Category Archives: Budget

NETWORK Calls for Just Response to COVID-19

NETWORK Calls for a Just Response to COVID-19

This webpage will be updated with the latest developments as the United States faces the COVID-19 pandemic. We urge all elected officials to prioritize those who are most vulnerable and those at the economic margins as they respond to this crisis.

Share your story with NETWORK

Tell us what you, your family, and your community are going through. We will make sure our nation’s elected officials know what families across the country are experiencing, and advocate for policies that heal our nation, not further harm.

Friday, March 27, 2020
Congresses passes Coronavirus Economic Package

After critical negotiations, both the Senate and the House have passed the $2 trillion bailout package for workers and hospitals. This package will begin to provide security for many in this time of crisis, while ensuring that no tax-payer dollars go to corporate stock buy-backs or executive raises and bonuses.

Read NETWORK’s press release responding to the legislation.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Senate Nearing Vote on Economic Package

NETWORK urges all Senators to vote yes on S.3548, The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, immediately. We are pleased this bill includes many of NETWORK’s recommendations and approves much needed funds for hospitals, state, and local governments; extends unemployment insurance for workers; and puts conditions on business assistance, in the interest of workers and the economic stabilization and financial security of their families. In short, this bill puts people first

Read the letter NETWORK sent to Senators.

Monday, March 23, 2020
Political Leaders Still Have Not Reached Agreement on Economic Stimulus Plan

Today, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin continue negotiating a $1.6 trillion-plus emergency rescue package, hoping to reach agreement and pass a bill before the end of the day. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is releasing her own plan today.

Read more from Politico.com.

While the negotiations continue, NETWORK and our advocacy partners supported Members of Congress who signed onto a letter written by Representative T.J. Cox (CA-21) calling for immigrants to be included in access to COVID-19 testing and treatment regardless of immigration status.

Read the letter.

Friday, March 20, 2020
Economic Stimulus Negotiations Continue

Following Senate Republicans’ release of their proposed economic stimulus package yesterday, Senators from both parties were in negotiations to come to an agreement before midnight tonight. This afternoon Senate Finance Democrats proposed their own legislation. Negotiations are ongoing — call your Senators now using the phone number above and tell them to support workers and families in this economic stimulus package!

NETWORK calls for Congress to:

  1. Issue full value cash assistance to low- and moderate-income individuals and expand the EITC and Child Tax Credit to more low-income households;
  1. Strengthen, expand, and modernize Unemployment Insurance in order to provide higher benefits and greater flexibility, account for the changing workforce (such as the gig economy), and cover workers who may lose their jobs or face new caregiving responsibilities due to the virus;
  2. Boost nutrition benefits and flexibility for all households receiving the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP);
  3. Increase Medicaid funding for states by fulling covering the state share to adequately address the increased demand for health care and related costs;
  4. Increase homelessness assistance funding. Individuals experiencing homelessness are at increased risk of serious infection because they often live in congregated communities (like shelters and encampments), cannot self-quarantine, and often lack access to running water and other methods to prevent infection;
  5. Expand paid sick leave for every person, regardless of employer or employer size;
  6. Give special care and attention to individuals at increased risk of infection, including incarcerated individuals, immigrants and children in detention, tribes and Native communities, and people experiencing homelessness;
  7. Require funding for corporations to be focused on ensuring that people continue to be paid and receive benefits. Strong guardrails need to be in place to ensure that families and those who need it most get assistance and that companies in the future do not recklessly profit off of taxpayer funding at the expense of workers; and
  8. Expand federal funding for Tribes and Tribal Organizations for robust health services access in Indian Country.

Additionally, regarding the individual payments proposed in the Republican plan, ITEP estimates that only 20% ( $215 billion) out of a $1 trillion bill would be spent on individual payments, demonstrating that the Republican stimulus chiefly benefits businesses.
Read more from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

Thursday, March 19, 2020
Third Package Negotiations Heat Up

The Senate is rapidly writing their third response package and needs to hear from you now.  Please call using the phone number above. Right now, Senator Mitch McConnell is leading the GOP in the Senate in developing the “economic stimulus” package. Our concern is that they are not correctly viewing what KIND of stimulus is needed since this is not a “normal” market crash and will have unknown, long-term impacts on peoples’ lives.  They need to understand that people oppose another big-business bailout predicated on trickle-down economics.

While the need to address industry-wide economic fall-out is important, stimulus aid must have conditions attached to ensure that workers are supported rather than only subsidizing financial markets or corporate profits. In 2008, the federal government provided hundreds of billions of dollars to Wall Street to respond to the financial crisis, with no strings attached. The results for Wall Street were tremendous – a quick return to profitability, large executive compensation packages, major stock buy-backs, and more. The results for working families were disappointing, and most never fully recovered. Financial support this time should be targeted and contingent upon maintaining protections for workers.

Direct benefits to low- and moderate-income households is a powerful and effective economic stimulant. We support a targeted measure to support households most in need. A payroll tax cut does not make sense for this crisis, but refundable tax credits targeted to low- and moderate-income individuals and families could have a powerful stabilizing effect. Expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit would give families and individuals additional relief over time.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020
NETWORK Priorities for Third Coronavirus Package

After finalizing the first two packages responding to coronavirus, the Senate focuses on a third package, an “economic stimulus” package. NETWORK supports including the following financial supports in this economic stimulus. Read all of NETWORK’s recommendations for an economic stimulus package here.
To support people:

  • Target rebate checks and refundable tax credit to low- and moderate-income individuals
  • Strengthen, expand, and modernize Unemployment Insurance and paid medical and family leave
  • Boost nutrition assistance
  • Increase homelessness assistance funding
  • Halt evictions and foreclosures
  • Give special attention to at-risk communities

To support states, municipalities, and health care:

  • Increase Medicaid funding for states and stabilization funds for Community Health Centers and critical related programs

To support business:

  • Ensure federal funds given to support businesses reach workers
Senate Passes Families First Coronavirus Response Act, President Trump signs it into law

The Senate voted to approve the Families First Coronavirus Response Act with a 90-8 vote. President Trump signed the bill into law Wednesday evening.

Read more from www.nbcnews.com.

Monday, March 16, 2020
NETWORK Recommends Senators Vote Yes on H.R.6021

At the conclusion of a 3-day Senate recess, NETWORK sent the following vote recommendation to U.S. Senators calling on them to pass H.R.6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

Read NETWORK’s Senate vote recommendation.

Saturday, March 14, 2020
House Passes Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R.6021)

In a letter to all Members of Congress, NETWORK urged Congress to ensure coronavirus testing is affordable, expand paid sick leave, increase assistance for low-income workers and families, and give special attention to groups with increased risk of infection in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

Read NETWORK’s letter to Congress.

President Trump’s Budget Fails to Mend the Gaps… Again

President Trump’s Budget Fails to Mend the Gaps… Again

NETWORK Government Relations Team
February 14, 2020

We believe the budget is a faithful, moral document that should reflect our values as a nation. Unfortunately, the President’s FY2021 budget that came out earlier this week does not do this. President Trump’s budget proposes$4.8 trillion in drastic cuts to non-defense discretionary spending for vital federal agencies, including a 37% spending cut for the Department of Commerce and a 15% cut for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This will increase the gaps between the wealthy and the impoverished in our nation.

President Trump’s budget abandons the most vulnerable in our nation by reducing funding for fundamental social safety net programs. The budget would increase the number of uninsured people in the United States, cut desperately needed assistance for low-income families, and invest almost nothing into our nation’s dilapidated infrastructure. It is time to mend the racial and income gaps in our nation. We cannot accept this immoral and divisive budget proposal from President Trump.

Once again, President Trump lays out a budget that provides a preferential option for the rich while gutting critical programs proven to lift people out of poverty. His budget would give an additional 1.4 Trillion dollars in tax breaks to the wealthy paid for by cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and other safety net programs.  This is sinful.  We must heal the wounds of economic and racial injustice with those facing systemic exclusion and oppression. We echo the words of the Prophet Isaiah who warned the corrupt rulers of his time, “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.”

The president’s budget proposal lays out another hopeless roadmap that offers no relief or clear pathway to prosperity for disheartened working families. The proposal includes $4.4 trillion in steep cuts to nondefense spending over 10 years, starting with $42 billion for FY2021 to offset increased funding for defense and immigration enforcement. This president fails the moral test of great leaders to care for those with the least among us– the 99% of the country who are over-worked, under-valued, and under-resourced.  We must expect more from our leaders and urge Congress to reject this budget by investing in affordable housing, health care, Medicaid, SNAP, and fair elections.

Here’s how President Trump’s FY2021 budget proposal would negatively impact the Common Good and widen the gaps across our nation:

Endangers the health care of the most vulnerable in our nation by attempting to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and by imposing deep cuts to Medicaid and Medicare.

  • Proposed cuts of $1 trillion in Medicare, Medicaid, and the ACA over the next ten years
  • Implements mandatory work requirements for Medicaid beneficiaries
  • Ends Medicaid expansion for states that have opted to expand coverage. This will eliminate care for the 13 million people who secured care from the expansion
  • No proposals for an ACA replacement plan if it is struck down by the Supreme Court
    • This will lead to elimination of the ACA’s protection against discrimination based on pre-existing conditions and the ACA’s requirement that health plans cover essential health benefits

Implements irresponsible and discriminatory immigration policy.

  • Requests $2 billion to build 82 miles of border wall, plans to divert an additional $7.2 billion from other accounts, and brings the total allocated over Trump’s term to $18 billion.
  • Includes $3.1 billion for 60,000 beds, in ICE detention centers, an increase of 6,000 beds from last year’s budget.
  • Adds $182 million to hire 750 new Border Patrol agents, a quarter more than last year, and $544 million to double Immigration and Customs Enforcement staff.
  • Calls for a 3.2-percent increase in funding for the Department of Homeland Security to carry out immigration enforcement and family separation, but cuts the Department of Justice by 2.3-percent for all federal law enforcement
  • Requires Social Security Number for public benefits
    • Discriminates against non-citizen residents who do not have a Social Security Number

Increases income inequality and racial wealth disparities through more tax cuts for the 1% and drastic cuts to safety net programs.

  • Permanently extends the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act for high-income taxpayers
  • This will cost $1.4 trillion through 2030 for tax breaks for the wealthiest in our nation
  • Cuts SNAP by $182 billion (30% of the program) over ten years
  • Cuts basic assistance for those with disabilities through Social Security Disability Insurance
  • Reduces support for families experiencing poverty by cutting the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program by $20 billion over ten years
  • Eliminates the Social Services Block Grant

Decreases security in our nation’s elections.

  • Cuts the Election Assistance Commission, the federal agency that secures our nation’s voting machines, by 14%
  • Diverts $1.1 billion on cybersecurity spending from the Federal Election Commission to the Department of Homeland Security

Inadequately invests in our nation’s dilapidated infrastructure.

  • Proposes $190 billion in one-time funding for a new infrastructure initiative
    • This investment in our nation’s housing and infrastructure is a short-term fix for a long, expensive problem
    • It will not be enough to adequately address our nation’s housing problem
  • Cuts various infrastructure programs that support highway, mass transit, airport, and port infrastructure through discretionary appropriations
  • Weakens community efforts to enable families to secure housing free from discrimination and fight housing policies that restrict housing access

President Trump continues to promise that he will protect the health care of working families, but his FY2021 budget proposal is just another attack on care for our nation’s most vulnerable. The Trump administration continues to gut the backbone of our nation’s social safety net by slashing funding for Medicare and Medicaid, as well as through continued attempts to enforce Medicaid work requirements. Also, by attempting to repeal the Affordable Care Act with no suitable replacement, President Trump continues to jeopardize the lives of millions who rely on the ACA for quality and affordable care.

President Trump’s proposals shown above illustrate his misaligned priorities. Every dollar spent in carrying out punitive immigration policy, is a dollar less in critical human needs programs, serving communities across the country. President Trump is requesting a huge windfall for agencies that police, detain, and separate families, but neglects food security programs, health, and more. President Trump’s FY2021 budget is a statement of values, which show that the president is more concerned with funding his border wall than serving the people of the United States.

What Congress Needs To Do Before 2020

What Congress Needs To Do Before 2020

Ness Perry 
December 11, 2019

December is shaping up to be a big month for Congress. Before the end of the year, there are a few crucial issues they must act on.

Funding the Government

Congress has until December 20, 2019 to prevent a shutdown. Last year’s government shutdown hurt government employees and hindered federal spending alike. A budget for FY 2020 must be confirmed before December 20 or risk another shutdown.

While the House allocated zero additional funds for DHS border enforcement, the Senate’s funding bill includes a $5-billion-dollars for additional border enforcement. We applaud the House for putting human rights first by voting to allocate no additional funds to DHS. Senate Democrats also voted against giving more money to be DHS. In order to avoid a shutdown, lawmakers must either agree on all 12 spending bills (including DHS) or pass another continuing resolution (CR). A full year CR would result in $100 billion dollars less in funding for federal programs.

Regarding impeachment, Senate Republicans could use impeachment as a bargaining chip and refuse to vote on a spending bill until their demands on impeachment are met.

Trade

USMCA negotiations have just reached agreement. Speaker Pelosi and President Trump were previously negotiating on mechanisms to enforce labor regulations as well as pharmaceutical companies’ ability to include provisions for biologic drugs, which would make it harder for competitors to put generic versions on the market. Lastly, they had to reach agreement about worker protections. Now that the deal has been made, President Trump needs to sign the agreement before the winter recess so that it doesn’t drag on into 2020.

VAWA Reauthorization

Over six months ago, the House passed H.R.1585, a bipartisan bill to re-authorize and improve the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Now, the legislation has reached an impasse in the Senate. Democrats and Republicans have both introduced legislation to reauthorize VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) after attempts to reach bipartisan agreement faltered. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced a Senate version of the House VAWA reauthorization passed with bipartisan support(S.2843).

This bill closes the “boyfriend loophole,” extending existing gun restrictions to include dating partners, which has attracted opposition from the NRA. The bill also expands protections for LGBTQ+ people and Native Americans. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) authored her own bill in the Senate, which does not include these provisions. It is unclear if Senators Feinstein and Ernst will come to an agreement before 2020. We must pass VAWA reauthorization to protect and support all survivors of sexual violence and we continue to advocate with them at the center of our politics.

Census

Congress allocated funding for the 2020 Census at $7.3 billion for the year. This amount will apply until the end of the current continuing resolution, on December 20. Congress must act to retain full Census funding in order to make sure everyone is counted.

Health Care

H.R.3. (The Lower Drug Costs Now Act) is expected to get a rules committee markup early this week, and will then receive a full floor vote later on in the week. An amendment by Texas Representative Lloyd Doggett (TX-35)would allow people without insurance to access the lower drug prices negotiated. Through the demand of moderate Democrats in the House, this provision was unfortunately omitted. It is unclear if this amendment will make it into the final version of the bill.

Taxes

We are hoping to see a short-term expansion of credits under the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. More than 5 million workers not raising children aged 19-67 would no longer be taxed into, or deeper into, poverty each year. Furthermore, improvements in the CTC to make it fully refundable for all families would lift nearly 2 million children above the poverty line. But, it is unknown at this time if Congress will act before the end of the year.

Immigration

The House Rules Committee will hear the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019 this week, which will establish a special citizenship status for certified agricultural workers. A floor vote of this bipartisan bill is expected on Wednesday afternoon.

NETWORK FY 2020 Appropriations Updates

NETWORK FY 2020 Appropriations Updates

Appropriations Bill
House
Senate
Subcommittee Committee Floor Subcommittee Committee Floor    Reconciled?
Labor-HHS-Education (H.R.2740) Passed
(April 30)
Passed
(May 8)
Passed
(June 19)
Transportation-HUD (H.R.3163) Passed
(May 23)
Passed
(June 4)
Passed
(June 25)
Passed
(September 17)
Passed
(September 19)
Passed
(October 31)
Commerce-Justice-Science (H.R.3055) Passed
(May 17)
Passed
(May 22)
Passed
(June 25)
Passed
(September 24)
Passed
(September 26)
Passed (October 31)
Financial Services Passed
(June 3)
Passed
(June 11)
Passed
(June 26)
Passed
(September 17)
Passed
(September 19)
Department of Homeland Security Passed
(June 5)
Passed
(June 11)
Passed
(September 24)
Passed
(September 26)

Friday, November 22, 2019

Yesterday, President Trump signed a short-term funding bill into law, temporarily preventing a government shutdown. This Continuing Resolution (CR) funds the government until December 20, 2019. Before then, the House and the Senate need to reach agreement on funding the government for Fiscal Year 2020, which they have yet to do, or risk a shutdown. We are disappointed our elected officials still have not found a way to pass a full year budget that promotes the common good, nearly two months into this fiscal year.

There is good news, however, in funding for the 2020 Census. In the CR, the 2020 Census received a special funding boost of $7.3 billion to prepare for the upcoming national count. This amount is $2 billion more than the insufficient funding President Trump’s budget would have allocated to the Census and will allow the Census Bureau to adequately plan and put plans in motion for the upcoming Census.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

On October 31, 2019, the Senate passed its first “minibus” or package of four appropriations bills, which included funding for Transportation-Housing and Urban Development as well as Commerce, Justice, and Science. The bill passed out of the Senate by a vote of 84-9. In the four-bill package, the Senate included $6.7 billion for funding the 2020 Census, which is $1.37 billion above the president’s budget but $804 million lower than the House approved level. The minibus bill also included an increase of $1.37 billion for affordable housing programs, which is $6.352 billion above the president’s budget but $941 million lower than the House approved version.

We are deeply concerned that the uncertainty around the FY 2020 appropriations cycle will cause undue hardship on census activities and more than 80 safety net programs. Particularly, the 2020 Census is at-risk to be woefully ineffective if lawmakers fail to negotiate a final agreement on spending allocations by the November 21 deadline. Currently, lawmakers are negotiating details of another continuing resolution that will extend funding through December 13 or 31.

To that end, NETWORK urges the Senate to Prioritize our Democracy: fund the 2020 Census, do not short change human needs programs for the border wall, and extend expiring health care programs. These programs serve the common good and provide critical support to communities; continued funding lapses will have devastating rippling effects.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Yesterday, Congress and the Trump administration reached agreement on a 2-year budget deal to raise our nation’s spending limit. The main points of debate were the Trump administration’s desire for significant spending cuts, and Congressional Democrats’ desire to curb the administration’s ability to transfer federal funds to finance the construction of a border wall.

This deal would raise spending by $320 billion over existing caps and raise the debt limit to allow the government to keep borrowing money. Spending on domestic and military programs would both increase, a key demand of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. This increase is offset by $77.4 billion in spending cuts, half the $150 billion in cuts the White House initially demanded. By lifting spending caps for the next two years, this deal will effectively dissolve the “sequester” imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) which was written to take effect through 2021. This is a huge relief, as NETWORK and partners have been fighting sequestration that leads to cuts to human needs programs every year since the BCA was passed.

Now that the budget deal is agreed upon, the House of Representatives needs to act quickly and pass the budget bill before they leave for August recess next week. The Senate has been waiting for a budget deal before beginning its appropriations work, so we may see the Senate appropriations bills beginning to take shape soon.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The House passed the Fiscal Year 2020 Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill on a 224 to 196 vote. In total, the bill includes $24.55 billion in discretionary funding, an increase of $1.4 billion over the 2019 enacted level and $355.5 million over the President’s 2020 budget request. Additionally, the bill includes a provision to increase Federal civilian pay by 3.1% in 2020.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Today, the House passed its second “minibus” or package of spending bills, this time including funding for Transportation-Housing and Urban Development as well as Commerce, Justice, and Science. In the $383 billion five-bill package, the House included language to block a citizenship question on the 2020 Census and bar the Department of Justice from using federal funds to dismantle Obamacare in the courts. The final vote was 227-194.

Before the vote, NETWORK sent the a vote recommendation to the House in support of the funding package. Read the vote recommendation here.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Today, the House began consideration on another package of spending bills, this time including Transportation-Housing and Urban Development as well as Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations. The House is expected to vote on this package tomorrow. These appropriations bills are critical to provide funding to housing programs serving millions of families and the Census Bureau to execute a fair and accurate census.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Tonight, the House of Representatives voted 226 – 203 to pass a package of four appropriations bills, including Labor-HHS-Education appropriations. These appropriations would provide critical funding for the Office of Refugee and Resettlement and support for children at the Southern Border. We encourage the Senate to pass similar appropriations to care for vulnerable children and families at the border.

Before the vote, NETWORK released a statement encouraging members of the House to vote yes on the package. Read NETWORK’s statement of support here.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Right now, Congress is working on federal budget appropriations for the upcoming Fiscal Year 2020 (FY2020). This process is critical because the result determines how much funding federal programs that mend the gaps receive for the following year.

Appropriations Background

Members of Congress decide our nation’s federal budget every year through a process of writing 12 different appropriations (or spending) bills before the annual fiscal deadline of September 30. The process begins in the House after the President submits a budget proposal to Congress for consideration (which is usually rejected all or in part by Congress). House and Senate Appropriations Committees draft and modify spending bills through a series of committee votes before advancing the bills to the full House or Senate for another round of votes.  Typically, the House and Senate bills are not identical and thus must be reconciled before sending a final bill to the President for enactment.

However, in recent years due to partisan politics over spending allocations, many of the spending measures bypass floor debate after committee action and are instead consolidated into an omnibus or minibus spending bill.  Above, you can see the progress of the bills that include NETWORK priorities.

This year, the appropriations process has added uncertainty because there has not been any agreement between the House and the Senate on overall funding levels. This sets up a future showdown with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and President Trump on one side and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on the other; likely coming down to the amount of funding President Trump wants to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border or other controversial issues.

House Appropriations State of Play

So far, the House Appropriations Committee has passed 10 of the 12 appropriations bills. These 10 bills are now ready for votes on the House floor. The committee expects to complete their work on all 12 appropriations bills this week. Democratic leaders want to pass all the appropriations bills on the House floor by the end of June to allow time for negotiations with the Senate before the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.

They plan to do this by first passing a package of five bills (totaling nearly $1 trillion in spending), which they began considering this week. Passing this package of bills could take several days. The package includes the two biggest appropriations bills: Defense (HR 2968) and Labor-Health and Human Services- Education (HR 2740) as well as the Energy-Water (HR 2960), State-Foreign Operations (HR 2839) and Legislative Branch (HR 2779) bills. After this five-bill package, House Democrats plan to combine the remaining seven bills into additional packages.

Homeland Security and Financial Services appropriations bills will be taken up by the House full appropriations committee this week. NETWORK is following Homeland Security appropriations closely and calls on appropriators to reduce funding for deportation, immigrant detention, and border militarization and instead to prioritize alternatives to detention, implement robust Congressional oversight over Homeland Security practices, and support refugee resettlement and asylum seekers.

Another NETWORK funding priority is Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) appropriations. This bill, as it emerged from the House Appropriations Committee included $7.5 billion in new funding for the 2020 Census, as well as a restriction against using the Census appropriations to fund a citizenship question on the Census questionnaire. The House CJS appropriations bill also restricted funds from being used to be used to hire more immigration judges, and instead would establish a pilot legal advocacy program for nonprofit organizations to provide legal representation to immigrants seeking asylum and other forms of legal protection in the United States.

Of course, federal housing programs, which are included in the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (T-HUD) appropriations bill, are a NETWORK focus. While President Trump’s budget proposed cutting Housing and Urban Development funding by $9.6 billion, the House Appropriations Committee’s bill provides a total of $50.1 billion for HUD, an additional $5.9 billion over the FY19 funding.

Senate Appropriations State of Play

Appropriators in the Senate have held off working on any of their bills so far. They are waiting while talks proceed on a budget deal to set overall spending levels.

On Tuesday, June 11, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) and other Republican appropriators met with acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget Russ Vought. They discussed making a budget deal with Democrats to avoid a government shutdown or automatic spending cuts in October, and have agreed to proceed with bringing the President’s $4.5 billion southern border humanitarian aid package to the floor next week.

Updating Tax Policy in Public Education Works Toward Racial and Economic Justice

Updating Tax Policy in Public Education Works Toward Racial and Economic Justice

Daniela Zelaya
October 29, 2019

Every year, our lawmakers decide where they are going to spend taxpayer dollars. The past few years, the administration has unfortunately decided to cut funds for welfare programs such as SNAP, Medicaid, Social Security Income, housing assistance and a few others. Along with cuts to the welfare system also goes the education system. Last year, entire school systems around the country had to go on strike due to lack of funding. In fact, the Washington Post declared 2018 as ”The Biggest Year for worker protest in a generation.” They not only went on strike for their unfairly low salaries, but also for the overall lack of support from the government to fund public schools.

 

As many know, funding for public schools comes in many ways but mostly derives from property taxes. In turn, public schools benefit when they are in areas where property values are high. However, it is the opposite in areas where property values are not as high. That tends to be in areas with a high population of low-income families and families of color. As a result, teachers in these schools earn less and receive less and outdated resources for their students. No matter how much the Every Student Succeeds Act and the Common Core State Standards aim towards closing the achievement gap, the education of minority and low-income students is still incomparable to the education of white wealthy students. It is hypocritical for the United States government to want its students to rank high in comparison to the rest of the world but refuse to support their education. That is why this tax policy should be updated to create another mode of funding for the public education system in the United States.

 

A popular critique from people is that the government cannot just throw money at issues and expect them to be solved overnight. But governmental institutions cannot run properly without sufficient funding. Creating modern tax policies that reroute money into education helps teachers, students, the community, and the country as a whole.

 

Increasing teacher wages means giving them more time to prepare their lessons because they will not have to go to their second job after school or on the weekends. It will also give them the time to be able to pursue their master’s degrees to become even more effective teachers. Additionally, it will encourage more high school students to become teachers and pursue a traditional four-year education degree.

 

Additional funding for schools can also provide for opportunities to coach new teachers through their first two years. For most rookie teachers, the first year is the “survival” year. During this year, teachers stay at school until nine at night trying to figure out how they can improve things the next day. Because of this, some burn out and leave the teaching profession, leaving classrooms full of children without a teacher. Resources that provide a mentor to first year teachers are valuable and are mostly being implemented in alternative teacher preparation programs, like Teach For America. However, it should be offered to proper public-school teachers who have already been trained for four years.

 

Changing tax policy to reroute money into public schools is an option to help the future of the United States, no matter where children come from or what their family’s socioeconomic status is. A modern way of funding education would prevent the system from exclusively helping students from white and wealthy families.

Daniela was born in the city of San Salvador, El Salvador. She came to the United States at the age of 3. As an undocumented person, and as the first person in her family to attend college, she understands the idea that a quality education should not be a privilege, it is a human right. She is currently a senior at Trinity Washington University, double-majoring in Early Childhood Education and Sociology. Daniela hopes to one day become the first Latina U.S. Secretary of Education.  

Advocating for Policy Change on Capitol Hill

Advocating for Policy Change on Capitol Hill

Sr. Emily TeKolste, SP
September 26, 2019

As climate leader Greta Thunberg scolded international leaders at the United Nations and protesters shut down the streets in D.C., NETWORK and our partners hosted a rally and press conference on Capitol Hill. Following the rally, we delivered a letter to several key Senators challenging them to address the injustice in our current immigration system through the ongoing appropriations process. It’s not quite as exciting as shutting down streets or risking arrest (as Catholics and others have previously done in both D.C. and Newark), but distinct policy proposals – actionable requests of our elected officials – are also important.

For my first experience advocating on Capitol Hill, I joined Charlotte Hakikson, a Grassroots Mobilization Associate, and Kathleen and Dan from the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns to deliver letters to Senators Collins (ME) and Manchin (WV). We called on the Senators to use the appropriations process to shift funding away from detention, deportation, and border militarization to refugees, asylum, and alternatives to detention, and to exert robust oversight over the use of appropriated funds. Shifting the public conversation around immigration lays the groundwork for change, but specific legislative asks will shift the reality of our policies. We do this work of justice-seeking together as we demand more of our nation and our leaders.

As climate change drives refugees and asylum seekers from their homes, we must continue to stand and say, in the words of Greta Thunberg, “We will not let you get away with this!”

Trump Budget Fails to Mend the Gaps

Trump Budget Fails to Mend the Gaps

Tralonne Shorter
May 24, 2019

In March, President Trump released his federal budget for Fiscal Year 2020 (FY 2020). The budget proposed across-the-board spending cuts by at least 5 percent.

At NETWORK, we believe the budget is a faithful, moral document that should reflect our values as a country.  What’s not faithful is the President’s FY 2020 budget which proposes drastic cuts to non-defense discretionary spending by $2.7 trillion over 10 years (a 10% reduction from FY 2019), $8.6 billion to fund a superfluous Southern border wall, the elimination of dozens of social programs for working families, while also siphoning billions of dollars into defense programs through the Overseas Contingency Operations slush fund.

Historically, Congress rarely passes a president’s budget without any changes. However, because of sequestration caps imposed in 2011, without agreement by Congress to lift spending caps, steep cuts to discretionary funding will take effect.  The caps set in the Budget Control Act of 2011 would trump even the President’s proposed FY 2020 budget by imposing a 10 percent cut ($125 billion) across the board in 2020.

NETWORK urges Congress to reject the Trump administration’s abandoning of vital investments in affordable housing, healthcare, Medicaid, SNAP, and an accurate 2020 Census –instead calls on Congress to raise the budget caps and pass a faithful budget that invests in the common good.

A faithful budget would invest in healthcare and nutrition, housing, and a fair and accurate 2020 Census.

Here’s how President Trump’s FY 2020 budget proposal would impact the Common Good:

Irresponsible, Superfluous Spending to Secure the Southern Border  

  • $5.4 billion in border security technology, infrastructure, and equipment at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
  • $3.6 billion in new military construction resources at the Department of Defense
  • $478 million to hire and support 1,750 additional law enforcement officers and agents at Customs and Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
  • $2.7 billion in total funding for 54,000 average daily ICE immigration detention beds.
  • $4.5 billion of additional funding to cope with a surge of migrants at the U.S. southern border in a supplemental budget request to Congress.

Prioritizes Profits over the Health and Well-Being of the Common Good

  • Proposes more than $1.2 billion in net mandatory health savings
  • Repeals the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid Expansion
  • Replaces ACA coverage with an inadequate block grant, while also imposing a per-capita cap on the rest of the federal Medicaid program.
  • Decentralizes the administration of Medicaid to the states by creating a new federal-state partnership

Inadequately Funds 2020 Census

  • The President’s FY 2020 budget request sets aside $12.2 billion for the Department of Commerce and provides a $6.1 billion budget for the Census Bureau — an increase of more than $2.3 billion from fiscal 2019 enacted levels.
  • The budget request is $900 million short of Secretary Ross’ previous estimate of $7.4 billion for decennial operations alone; despite the need to conduct field tests of the new IT systems the Census Bureau plans to implement in 2020.
  • Inadequate funding has contributed to the cancellation of two of the three end-to-end field tests originally planned and could threaten the accuracy, and ultimately increase the overall cost of the Census.
  • The Census Bureau now estimates the 2020 Census will cost $15.6 billion, $3 billion more than original estimates. including better efforts to collect despite a $1.2 billion in contingency funding

Citizenship Question
For the first time since 1950, the decennial Census would ask households whether their members were U.S. citizens. In response, 18 states have sued the Commerce Department to prevent the inclusion of this question, more than 160 mayors from both parties wrote Secretary Ross requesting removal of the question, and several former Census directors warned about the risks and costs associated with including a citizenship question.

Inadequately Supports Working Families in the Workplace

  • The Trump budget would offer a limited paid family leave proposal only targeted to families with newborn or newly adopted children.  The president’s budget excludes adult children caring for aging parents or parents caring for disabled children.
  • Further, the budget’s budget only funds 6-weeks of leave, which is inconsistent with the 12-weeks of guaranteed leave offered through the existing FMLA law.
  • The Trump budget provides a one-time, mandatory investment of $1 billion for a competitive fund aimed at supporting underserved populations and stimulating employer investments in child care for working families; placing the burden on states to sustain.

Housing Proposals Would Increase Poverty and Put Families on the Street

  • Overall, the administration proposes to cut HUD by an astounding $9.6 billion or 18% below 2019 enacted levels, imposing deep cuts to affordable housing and community development, as well as other essential programs that ensure basic living standards.
  • The President’s proposal would eliminate or deeply cut essential housing and community development programs like the national Housing Trust Fund, the HOME Investments Partnership program, and public housing capital repairs.
  • Additionally, the budget would eliminate the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, the HOME Investment Partnerships program, Choice Neighborhoods grants, the Section 4 Capacity Building program, and the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program.
  • There is no discussion of how eliminating CDBG would impact future disaster relief efforts, which heavily rely on CDBG-Disaster Recovery funds to address unmet housing and infrastructure needs.
  • The budget would increase rents and imposing work requirements on current and future tenants requiring tenants to pay 35 percent of their gross incomes, compared to 30 percent of their adjusted incomes previously, on their rents. The very poorest elderly and disabled families would also see their rents triple up to 30 percent of their gross incomes or $50, whichever is higher.
  • The budget would cut funding for tenant-based rental assistance (TBRA). The request provides $22.244 billion for TBRA. At this amount, the budget request does not provide enough funding to ensure that all contracts are fully renewed. As a result, NLIHC and others expect that this would result in the loss of thousands of vouchers.
  • The budget proposal would provide $12.021 billion to renew project-based rental assistance (PBRA) contracts, an increase of $274 million from the FY19 funding level. This will likely not be sufficient to renew all existing contracts.
  • Public housing takes a huge hit under the Trump budget proposal. The public housing capital fund, which received $2.775 billion in FY19, would be eliminated in FY19. The allocation for the operating fund would fall significantly, from $4.65 billion in FY19 to $2.86 billion, or 38 percent.
  • President Trump would fund homeless assistance programs at $2.599 billion, or $34 million less than 2019 enacted levels.
  • The budget provides $644 million to the Section 202 Housing for the Elderly program, a $34 million decrease from this year’s funding level.

Paid Leave Proposals Shouldn’t Slash Social Security

Paid Leave Proposals Shouldn’t Slash Social Security

Siena Ruggeri
May 2, 2019

We are at a rare moment of bipartisan agreement on the importance of paid leave. The Trump administration has expressed support for the idea of paid family leave, and suggests six weeks of paid parental leave in its 2020 budget proposal.  Senators Marco Rubio and Mitt Romney’s New Parents Act (S.920) offers a leave option for new parents. Senators Joni Ernst and Mike Lee have introduced the Child Rearing and Development Leave (CRADLE) Act, a discussion draft that is very similar to the Rubio bill. Finally, Senators Bill Cassidy and Kyrsten Sinema are collaborating on a bipartisan paid leave proposal.

While there is hope in the bipartisan enthusiasm for paid leave, the details of these proposals are highly concerning. We must be diligent in informing our members of Congress what a truly robust paid leave program looks like.

These proposals have a narrow view of what constitutes paid leave. The proposals would only offer leave for parents caring for a new child through birth or adoption. While this type of leave is important, family leave is used for many other reasons. Three out of four workers have a caregiving responsibility, and a lack of paid leave makes it incredibly difficult for them to remain financially secure while providing the care their family members need. If a worker has a child with a disability, an aging parent, or a spouse with a serious illness, they would not be covered under these proposals. Paid leave legislation is not family-friendly unless it addresses all the types of caregiving situations workers live with.

When looking closely at the funding of these proposals, it becomes apparent that the paid leave is not responsibly paid for. Both the New Parents Act and the CRADLE Act are funded by cuts to Social Security. In order to access their “paid leave,” new parents have to borrow from their Social Security benefits. As a result, parents would have to either delay their retirement by half a year or take a 3% overall cut to their lifetime benefits. Working parents already lose an estimated $10,513 in wages for taking 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Instead of addressing this problem, the proposed legislation punishes working parents in a different way by cutting their benefits. Cuts to Social Security are irresponsible and unacceptable.

These legislative proposals ignore how women and people of color, are most impacted by paid leave policies. Of the estimated 43.5 million unpaid caregivers, 60% are women. Among Millennial caregivers, over half are people of color. These populations are taking on the most caregiving responsibilities yet face pay and benefits cuts for doing so. Due to structural barriers in the workplace, 73% of Latinx and 62% of Black workers qualify for FMLA yet cannot afford to take it. These proposals do nothing to remedy these disparities. Instead of addressing the wealth gap, workplace discrimination, and unpaid labor caregivers face, these proposals force them to make more impossible choices between work and family.

We must reach out to the writers of these proposals and emphasize that family-friendly workplace legislation must be comprehensive and responsibly funded. The FAMILY Act provides a self-sustaining family and medical leave fund that includes all types of caregiving. Instead of taking away Social Security benefits, it is funded by a modest payroll tax that costs employees $1.50 a month. If Congress wants to improve workplaces for families, any reform must be universal, inclusive, and responsibly funded.

 

Feature image courtesy of Demos

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!