Author Archives: evan

Guest Blog: The Power of Sisterhood

Guest Blog: The Power of Sisterhood

Sister Bernadine Karge OP
March 8, 2016

What a wonderful day and a half at the Sisters in Public Leadership  training in DC the first weekend in March 2016! I am most grateful for this experience learning about media and advocacy with the women and men of NETWORK and Faith in Public Life.

My name is Sister Bernadine Karge, and I am an immigration attorney. For most of my ministry I have worked in direct service with education and advocacy on the sideline. Having been a “Nun on the Bus” during the last three years brought opportunities to speak with reporters, to engage others in issues dear to their hearts and to be welcomed into diverse faith and ethnic communities and enabled me to experience and share my gifts and talents in new ways.

The most surprising part of our Sisters in Public Leadership training was the sense of sisterhood I felt and owning the title of “sister” to speak the truth about the lives, hopes, struggles and dreams of all the people who have blessed my life. Meeting the other sisters from across the country increased our sense of sisterhood. Our passion for justice and service for the poor connected us immediately. We could laugh and cry together at the mess of our world.

One valuable skill I developed was connecting the moral and religious aspect with the legal aspect of immigration, which has been my passion for decades. To come at the question as a Catholic sister, rather than as only a legal advocate was a helpful shift in perspective. I was encouraged not to be fearful of speaking out from a faith perspective.

The community of our sisterhood has been hidden under a bushel basket. Sisters are no longer immediately visible without traditional habits, but even more significantly, we have not seen ourselves as others see us, as powerful women with life and faith experience for which our world hungers. We are the ones who can take the risk to bring the faces of the poor to those who do not see them.

The feeling of trust and belonging that was shared during my Nuns on the Bus experience expanded my sense of community to those of other faiths. We are all one – not because we believe or act the same way, but because we all breathe the breath of God who calls us to the fullness of life in God’s image. It is our role to share our light, our life and our love with all.

 

Sr. Bernadine Karge OP
Chicago, IL
Dominican Sister of Sinsinawa, WI

Guest Blog: Lessons from Just Advocacy Week

Guest Blog: Lessons from Just Advocacy Week

Jalen Brooks-Knepfle
Feb 24, 2016

Jalen Brooks-Knepfle

My name is Jalen Brooks-Knepfle and I am a second-year student at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. I am majoring in English and international studies with a concentration in comparative literature and minoring in environmental studies. Last June, I took part in Just Advocacy Week, which taught me many important lessons.

First, in a world frequently torn apart by religious violence, the lessons I learned about social justice and advocacy rooted in Catholic faith reminded me that religion prompts many, many people to help others and care for those marginalized by society. These people include everyone from Sister Simone, to the other people working at NETWORK, to my fellow JAW students. This was very encouraging, and much needed at that point in my life.

In addition, Just Advocacy Week showed me how accessible government can be, despite my previous beliefs to the contrary. The most dramatic example of this was the opportunity to speak with my government representatives to promote the Earned Income and Child Tax Credits. Although I know I was not the one to do the legwork to arrange the meetings, I was still amazed at how easy it was to speak to the people who represent me. I had an image in my head of government as some unreachable entity up on Capitol Hill, but JAW proved to me that government is a lot more accessible than we often believe. Additionally, even though my representatives are of a different party than me, most of them were still very eager to hear what I had to say and made me feel like I had a right to talk to them (Which, in fact, I do; as we were taught at JAW, they work forus!).

Finally, my experience at JAW gave me access to a group of people who are making real change. One thing I learned is to go at every project with other people to support you, and JAW gave me access to such people.

I was lucky enough to be able to share what I learned at JAW with some of my peers in the College of Charleston’s Catholic Student Association. Our campus minister, Jim Grove, invited me to talk about my experience at JAW, as well as what I learned from NETWORK about advocacy in general, at one of our after-Mass Sunday dinners. I learned so much at JAW, so it was hard to condense it to one fifteen-minute talk. Basically, I explained how NETWORK was founded by a group of nuns, where Catholic social justice comes from, how Catholics have an obligation to seek social justice, and the basics of how to do that. To this end, I discussed some advocacy tactics like phone calls, letter writing, and visits to representatives, emphasizing what I learned about the accessibility of government. I also discussed how NETWORK was applying these tactics to the EITC and CTC. I had been nervous about my talk’s reception, but my fellow Catholic students reacted with enthusiasm, some of them expressing interest in applying to JAW this coming summer. Jim and I have also since made plans to collaborate with other religious groups in the area to discuss ways we can use advocacy to help alleviate the refugee crisis.

I learned so much through Just Advocacy Week and look forward to applying that learning in the future!

 

Apply for Just Advocacy Week 2016 here.

Blog: A Message from Sister Marge Clark about the Federal Budget

Marge Clark, BVM
Dec 16, 2015

Blog: A Message from Sister Marge Clark about the Federal Budget

Dear NETWORK Members and Friends,

There is GREAT excitement today!

The Omnibus text, which details FY 2016 federal spending, was published just after midnight this morning and much to our relief and joy the proposed “Poison Pill” riders did not materialize. We worked with hundreds of organizations in a “No Riders” coalition that later transitioned to “No Poison Pill Riders,” as the time of appropriators’ decisions came near. This happened because we all recognized that there would be some riders in the budget – as negotiation points for both parties. We defined poison pill riders as policies that would damage the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), target immigrants and immigrant families, and hurt the environment, among other important issues.

With other members of the coalition, NETWORK participated in a fun activity last week to communicate our “No Poison Pills” message to House and Senate offices. We made a special delivery to each office: a pill vial with a warning label about the dangers of policy riders and a letter about the demands we were making – all accompanied by a “prescription” for not being harmed by the pills.

We also engaged with you, our NETWORK members and friends, on social media and with requests for calls and emails to House and Senate members over the last few weeks on this important issue. And I want to say congratulations to all of you! These efforts paid off!

Those most disconcerting riders are NOT included in the omnibus.  We have avoided the fear of riders on the budget that would curtail the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by a demand for a change in structure and authority, ones that would create more barriers for our immigrants and refugee brothers and sisters, and ones that would significantly roll back environmental protections. Instead, we are able to focus on the primary work of this legislation: setting the funding levels for government agencies and programs in the coming year.

Thank you all for the great advocacy!!

With Gratitude,Poison Pills_0

Sr. Marge Clark, BVM

Blog: Cities Take Steps to Protect Immigrant Communities

Cities Take Steps to Protect Immigrant Communities

Rachel Schmidt
Oct 30, 2015

Certain politicians are intent on categorizing all undocumented immigrants as “rapists and criminals” that need to be kept out of the United States with giant walls on the southern border.  This rhetoric creates fear, perpetuates racism, and is dehumanizing. The term immigrant has historically been used in our legal system to categorize people who migrated here from other countries and that has often been translated into “less-than” in our society. Thankfully, some cities in the U.S. are embracing policies that ­­­do not tip-off Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) about those who are undocumented. These municipalities have colloquially come to be known as “sanctuary cities” and are important to uplift, for they promote safer communities where trust exists between local law enforcement and community members.

There are many benefits sanctuary cities provide to all residents of the U.S. The obvious positive for people who are immigrants is that local authorities are not actively reporting their immigration status, which could lead to deportation back to their country of origin, if undocumented. This results in people, often undocumented parents and U.S. citizen children, being separated from family, friends, and communities. Individuals and families categorized as immigrants or refugees are often forced to return to dreadful violence or extreme poverty that prompted their migration to the U.S. in the first place. This practice is a violation of human rights and ongoing abuses are deeply feared by immigrant justice advocates across the U.S. as it leads to unsafety in our communities. People who are immigrants are less likely to trust local authorities and report crime or domestic violence if the threat of a deportation looms over them. This is not good for anyone in society.

Our hearts must be broken open to the anguish individuals and families are experiencing because of current immigration laws. This video from the 2015 Nuns on the Bus campaign shows the struggle families go through when members are deported. If this family was under sanctuary city protection, their story would not have been filled with such deep pain.

Last week, the Senate voted down S. 2146 that would punish the local governments that choose to exercise their discretion by not asking about an individual’s immigration status. We are grateful for this win. However, this is not the end of threats to sanctuary cities. The bill was labeled the “Donald Trump Act” after Trump’s proclivity to blaming immigrants for the problems of the nation. As long as anti-immigrant sentiment similar to Trump’s exists in Congress, there will be attempts to punish cities for acknowledging the humanity of people who are undocumented.

Individuals and families who are immigrants are already dealing with blatant racism and discrimination, and we must not encourage further discrimination by attacking sanctuary cities. As Pope Francis said while he was in the United States in September “”We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us once were foreigners.” Eleven million people would not be undocumented in this country if we would pass comprehensive immigration reform that outlines a pathway to citizenship. We could also be doing more to invest in finding solutions to end the violence and poverty rampant in the countries of origin. Most of the money currently spent trying to resolve this humanitarian issue is being allocated toward the militarization of our borders where refugees are being turned away and back to the danger they are fleeing from. We need to support these individuals and families who are only trying to survive.

Blog: Putting People First in Our Budget Crisis

Blog: Putting People First in Our Budget Crisis

Rachel Schmidt
Oct 13, 2015

The federal budget is a complicated piece of legislation, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. “Wonky” data, words like “sequestration,” and polarized political parties are enough to make anyone’s eyes glaze over. However, the budget is not merely something elected officials tend to busy themselves with. It is essential to bring about the common good, the development and fulfillment of all people in society, by creating a faithful budget.

Too often in budget negotiations, Congress neglects to bring forth the faces and stories of people who are intimately affected by cuts to human needs programs. It’s easy to get lost in the ideology of politics and deficit reduction, but like Pope Francis insists, “service is never ideological, for we do not serve ideas, we serve people.” Therefore, it is critical that we do not lose sight of the real issue:  the federal budget is a tool that must faithfully serve the common good.

The political landscape has made finalization of the federal budget difficult. Initially, the fear was that sequestration would take place. Sequestration means that programs, both on the defense and non-defense discretionary sides of the budget, are automatically cut once previously established budget limits are reached. In theory, sequestration was supposed to be too horrible to go into effect, but in reality, the threat of this austerity measure is becoming more commonplace. In recent years budget negotiations have led to the government shutting down, programs being stopped, and government workers not being paid. It’s these political games that endanger the wellbeing of people in the most vulnerable situations, who rely on safety net programs funded from the non-defense discretionary side of the budget.

Congress had a deadline to approve the Fiscal Year 2016 budget by September 30 in order to keep the government fully operational for the next year. They did not actually come to a final decision by this time. Instead, they passed what’s called a Continuing Resolution (CR) to provide short-term funding through December 11 and put off addressing the real issue of planning for the next fiscal year. Now, as the December deadline approaches, we must be diligent in requiring Congress to commit to funding a faithful budget that serves the common good.

Again, it’s important to remember that a budget is about more than just numbers; it’s about people. To learn more about how this affects real people, watch these two stories from our friends at Witnesses to Hunger:

This story of Jahzaire Sutton shows the stress and impact budget negotiations can have on small children. It is unbelievable that in the United States a mother has to go hungry so her children can eat. Cuts to the program, Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) could be disastrous for families like Jahzaire’s. Since 2010, WIC has been cut 17.4%.

Jahzaire’s mother is already skipping meals. Do we want Jahzaire and his younger siblings to go hungry too? As a society, are we willing to do what it takes for the future of our children? When Congress makes a commitment to providing for the common good, people like Jahzaire’s mother won’t have to go hungry anymore.

This story of Tianna Gaines Turner shows how a family could rely upon several programs funded by the government due to economic hardship or medical needs. Cuts across the board can mean that Tianna’s family won’t have access to as many resources for health, utilities, and food, which are necessary for day-to-day living. For example, Community Health Centers  have already been cut nearly 40 percent in the last five years. We aren’t going to reduce our deficit by more cuts to human needs programs that have already been decimated.

Tianna was vulnerable enough to share her own experiences of having to make these choices in testimony before the Ways and Means Committee of Congress to enumerate to importance of not making cuts to the federal budget; they better listen! How will you do what it takes to make sure Congress remembers that people’s lives are at stake with these budget negotiations?

Unfortunately, Congress is more interested in increasing funding for the defense budget than making sure families like Jahzaire’s and Tianna’s are cared for. Confusing terms, political jargon, and party politics cannot be excuses to ignore the importance of a faithful budget that fully-funds human needs programs for all families who need support from society. We must answer Pope Francis’s call to encounter and stay connected to people and their stories to keep perspective. We must uphold these values as responsible residents of the United States. We must require that our legislators not forget the development and fulfillment of all people in society.

Blog: Today’s Poverty Data Release

Blog: Today’s Poverty Data Release

Marge Clark, BVM
Sep 16, 2015

No better, no worse! The U.S. Census Bureau released the poverty statistics for 2014. Compared with 2013, there were no significant differences in the percentages of people living in poverty. “No change” is NOT something to laud in our society!

Again, more than one in every five children (21.1%) lives below the poverty threshold.

Still, more women (16.1%) and more households headed by women (30.6%) live in poverty than is true for men (13.4% and 15.7%).

The median earnings of women who worked fulltime, year-round ($39,621) was 79% of that for men working fulltime, year-round ($50,383).

Generations of white privilege appear to continue to have an impact on the ability to move out of poverty. “White, not Hispanic” persons have a poverty rate of 10.1%, adding in White Hispanics, the total “White” level rises to 12.7%. This is still less than half the 26.2% poverty rate of Blacks.

Does this represent the nation we want? I grapple with this question.

Congress continues to be stuck! They are unable to even talk across the aisle about what our funding priorities need to be. Are we not committed to the belief that “all (men) are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”? One side of the aisle seems dedicated to providing for instruments of war, death and destruction. The other side of the aisle leans toward protecting the rights to food, shelter, clothing, the ability to work, and other expenditures to enhance the quality of life for all of the people.

Poverty has not gotten a lot worse – on average – even though 46.7 million people (14.8% of the population) live below the official poverty level. This level itself is, in most parts of the nation, unlivable. In 2014:

  • 48.1 million Americans (15.4%) were living in food insecure households. (www.frac.org)
  • The national average housing wage for a two-bedroom apartment is two-and-a-half times the minimum wage of $7.25, or $4 more than the average wage of $15.16/hour earned by renters.

(http://nlihc.org/oor)

All of these numbers vary greatly when looked at by state. A visit to any of the websites noted will let you examine the conditions in your own state.

Not all the news is bad!! The U.S. Census Bureau study includes numbers and trends in those having health insurance – truly a huge expense to those who do not. There was a significant change in the numbers/rates of those without health insurance coverage for 2014, compared with 2013. The number of those without health insurance, for all of 2014 was 33.0 million (10.4%), down from 41.8 million (13.3%) in 2013.

A second method of measuring poverty (The Supplemental Poverty Measure: 2014) done in conjunction with the Bureau of Labor Statistics was also released today. This provides a deeper understanding of economic conditions. This supplemental measure adds the value of in-kind benefits, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, school lunches, housing assistance and refundable tax credits. It takes into consideration the impact of government assistance programs that help keep people from falling into poverty, or help lift them out of poverty. For example, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the refundable portion of the Child Tax Credit kept an additional 3.1% of households with children above the poverty threshold.

The impact of these is amazingly wonderful – and most are in danger of again being cut. The improvements made to the EITC in 2012 are scheduled to go away in 2017. These have been significant in the impact of the EITC on poverty. While Congress continues to give tax dollars back to the very wealthy and to corporations, and to make many of them permanent, they refuse to make permanent improvements in the EITC and the Child Tax Credit.

Do we want, as a nation, to continue to have one in every five of our children living in poverty, in food insecure households, unable to afford excellent child care? Is remaining stagnant who we want to be?

Blog: Reflecting on Hurricane Katrina Ten Years Later

Reflecting on Hurricane Katrina Ten Years Later

Bethan Johnson
August 31, 2015

Ten years ago today, after Hurricane Katrina was downgraded from a Category 3 storm to a tropical depression, President Bush flew over New Orleans and saw that 85% of the city was underwater. Eight days after meteorologists began warning us of the storm, Hurricane Katrina had displaced more than one million people in the Gulf Coast region and killed scores.

While presidents, pundits and newspapers remember the tragic losses and report on the subsequent economic growth in the region, it is critical to recall that we can play a role in prevent future ecological destruction. Inspired by the words of Pope Francis in his most recent encyclical Laudato Si’, which draws upon the richness of Catholic Social Justice Tradition, NETWORK believes that Americans must do more than passively marking the storm’s anniversary and instead look for solutions in the current climate change crisis.

The pope is clear—the damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina and the dozens of other natural disasters both in the United States and abroad are our problem because they are our doing. He writes, “Our Sister, Mother Earth…now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.” Leading environmental researchers and climatologists align with the pope’s conclusion that these and other natural disasters are rooted in our current ecological practices.

According to reports, Hurricane Katrina alone displaced more than 600,000 Gulf Coast residents for more than one month and destroyed more than one million housing units in the region, inflicting roughly $135 billion in damages. Since then, meteorologists report that hurricanes, tornado outbreaks and earthquakes across the nation have displaced or killed millions of people. Moreover, actions like that of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that significantly damaged the Gulf Coast’s marine ecosystem show that we have failed to see the seriousness of our actions in relation to climate change.

Catholic Social Tradition teaches us to see our world as a gift and endows us with the responsibility to preserve God’s creation. In the book of Genesis, God grants humankind dominion over the earth, but throughout the Bible God calls people to serve as protectors of Creation, forever conscious of their temporary power and duty to act as stewards for their children.

As the U.S. bishops recognized in Hurricane Katrina: Reaching Out, Renewal and Recovery in Faith and Solidarity, during Hurricane Katrina, “human lives [had] been destroyed and human dignity [had] been assaulted.” We at NETWORK believe that this same destruction extends to other human-caused natural disasters. Instead, we like the bishops believe that the “tradition of Catholic social teaching offers a developing and distinctive perspective on environmental issues [including] a consistent respect for life, which extends to all creation.”

We at NETWORK also agree with the pope’s observation that this call to stewardship extends beyond the preservation of earth and oceans; heeding God’s call is also an issue of care and compassion for humankind. He observes, “Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society.”

Hurricane Katrina and the dozens of other environmental disasters since have had true human cost. Pope Francis calls on justice-seekers to consider inequality in their societies through the lens of environmental destruction. He writes, “Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing and forestry.” By expressing concern over pollution, water scarcity and diminishing biodiversity, we are also living out the Gospel call to live in harmony with nature and work for the good of this generation and those to come.

In the face of this call to action in the face of so many disasters like Hurricane Katrina, we see two paths to establishing a more just approach to our environment. First, as the pope advises, we look to those in Congress and in state governments to work together to find solutions to issues of pollution and water scarcity and to consider innovative methods for promoting alternative energy. We hope that our political leaders can also become leaders in environmental protection by valuing human dignity and coming generations over short-term profits and the influence of big business.

Moreover, Pope Francis calls humankind to act justly on an individual level. He notes that not all issues of environmental inequality and misuse can be solved by technological advances or legislation. Each person can play a role in protecting nature. We at NETWORK hope that people look at their environmental impact and consider what they can do on a daily basis to reduce their footprint. No action is too small; no conversation about stewardship is too short.  Each represents an expression of faith in God’s gifts to us and can help change our world in the generations to come.

As Pope Francis makes his final preparations for his visit to the United States in September, we encourage all people in the United States to seriously consider new, innovative solutions in the issues of global climate change. As Pope Francis implores, “We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.” We look to Congress to promote activities and policies that preserve God’s creation and promote equality, and we call upon justice-seekers to remind our national leaders of the pressing need to protect our world and to live out the Gospel teachings about global stewardships for the sake of ourselves and the coming generations. We believe that this—and not statistics on new revenue streams or real estate boom in New Orleans—serves as a strong indicator for how our nation has recovered from this deadly storm.

Blog: Putting People First in Our Budget Crisis

Blog: Putting People First in Our Budget Crisis

Rachel Schmidt
Aug 13, 2015

The federal budget is a complicated piece of legislation, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. “Wonky” data, words like “sequestration,” and polarized political parties are enough to make anyone’s eyes glaze over. However, the budget is not merely something elected officials tend to busy themselves with. It is essential to bring about the common good, the development and fulfillment of all people in society, by creating a faithful budget.

Too often in budget negotiations, Congress neglects to bring forth the faces and stories of people who are intimately affected by cuts to human needs programs. It’s easy to get lost in the ideology of politics and deficit reduction, but like Pope Francis insists, “service is never ideological, for we do not serve ideas, we serve people.” Therefore, it is critical that we do not lose sight of the real issue:  the federal budget is a tool that must faithfully serve the common good.

The political landscape has made finalization of the federal budget difficult. Initially, the fear was that sequestration would take place. Sequestration means that programs, both on the defense and non-defense discretionary sides of the budget, are automatically cut once previously established budget limits are reached. In theory, sequestration was supposed to be too horrible to go into effect, but in reality, the threat of this austerity measure is becoming more commonplace. In recent years budget negotiations have led to the government shutting down, programs being stopped, and government workers not being paid. It’s these political games that endanger the wellbeing of people in the most vulnerable situations, who rely on safety net programs funded from the non-defense discretionary side of the budget.

Congress had a deadline to approve the Fiscal Year 2016 budget by September 30 in order to keep the government fully operational for the next year. They did not actually come to a final decision by this time. Instead, they passed what’s called a Continuing Resolution (CR) to provide short-term funding through December 11 and put off addressing the real issue of planning for the next fiscal year. Now, as the December deadline approaches, we must be diligent in requiring Congress to commit to funding a faithful budget that serves the common good.

Again, it’s important to remember that a budget is about more than just numbers; it’s about people. To learn more about how this affects real people, watch these two stories from our friends at Witnesses to Hunger:

This story of Jahzaire Sutton shows the stress and impact budget negotiations can have on small children. It is unbelievable that in the United States a mother has to go hungry so her children can eat. Cuts to the program, Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) could be disastrous for families like Jahzaire’s. Since 2010, WIC has been cut 17.4%.

Jahzaire’s mother is already skipping meals. Do we want Jahzaire and his younger siblings to go hungry too? As a society, are we willing to do what it takes for the future of our children? When Congress makes a commitment to providing for the common good, people like Jahzaire’s mother won’t have to go hungry anymore.

This story of Tianna Gaines Turner shows how a family could rely upon several programs funded by the government due to economic hardship or medical needs. Cuts across the board can mean that Tianna’s family won’t have access to as many resources for health, utilities, and food, which are necessary for day-to-day living. For example, Community Health Centers  have already been cut nearly 40 percent in the last five years. We aren’t going to reduce our deficit by more cuts to human needs programs that have already been decimated.

Tianna was vulnerable enough to share her own experiences of having to make these choices in testimony before the Ways and Means Committee of Congress to enumerate to importance of not making cuts to the federal budget; they better listen! How will you do what it takes to make sure Congress remembers that people’s lives are at stake with these budget negotiations?

Unfortunately, Congress is more interested in increasing funding for the defense budget than making sure families like Jahzaire’s and Tianna’s are cared for. Confusing terms, political jargon, and party politics cannot be excuses to ignore the importance of a faithful budget that fully-funds human needs programs for all families who need support from society. We must answer Pope Francis’s call to encounter and stay connected to people and their stories to keep perspective. We must uphold these values as responsible residents of the United States. We must require that our legislators not forget the development and fulfillment of all people in society.

Blog: Urgent Budget Update

Blog: Urgent Budget Update

Marge Clark, BVM
Jul 29, 2015

There is real danger of holding human needs funding at very low sequester levels! The House and Senate are stalled on funding for Fiscal Year 2016 – which begins on October 1, 2015. With only eight legislative days in September, they will need to do a temporary funding bill (Continuing Resolution or “CR”) to give them time to figure out the full year. The CR holds funding levels at the current amount for the time designated – likely until December. One huge danger being discussed in Congress is to do a full-year CR – until September 30, 2016. This would be disaster since it would include the low budget caps currently in place. The final funding level for FY2016 will be the baseline used for developing the FY2017 budget. And, that would become the baseline for the 2018 budget. This would lead to each year’s funding becoming less and less!

Sequestration resulted in an across-the-board cut of 8% in 2013. That amount became the baseline for the 2014 budget, but it was to some degree mitigated by the “Murray-Ryan” budget agreement covering the 2014 and 2015 funding levels. However, the continuing low levels are not tenable, and cannot be allowed to go even lower.

Over the last five years, spending cuts have eliminated housing, nutrition, education and other safety-net programs for hundreds of thousands of Americans:

  • Mentoring for Children of Prisoners-ELIMINATED
  • Housing for Persons with Disabilities-CUT 59%
  • Low Income Energy Assistance-CUT 46%
  • Housing for the Elderly-CUT 52%
  • Violence Against Women Act implementation programs-CUT 11%
  • Green Jobs Innovation Fund-ELIMINATED
  • Effective Teaching and Learning in STEM program-ELIMINATED
  • Rural Health programs-CUT 30%
  • HHS Domestic Violence Hotline-CUT 27%
  • Community Health Centers funding-CUT 38%

Continued cuts will cause suffering, and potentially deaths, for members of working families struggling to keep roofs over their heads.

There are two urgent concerns:

  • Members of Congress must work together to make a budget deal to stop sequestration (the budget caps). This needs to be similar to the 2013 agreement by Representative Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray.
  • They cannot resort to a full year Continuing Resolution!

As you communicate with your senators and representatives while they are home in August, it is critical that you tell them how much people would be hurt by sequestration. And, that it is crucial that they do not fall for a full-year CR, as that would set a very low baseline for the next several years’ funding levels.

Blog: Housing – The Other Supreme Court Case

Blog: Housing – The Other Supreme Court Case

Nicholas Moffa
Jun 26, 2015

All anyone has been talking about has been the Supreme Court recently, specifically its decisions on the Affordable Care Act subsidies and same-sex marriage. Yet there was a third, less-publicized decision that will also impact millions, though less directly than the two previous cases. The case is entitled Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project; in its decision, the Supreme Court protects the use of disparate impact analysis under the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

Some background: the Texas agency is being challenged over the methodology it uses to select construction sites for its low-income subsidized housing. According to the prosecution, said methodology reinforces housing discrimination that results in “segregated living patterns.” The defense, on the other hand, argues that their construction decisions are not racially-motivated. If the judges were to apply disparate impact analysis, the motivation behind the methodology wouldn’t matter; on the contrary, if they deemed such analysis inapplicable, the Texas agency would win the case.

What is disparate impact analysis? “Disparate impact analysis considers whether policies or practices have a disproportionate and deleterious impact on protected populations such as people with disabilities, women, families with children, or people of color.” However, a disparate impact charge only seeks to end those practices that serve no legitimate business need or serve a business need that could be accomplished with less harm done. In other words, if a policy “accidentally” discriminates, but it is for a legitimate business reason that can be done no other way, it can be maintained.

Why is this type of analysis so important? Well, the answer lies both in history and in our modern-day reality. Throughout our nation’s history, disparate impact analysis has helped end all types of discrimination. Additionally, since residential and housing discrimination tends to be very subtle in the twenty-first century, disparate impact analysis is vital to ensure equal treatment of all potential tenants and residents.

So what happened in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project? In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that housing policies can still be designated as discriminatory based on disparate impact analysis, upholding years of precedent and ensuring people can still, in the words of the Court, “counteract unconscious prejudices and disguised animus that escape easy classification as disparate treatment.”

Overall, this is a vitally important decision by the Supreme Court and one that will help ensure that our work in moving towards the creation of a more just society can and will continue.

All anyone has been talking about has been the Supreme Court recently, specifically its decisions on the Affordable Care Act subsidies and same-sex marriage. Yet there was a third, less-publicized decision that will also impact millions, though less directly than the two previous cases. The case is entitled Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project; in its decision, the Supreme Court protects the use of disparate impact analysis under the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

Some background: the Texas agency is being challenged over the methodology it uses to select construction sites for its low-income subsidized housing. According to the prosecution, said methodology reinforces housing discrimination that results in “segregated living patterns.” The defense, on the other hand, argues that their construction decisions are not racially-motivated. If the judges were to apply disparate impact analysis, the motivation behind the methodology wouldn’t matter; on the contrary, if they deemed such analysis inapplicable, the Texas agency would win the case.

What is disparate impact analysis? “Disparate impact analysis considers whether policies or practices have a disproportionate and deleterious impact on protected populations such as people with disabilities, women, families with children, or people of color.” However, a disparate impact charge only seeks to end those practices that serve no legitimate business need or serve a business need that could be accomplished with less harm done. In other words, if a policy “accidentally” discriminates, but it is for a legitimate business reason that can be done no other way, it can be maintained.

Why is this type of analysis so important? Well, the answer lies both in history and in our modern-day reality. Throughout our nation’s history, disparate impact analysis has helped end all types of discrimination. Additionally, since residential and housing discrimination tends to be very subtle in the twenty-first century, disparate impact analysis is vital to ensure equal treatment of all potential tenants and residents.

So what happened in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project? In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that housing policies can still be designated as discriminatory based on disparate impact analysis, upholding years of precedent and ensuring people can still, in the words of the Court, “counteract unconscious prejudices and disguised animus that escape easy classification as disparate treatment.”

Overall, this is a vitally important decision by the Supreme Court and one that will help ensure that our work in moving towards the creation of a more just society can and will continue.