Category Archives: Budget

What to Look Out for in Lame Duck!

What to Look Out for in Lame Duck!

NETWORK Government Relations Team
November 5, 2018

The Midterm Elections are upon us — and NETWORK is busy looking ahead to the work that must be done for the rest of the year.

Members of Congress will arrive back to Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, November 13 to finish out the final legislative efforts for the 115th Congress. There are some time-sensitive issues Congress must address, as well as others that may be considered if there is time and political will. All the items on the agenda will be affected by two factors: the outcome of Tuesday’s election as well as subsequent leadership elections, especially in the House of Representatives.

With these uncertainties in mind, here is NETWORK’s analysis for upcoming issues in the final days of the 115th Congress.

Must Do: Fund the Government for 2019

Appropriations: Congress outperformed all expectations by passing 7 of the 12 appropriations bills for FY2019 before the start of the fiscal year, which began on October 1.  While kudos are in order, NETWORK is urging them to pick-up where they left off as soon as they return and it’s imperative that they finish the job before the end of the year.  Lawmakers have until December 7th to reach agreement on the 5 remaining spending bills which fund programs at more than 10 federal agencies, or risk a government shutdown.  Several of our Mend the Gap issues are among the log-jam.  These include: programs that fund the 2020 census, affordable housing and keep immigrant families together.

Border Wall

The most contentious issue will be funding for the Department of Homeland Security; which President Trump has already threatened a government shutdown if Congress fails to appropriate roughly $5 billion for his border wall.  A government shut-down would be detrimental just weeks before Christmas and would coincide with the anticipated arrival of thousands of migrants trekking toward the Southern border.  NETWORK has joined hundreds of advocacy organizations in calling for Congress freeze spending at FY 2018 levels for immigration enforcement officers, agents and detention beds.   And we urge Congress to pass a separate short-term extension for the Department of Homeland Security.  NETWORK is ready to kick our advocacy efforts into high-gear if we perceive threats around funding for our immigration and census priorities.

2020 Census

Funding for the Census Bureau, which requires a significant ramp-up for Census 2020 preparations and planning.   If Congress returns to the dysfunction we saw last year with repeated funding delays via Continuing Resolutions, it could seriously threaten the ramp-up and preparations for our government’s largest peacetime undertaking, the decennial.  Fiscal Year 2019 is the pivotal year leading up to the 2020 Census so postponing full funding would have dire consequences on the preparations and outcome of the count.  While the proposed funding levels from the Senate and the House seem acceptable, it is unclear what the budget impact would be on the impending court ruling on the controversial citizenship question.

Click here to read more about NETWORK’s FY 2019 appropriations priorities.

That being said, there are some outstanding “Maybe” issues that Congress could address: the Farm Bill, Criminal Justice, and the Low Income Housing Tax Credit.

Farm Bill: Protect SNAP

There has not been much apparent progress since the Farm Bill moved into conference in August.  One of the primary sticking points in negotiations is the nutrition title and reauthorization of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  The partisan House Bill—which passed by 2 votes on the second try—includes harmful provisions that would undermine the program’s effectiveness and cut nutrition assistance for millions of Americans.  The Senate bill, which saw the strongest bipartisan support of any prior Farm Bill (86-11), makes key improvements to strengthen SNAP without threatening food security of participants.  The 2014 Farm Bill expired this month but, fortunately major programs like SNAP have a funding cushion that minimizes the impact of Congress missing that deadline.  It’s highly likely, though, that the Farm Bill conference committee will kick into high gear when Congress returns on November 13th.  During Lame Duck NETWORK will need your help to ensure that the nutrition title from the Senate bill is what’s ultimately adopted and voted into law.

Criminal Justice

There is wide speculation that the Senate could join the House and take up a modest criminal justice reform package during the Lame Duck session, if 60 Senators agree to proceed.  In May, the House passed the First Step Act, a bipartisan bill purporting to be a significant step forward in prison reform.  Over the summer the President tentatively agreed to include several sentencing reform elements into a prison reform package. The Senate was split on the issue of separating prison reform from sentencing reform but has changed course given the President’s willingness to negotiate a compromise.  While NETWORK supports sentencing and prison reform as a joint legislative package we did not take an official position on the First Step Act.

Read NETWORK’s thoughts on the First Step Act, from when it passed the House, here.

Low Income Housing Tax Credit

As Congress concludes work for the year, there is a tradition that of a small group of tax bills that are bipartisan, non-controversial and relatively inexpensive get passed.  This group of tax bills is called “extenders.”  Members of the tax writing committees are now reviewing what their priorities are for any extender bill.  One of the tax initiatives under consideration is passage of “The Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2017” (S. 548) which expands the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) to meet the housing needs of extremely low income renter households. This credit is the primary tool to encourage private investment in affordable housing development and is responsible for 90 percent of all affordable housing developments built each year.  Since it was passed in the bipartisan Tax Reform Act of 1986, the credit has incentivized the creation of 3 million affordable rental homes around the country.  NETWORK will work with

Given the national shortage of affordable housing, NETWORK believes it is critical that new build more low income housing units. Passage of this bill will go a long way to meeting the needs of the homeless and other vulnerable low income individuals and families.

Legislative Update: Trump Administration Proposes New Regulation to Create a Wealth Test for Immigrants

Legislative Update: Trump Administration Proposes New Regulation to Create a Wealth Test for Immigrants

Laura Peralta-Schulte
October 24, 2018

On October 10, 2018 the Trump Administration proposed drastically expanding the definition of who constitutes a “public charge” through a proposed rule in the Federal Register. Such a change would have a detrimental impact on the health and wellbeing of millions of individuals and families. If approved, it would set a wealth test for those seeking to become lawful permanent residents (LPR or green card holders), to extend or change the category of a nonimmigrant visa, or to bring family members to the U.S.  During this term in Congress, the Trump Administration has urged Members to pass legislation cut the family based immigration system and to shift to a merit based system.  Having failed to persuade Congress to much such a change, the Administration is now proposing to change the rules which will in practice limit legal immigration to US to those who are wealthy, well connected and well-educated.

The Administration is punishing people who wait years for a visa to come to America, work hard, and build a better life for themselves and their families. Previously, the government only restricted immigration applications on public charge grounds if it determined an immigrant would likely depend on public cash assistance or need long-term medical care in an institution at the government’s expense. Now, the bar will be much higher and impossible for many average, hardworking people to overcome. Under the proposed rule, receipt of an expanded list of public benefits will also be counted against a person including basic food, health and housing assistance. The full list includes:

  • Long-term institutionalization at the government’s expense
  • Medicare Part D
  • Non-emergency Medicaid
  • Public Housing
  • Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program
  • Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • General Assistance

D.H.S. is also considering adding the Children’s Health Insurance Program to the list.

Further, under this rule, having income below 125 percent of the federal poverty level, or $25,975 for a family of three, would also be counted against an applicant.  A full third of all previous applicants had an income below this level. D.H.S. would also consider age, health, family status, assets, education and skills when determining whether an immigrant would become a public charge and certain characteristics would be deemed “negative factors,” or as indicators that the immigrant could become a public charge. Children, for example, start out with a negative mark because they don’t work.  If an immigrant has a medical condition, that will make it harder to become a lawful permanent resident. Preferencing the wealthy and failing to consider the tremendous gifts all immigrants bring to our communities is wrong.

The consequences of this proposed rule would be felt directly by those applying as well as U.S. citizen children: parents of U.S. citizen children could perceive they must choose between depriving their children of critical public health and safety programs or jeopardize their own immigration status. This is a painful and impossible decision. Both outcomes have devastating consequences for the wellbeing of children and families in America as one quarter of children in this country have at least one immigrant parent, and 90 percent of those children were born in the U.S. This is not a theoretical assertion.  The last time the United States made changes to the public charge rule, as part of the welfare reform effort in 1996, it instilled so much fear in communities that it led to significant drops in the use of programs critical to families. Even populations who were exempt from the public charge, like refugees and victims of trafficking, stopped using critical benefits that provided the support necessary for their families to become stable and healthy.  The use of a temporary assistance program known as TANF, for example, fell 78% among the refugee population despite the fact that refugees were not subject to the public charge test. The current proposed rule would similarly instill great fear in our communities across the country.

Finally, it is clear that the faith community and others who provide human needs services to those struggling in poverty will not be able to meet the needs of those impacted by this rule.  For example, Catholic Charities serves 1 in 9 individuals in need of food assistance in the United States. If the federal government implements the proposed changes, Catholic Charities would absorb an estimated $24 million in services that would no longer be covered.

We can all work to defeat this rule. Stay tuned for more resources and an upcoming action alert from NETWORK for how you can make a difference!

Progress from Congress on Appropriations

Progress from Congress on Appropriations

Tralonne Shorter
September 12, 2018

This summer, Congress made extraordinary progress toward completing the requisite 12 spending measures for upcoming fiscal year (FY) 2019. To date, the Senate has passed nine spending bills, while the House has passed six. Lawmakers have until September 30 to finalize spending bills or extend funding at current levels through a continuing resolution (CR).  Efforts are underway to bundle nine* out of 12 spending measures into three packages by September 30 and put the remaining three** bills into a CR, averting a government shutdown.

One reason for the Senate’s remarkable pace on appropriations is President Trump’s vow to not sign another omnibus spending bill.  To achieve this progress, the Senate uncharacteristically spent part of August in session.  Another reason is a bipartisan agreement between Appropriations committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) not to pack spending bills with controversial provisions that would weaken bipartisan support.

NETWORK continues to lead lobby efforts supporting our Mend the Gap priorities.  These include:  humane border enforcement that promotes family unity and funding increases for affordable housing, workforce development, job training, child welfare and health care.  In addition, NETWORK will continue to oppose efforts to defund the Affordable Care Act.

Immigration

Unsurprisingly, the Trump Administration’s “Zero Tolerance” immigration policy dominated the appropriations debate and faced strong opposition across party lines in both chambers.  NETWORK joined pro-immigration advocates in garnering support for more than 12 amendments to the Homeland Security bill that adds report language that clamps down on family separation with better oversight and accountability standards for ICE detention centers.  Additionally, we successfully lobbied for more funding to support alternatives to detention, family case management services, and mental health screening of unaccompanied minor children crossing the Southern border. However, a major disappointment by House Appropriators includes the reversal of the Flores Settlement, a 1997 agreement drafted by the ACLU which set a 20-day limit for family detention and governs the conditions of detention for children, including that facilities be safe, sanitary, and age appropriate.    If enacted this would allow immigrant families to be indefinitely detained in facilities with harsh conditions not supported by Flores.  Thankfully, the Senate approved LHHSED Appropriations bill leaves the Flores settlement agreement intact and the House language is not likely to be part of the final bill.

As for immigration enforcement spending contained in the Homeland Security Appropriations bill, the House Appropriations Committee approved $7 billion more than the Senate for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and the Southwest Border Wall.  Other areas of concern include, a 10 percent increase in detention beds, as well as funding to hire almost 800 more border and customs agents/officers.

NETWORK will continue to push back on efforts to separate families or that would undermine humane border enforcement as negotiations gain momentum post the mid-term elections.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

The current Farm Bill is set to expire on September 30, unless Congress passes the next Farm Bill before then or extends the current reauthorization.  Regardless of when Congress finalizes the next Farm Bill, funding for SNAP will not lapse as the government is statutorily required to continue funding the program subject to participation demands.  Since 2015, SNAP enrollment has declined by more than 4.7 million people resulting in a $73 billion automatic appropriation for FY 2019.  This is $794 million less than FY 2018 and a 10 percent reduction since FY 2015.

Census

House appropriators gave a big boost to the Census Bureau in the FY 2019 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations (CJS) bill, approving nearly $1 billion more for the agency than the Senate. However, it is unclear how much of the $4.8 billion for the agency will be allocated for the 2020 Decennial.  Conversely, the Senate appropriators (under new leadership) appears to have taken a more conservative approach and adopted the President’s FY 2019 budget request to fund the 2020 Decennial at $3.015 billion.  This is drastically different from NETWORK’s request of $3.928 billion minimum baseline.

Besides census activities, the CJS bill also funds immigration related law enforcement and adjudication efforts within the Department of Justice.  Regrettably, the House Committee bill, fails to fully protect immigrant families and includes increased funding for immigrant-related law enforcement efforts.  Congress is not expected to finalize the CJS bill until sometime after the mid-term elections.  NETWORK will continue to call on our supporters to push for the higher number for the 2020 Census contained in the House bill.

Housing

Funding for housing programs fared better in the Senate.  The Senate approved a $12 billion increase above the President’s FY 2019 budget request−and is $1 billion above the House bill.  Housing programs help nearly 5 million vulnerable families and individuals.  This includes:  $22.8 billion for tenant-based Section 8 vouchers; $7.5 billion for public housing; $11.7 billion for project-based Section 8; $678 million for Housing for the Elderly; and $154 million for Housing for Persons with Disabilities.  Both committee bills reject the Administration’s rent reform proposal, and reinstate funding for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME Investment Partnerships programs, which were eliminated in the President’s FY 2019 budget request.  However, the House reduces spending for the HOME program by 12 percent.

NETWORK will continue to advocate for increased funding for affordable housing programs.

Children and Human Needs

The LHHSEd Appropriations bill funds popular safety net programs, like Medicare and Medicaid operations, home energy assistance, Head Start and the Child Care Development Block Grant.  It is the 2nd largest spending bill, after defense and comprises about 63 percent of total discretionary spending.  The House and Senate bills are slightly different—overall the Senate bill is better because it has a higher spending allocation and contains no poison pill riders unlike the House.

Unfortunately, the Affordable Care Act continues to be attacked by Republican lawmakers.  Both the House and Senate bills reduce access to affordable health care by cutting funding for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) operating budget by nearly half a billion dollars.  According to the House Committee report, Democrats view defunding CMS as “a misguided attempt to sabotage the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance marketplace.” If enacted this cut would significantly impact Medicare as it subject to mandatory 2 percent sequestration cut pursuant to the Balance Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-25).

NETWORK will continue to call on our supporters to push back against efforts to defund the Affordable Care Act.


* Agriculture; Defense; Energy and Water; Financial Services; Interior; Labor-Health and Human Services-Education; Legislative Branch; Military Construction and Veterans Affairs; Transportation and Housing and Urban Development.

**Commerce, Justice, Science; Foreign Operations; and Homeland Security.

Faces of our Spirit-Filled Network: Sister Erin Zubal

Faces of our Spirit-Filled Network: Sister Erin Zubal

Sister Erin Zubal
June 4, 2018

How did you first learn about NETWORK?

I learned about NETWORK from the Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland Social Justice Office when I first entered the community.  NETWORK has informed and educated me on many social justice issues, which in turn has empowered me to do advocacy work.

What inspired you to get involved and join NETWORK?

I was inspired to take action with Nuns on the Bus in 2016.  The goal of the trip was “to bring a politics of inclusion to divided places, change the conversation to mending the vast economic and social divides in our country, and counter political incivility with a message of inclusion.” Our world is in great need of this and I believe it is important to advocate for systemic change that seeks to address the needs of our brothers and sisters who are underserved. What better way to do this than travel the country to listen to the realities and lived experiences of people in our own communities—and then take those stories to our elected officials and encourage them to legislate for the common good.

What issue area(s) are you most passionate about?

Housing, healthcare and advocating for a faithful budget.

How does your faith inspire you to work for justice?

My faith has deeply inspired my work for peace and justice.  As an Ursuline Sister of Cleveland, the story and legacy of martyrs Dorothy Kazel, Ita Ford, Maura Clarke and Jean Donovan have had a tremendous impact on my call to work for systemic change in our world.  Even though I was not yet born when the women were killed, their history and legacy shared with me by my sisters has formed and shaped me as a woman religious. We must continue the work of those who have gone before us—and be faithful to the call as women of faith, committed to contemplation, justice and compassion in all we do.

Is there any quote that motivates or nourishes you that you would like to share?

“If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” Lilla Watson

What social movement has inspired you?

The youth of our world who are standing up and allowing their voices to be heard on critical issues.  I am so inspired and filled with hope witnessing the good work of the next generation.

Erin Zubal is an Ursuline Sister of Cleveland. She currently serves as Guidance Counselor at Cleveland Central Catholic High School in Cleveland, Ohio.

Congress Finally Passes a FY2018 Budget

Congress Finally Passes a FY 2018 Budget

NETWORK Government Relations Team
March 22, 2018

At long last, Congress will pass a bipartisan FY 2018 spending bill that will send communities across the country much anticipated resources. This legislation is six months overdue, and Congress should be ashamed. That being said, while it is not perfect, the FY 2018 consolidated appropriations measure contains robust investments in vital safety net programs.

Many of NETWORK’s Mend the Gap issues were among the programs that fared well. The spending measure significantly boosts funding for the 2020 Census, low-income housing, as well as healthcare for seniors, children, and people who are disabled. Investing in safety-net programs is paramount to ensuring the common good.

We are disappointed that Congress did not muster the courage to include a permanent fix for more than 800,000 DACA recipients. That being said, we know the Trump Administration wanted – and failed – to expand their mass deportation agenda. NETWORK continues to support our champions in the House and Senate for their unwavering commitment to protect Dreamers and their families from harmful attempts to tear apart families.

All of us at NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice look forward to working with Congress throughout the FY 2019 appropriations process to ensure passage of a Faithful Budget.  It’s our hope that Congress will turn a new leaf and set aside petty partisanship in order to complete its work on time.

Below is a detailed look at how the omnibus bill affects NETWORK’s Mend the Gap priorities:

Department of Agriculture

  • Decreases funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by $4.5 billion primarily due to declining enrollments

Department of Commerce

  • Fully funds the 2020 Decennial Census at $2.814 billion, an increase of $1.344 billion above the FY 2017 enacted level

Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

  • Increases the HUD budget by $4.6 billion in additional program funding compared to FY 2017, and more than $12 billion above the president’s FY 2018 request
  • Renews all Housing Choice Vouchers and provides new vouchers to veterans and people with disabilities—the president’s budget request proposed to eliminate 250,000 Housing Choice Vouchers
  • Allocates nearly $1 billion in additional funding to repair and operate public housing
  • Boosts funding for the HOME Investment Partnerships program to the highest level in seven years
  • Does not include any of the rent increases proposed by the president in his FY 2018 budget request

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

  • HHS would receive approximately $98.7 billion, an $11.6 billion increase above the FY 2017 enacted level, including $2.6 billion in new funding
  • Tweaks Medicare reimbursement status of several prescription drugs
  • Increases the Child Care Development Block Grant from $2.9 billion in FY 2017 to $5.2 billion in 2018
  • Raises funding for the Low Income Heating Assistance Program by $250 million to $3.6 billion, although the Trump administration requested elimination of the program for the second year in a row
  • Fails to stabilize the health insurance market by providing subsidy payments to insurers and allowing states to develop more flexible insurance requirements

Department of Homeland Security

  • $1.6 billion as down payment for border wall construction and to make repairs of existing fencing structure
  • Scales back on detention beds: includes 40,520 beds with a glide path down to 39,324 by the end of the fiscal year, a decrease of 12,055 from the FY 2017 enacted level.
  • Freezes number of ICE agents at FY 2017 level
  • Cuts Homeland Security Investigations agents from 150 down to 65

Department of Labor

  • Prevents the Trump administration from carrying out a controversial rule that might have resulted in employers of tipped workers restricting how the tips were distributed
  • Increases funding for employment and training services to $3.5 billion, compared to $3.3 billion in FY 2017

Revisiting the History of Irish American Progressives

Revisiting the History of Irish American Progressives

Timothy Meagher
March 16, 2018

On this St. Patrick’s Day, when Republicans in Congress named Ryan and McCarthy mutter darkly about the corruption of the poor by big government, it is important to remember that for most of their history in America, most men and women with such names, Irish Catholics, embraced government and what it could do for them and others.  It was not because Irish American Catholics were unwilling to work hard, they were; or to live frugally, and put money in the bank, they did.  Yet as a people so poor, with no useful skills or capital, and confronting discrimination in the private marketplace (“No Irish need Apply”)  work and frugality alone  were often not enough for them to survive, much less prosper in America.  Private philanthropies, run by hostile elites, offered them little help: only “charity scrimped and iced,” as John Boyle O’Reilly, the editor of the Boston Pilot, wrote, “in the name of a cautious, statistical Christ.” Empowered by their voting numbers, many Irish American Catholics thus looked to government for jobs, and pushed politicians to provide the small services they needed to tide them over crises: coal in the winter; a place to live after a fire.

By the 1890s, however, as the second major depression in twenty years rocked the American economy, immigration escalated into the tens of millions, and festering slums spread throughout cities, politicians’ petty handouts and charities’ cautious penny pinching was no longer enough.  Reformers, bearing the new name “Progressives,” began to insist that the government address the problems of workers and the poor. These Progressives are often described as enlightened middle or upper class, WASP women and men awakening to the crises of the city.  Many of them were, but Irish American Catholic people and politicians became involved in this struggle too.  Newly powerful Irish American Catholic representatives in the New York New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Illinois legislatures fought for causes such as: a minimum wage, worker’s compensation, factory safety, and public housing.  In Oregon, Irish American Catholic settlement worker, Caroline Gleason, teamed with Fr. Vincent O’Hara to pass a minimum wage and maximum hours law for working women, the first in the country.  Meanwhile Irish Catholic women like Mary Shinnick and Elizabeth Moloney were in the forefront of fights for “mothers’ pensions” in Illinois and Massachusetts.

Twenty years later, more than fifty Irish American Catholics served in the House of Representatives at the high point of the New Deal and the vast majority consistently delivered strong support for the Roosevelt administration’s government relief, social security, public housing, and federal minimum wage legislation.  Meanwhile, veterans of Catholic Charities services, Jane Hoey and Mary Irene Atkinson worked in the Roosevelt administration, as Head of the Bureau of Public Assistance and Director of Child Welfare services respectively

This tradition would not end in the 1930s, but has endured among many to our own time.  It has drawn inspiration from Catholic Social Justice, from people like Monsignor John A. Ryan, for example, called “the Father of the Minimum Wage,” and from common good and anti-aristocratic themes in American and Irish republicanism.  For the most part, however, Irish American Catholics eschewed theories of left or right.  They were looking for practical solutions to concrete needs.  They had no fear that government help would somehow sap their commitment to work or self-improvement, but they could remember when a government’s failure had left a million of their relatives dead on the hillsides of a Famine-stricken Ireland.  They saw no reason, then, why a democratic government like the United States, should not help its people when they were in need.

Six Reasons the President’s FY 2019 Budget Widens the Income Inequality Gap

Six Reasons the President’s FY 2019 Budget Widens the Income Inequality Gap

Tralonne Shorter
March 9, 2018

On February 12, 2018, President Trump submitted his Fiscal Year 2019 federal budget blueprint to Congress. This timing is consistent with the traditional release of the President’s budget, but in recent years the budget process has stalled down the road when Congress must agree on spending levels and appropriations bills. To illustrate: when President Trump’s FY 2019 budget plan was submitted in February, we were well into FY 2018 which began October 1 2017, and we should have had a functioning year-long budget firmly in place. Instead, because of months of delays, this was just days after Congress approved the two-year Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 that lifts both defense and nondefense spending caps and will finally put the FY 2018 federal budget in place slated for approval by March 23, 2018. President Trump’s FY 2019 budget proposal also comes on the heels of Congress’ recent passage of the largest tax reform law since 1986—which raised the deficit by $1.5 million to provide permanent tax breaks for the super wealthy.

The President’s FY 2019 budget calls for considerable defense spending, amounting to $716 billion, while reducing spending for non-defense programs by at least $57 billion below the bipartisan spending caps agreement that Congress just approved. Subsequently, starting in FY 2020, the President proposes roughly $3 trillion in spending cuts (disguised as deficit reduction) over 10 years to entitlement programs that support the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicare, and Medicaid, among other critical programs people rely on.

Yet again, the President fails to prioritize children, working families, people with disabilities and those simply in need of some help during a difficult time.  If enacted, this budget would exacerbate poverty by placing the burden on the most vulnerable among us while handing out tax breaks to the ultra-rich. The President’s budget proposal is morally deficient and NETWORK Lobby will endeavor to ensure that it’s not passed by Congress as written.

Here are six things every social justice advocate should know about President Trump’s FY 2019 Budget Blueprint:

  1. Proposes massive cuts to Safety Net programs. Despite promises made by Congressional Republican leadership not to attack entitlement programs, deep cuts over the next decade are slated for CHIP, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.  The most significant cut is to Medicaid, which would total $1.4 trillion over 10 years and be converted into a block grant with a per capita cap.  Another concern is funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as the Trump budget proposes a $214 billion reduction over 10 years, including a $17 billion cut in FY 2019. This program nourishes more than 42 million people, including 20 million children, 5 million seniors, and 4 million adults with disabilities in our nation.
  2. Underfunds the 2020 Decennial Census. The next decennial census will take place on April 1, 2020. Despite the Trump Administration adjusted request submitted in FY 2018 for $344 million in increased investments in the decennial census, funding lags behind what is needed to ensure a fair, accurate, and modern census.  Furthermore, delayed appropriations have led to the cancellation of two critical tests in South Dakota and Puerto Rico−the only Spanish-based test.  While the Secretary of Commerce has expressed serious concerns about the efficacy of the 2020 census, the President requests $3.015 billion in FY 2019–which is inadequate to support the volume of work needed for completion by census day. Outstanding issues include preparation for address canvassing, marketing and outreach, and final end-to-end testing which has been scaled back from three locations to only one.  NETWORK requests $3.928 billion for the decennial census activities.
  3. Increases funding to deport and separate immigrant families. President Trump’s budget requests $782 million to hire an additional 750 Border Patrol agents and 2,000 ICE officers and agents. The budget also provides $2.7 billion to fund 52,000 detention beds. Despite frankly impossible campaign promises to make Mexico pay for a border wall, the President’s budget includes a request for $1.6 billion in FY 2019 on top of the $18 billion requested in FY 2018 for the construction a border wall along the southern border.
  4. Eliminates Vital Affordable Housing and Community Development Programs. The President’s budget proposes eliminating the Community Development and Block Grant (CDBG) program ($3 billion), the Choice Neighborhoods program ($138 million), and the HOME Investment Partnerships Program ($950 million). Conversely, the budget includes $2 billion in federal rental assistance programs, including funding to restore 200,000 housing vouchers, sustaining the current level of 2.2 million vouchers that protect elderly and disabled households from rent increases.
  5. Offsets 6-Week Paid Family Leave Proposal Using State Unemployment Insurance Structure. In his budget, President Trump resubmitted a proposal championed last year by his daughter, Ivanka Trump, that would provide workers six weeks of paid family. The budget request includes $700 million in start-up costs for states to assist with developing the infrastructure to establish state-based paid leave programs. The budget pays for this proposal by using Unemployment Insurance as the baseline giving states autonomy for implementation. While most working families don’t currently benefit from paid family and medical leave, many states do not have sufficient reserve funds to support this significant financial obligation without raising taxes.
  6. Imposes Work Requirements for Critical Programs. The President’s budget is callously based on the assumption that there are too many “able-bodied” beneficiaries receiving federal and state-level assistance across 80 different programs. Consequently, President Trump proposes incentives for states to expand work requirements for able-bodied parents with children over age 6, and make it a condition to receive food stamps, Medicaid and public housing assistance. Some states have already imposed stricter work requirements that include no food stamps for those who own a vehicle valued more than $20,000 and require drug testing to qualify for public housing. These requirements are harmful and punitive for families and undermine the purpose of these programs, to assist those who need it the most.

A Year of Protest, Prayer, and Persistence

A Year of Protest, Prayer, and Persistence

Laura Peralta-Schulte
March 7, 2018

2017 was a tumultuous year for our nation. Following the election of President Trump and with Republicans in control of both the House and Senate, advocates were fearful of what lay ahead for women, people of color, immigrants, and other communities that had been the target of then-candidate Trump’s consistent attacks on the campaign trail.

President Trump began his Inaugural Address talking about “American carnage”, building walls, and making “America first.” The next day, millions of people marched in Washington and around the world to show their opposition to President Trump’s agenda. Sister Simone Campbell addressed the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. asking people of faith to actively engage in the political debate on behalf of the common good. With that historic mobilization, we began the political action of 2017.

Administrative Attacks on our Mend the Gap Agenda

Two areas of NETWORK’s Mend the Gap agenda were under constant attack in 2017:  healthcare and immigration. On both issues, the Trump Administration used all legal means at their disposal to undo the progress of the Obama Administration. For healthcare, the Administration moved immediately to dismantle the Affordable Care Act by changing regulations under the guise of “flexibility” to limit the program. Later in the year, the Administration refused to advertise and engage in ACA enrollment activities, which was an act of sabotage.

On immigration, including in the area of refugee resettlement, the Administration attempted to fundamentally restructure longstanding programs. This began with issuing multiple Muslim travel bans – which were, until recently, stopped by Court challenges – then concluded the year by announcing a historic cut to the number of refugees the U.S. will settle. The Trump Administration also callously rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program created by President Obama that has protected Dreamers from deportation and allowed them legal work authorization since 2012. The Administration is currently working to remove Temporary Protected Status for large communities of immigrants including those from Haiti, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and elsewhere.

Legislative Attacks on Mend the Gap Issues

One of the first and most sustained threats to our agenda came as Republicans in Congress launched their efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Republican members of Congress have campaigned on repealing the ACA since its passage, so it was no surprise when the House moved to repeal the program. Congress also moved to unravel our broader healthcare system by attempting to fundamentally restructure the Medicaid program into a block grant. This proposal would devastate Medicaid and risk the health of millions of Americans who depend on the program.

What was surprising – and inspiring – was that these efforts failed due to the hard work of a diverse coalition of advocates and the engagement of many people all around the country who responded to the attack with determination. The Republicans had planned to repeal the ACA quickly at the beginning of the Congressional session, but ended up fighting to make changes through the spring and summer until they finally failed in July. Network chaired the national faith healthcare table and played an important role in defeating the effort.

Harmful immigration bills became part of the Republican legislative agenda during the first days of the new Congress. Republicans moved swiftly to increase funding for deportations, detention, and border security as well as pass new legislation to strip sanctuary cities of federal funding. Early on, Democrats united and refused to support a bill that included significant funding to build a border wall. This was an early win for our community, and it became apparent that Republicans would have trouble implementing their agenda because of Senate rules (requiring 60 votes to pass legislation) when operating under regular process. That is why the budget reconciliation process (which only requires 51 votes) has been used to try to pass partisan healthcare and tax legislation.

Crisis set in as the Administration rescinded the DACA program in September. Over 800,000 Dreamers who had signed up for protections and who are fully integrated in American communities, schools, and workplaces face the threat of deportation if Congress does not pass legislation that provides protection. Congress failed to pass this critical legislation in 2017 and it remains a key part of NETWORK’s agenda for 2018.

End of the Year: Tax Cuts or Bust

Because of advocates’ success in blocking major portions of the Republican agenda during the first half of the year, when Congress returned after the August recess, the pressure was on Republicans to deliver a win before the end of the year. They moved quickly to a popular issue for the party: tax cuts. Congressional Republicans worked feverishly for the rest of the year to pass a partisan tax bill that gives significant tax cuts to wealthy people and corporations at a loss of $1.5 trillion dollars for our nation. While there were obstacles to passing the bill, in the end Republicans rallied around the tax bill written by and for lobbyists and their rich donors, marketing it as a middle class tax bill that will spur economic growth and raise wages. Unlike earlier debates, there was little Republican opposition to the tax bill and it moved forward at lightning speed. The bill did not receive any Democratic support.

This was a significant loss for NETWORK for two reasons. First, as part of the tax bill, Republicans achieve a year-long goal of destabilizing the Affordable Care Act by including a repeal of the individual mandate. Experts show that this will increase premiums and potentially lead to 13 million people losing healthcare in the near future. Second, the significant loss of national revenue sets the table for Republican leadership to talk about the need to cut the social safety net programs like Medicaid, Medicare, and nutrition programs next year. Already, President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan have indicated that Congress will push for “Welfare Reform” next year.

An Uninspiring Federal Budget Process

Congress did not pass a full federal budget for 2018, deciding instead to put all of their political energy into passing tax cuts for the wealthy and large corporations. Congress adjourned on December 21 after passing a short-term bill to fund the government at current levels through January 19. This sets the stage for further budget action as well as discussions on funding for 2019.

Harmful Neglect of the Common Good

Congress’s single-minded focus on partisan priorities continually got in the way of bipartisan legislation that would have advanced the common good. For much of 2017, NETWORK and partners urged Congress to extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) well before the October 1 deadline. For 20 years, CHIP has been a popular, bipartisan program that brought the rate of uninsured children to the lowest level in our history. Congress failed to renew CHIP funding and only passed a temporary funding for the program until March of 2018 when they will try again to achieve bipartisan consensus.

Overall, there are three important lessons we have learned in the past year. First, Republicans are deeply divided on core Mend the Gap issues like healthcare and immigration; it is possible in certain instances to build bipartisan support to block bad bills and, over time, potentially to develop bipartisan legislation to solve problems. Second, in order to be successful, advocates must organize and engage in Washington and, perhaps more importantly, at home. Third, President Trump and Republicans in Washington are fearful of political losses in 2018 and will prioritize “winning” the political fight and the next election over the common good. As we work to resist against unjust policies and to promote the common good, we continue to find our power in diversity and community.

Read NETWORK’s 2017 Voting Record here.

Sisters Advocate for a Faithful Budget

Sisters Advocate for a Faithful Budget

Catherine Gillette
January 17, 2018

Congress is once again struggling to reach a deal on the federal budget in order to avoid a government shut-down.  With so many important programs and the lives of so many people on the line, NETWORK believes that passing a faithful budget is absolutely essential. And we are not alone in that belief.

This past fall, NETWORK collected nearly a thousand letters written by Catholic sisters to House Speaker Paul Ryan about the federal budget. While the sisters come from different congregations, live in different parts of the country, and work on many different issues, the underlying message of their letters was the same: our federal budget must prioritize programs that help our nation’s most vulnerable people.

In December, Sister Erica Jordan, OP and Sister Ruth Brings, SSSF (both Speaker Ryan’s constituents) flew from Wisconsin to Washington, D.C. to meet with Speaker Ryan’s Deputy Chief of Staff and deliver the letters.  Shortly after they already arrived in D.C., their meeting was abruptly canceled.  They flew back to Wisconsin without being able to share their concerns or the collected letters with Speaker Ryan’s office.

Fortunately, the story doesn’t end there.

NETWORK is committed to working with Members of Congress and our partners to ensure that these stories are lifted up and the letters, delivered. We call on Speaker Ryan and the rest of Congress to listen to these faithful voices and pass a faithful budget.

Here are just a few of the voices and issues raised up in the letters we received:

“Tax cuts for the wealthy do not serve the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized.  This year, natural catastrophic storms have devastated and impacted thousands of people.  How will your tax cuts rebuild these lives and communities that we know from past storm experience take 5 to 10 years for full recovery? Will these homeless families truly benefit from your budget plans?” –Sister Roberta Feil, SC

“Catholic Social Justice requires all of us to act as our sisters’ and brothers’ keepers.  One way we can meet the needs of our human family is by ensuring all people have access to quality, affordable healthcare.” –Sister Kathleen Quigley, SC

“I have witnessed first-hand the violent and senseless ripping away of parents from their children by ICE.  These are people who are hard-working and contributing members of our church and communities.  Every family deserves stability and security and children in our nation should not have to live with the fear that their parents could be taken from them at any moment.  I urge you to reject additional funding for border enforcement, including but not limited to building a border wall.  As a nation of immigrants, we are called to welcome the stranger and love our neighbor.” –Sister Sharon Costello, CSJ

“I am asking you to promote a federal budget that is a reflection of the values of the nation and the principles of Catholic Social Teaching.  The federal budget is a moral document that reflects the priorities of the nation.  A budget worthy of this nation must prioritize human needs programs, ensure funding to care for the vulnerable members of society, restore economic opportunities, and invest in the common good.” –Sister Colleen Dauerbach, SSJ

Finally, before leaving Washington, Sisters Erica and Ruth took the time to share their message to Speaker Ryan with us at the NETWORK office. Watch the video below: