Category Archives: Front Page

A Woman’s Place Is in the Resistance

A Woman’s Place Is in the Resistance

Allison Berkowitz
January 20, 2018

To say 2017 has been transformative for the United States — especially for women — would be an understatement.

January 21st, 2017. Maybe it was because Carrie Fisher had recently died, Star Wars was back in the lime light, or because I needed a spark, but the movies’ themes rang true and deep to me. Before leaving for the Women’s March, an image of Ms. Fisher was seared into my mind: Princess Leia, guns drawn, with the text, “A Woman’s Place is in the Resistance.” It stuck with me. When I arrived in D.C., the first protest sign I saw was a quote from Rogue One: “Rebellions are Built on Hope.” I marched proudly all day, hand-in-hand with my feminist husband, reflecting on these themes (a call to duty, class war, fearing for the future, to name a few). We vowed 2017 would be a year of action. A promise kept.

I didn’t realize it, but the march was a major turning point for many (I can’t tell you how many incredible activists I met this year whose efforts were born out of the march). For me, the changes were profound. In 2016, I moved to Maryland so I could attend a prestigious PhD program. I had a background in community organizing and intended to get back to the good fight, but I felt learning research skills would allow me to better speak truth to power. I had good intentions, but more and more of my time was being spent in the resistance. In March, I helped lead a group of social work students from all over the country to the Capitol, where we lobbied our legislators to vote for people-centered laws being considered. In April, I did several teach-ins on how to be a legislative advocate. I got very involved in the fight to protect undocumented immigrants by analyzing and defending proposed laws which sought to protect them, both at the state and federal levels. I also wrote countless op-eds.

Much of May through July was spent working with the grassroots, anti-poverty group, “RESULTS.” The Baltimore chapter’s leader was on maternity leave so I co-led in her stead. I helped keep the group organized, met with legislators, and pleaded to protect the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): an evidence-based method of combatting poverty. We also fought to protect other safety nets, such as Medicaid and SNAP (formerly known as “food stamps”). You see, by August, we knew the tax reform fight was coming and we were trying to sound the alarm.

By the time September rolled around, it became clear I needed to quit the program and enter an uncertain future. Making the decision to leave research was scary, but confirmation came quickly that I’d made the right choice. Within a week, I began working on a US Congressional campaign I’d volunteered for in the past for a single mother, Allison Galbraith, in MD-01. Advocating during the day, campaigning at night, it was hectic but electric. I felt energized by this new sense of purpose. In November I was accepted into a doctoral program which allowed me to continue this work, something a purely research focused program could not offer me. I also found a job as an Adjunct Professor, teaching Advocacy & Social Action to master’s level social workers. Dr. King said you don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step in faith. I felt very lucky steps were continuing to appear beneath my feet.

While my colleagues and I had been beating the “tax reform” drum since August, in December, we went to war. We fought passionately and painstakingly. Much of my time was spent calling, emailing and visiting legislators, writing op-eds, attending town hall meetings, and protesting the unjust bill in D.C. I was in excellent company, routinely storming the Capitol alongside fierce fighters like Linda Sarsour, Bob Bland, Ady Barkan, and many other wonderful individuals from around the country. We shared our stories, and many of my friends — including clergy, people in wheelchairs, teenagers, and 80 year olds — participated in nonviolent civil disobedience. They chose to be arrested to bring attention to the “abomination of a bill” as one clergy member put it. Despite our best efforts, as you know, the tax bill passed and Trump signed it into law on December 22nd. We cried that day. But as I’d done on Wednesday — November 8th, 2016 – I encouraged my friends to take the time to weep, and then come back to the fight.

Now here we are. We madly mourn our losses and wildly celebrate our successes, like the special election of Doug Jones or our victories in Virginia. And we plot how to get out of this mess. I am comforted everyday by the myriad of Americans stepping up to run for office. I myself learned last month no Democrat was going to run for an open seat in my district for the Maryland House of Delegates, so I’m doing it, and you can too! For those of you contemplating running, someone gave me this gift, so let me pass it on to you: you ARE qualified, and if you’re waiting for someone to ask, I’m asking you: don’t just march – RUN! For those not interested or able to run for public office, please support those around you. We are better together, and we can turn our country around. To get back to those Star Wars’ metaphors, it’s been an incredible year in the resistance and we’re just getting started. To those struggling in these trying times, take heart, things can be different if we work for it. That said, it’s my great hope to see you in the rebellion!

Allison Berkowitz is a social work doctoral student, an instructor of social action to master’s-level social workers, and an active legislative advocate for several groups and causes. Originally from Florida, she spent three years in Alaska and has settled down in Maryland. Allison believes in people and tries to make the world a little better each day. Find her on Twitter@AllisonForAll

Work Requirements: A Harmful Shift for Medicaid

Work Requirements: A Harmful Shift for Medicaid

Kaitlin Brown
January 18, 2018

You may have heard a lot about work requirements in the news lately. Last week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) announced that they would begin approving states’ requests for Medicaid work requirements, allowing states to make access to healthcare conditional based upon workforce participation. What’s worse, this new process could potentially open the door to other expensive and ineffective requirements for recipients of healthcare. Last Friday, Kentucky’s Medicaid work requirement was the first approved in over fifty years of the Medicaid program, and it is likely that other states will quickly be approved (nine other states have already submitted proposals). We believe that access to healthcare is a human right, and receiving coverage should not be conditional on employment status.

The vast majority of adults receiving Medicaid are either working, in school, or caregivers. Many other adults receiving Medicaid have serious health issues that preclude them from working. With work requirements in place, cancer patients for instance who are no longer on traditional employer insurance, would now need to go through a waiver process to prove that they are not able to work, adding an undue burden for people who are medically vulnerable.

Before the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion (when many states increased eligibility for people earning up to 138% of the federal poverty line, about $33,948 for a family of four), there were fewer working adults on Medicaid. Now, more than half of Medicaid recipients are working, many in jobs that neither provide employee health coverage nor pay enough for employees to buy their own insurance on the marketplace. This might be a family where both parents are working in low-wage jobs in a company that isn’t large enough to provide insurance, or an individual working multiple part-time jobs.

Medicaid recipients who are not working report that they cannot because of their own medical issues, lack of employment options in their area, and/or caring for children or elderly family.1 Moreover, Medicaid is not structured like other social safety net programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), to provide job training. Imposing work requirements therefore would leave many recipients stuck in low wage jobs with little chance of advancement.

Work requirements will also disproportionately hurt women. Women are more likely to be caregivers for children or other family members, or to be employed in non-traditional settings that do not provide high wages or employer-sponsored insurance. These women would then be forced to choose between high-cost childcare and losing their access to healthcare.

The administration’s decision to institute work requirements for the most vulnerable goes against what we stand for. It puts an additional burden on people who are sick or experiencing poverty, and puts the burden on a system that is not set up to provide adequate training for those joining the workforce.


Read more:

“Understanding the Intersection of Medicaid and Work.” Rachel Garfield, Robin Rudowitz. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. https://www.kff.org/medicaid/issue-brief/understanding-the-intersection-of-medicaid-and-work/

“Medicaid and Work Requirements: New Guidance, State Waiver Details and Key Issues.” MaryBeth Musumeci, Rachel Garfield, and Robin Rudowitz. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. https://www.kff.org/medicaid/issue-brief/medicaid-and-work-requirements-new-guidance-state-waiver-details-and-key-issues/

Sisters Advocate for a Faithful Budget

Sisters Advocate for a Faithful Budget

Catherine Gillette
January 17, 2018

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

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

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

Fortunately, the story doesn’t end there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In 2018, We Commit to Activism

In 2018, We Commit to Activism

Claudia Brock
January 17, 2018

I felt rejuvenated when I came back to work in the New Year. That is, until I opened my email to find a 33-page document my colleague had emailed me detailing why 2018 will make 2017 seem tame. All I could think was, Are you kidding me??

As I thought of all of the work that the NETWORK community did in 2017 I was reminded of Kimmy from the Netflix series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt declaring “you can do anything for 10 seconds!” as she turns a heavy mental crank in her underground bunker. She starts out smiling and cheery as she counts, “1, 2, 3, 4…” but by the time she reaches number 5 she is straining and once she is at number 9 you are not sure if she will make it. But when she finishes, she goes right back to smiling with another round of cranking, starting at number 1. If you have not yet seen the show you can get a visual here.

Remaining politically active right now can feel a lot like we are Kimmy turning her heavy crank. At first we are energized and willing to tackle the task, but as we keep going our energy wanes and it gets harder and harder until we are right back in the grind with another important issue. If one thing about our work in 2018 is clear it is that we really need YOU. We need you to keep making calls to your legislators; we need you to schedule lobby visits in your district; we need you to be engaged in whatever way you can be.

Around 80% of New Year’s resolutions are abandoned by February. So if you are looking for a new resolution or a way to amend your current one to make it a bit more realistic, here are 3 ways you can resolve to be a better activist in 2018:

  1. Claim your title

NBC News reported that millennial men are 15% more likely to call themselves activists than millennial women. What makes this discrepancy more disconcerting is that most nonprofits are led by women and most phone calls to Congress have been made– you guessed it– by women! If you are a person who believes in political or social change and are taking part in activities to make this happen, then you are an activist. Resolve to claim both your title and your power and continue to work towards your vision of society.

  1. Use listening and storytelling as a form of activism

Being an activist does not have to mean hosting the next Women’s March; it can be as simple as seeking out new perspectives on issues. Use the experiences of others to expand your understanding of an issue and be open to updating your position. You can intentionally watch documentaries, read books by authors of color to get their perspective, or resolve to have a transformative conversation.

When going on a lobby visit, calling your Member of Congress, or even posting a position on your Facebook page, be sure to not just post facts and figures, but to ground your policy position in stories about human realities. Talk about a family member who has lost their health care or a friend who is undocumented to bring a human face to policies that can often feel abstract.

  1. Find balance and community

In these turbulent political times it is so easy to feel overwhelmed with all there is to do. Resolve to find a balance in your activism that leaves you feeling engaged but not over-extended. Whether it is incorporating a daily phone call to your Member of Congress into your lunch break or writing an email to your legislator once a week, find an action and frequency that works for you and add it into your routine; soon it will become a beneficial habit.

Taking action as part of a community might also help you stick to your political engagement resolutions. Find a buddy to make phone calls to Congress with so you are not tempted to hang up when you are put on hold, or go to a town hall meeting with a family member. Tackling an action with another person can make activism fun and connect you to other people working hard to create social change.

I am so thankful for all of the actions that our community of justice-seekers took in 2017. Now let’s see what we can accomplish in 2018!

Remembering Sister Catherine Pinkerton, CSJ

Remembering NETWORK Lobbyist Sister Catherine Pinkerton, CSJ

The NETWORK Staff
January 3, 2018

“Catherine is a woman of vision—and is led by a vision of what God desires of us—justice, truth, and a dignified life.” (Ann Curtis, RSM)

“We really cannot measure the value of her service to women religious in the United States and in the world.” (Miriam Therese Larkin, CSJ)

“Catherine knows in her bones how Washington works and whom to talk with to get something accomplished…her leadership is a unique blend of friendship and astute analysis.” (Simone Campbell, SSS)

Former Network Director Sr. Kathy Thornton RSM wrote: “It is perhaps on Capitol Hill that [Catherine] has had the strongest impact, commanding attention with her intelligence and unwavering determination as an advocate for those unduly burdened by the injustices of society. …  Catherine has become a formidable presence in the halls of Congress.

Jean Stokan, policy director of Pax Christi USA:  “When Catherine walks the halls of Congress, she parts waters. Heads turn and useless chatter ceases when she enters a room.”

 (Tributes to Catherine Pinkerton when she received the 2006 LCWR Outstanding Leadership Award )

On December 28, 2017, Sister Catherine Pinkerton, CSJ passed away in Cleveland surrounded by the local CSJ community. Catherine Pinkerton was a sister of St. Joseph for 78 years. She served as the president of both her congregation and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), was involved in other organizations of women religious, and received the LCWR Outstanding Leadership Award in 2006.

As a skilled NETWORK lobbyist for more than 25 years, Catherine traveled the halls of Congress time and time again to speak truth to power. Catherine’s personality and her dedication to working for justice inspired the NETWORK community and earned her the esteem and friendship of political greats. In 2008, Sister Catherine Pinkerton was invited to deliver the benediction at the 2008 Democratic National Convention (watch a video of the benediction).

At Catherine’s wake, Sister Simone Campbell reflected on how Catherine’s perseverance and lobbying for comprehensive healthcare reform during the Clinton administration had prepared the way for the Affordable Care Act. Sister Simone shared how happy Catherine was to see it passed just before she retired in 2010.

When efforts to craft comprehensive healthcare legislation faltered in the 1990s, Sister Catherine Pinkerton became a passionate advocate for the Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides health coverage for children in families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford health insurance. CHIP was passed in 1997 and has enjoyed bipartisan support since then. Unfortunately, at this moment CHIP lacks any long term federal funding, and states are beginning to prepare for the inevitable end of their CHIP programs if Congress fails to renew funding as quickly as possible. Right now, sixteen states expect to run out of money for CHIP by the end of January.

In her eulogy for Catherine Pinkerton, Christine Schenk, CSJ, admonished all who were gathered to call their members of Congress to ask for full funding for CHIP and a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers. As Christine said: “I’m serious—Catherine would come back to haunt me if I didn’t lobby for children on her behalf!”

In honor of Sister Catherine Pinkerton’s life and work, advocate for justice today:

Our Advent Prayer: Let Us Support Child Care for Working Families

Our Advent Prayer: Let Us Support Child Care for Working Families

December 23, 2017

During the fourth week of Advent, we recall the time Mary and Joseph spent preparing for the birth of Jesus – time spent in joyful anticipation. Now, we wait in hopeful anticipation for Christ and strive to shape a world where all children and families are welcomed and cared for, including working families seeking child care.

As we prepare for the coming of Jesus, we are reminded of the families and children across the country whose lives are affected by federal policies. This week, we explore the current reality for working families who struggle to balance work and home life due to lack of affordable child care.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”   -John 1:14, NIV

Congress Must Prioritize Affordable Child Care for Families:

Read our legislative update on the Child Care for Working Families Act, a bill which seeks to aid low and middle-class working families with access to affordable child care.

“On September 14, two leading Congressional champions for children —Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA)—introduced the Child Care for Working Families Act (S. 1806/H.R. 3773). The bill would make high-quality child care affordable and accessible to lower- and middle-class families under 150 percent of the state median income level by capping costs at 7 percent of a family’s budget. The bill would focus on preparing 3- and 4-year-old children for kindergarten and make new investments in training child care professionals.

NETWORK supports this bill because our faith teaches us that children are a gift and blessing from God. Working families are stretched beyond their means and struggle to meet day-to-day expenses like housing and utility expenses.”

Read the entire legislative update here.

Policy Basics:

Providing affordable child care to working families is an important step in helping them strike a balance between work life and home life. According to the Center for American Progress, the average cost of child care per year is typically over $10,000. In order for families to provide child care for their children, they often have to sacrifice other necessities, or chose lower-quality child care programs. To combat this, the cost of child care must be lowered, while protecting the quality of the programs. Helping with access to affordable child care will ensure families have meaningful time together and allow children to reach their full potential.

Here are some suggestions from the Center for American Progress for reformed child care standards:

  • Lower child care costs for low-income and middle-class families to 7 percent of income through a sliding scale.
  • Provide flexibility to accommodate complex work schedules by increasing availability of care for nontraditional hours and allowing parents to choose the care of their choice in a center or home.
  • Increase options for parents by addressing child care deserts and bolstering licensed care in underserved communities.
  • Invest in high-quality programs by promoting quality standards and fair compensation and giving providers the resources and the supports to improve.
  • Expand opportunities for school-age children by providing access to after-school care, summer programs, and care for children with disabilities.
  • Improve compensation for child care providers by setting a floor of self-sufficiency and creating parity with K-12 teachers.
  • Create more well-paying care jobs in the care industry by expanding the supply of child care providers and increasing pay.

Read more from the Center for American Progress on child care reform here.

A Prayer for Child Care for Working Families

Loving God,

In this Advent season, as we pray for the children of our nation, we are reminded of the gift of yourself to the world as a child in Bethlehem. As you shower them with your care and protection, continue to show us ways that we too can enhance their early years among us.

Give them loving parents to nurture their growth and show us the ways that we can support those parents by providing high quality child care that will allow all children to reach the fullness of their potential in the years ahead.  Give providers of childcare the patience and love they need to assist our children to grow and develop.

Inspire our leaders to recognize that investing in our children is investing not only in their future, but in the future of our nation.  Lead us to commit the resources necessary to see that all children receive the care they need to flourish and succeed in the years ahead.

Amen.

Sister Eileen Reilly, SSND

Seeking Shelter from the Affordable Housing Disaster

Seeking Shelter from the Affordable Housing Disaster

Mary Cunningham
December 20, 2017

Three months ago I left the quiet Massachusetts neighborhood I grew up in to move Washington, D.C. One of my first impressions of the city as I walked around was how drastically the neighborhoods changed from block to block. In my own neighborhood in Northeast D.C., I was surprised to find that after walking only a few blocks I ran into a Starbucks, a Chipotle, and a Barnes and Noble. The residential area my house was in felt worlds away from the perfectly paved sidewalks and the gleaming new buildings I encountered on my walk. I thought to myself, this just doesn’t seem to fit.

I was also shocked to hear that D.C. has one of the largest homeless populations in the United States. When I first arrived in D.C., the city seemed so robust that I never considered homelessness might be a major issue. And yet, as I ventured into more of D.C.’s neighborhoods, I began to see more and more people experiencing homelessness. I wondered, how can a city so rooted in public service have people living on the streets? Some may look at the gentrification sweeping through D.C. and many other cities as a way of moving the city forward. What they may not realize, however, is that it also leaves people behind.

Once every few months, the NETWORK staff participates in a Political Ministry Day: a chance to engage in service, immersion, and reflection together. Recently, we spent part of our day at The Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, which provides legal assistance and “Know Your Rights” resources to anyone suffering from homelessness. During the afternoon, we heard from Patty Fugere, the Clinic’s Executive Director, who facilitated a panel with LaJuan and LaTreviette, two women who have experienced homelessness. After they shared their lived experiences, Patty talked about how difficult it is to find affordable housing in D.C. She said new housing units are constantly being built, but they are almost always out of range for low-income folks. As I listened to a mix of personal stories and harsh realities, I was astounded by the pervasiveness of the affordable housing crisis and its effects.

While it seems like there is an overwhelming amount of construction in D.C., the new apartments and homes are drastically out of the price range for low-income families. According to a study by Freddie Mac, between 2010 and 2016 the amount of affordable housing for low-income families in Washington D.C. dropped by 60%.[1] Without access to affordable housing, individuals become cost-burdened (spend more than 30% of income on housing), they are unable to build wealth, and they become increasingly susceptible to poverty. Another issue lies in who affordable housing is available for. “Affordable rental units” are units available for families making 50% of the average median income. In Washington D.C., 50% of the average median income for a family of four ranges from $55,000 to $88,000.[2] What does that mean for the drastic number of families making below $55,000? Where are they supposed to find housing? With their income level, how are they supposed to choose between housing, food, and everything else they need to provide for their family?

The lack of affordable housing in Washington, D.C. and across the country needs to be amongst the first issues addressed in order to adequately respond to the members of our community who are experiencing homelessness or are who are extremely cost-burdened. If we continue avoiding this issue, we are shirking our responsibilities to our sisters and brothers.

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/10/23/americas-affordable-housing-stock-dropped-by-60-percent-from-2010-to-2016/?utm_term=.b66d6c166036

[2] https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/the-new-dc-outside-an-rei-that-sells-tents-desperate-people-are-living-in-them/2017/12/14/a47a8d1e-e0c5-11e7-8679-a9728984779c_story.html?utm_term=.f022f10

Our Advent Prayer: Let Us Support Children in Our Healthcare Policies

Our Advent Prayer: Let Us Support Children in Our Healthcare Policies

December 18, 2017

During the third week of Advent, we recall the time Mary and Joseph spent preparing for the birth of Jesus – time spent in joyful anticipation. Now, we wait in hopeful anticipation for Christ and strive to shape a world where all children are welcomed and cared for, including children who receive healthcare insurance from the Children’s Healthcare Insurance Program.

As we prepare for the coming of Jesus, we are reminded of children across the country whose lives are affected by federal policies. This week, we explore the current reality for children who are at risk of losing healthcare insurance because funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) has not been renewed.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”   -John 1:14, NIV

The Urgent Need to Renew CHIP

By Lucas Allen

We are now just a week away from celebrating the coming of Jesus, who was born into poverty and vulnerability outside an inn which had no room. But for many families, this season of joyful anticipation is overcome by anxiety about the future of their child’s healthcare. Congress’s failure to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program threatens to leave millions of our nation’s children and families “outside the inn” of our healthcare system right around Christmastime.

For 20 years, CHIP has been a popular, bipartisan program that has brought the rate of children without health insurance down to the lowest level in our country’s history. It provides 8.9 million children and pregnant mothers with low-cost, quality healthcare. Yet Congress’s fixation on partisan attempts to repeal the ACA and giving tax cuts to the wealthy caused this program to fall through the cracks; its funding has now been expired for 79 days. Many states are near exhausting all leftover funds, and families have begun receiving notices that their coverage will be terminated if Congress does not act soon.

As families receive these terrifying notices, members of Congress like Senator Orrin Hatch are saying things like, “the reason CHIP’s having trouble is because we don’t have money anymore.” This week Republicans are rushing to give over $1 trillion in deficit-financed tax cuts to the very wealthiest and to corporations, but as soon as a program for children needs a much smaller funding extension, there’s not enough money and kids are left out in the cold.

This Advent, let us call on our Representatives to prioritize those born into poverty, “outside the inn.” Let us celebrate the one who “came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10) by making sure our children have the care they need to flourish.

Resources

News on the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and how it affects families:

Anxieties Rise as CHIP Funding Expires 

The CHIP Program Is Beloved. Why Is Its Funding in Danger?

These states are running out of CHIP funding

A Prayer for Families

Lover, loved and love. We call you Trinity. We acknowledge you as source and strength and holiness. We pray for mothers, those who bear life: protect, educate, nourish and defend their children. Strengthen them so they may enable their young to grow strong and true. Inspire fathers to be models of justice and peace to their children. Show your face to children as they take their place in the world and find their calling.

We intercede on behalf of those who care for others’ children. May they show a mother’s love as they help children grow in doing what is right and just. Enlighten our policy makers to understand that families need affordable child care while they work to provide their children’s necessities. Inspire us as a human community to support our values with our resources.

We entrust families to you knowing that they are the foundation of community. Send your angels to guard families from threats to their safety and unity. Make their way straight and smooth. Remove what blinds them to see that without you as the hub of their wheel they will waver on life’s journey. We place our trust in you.

Amen.

Written by Sister Carren Herring, HSM

Immoral Tax Plan Makes Its Way Through Congress

Immoral Tax Plan Makes Its Way Through Congress

Mary Cunningham
December 13, 2017

Around 3 A.M. Saturday, December 2, the Senate voted to pass the Republican tax bill, a measure which will undeniably have detrimental effects on low and middle income households.  The bill also costs the U.S. treasury over $1.5 trillion dollars, which will soon be used as a reason to make cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security as well as other safety net programs.

With all of this happening, what’s really going on behind closed doors? Both the Senate and House have chosen members who will sit on the conference committee tasked to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the bill. There has already been a lot of back and forth as House and Senate leadership discuss which details to include in the final tax cut bill. These discussions largely surround debates on the repeal of the alternative minimum tax for corporations, concerns about the research and development tax credit, the repeal of the state and local tax deductions, and requests to lower taxes on small businesses.

Every Democrat in the House and Senate and numerous Republican members of the House have come out against the bill, recognizing the adverse effects it will have on their districts. Passing a bill that will increase taxes on their constituents is a large risk, especially with midterm elections approaching rapidly. The incentive to get this bill passed is largely political. Republicans, eager to have at least one major victory, are rushing to get it passed before this year’s end.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has condemned the tax bill, calling it “unconscionable.” They claim it will disproportionately affect working poor families and individuals while protecting the interests of the wealthy. In a letter to the House of Representatives, the Bishops noted that key programs which help people who are economically marginalized are at risk for elimination, including an income tax credit for persons with disabilities and the deduction for state and local taxes. While the Child Tax Credit would be expanded, it’s likely that low-income families will not be able to reap the benefits, especially immigrant families who file their taxes with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). They wrote, “No tax reform proposal is acceptable that increases taxes for those living in poverty to help pay for benefits to wealthy citizens.”

This bill will lead directly to automatic cuts in healthcare and other vital social programs, in part to offset the estimated $1.5 trillion cost of the bill over the next 10 years. House Speaker Paul Ryan has already signaled that the next step for Congress after passing the bill will be to reduce funding for entitlement programs to pay for the tax cuts. We can learn from other states that have implemented tax cuts experiments and see that they have not worked! In 2012, the Kansas state legislature passed a tax cut plan that they promised would boost the economy and pay for itself over the years. In reality, lowering income and business taxes only hurt the economy, and led to a severely damaging loss of state revenue. Now, the Trump administration’s tax plan poses the same threat on a national level. This is a bill that Republican members of Congress are pushing in order to satisfy their donors. It is not a bill for the 100% and is the wrong direction for our country.

Here are some ways to oppose to GOP tax plan:

  • Call your Representatives! The fight is not over. Call 1-888-422-4555 to speak to your Representative and tell her or him why you oppose the bill. Remember to share your faith perspective!
  • Speak out on social media! Use your Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram accounts to voice your concerns about the tax bill and the effects it will have on our most vulnerable neighbors.
  • Visit your Member of Congress’s office with friends in your community and talk directly to staff about why this bill is wrong for your district and wrong for the country.
  • Get creative: Hold a prayer vigil outside your Members’ office!

I Can See God and Justice Because of the Open Internet

I Can See God and Justice Because of the Open Internet

Cheryl Leanza
December 11, 2017

 “I can’t stand with you and join you in your struggle if I haven’t heard your story. “
— Rabbi Sharon Brous

Some of the most influential people in my life are people I’ve never met—or met only once.  I’m a white, cis-gendered, middle class, almost-50, married mother of two with a passion for justice and an ever-expanding appreciation of the beauty of God in the world and of the amazing people who have walked before me on a path of faith-inspired justice.  I can do this work, in part, because I’ve listened, over and over again, to narratives and videos that bring tears to my face from folks who I visit on the Internet but whose stories I otherwise would have missed.

I can learn about justice every day because people who would not be given the time of day by a media conglomerate can bear their souls, share their gifts, and invent new and more creative ways to speak to my heart on the Internet.

I remember listening to Cayden Mak, now Executive Director of 18 Million rising, speaking in 2014 about how the Internet literally saved his life. “Have you ever been young and queer and brown in the great American suburb?”  I haven’t.  But I can share, just a little bit, his story and bring it into my understanding of the world.

Evan Dolive, father and pastor in Texas, who wrote a book stemming from his outrage thinking about Victoria’s Secret marketing sexy underwear to middle schoolers.  We spoke once, a few years back, but I get his blogs every week online and while he lives so far away, the perspectives we share are clear to me over the Internet.

Rev. Ashely Harness and Rev. Lawrence Richardson, both who publish at the Salt Collective—maybe we crossed paths once in person in Cleveland at the United Church of Christ headquarters.  But from then on, I’ve been such a fan, following on Twitter and Facebook, taking in everything from tips on how to write an op-ed rooted in justice and faith, to cheering on Lawrence’s efforts to help care for his precious nephews.  A glimpse of the divine in each of them—on the Internet.

And my great Faithful Internet co-founder Valarie Kaur, who, drawing on her journey as a Sikh activist, made the most beautiful speech in New York this New Year’s, alongside Rev. William Barber.

She told me and a few million others—over the Internet—that the darkness of right now is the darkness of the womb, not the darkness of the tomb.  When times seem darkest, replaying that video can get you through.  She’ll tell you that her new Revolutionary Love project would not be possible without the open Internet.

All these stories are part of the work we do to build a more just world.  The Internet is part of the basic building blocks of our work—just like the road outside the front door which takes us to a community meeting, spirit-lifting worship, or to our neighbor’s house to bring chicken soup in the dead of winter.

I’ve been working in media justice for more than 20 years, and critical analysis of media has always come down to this (to mangle Marshall McLuhan):  whoever owns the medium controls the message.  Open Internet policies, protected by net neutrality, mean that whoever owns the medium cannot control the message.  An ISP cannot charge more for video to flow without buffering—if it’s good enough for NBC, it’s good enough for all of us.

This December people all over the country are taking action to speak out for real Net Neutrality. President Trump’s communications regulator has scheduled a vote for December 14 to repeal Net Neutrality. We must #StopTheFCC before then. Over 750,000 people have called Congress. People are protesting at over 600 locations. Organizations with web sites will #BreaktheInternet on December 12. And on December 14, I’ll join a Wake Up Call Rally in Washington DC. We’re all proclaiming the need to protect the fundamental structure of the Internet — which has been with us from the beginning, but is under threat today.

If you can do only 1 thing to help: Join the over 750,000 people who have called Congress.

Congress can slow down the FCC vote or even force it to abandon the vote altogether. Key lawmakers sympathetic to the cause are considering stepping in to do just that — a few have spoken out already.

The faith community understands the power of story. The Faithful Internet campaign is working to bring that voice to the policy-makers at the Federal Communications Commission who are threatening to turn the Internet over to network owners. Visit FaithfulInternet.org where you can learn more and see testimonials from Rev. Otis Moss III, Linda Sarsour, Sister Simone Campbell and Rev. William Barber to name just a few.

The work of healing the world is taking place on the Internet. And that work should not have to bear an additional burden of languishing in an Internet slow lane, waiting until someone pays an additional toll to release it, full force, into the world.

Cheryl A. Leanza serves as policy advisor to the United Church of Christ’s historic media advocacy ministry, UCC OC Inc., www.uccmediajustice.org, advocating for media and communications policies that empower people of color, women, the LGBTQ community and all historically disenfranchised people. She is the co-creator of the UCC’s Faithful Internet net neutrality campaign and has lead successful public policy campaigns on low power community radio and ending predatory prison phone rates. The UCC’s workshops on media literacy and online hate speech have helped youth and adults to see media portrayals with new eyes, recognizing the inherent divinity of all people.
This blog was originally published at The Salt Collective.