Category Archives: Food Security

Listen: Interfaith Partners Oppose the Trump Administration’s Public Charge Rule

Listen: Interfaith Partners Oppose the Trump Administration’s Public Charge Rule

Lee Morrow
August 15, 2019

This week the Trump administration announced that their proposed changes to our nation’s public charge rule are scheduled go into effect in October. NETWORK and our fellow faith-based advocacy partners were compelled to respond. Representatives from MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, Church World Service, the National Council of Jewish Women, and Faith in Public Life joined Sister Simone Campbell to denounce this harmful change to our nation’s immigration policy.

“The Trump Administration is making history in all the wrong ways,” said Liza Lieberman, Director of Public Policy for MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. “For the first time, U.S. immigration officials will be instructed to consider non-cash basic needs benefits (including vital food assistance from the SNAP) in considering immigrants’ qualifications for admission or adjustment of status. This is completely unacceptable—nobody should be forced to choose between accepting government assistance and living in safety in the country they call home. This policy is an affront to our Jewish values of compassion and nondiscrimination, as well as our deeply-held belief that everyone deserves access to the resources they need to feed themselves and their families.”

Faith William, Senior Manager of Government Affairs at the National Council of Jewish Women added, “Jews are an immigrant and refugee people – it’s part of our cultural DNA. We recognize that the rule, reportedly Stephen Miller’s “singular obsession,” is part of a larger effort by this administration to criminalize and marginalize people of color, including immigrants of color. The National Council of Jewish Women will not cease in its fight against this and other harmful anti-immigrant, anti-asylee, and anti-refugee policies.”

Sister Simone Campbell stated “This public charge rule is a full scale assault on hard working low wage workers…  These essential programs that they are legally entitled to are really the keys to being able to support their families and thrive here in the United States. President Trump is literally taking food off the tables of our neighbors.”

Share on Social Media:

National faith-based organizations condemn Trump Administration’s draconian #publiccharge rule. This is not who we are. Listen here: https://networklobby.org/20190815publiccharge/ @NETWORKLobby @MAZONusa @global_cws @NCJW @FaithPublicLife

.@DHSgov issued a final rule to radically expand the criteria for who could be considered a #publiccharge under U.S. immigration law. This will separate families & impact millions of people including U.S. citizens. @NETWORKLobby @MAZONusa @CWS_global @NCJW @FaithPublicLife Our interfaith response: https://networklobby.org/20190815publiccharge/

Trump’s #publiccharge rule change is sinful. Learn more about how faith-based organizations are fighting back: https://networklobby.org/20190815publiccharge/. @NETWORKLobby @MAZONusa @CWS_global @NCJW @FaithPublicLife

We’re proud to stand with our interfaith partners in opposition to Trump’s vindictive #publiccharge policy. This is the latest in a string of attacks on immigrant families, and it goes against our most basic values. #ProtectImmigrantFamilies https://networklobby.org/20190815publiccharge/ @NETWORKLobby @MAZONusa @global_cws @NCJW @FaithPublicLife

Trump Administration Seeks to Re-Define the Poverty Line

Trump Administration Seeks to Re-Define the Poverty Line 

Elisa McCartin
July 10, 2019

The Trump administration is escalating its attacks against working families and using the power of the executive branch to implement their agenda unilaterally. This circumvents the legislative process and is a rejection of the legislative branch’s power 

How Agency Rule Changes Work 

Our many federal agencies create and implement policies that have profound impacts on our nation. Members of President Trump’s cabinet can direct the agencies to alter their policies and procedures by proposing specific rule changes. The agencies are required to give citizens and organizations a specified time period (usually 30-60 days) to comment on proposed changes before the agency is allowed to make a final rule. The agency must consider every comment before they implement their decision. These comments are often the only means the public has to check the power of these rule changes.  

After a rule change goes into effect, people or organizations can then challenge the agencies in court and the agencies must prove they considered every argument in every submitted comment. Because of this requirement, NETWORK and many of our partners have submitted comments on the harmful proposed rule changes the Trump administration has been rolling out in various federal agencies. We encourage our members to keep track of these sly and underhanded harmful policy proposals and submit comments to prevent or at the very least, stall, the Trump administration from enacting more damaging policies without Congressional approval.  

Proposed Poverty Line Rule Change 

One proposed rule change that NETWORK and many other advocacy organizations submitted comments to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) about would alter the inflation measurement used to determine the U.S. poverty line. The Official Poverty Measure (OPM) in the U.S. is calculated based on three times the estimated cost of a subsistence food budget for an average family, and adjusted for inflation each year. The OMB usually uses the Urban Consumer Price Index (CPI-U) as the inflation adjustment mechanism. The OMB’s proposed rule would mandate a switch from using the CPI-U to the chained Consumer Price Index (C-CPI-U) or the Personal Consumption Expenditure Price Index (PCEPI). The inflation index the OMB uses to adjust the poverty line is extremely important because it will alter families’ eligibility for social programs.  

Both proposed alternative inflation indices—the chained CPI and the PCEPI—underestimate inflation. The CBO reports that the chained CPI grows 0.25 percentage points slower than the CPI-U. This is because the chained CPI and PCEPI account for when consumers substitute goods for one another in the marketplace based on price increases. However, low-income families do not have the level of economic flexibility where they can exchange goods for one another, thus making this measurement inaccurate. Moreover, low-income families feel inflation more severely than middle and high-income families. Low-income people spend a larger percentage of their income on housing, and home rents have risen at double the inflation rate. Using indices that underestimate the inflation rate to determine the poverty line is an utterly inaccurate measure of the costs low-income families face. These should not be used to calculate the poverty line in the U.S.  Our principles of Catholic Social Justice teach us to prioritize the needs of those at the economic margins. This proposed rule denies the fundamental realities of people struggling to make ends meet. 

Furthermore, this move would have devastating effects of people who currently qualify for federal programs. The Center of Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) calculated that switching to the chained CPI would lower the poverty line by 2.0% and using the PCEPI would reduce the poverty line by 3.4%. This dramatic reduction would prevent millions of individuals and families from receiving benefits and social services, as they would no longer be eligible even though their actual economic status remains unchanged. As a result, the CBPP projects that more than 250,000 senior citizens would no longer qualify for Medicare Part D Low-Income Subsidy, 150,000 seniors would have to pay premiums exceeding $1,500 per year, 300,000 children would lose medical coverage under the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), 250,000 adults who gained coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would lose it, and 150,000 consumers would no longer receive cost-sharing assistance in ACA marketplaces.  

The U.S. poverty line is already too low—20% of people living in the U.S. do not meet one or more of nine basic need standards. This change would strip millions of life-saving supports, compounding the already severe impacts of poverty, homelessness, and hunger in our society. As people of faith, we are called to support those in need—not further entrench vulnerable families in poverty. 

NETWORK believes that it is our obligation to prevent the catastrophic effects of this proposed rule. The Trump administration is circumventing the legislative branch where citizens have more influence, amplifying the need to closely follow and comment on agency rule changes spearheaded by Trump Cabinet members. Although the period for submitting comments on this rule has closed, it is our imperative to continue tracking OMB’s decision making, to hold the executive branch accountable to the people, and to advocate for policies that mend the gaps 

___________________________________________________________________________________ 

Elisa McCartin is a NETWORK volunteer and student at Georgetown University. 

Presidential Failures to Mend the Gaps

Presidential Failures to Mend the Gaps

Colleen Ross
February 8, 2019

Over the course of 2018, the Trump administration set numerous policies into motion that are sure to harm vulnerable communities and exacerbate the gaps in our society. Our spirit-filled network took action to denounce the harmful actions taken by the Trump administration and prevent them from going into effect. By writing and submitting comments on proposed rules in the federal register, organizing and attending protests, and raising awareness of these issues, you acted in solidarity with the individuals and families impacted by these unjust decisions.

Healthcare

In January 2018, the Trump administration announced that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) would begin approving states’ requests to impose burdensome Medicaid Work Requirements. Since then, work requirements have been approved in five states, and are pending in ten more states. These work requirements target already vulnerable low-income adults, many of whom are already working or doing their best to secure steady work that pays sufficient wages.

Nutrition

The Agriculture Department released a proposed rule to enforce stricter SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) Work Requirements right at the end 2018. This happened just after Congress had finally reached agreement after months of bipartisan negotiations, resulting in a majority of Congress voting to not include these restrictive work requirements in the Farm Bill. This unilateral action from the administration is clear rejection of Congress’s hard-won, bipartisan agreement.

Census

President Trump’s Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced they would be adding a Citizenship Question to the 2020 Census just as it nears the final stages of preparation. The addition of a citizenship question is likely to further depress Census responses from communities of color (which are already undercounted), due to fear of immigration enforcement in the current climate. Additionally, concerning information about persuasion from the White House and undisclosed communication with the Department of Justice encouraging Secretary Ross to add the citizenship question, has become public.

Immigration

In September, the Trump administration released a proposed regulation that the advocacy community refers to as the Flores Rule. This new regulation would dismantle the current “Flores” standards, now allowing the indefinite detention of immigrant children and families, including asylum seekers. In addition to being morally reprehensible, this proposal rejects proven alternatives to mass detention, which are more humane and effective. This proposed rule would allow the federal government to set their own standards for holding families and children in detention and undermine independent oversight of conditions; it also reduces vulnerable families’ access to due process and humanitarian protections.

The Trump administration’s proposed “Public Charge” Rule, published in October, would make it more difficult for immigrants to apply for and receive legal immigration status in the United States. This proposed rule seeks to drastically redefine what it means to be a “public charge” in the immigration system. This would increase the probability that legal immigration applications would be denied based on factors such as age, health, family status, financial status, education, skills, and employment history and would hurt and potentially separate families. Even the threat of this rule is already causing parents to choose between needed public assistance to keep their families housed, fed, and healthy or making their family vulnerable to separation.

Throughout the year, the Trump administration has threatened immigrants with legal status through two programs. Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a legal immigration status for nationals of a country experiencing ongoing armed conflict, environmental disaster, or another extraordinary and temporary condition. Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) allows foreign nationals to be protected from deportation and have the opportunity to work. Currently, the Trump administration is in the process of ending protections for TPS or DED holders from 11 countries. Many of these TPS/DED holders have been here for more than 20 years, have families in the United States, and would continue to face conflict or other difficult conditions in their home countries.

Judicial

The Senate approved 66 of President Trump’s Judicial Appointments in 2018, including Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. This is a significant number of appointments and these confirmations will have a strong impact on the makeup of our judicial system.


This story originally appeared in the January 2019 issue of Connection Magazine. Read the full issue here.

Did You Eat Today? Do More Than Thank a Farm Worker

Did You Eat Today?
(Do More Than) Thank a Farm Worker

Erin Sutherland
November 19, 2018

Last month, I had the opportunity to attend an interactive presentation and mindful dinner entitled “A Harvest for Justice,” led by Stoneridge Academy’s Director of Social Action, Lauren Brownlee. Lauren described her recent trip to Washington State to meet with other members of the National Farm Worker Ministry.  While learning about the challenges farm workers face in access to housing, adequate health and safety, just wages, and those that specifically impact women, I was both parts equally shocked and horrified.

I was immediately reminded of the striking similarities between the injustices farm workers experience and the issue areas NETWORK has chosen to focus on to “Mend the Gaps” in our society.  The gap for farm workers is even wider than that of the general population because of the inability of farm workers to organize collectively, or the fact that citizenship status can deter people from coming forward and reporting abuse.  Especially as Thanksgiving approaches, it makes me angry to think about how our national dinner table is supplied by people who are being exploited.  All of us, especially those who are dedicated to fixing societal gaps, need to do better to rectify the ways in which we are participating in an unjust food system.

As I reflect on all I have to be thankful this year, the evening left me wondering what more I could do to show my respect for farm workers and be an ethical consumer.  Attendees discussed eating mindfully, hosting a documentary watch-party like watching Food Chains, and participating in online campaigns.  While these are a great first step, I think it is also important to think more broadly about how to dismantle the unjust, capitalist produce market.

One way is to buy produce directly from farmer-organized initiatives or with ethical certifications.  As someone with modest income, I also understand how difficult it can be to pay a little more for ethically sourced produce.  One thing I’ve started doing is making sure to keep my food waste to an absolute minimum.  This is one way I can show my solidarity with those who worked so hard to pick the food in my fridge by making every effort to consume it all.  This means packing leftovers, coming up with creative solutions to using produce that is starting to look iffy, and supporting companies like Hungry Harvest that save perfectly good food from landfills by re-selling produce that couldn’t be sold at the grocery store.

My journey to becoming an ethical consumer and demanding positive change in the produce industry is just beginning.  Far from feeling hopeless or overwhelmed, I feel equipped with the knowledge to move my appreciation past words and into action.

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.

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.

Sister Kathy Flynn: Don’t Assume the Poor and Hungry Aren’t Working

Don’t Assume the Poor and Hungry Aren’t Working

Sister Kathy Flynn
August 19, 2018

I’m a native Iowan and a Catholic Dominican Sister. I minister at Opening Doors, a program in Dubuque that welcomes women who experience homelessness and who seek our help as they rebuild their lives.

We work with them to find employment, pursue educational goals, and develop other life skills.

The women I work with can’t become self-sufficient if access to food is taken away from them and their children. That is why I am urging U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst to reject the House version of the Farm Bill, which cuts access to nutritional food.

In September 2018, the Farm Bill, which funds Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), expires and will need to be reauthorized. Both the House and Senate have created new versions of the Farm Bill, and now they have to reconcile them.

While the partisan House bill hurts families by cutting SNAP, the bipartisan Senate bill keeps SNAP safe and ensures that the women I work with will be able to eat and feed their children.

Sen. Ernst was appointed as one of a small number of Senate conferees on the bill, and she has the power and responsibility to make sure the Senate provisions in the nutrition title are upheld.

I see the “on-the-ground” ramifications of our food policies every day. I see women who desperately want to provide nourishing, healthy meals to their children but often can’t, due to limited resources or other barriers.

I see women without transportation or child care walking a mile to a grocery store and back, or taking an hour-long bus trip with children in tow. Being poor and without resources is simply exhausting!

It is a myth that people in poverty do not work. The vast majority of women who move through transitional housing live at or below the federal poverty threshold and are working — sometimes at two jobs while raising children — consistently trying to overcome barriers that are invisible to many of us.

Low unemployment rates mask the reality that most of the jobs available are low-wage and unpredictable. More than two in five Iowa households receiving SNAP include children. Options for child care and transportation are limited at best. Healing from trauma takes a lot of energy.

Sen. Ernst said the Senate Farm Bill lacked harsh work requirements and “missed an opportunity to help able-bodied SNAP recipients rise up out of poverty.”

Senator, you are wrong.

Most SNAP recipients who can work, already do work. In Iowa, 84 percent of SNAP families have at least one working member. If the 2018 Farm Bill makes it harder for people to eat, it certainly isn’t providing opportunities.

Expanding work requirements and adding unnecessary burdens to access nutrition assistance means more discouraging red tape for millions of Americans already struggling to get by. Insecurity and hardship takes a toll.

These are some of the most resilient people I have been blessed to know, but they deserve help to not go hungry.

The Dominicans are a mendicant order, meaning that for over 800 years we’ve begged — particularly when a just cause is at stake. And so I’m begging Sen. Ernst for a Farm Bill that does not make hunger and poverty worse in this country. Please look to the Senate’s version of the Farm Bill as the right path forward.

The author is a Dominican Sister of Sinsinawa, Wis., who is an education/employment case manager at Opening Doors in Dubuque, which ministers to women experiencing homelessness.


Sister Kathy Flynn’s Op-Ed was originally published in the Telegraph Herald. View the original here.

Researching Representatives in Favor of HR2 Reveals a Hall of GOP Hypocrites

Researching Representatives in Favor of HR2 Reveals a Hall of GOP Hypocrites

Mackenzie Kuhl
June 13, 2018

The 2018 House Farm Bill, also known as H.R. 2, failed a vote in the House on Friday, May 18, by a vote of 198 to 213. This bill, which put to shame the historically bipartisan process of Agriculture and Nutrition special interests working together on a compromise, severely failed NETWORK’s principles to protect and prioritize the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Despite the bill’s failure a few weeks ago, the House is predicted to vote again on or around June 22.  At NETWORK, we have and continue to call representatives to vote “No” to this bill.

In the past, farm bills have been largely bipartisan. However, this year’s $867 billion Farm Bill has sparked controversy not only because of its proposals to cut SNAP benefits by $21 billion and add mandatory work requirements, but also because of its ongoing ties to immigration negotiations. To make matters worse, many of the Republican representatives advocating for cuts to SNAP and tougher work requirements could reap extreme financial benefits from federal farm subsidies if the bill becomes law.

According to CNN, “Since 2002, Congress has added in multiple means-testing for federal farm subsidies to prevent them from going to the hands of wealthy farm-owners. But, tucked away in Sec. 1603 of the new bill, is an exemption for ‘pass-through’ businesses from the means testing requirements.” With some basic accounting adjustments, millionaires and billionaires could collect their farm subsidies once again from this Farm Bill. Even Daren Bakst of the Heritage Foundation (a conservative think tank) calls it “basic cronyism.” Essentially, these congressional leaders are prioritizing their own financial gains over the very communities they are supposed to be protecting—including children and those most vulnerable to hypocritical acts like this one.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) pulled together data to investigate the top 16 GOP members who would benefit from farm subsidies. This includes Rep. Doug LaMalfa (CA-1) who raked in more than 1.7 million in subsidies from 1995-2013 for his shares in the DSL LaMalfa Family Partnership, and Rep. Vicky Hartzler (MO -4), who collected more than $986,000 from 1995 to 2016 for her shares in Hartzler Family Farms Inc.

Overall, the EWG reports that 60% of farm subsidies go to the top 10% of farmers.  Additionally, The Heritage Foundation exposes some myths surrounding the subsidies that “’Family Farms’ do not necessarily mean ‘small farms’.”

To put this in perspective, NETWORK researched the number of households that receive SNAP benefits in each representative’s district.  We divided the total number of households per district by the households that participate in SNAP to see what percentage of households would be affected by cuts to SNAP while their representative reaped financial gain.

The comparisons were stark. Rep. Ralph Abraham (LA-5) received more than $386,000 in subsidies from 2001-2009, and while 20.8% of his district participated in SNAP.  Rep. David Valadao (CA-21), who abstained from the first round of voting on H.R.2, received more than $478,000 within 10 years (2006-2016) while 24.7% of his district participated in SNAP.

So how much do these representatives serve to gain from the subsidies? Enough to pay for thousands upon thousands of SNAP meals.

Each SNAP recipient receives an average of $1.40 per meal.  Since the issue at hand is to determine whether members of Congress were voting for their own personal enrichment while jeopardizing the food security of their constituents, NETWORK calculated how many meals each subsidy amount would pay for. The results and the vote of the members on H.R. 2 are in the chart below.

And, here’s the ultimate hypocrisy: Not only have they voted for a bill that would allow them to personally benefit while hurting their constituents, many of these very representatives have spoken out against “fraud, waste, and increased spending” for government assistance programs.

Rep. Frank Lucas said during a 2011 subcommittee hearing, “I’m concerned that the broad-based categorical eligibility increases opportunities for waste, fraud, and abuse.”  Rep. Kristi Noem, who received the third-largest amount of subsidies, has said, “Loopholes and fraud in the current program have led to federal spending on SNAP to increase by 270 percent over the past ten years.”

What do we make of all of this? Many GOP representatives in favor of H.R. 2 are choosing personal profit over the most vulnerable people in society. These elitist, hypocritical actions directly contradict the values which people of faith live by. If this bill comes up for a vote again, these Members of Congress must vote no.

Mackenzie Kuhl is a summer intern with the NETWORK Government Relations Team.

Proposed House Farm Bill Adds Insult to Injury

Proposed House Farm Bill Adds Insult to Injury

Sr. Quincy Howard, OP
April 16, 2018

The recently-passed Republican Tax law is an insult to people living in poverty. The way the tax benefits were structured clearly revealed who our GOP lawmakers think are worthy public assistance. The tax-cuts lavish benefits on wealthy individuals and large, profitable corporations to the tune of $1.9 trillion over the next ten years. While most of the GOP talked about help for the middle class, in reality, middle income households received nominal tax cuts on a temporary basis (through 2025) depending on their circumstances.

Families and individuals experiencing poverty, however, were never part of the discussions during the creation of HR1 (The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act). Republican leadership pointed to discredited trickle-down economics in response to any questions about how the tax law would impact jobless and underemployed people. Their projections of economic growth would magically meet the needs of common good. Enough said.

Fast forward four months to the farm bill released by the House last week. The farm bill (HR2) is the second part of this equation. In stark contrast to the tax debate, the House GOP is now squarely focused on the unemployed, underemployed, and those working for poverty wages in our nation. This time though the objective has shifted drastically from providing benefits via tax cuts to severely limiting the benefits that the government should provide.

Substantive changes to the SNAP program proposed in this bill would take food off the tables and empty the refrigerators of millions of food-insecure individuals and households that currently receive nutrition assistance. Instead, the GOP proposes feeding them hollow promises of “opportunity” through ill-conceived job training programs which are divorced from the reality of the 21st century.

Congress is intent on making sure corporations and so-called job creators receive massive tax cuts, trusting they will in turn raise wages and increase employment opportunities.  Low-income workers, the unemployed, and the underemployed are expected to jump through hoops and continuously scramble to demonstrate that—yes, indeed they really are trying to work! Only then are they deemed worthy of nutrition assistance to help feed themselves and their families.

At the release of the farm bill, House Agriculture Committee Chair Conaway described the bill’s proposed workforce development program as a “historic investment in opportunities for SNAP recipients.” On one hand he describes how “SNAP recipients want to be beneficiaries of… economic growth. They want to take advantage of opportunities and meet the needs of our nation’s businesses.”  Yet in the same statement he claims: “to ensure this investment yields results, we’re also making these work requirements mandatory.” These conflicting statements lay bare the judgement that is piled onto people experiencing poverty and the GOP’s twisted approach to “helping” by taking food from those who need it.

What American Dream? The Dangers of the Proposed Republican Public Charge Rule

What Are Members of Congress Saying on Public Charge?

NETWORK will be updating this page with the latest statements.

“Such a rule would essentially force families, including those with U.S. citizen children, to choose between getting the help they need to prosper — from crucial programs that provide medical care, food assistance, housing assistance, and early childhood education — and reuniting with those they love. These are not the ideals of our country and we urge the Department to reconsider this ill-advised proposal.”-Letter to Kirstjen M. Nielsen and Mick Mulvaney signed by 85 Members of Congress.

The original letter can be found here.

“What will the Trump Administration do next? Since day one, we have witnessed a series of attacks by the administration targeting immigrant communities around our nation. This latest back-door attempt to leverage public health and efforts to deny legal immigration benefits, seeks to circumvent Congress and ultimately restrict family reunification. This ill-advised proposal will make it difficult for individuals seeking legal entry or permanent residency in the United States to care for their family through the use of social services that they are legally entitled to use. This rule fails to uphold the values of our nation and will force individuals to choose between putting food on the table for their children and being granted legal status.” –Rep. Adriano Espaillat (NY-13).

“Let’s be clear— current law already prevents the vast majority of immigrants from accessing Federal means-tested public benefits. That’s not what this proposed rule is about. This is about denying immigration benefits and keeping families apart. It would essentially force families, including citizen children, to choose between getting the help they need—like medical care or Head Start—and reuniting with loved ones.  This rule will not only harm immigrant families, it will undermine decades-long efforts to improve the health and well-being of our communities and our nation.” –Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA-19).

“The Trump administration’s proposed ‘public charge’ rule is a dangerous attack on immigrant families. For centuries, immigrants fleeing economic hardship, persecution, and violence have found opportunity in our country to do what is best for their families. This proposal imperils that ability and forces immigrant families to make the tragic decision between basic necessities and their future in our country. I urge the Trump administration to rescind this heartless proposal, cease its baseless attacks on immigrant communities, and stop inserting nativist principles into policies that directly contradict American values.” – Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-03). 

Original post with statements can be found here.

What American Dream? The Dangers of the Proposed Republican Public Charge Rule

Mary Cunningham
April 11, 2018

At the heart of the American experience lays the dazzling idea of the American Dream. We profess the dream proudly, holding it as a symbol of our nation’s deepest values: acceptance, equal opportunity, and prosperity achieved through hard work. Yet, how can we profess this to be true if not everyone is given an equal chance to prosper and if we penalize people for utilizing the very programs that are designed to help them get ahead?

On March 28, 2018 the Washington Post relayed the latest update on the proposed public charge rule, which could change the process for immigrants seeking legal residency. The draft of this change has not been formally published and is currently being reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget for approval. This proposed public charge rule demonstrates another attempt by the Trump administration to restrict family-based immigration and cut off access to public benefits that help families meet their basic human needs. Yes, this rule, if it comes to pass, would apply to families who have come to the United States legally in search of a better life. These are the people who have gone through the system and as our Republican friends like to say patiently “waited their turn in line” to obtain green cards. These are the families and individuals who would be penalized if this proposed rule comes to fruition.

So what exactly does public charge entail?  Under the proposed draft, individuals would be required to indicate their reliance – and for the first time any family members’ reliance – on public aid programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), housing assistance, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and even refundable tax income credits obtained through the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). People who depend on these programs, or who have children who rely on them, could potentially be derailed on their path to a green card or even deported. The draft regulation penalizes those applying for lawful permanent resident status if they have big families and if they have limited income. This would be particularly harmful to mixed-status families with U.S. citizen children where parents will have to decide whether their child should use programs like Medicaid or school lunches if such use could lead to deportation of a family member seeking a green card.

So basically, individuals would be forced to choose between catering to their basic human needs or protecting their immigration status. If this rule passes it will have a deleterious effect on families. It would separate families who rely on public aid and increase the risk of falling into poverty for those who do not enroll in public aid programs for fear of being forced to abandon family reunification. An article in the Huffington Post estimates that this proposal puts 670,000 children at risk of falling into poverty. While there is bipartisan consensus that our nation’s children should have access to food, healthcare, and other basic necessities, this rule threatens to upset the balance completely.

The argument in favor of instituting a public charge rule is that those applying for a green card should be “self-sufficient.” However, it is estimated that around the same percentage of native-born Americans use public assistance as foreign-born individuals. Will our brothers and sisters not be able to achieve the American Dream solely because they need health insurance, food or housing for their families? I surely hope not.

We expect more information on the public charge rule soon and will keep you updated with analysis and ways to engage