the human person,” Pope Francis said, not the other way around.” He added that “…every worker is the hand of Christ who continues to create and do good.”
Even though Dr. Barber wasn’t able to personally meet the Pope as he had hoped, he was able to present one of the Pope’s cardinals with gifts for His Eminence from the United States – a small stone from the home of North Carolina civil rights leader Ella Baker, and sand from the Rio Grande [River] where Barber walked with families traveling to see relatives from Mexico they had not seen in years.
Beyond the conference, if there was one consolation, Dr. Barber wrote, it was that one of the cardinals [from Ghana] he exchanged personal information with promised to visit with the bishop in North Carolina upon his next visit to the United States.
Editor’s Note – you can red Dr. Barber’s Vatican presentation at

Newswire: Do you want to accelerate social innovation? Invest in Black women.

Jerelyn Rodriguez , WOMEN@FORBES
Black women.jpg
 Black woman working on computer

Is America just waking up to the fact that #BlackGirlMagic is real?
A few weeks ago the world was raving about the 98% of Black female voters that prevented Roy Moore, accused of sexually assaulting teens, from taking the Senate seat in Alabama. The next day titles like “black women saved America” took over the internet. But let’s not forget that black women have been trying to save the world for generations and in some cases only lack the resources to realize true impact.
A report issued last year from DigitalUndivided found that even though women accounted for 30% of all small business owners, they received 4.4% of small business loans. In a recent EdSurge article, Aaron Walker from Camelback Ventures highlights that of venture capital funding, “on average, black women raise $36,000, while White men raise $1.3 million.” The disparities in venture and nonprofit funding are slowing down authentic social innovation efforts tackling society’s biggest problems.
One example is social innovation taking place in the South Bronx, the poorest congressional district, where nearly 30% of young South Bronx residents are unemployed. To solve this, in 2016, with the support of JobsFirstNYC’s Young Adult Sectoral Employment Project (YASEP), The Knowledge House designed the Bronx Digital Pipeline (BxDP). BxDP is a strategic partnership among ten technology education organizations and higher education institutions offering technology skills training to young people from Bronx. The objective is to connect disadvantaged young people to occupational training customized to employer needs that lead to industry-recognized credentials, entry-level tech jobs, and higher wages.
Emphasizing technology training and entrepreneurship in the Bronx allows disadvantaged young adults to gain exposure to the technology field, helping close the opportunity gap, and fueling an education to employment pipeline of diverse talent. The Bronx can add value to the technology field by providing a centrally and economically accessible pool of well-trained and well-vetted talent so employers can fulfill their various hiring needs. But absent of resources, will we be able to achieve our vision of alleviating poverty? Will we be able to fulfill the promise to the young people in the South Bronx that armed with proper training they too can take part in and thrive in a growing tech industry?
It has been challenging to fundraise as a young, female, entrepreneur of color. I get called to share my expertise on how to bring technology to the Bronx. Too often I see investments go to outside experts and entities to lead new projects in low-income communities instead of existing grassroots-driven initiatives. Walker states, “companies and organizations led by people of color make a difference in building better solutions for students who look like them. It’s a lot easier to empathize with your user when you are your user.”
This is why I was intentional about staff hiring at The Knowledge House(TKH). At TKH 100% of our staff are from or currently reside in the area that we serve, 100% identify as African American/Black, Hispanic/Latino or Asian, approximately 60% identify as female, and 50% are alumni of the program. We believe this makes us innovative because students are being taught by people that look like them and have gone through similar experiences. We are inspired by our students and early results — this year 70% of Knowledge House students have been matched to entry-level technology employment. Noteworthy placements include Barclays, Bloomberg, and NYC Department of Education.
The ideas and proposals from entrepreneurs of color that could potentially impact the most needy communities are not being valued. If we are being denied the right to serve those that look like us, who is being given the right? Walker said it best, ‘What do we miss out on because we failed to provide the financial support necessary for their ideas to take root and spread?’ If we want social innovation to move forward, funders need to believe in our visions as we have developed and iterated them based on our own experiences.
Let’s hustle together. Let’s invest in leaders who are bringing social innovation to their community. Let’s celebrate, invest in, and champion #BlackGirlMagic.

Newswire: Liberian sports figure, George Weah, promises sweeping changes as country’s new President

George Weah

George Weah, new President of Liberia

Jan. 1, 2018 (GIN) – George Weah, Liberia’s president-elect, declared the country open to investment and pledged to tackle entrenched corruption, in his first speech to the nation since decisively winning an election this week.

Speaking at a press conference at his party headquarters, Weah thanked his predecessor, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, for enabling Liberia’s first democratic transition in over 70 years but said he was determined to usher in sweeping changes.

Weah, 51, faces sky-high expectations from young supporters who are desperate for jobs and better wages. “You’ve got a very marginal, small group of people who are doing exceedingly well and then a large majority who are just barely scraping by,” Robtel Neajai Pailey, a Liberian academic, told Al Jazeera.

“A large population of the under 35-year-olds are the ones who showed up in large numbers to elect Weah,” she said.

Weah faces the messy reality of reviving an economy gutted by low prices for chief exports rubber and iron ore and dwindling donor support. Unlike Mrs. Sirleaf’s 35 years of global experience, his only experience in government office has been his three years as a senator, representing Monrovia, a time during which his opponents criticized him for failing to speak up during legislative sessions.

President-elect Weah emerged from the Monrovia neighborhood of Gibraltar with an uncanny ability to weave behind a soccer ball all the way up the pitch, and eventually gained fame as a world-class striker for the Italian team A.C. Milan. He won the soccer world’s greatest individual honor, the Ballon d’Or, and was named by FIFA, soccer’s governing body, as the African Player of the Century.

He never got to compete in the World Cup, because Liberia was engulfed by civil war, instigated by President Charles Taylor, during the height of Weah’s soccer years and was unable to muster up 10 other players good enough to qualify.

Weah and Vice President-elect Jewel Howard-Taylor will take office later this month.

Newswire : Brain Drain at the EPA

by Lisa Friedman, Mariana Affo and Derek Kravitz ProPublica


Description: rsn- M.jpg  than 700 people have left the Environmental Protection Agency since President Donald Trump took office, a wave of departures that puts the administration nearly a quarter of the way toward its goal of shrinking the agency to levels last seen during the Reagan administration.


Some 300 scientists and environmental protection specialists have departed the agency during the Trump administration.

Of the employees who have quit, retired or taken a buyout package since the beginning of the year, more than 200 are scientists. An additional 96 are environmental protection specialists, a broad category that includes scientists as well as others experienced in investigating and analyzing pollution levels. Nine department directors have departed the agency as well as dozens of attorneys and program managers. Most of the employees who have left are not being replaced.
The departures reflect poor morale and a sense of grievance at the agency, which has been criticized by Trump and top Republicans in Congress as bloated and guilty of regulatory overreach. That unease is likely to deepen following revelations that Republican campaign operatives were using the Freedom of Information Act to request copies of emails from EPA officials suspected of opposing Trump and his agenda.
The cuts deepen a downward trend at the agency that began under the Obama administration in response to Republican-led budget constraints that left the agency with about 15,000 employees at the end of his term. The reductions have accelerated under Trump, who campaigned on a promise to dramatically scale back the EPA, leaving only what he called “little tidbits” in place. Current and former employees say unlike during the Obama years, the agency has no plans to replace workers, and they expect deeper cuts to come.
“The reason EPA went down to 15,000 employees under Obama is because of pressure from Republicans. This is the effort of the Republicans under the Obama administration on steroids,” said John O’Grady, president of American Federation of Government Employees Council 238, a union representing EPA employees.
ProPublica and The New York Times analyzed the comings and goings from the EPA through the end of September, the latest data that has been compiled, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. The figures and interviews with current and former EPA officials show the administration is well on its way to achieving its goal of cutting 3,200 positions from the EPA, about 20 percent of the agency’s work force.
Jahan Wilcox, a spokesman for the EPA, said the agency was running more efficiently. “With only 10 months on the job, Administrator Pruitt is unequivocally doing more with less to hold polluters accountable and to protect our environment,” he said.
Within the agency, science in particular is taking a hard hit. More than 27 percent of those who left this year were scientists, including 34 biologists and microbiologists; 19 chemists; 81 environmental engineers and environmental scientists; and more than a dozen toxicologists, life scientists and geologists. Employees say the exodus has left the agency depleted of decades of knowledge about protecting the nation’s air and water. Many also said they saw the departures as part of a more worrisome trend of muting government scientists, cutting research budgets and making it more difficult for academic scientists to serve on advisory boards.
“Research has been on a starvation budget for years,” said Robert Kavlock, who served as acting assistant administrator for the Office of Research and Development before retiring in November. Under earlier buyouts, Kavlock said, the agency later hired nearly 100 postdoctoral candidates to help continue critical agency work.
“There wasn’t a reinvestment this time around,” he said. “There’s a hard freeze.”
Scientists, for the most part, are also not being replaced. Of the 129 people hired this year at the EPA, just seven are scientists. Another 15 are student trainee scientists. Political appointees, however, are on the rise. The office of Scott Pruitt, the agency administrator, is the only unit that saw more hires than departures this year.
In addition to losing scientists themselves, the offices at the EPA that deal most directly with science were drained of other workers this year. The Office of Research and Development — which has three national laboratories and four national centers with expertise on science and technology issues — lost 69 people, while hiring three. At the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, responsible for regulating toxic chemicals and pesticides, 54 people left and seven were hired. And in the office that ensures safe drinking water, one person was hired, while 26 departed.
By contrast, Pruitt’s office hired 73 people to replace the 53 who left.
“I think it’s important to focus on what the agency is all about, and what it means to lose expertise, particularly on the science and public health side,” said Thomas Burke, who served as the agency’s science adviser under Obama. “The mission of the agency is the protection of public health. Clearly there’s been a departure in the mission.”

Wilcox disputed that assessment and said the agency remained an attractive workplace for scientists. “People from across EPA were eligible to retire early with full benefits,” he said in an emailed statement. “We currently have over 1,600 scientists at EPA and less than 200 chose to retire with full benefits.”

The impact of losing so many scientists may not be felt for months or years. But science permeates every part of the agency’s work, from assessing the health risks of chemical explosions like the one in Houston during Hurricane Harvey to determining when groundwater is safe to drink after a spill. Several employees said they feared the departures with few replacements in sight would put critical duties like responding to disasters and testing water for toxic chemicals in jeopardy.
As of Dec. 6, there were 14,188 full-time employees at the EPA By comparison, there were 17,558 workers at the end of the first year of the George W. Bush administration and 17,049 by the end of the first year of President Obama’s term. The EPA offered two major buyouts during the Obama administration, losing 900 employees in 2013 and an additional 465 the following year. Hundreds of other workers left through attrition and were not replaced.
Pruitt’s office has described the current buyout process as a continuation of Obama administration efforts to ensure that payroll expenses do not overtake funding for environmental programs. Agency staff said they believed the Trump administration was purposely draining the EPA of expertise and morale.

Ronnie Levin spent 37 years at the EPA researching policies to address lead exposure from paint, gasoline and drinking water, most recently working as a lead inspector at the agency’s regional office overseeing New England. She retired in November after what she described as months of low morale at the agency. And with the lead enforcement office targeted for elimination as part of Trump’s proposed budget, she said, “It was hard to get your enthusiasm up” for the job.
“This is exactly what they wanted, which is my biggest misgiving about leaving,” Levin said. “They want the people there to be more docile and nervous and less invested in the agency.”
Lynda Deschambault, a chemist and physical scientist who left the EPA at the end of August after 26 years, said her office in Region 9, based in San Francisco, had been hollowed out. The office saw 21 departures this year and no hires. “The office was a morgue,” she said.
Conservatives who helped lead the Trump administration’s transition and prepared for eliminating vast parts of the agency said scientists’ worries were misplaced.
“To me it’s not necessarily a sign of catastrophe,” said David Kreutzer, a senior researcher at the Heritage Foundation who advised Trump on the EPA during the transition. He said the agency under President Obama was engaged in “phenomenal overreach” and that the Trump administration’s efforts were aimed at correcting that.
In proposing this year to slash the EPA’s budget by 31 percent, Mick Mulvaney, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, called the effort part of Trump’s plan to eliminate entrenched government workers. “You can’t drain the swamp and leave all the people in it,” Mulvaney said. “So, I guess the first place that comes to mind will be the Environmental Protection Agency.”
Jan Nation, who works in EPA’s Region 3, based in Philadelphia, where 46 people either retired or took a buyout this year, lamented the administration’s approach to federal workers. “We are not the swamp. The swamp are all the people who don’t have a specific function to make our government work,” Nation said. “If you have a swamp to drain, I know people in the Army Corps of Engineers who can do it.”

Newswire: An alarming rise in deportations for Somali-Americans in Minnesota



 Somali family in Minneasota

( – As bombs rain down on Mogadishu, officers of the U.S. immigration service have been stalking the Somali expat community in Minnesota, snatching suspected immigrants without documents to the distress of families there.
Among those recently placed on a plane bound for Somalia was Mohamed Hussein, according to a report by Minnesota Public Radio. Hussein arrived in Minnesota as an infant more than 20 years ago. Somalia is a country he’s never seen and where he knows no one.
After reporting for a regular check-in with federal officials last September, Hussein was unexpectedly detained, transferred to a Louisiana detention center and then bundled into a plane in shackles for deportation. Fortunately, the planeload of 91 men and women, including 10 from Minnesota, was made to return to the U.S. due to staffing issues in Senegal.
Also rescued from the ill-fated flight was Mayo Clinic cardiovascular technician Abdoulmalik Ibrahim, a married father of four who are all U.S. citizens. Immigration lawyers are seeking to have his case reopened.
“It gives hopefully some additional time. We always hope for the best, but we are prepared for the worst,” said Kimberly Hunter, a Twin Cities immigration attorney representing Mayo Clinic employee Abdoulmalik Ibrahim.
Under a deportation order since 2004 for entering the U.S. without documentation seeking asylum, Ibrahim was presumably under a “protective status” before his detention.
Minnesota immigration lawyers are now scrambling to get emergency stays for Hussein and other Somali clients who’ve been ordered deported by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
“We believe (Ibrahim) has a claim to protection,” said attorney Kimberley Hunter, citing the presence of al Shabab, a terrorist group that continues to carry out attacks in the country. “Quite honestly, I think the removal of Somalis in general is inhumane.”
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials deported 512 Somalis from around the country from October 2016 through September 2017, compared to 198 during the same period a year earlier, according to the agency’s data.
A majority of those deported in the 2017 fiscal year happened under the Trump administration, lawyers say.

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Newswire : NASA celebrates legacy of first African American Astronaut

By Erick Johnson (Chicago Crusader/NNPA Member)

Robert Henry Lawrence, Jr. was the first African American astronaut. (USAF/Wikimedia Commons)
Fifty years ago, a tragic accident ended the groundbreaking career of Major Robert H. Lawrence, Jr., a Chicago native and stellar Air Force pilot who became America’s first Black astronaut.
On December 8, 2017—the 50th anniversary of his death—NASA honored his often-ignored legacy and contributions to the agency.
Earlier this year, the Chicago Crusader reported about the lack of visibility of NASA’s first Black American astronaut and helped to raise awareness about Lawrence’s incredible journey.

In planning a story for its annual Black History Month edition, Chicago Crusader staffers discovered that little was being done to honor Lawrence, while NASA held memorials to mark the 50th anniversary of three, White astronauts who perished in a fire aboard the Apollo 1 space module, during a preflight testing.
The Crusader story lauding Lawrence’s achievements was published in dozens of Black newspapers after the National Newspapers Publishers Association (NNPA) carried it on its newswire.
Born in 1935 to the late Gwendolyn Duncan and Robert H. Lawrence, Sr., the future Air Force pilot was a man ahead of his time. Long before magnet and STEM programs were part of the high school curriculum, Lawrence excelled in math and science.
At 16, he graduated with honors from Englewood High School and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Bradley University. He married the late Barbara Cress from the prominent Chicago Cress family and entered the Air Force at age 21 before earning a doctorate in physical chemistry from Ohio State University, becoming the first astronaut at NASA to earn a doctorate degree.
As a United States Air Force pilot, Lawrence accumulated over 2,500 flight hours. In June 1967, Lawrence graduated from the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School (Class ‘66B) at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. In that same month, he was selected by the USAF as an astronaut for their Manned Orbital Laboratory (MOL) program, thus becoming the first Black astronaut.
Lawrence died while training another pilot, Maj. John Royer, to perform the “flare” maneuver—an operation that Lawrence had already mastered— in the F-104 Starfighter.
According to NBC News, “Lawrence’s memory languished in obscurity” partly due to the fact that, the Pentagon only recognized someone as an “astronaut” if they actually flew to an altitude above 50 miles.
However, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Va.) mounted a campaign that forced NASA to put Lawrence’s name on the Space Mirror Memorial in 1997—thirty years after Lawrence’s death.
“On Dec. 8, 1997, on the thirtieth anniversary of his death, Lawrence had his name unveiled on the Florida memorial,” NBC News reported.
The ceremony recognizing Lawrence, earlier this month—although spirited, at times—was a somber one for the 300 guests that included decorated NASA astronauts, dignitaries, relatives, and friends, who had flown and driven miles across the country to honor Lawrence at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Lawrence’s older sister, Dr. Barbara Lawrence, attended and spoke; another prominent Chicago resident who was present was E. Dawn Griffin, the oldest daughter of Ernest Griffin, founder of Griffin Funeral Home in Bronzeville. The Griffin Funeral Home, which closed in 2012, handled the funeral arrangements for Lawrence.
Members from Lawrence’s college fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, also attended to honor one of their own. On the sprawling grounds of the NASA facility, they participated in a two-and-a-half-hour ceremony that began at the Center for Space Education and culminated with an emotional wreath-laying ceremony at the base of the national Space Mirror Memorial, a massive black granite structure where Lawrence’s name is among those of 20 astronauts who either died in flight or in training.
The ceremony brought out some of NASA’s astronauts and biggest officials. Charles Bolden, America’s first Black NASA chief administrator, and Stephanie Wilson, the second Black female astronaut, attended the service. Another Black astronaut, Winston Scott, played the trumpet in a band that performed various jazz songs, including, “Fly Me to the Moon.” Reportedly, jazz was one of Lawrence’s favorite musical genres.
Dr. Barbara Lawrence shared her experiences with her brother as they grew up on the South Side of Chicago. She said, when Robert was young, he was a very disciplined student and dedicated to learning. “I’m truly proud to have been his sister,” she shared. “He wasn’t interested in being the first Black astronaut. He was only interested in being given the opportunity to do what he wanted to do. I’m sorry he wasn’t here a little longer, but I think his job was one that was well done.”
The Chicago Crusader is a member publication of the National Newspaper Publishers Association. Learn more about becoming a member at

Newswire : Obamacare Sign-ups at High Levels Despite Trump Saying It’s ‘Imploding’

By ROBERT PEAR, New York Times
Obamacare protest

 People protesting for Obamacare

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration said Thursday that 8.8 million people had signed up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s federal marketplace, a surprisingly large number only slightly lower than the total in the last open enrollment period, which was twice as long and heavily advertised.
The numbers essentially defied President Trump’s assertion that “Obamacare is imploding.” They suggested that consumers want and need the coverage and subsidies available under the Affordable Care Act, even though political battles over the law, President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement, are sure to continue in Congress and in next year’s midterm election campaigns.
Seema Verma, the administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, reported the total in a Twitter post on Thursday. She said her agency had done a great job to “make this the smoothest experience for consumers to date.”
The number of people who signed up this year was 96 percent of the 9.2 million who selected health plans or were automatically re-enrolled through the federal marketplace in the last sign-up season.
“It’s a very, very strong number,” said Joshua Peck, who was the chief marketing officer for in the Obama administration. “It implies that the final week of open enrollment this year was very big.”
Republican efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act this year had an unintended effect: They heightened public awareness of the law and, according to opinion polls, galvanized support for it among consumers who feared that it might be taken away.
“It’s incredible how many people signed up for coverage this year,” said Lori Lodes, an Obama administration official and a founder of Get America Covered, a nonprofit group.
But the strong demand for insurance through the Affordable Care Act could set off new efforts to dismantle the law.
The tax cut that Mr. Trump will soon sign repeals the Affordable Care Act’s tax penalties for most Americans who go without insurance, starting in 2019. The president said Wednesday that with elimination of the individual mandate, the health law is being effectively repealed, a statement that is untrue given the law’s expansion of Medicaid, the continued guarantee of coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and the subsidies still available to millions of people with low or moderate income.
The sign-up numbers seemed to indicate that despite all the politics, millions need the insurance. Nearly half of all plan selections this year — 4.1 million of the 8.8 million — occurred in the last week of open enrollment. More than one-fourth of the people who signed up this year — 2.4 million — were new customers, and 6.4 million people returned to to select plans or were automatically re-enrolled.
Those large numbers came in the face of big challenges. Before the enrollment period, which ran from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15, many insurers announced big rate increases for 2018. The Trump administration cut the budget for advertising to promote enrollment and greatly reduced grants to insurance counselors, known as navigators, who help people sign up for coverage.
In the first nine months of this year, Republicans tried repeatedly to repeal the Affordable Care Act, continually criticized it and asserted that health insurance markets were collapsing. Mr. Trump highlighted huge increases in premiums without noting that many consumers were eligible for federal subsidies that help cover the extra cost.
The report Thursday shows sign-ups by people in 39 states that use It does not include activity in 11 states that operate their own insurance exchanges and are also reporting strong enrollment. In some of those states, consumers have more time to sign up. The deadline is Jan. 14 in Minnesota, Jan. 15 in Washington State and Jan. 31 in California and New York.
In addition, people losing coverage because their insurer withdrew from the marketplace may qualify for a special enrollment period providing 60 additional days to sign up for a health plan.
More than 80 percent of people buying insurance through the marketplace qualify for subsidies to help pay premiums. The Trump administration said in October that the average subsidy in states using the federal marketplace would be $555 a month next year, up 45 percent from this year.
Among states using the federal exchange, the largest numbers of sign-ups this year were in Florida (1.7 million), Texas (1.1 million), North Carolina (524,000), Georgia (483,000), Virginia (403,000), Pennsylvania (397,000) and Illinois (340,000).
Federal officials reported a huge surge of activity near the end of open enrollment. In Florida, more than 700,000 people selected plans or were automatically enrolled in the final week, and in Texas, the number was more than 550,000.
Ms. Verma tried over the summer to persuade Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but on Thursday, she boasted about how well the law’s insurance marketplace — under new management — was meeting the needs of consumers.
The Trump administration, she said, spent only $10 million on marketing and outreach to consumers, or just over $1 for each person who signed up. By contrast, she said, the Obama administration spent a total of $100 million last year, or nearly $11 for each person who signed up.
Moreover, Ms. Verma said, the Trump administration “took a more cost-effective approach” that emphasized the use of digital advertising and email to reach consumers.
While cutting the budget for navigator groups, the Trump administration encouraged the use of insurance agents and brokers, saying it wanted to “shift away from the government selling a private product.”