Category Archives: Healthcare

Faces of our Spirit-Filled Network: Sister Erin Zubal

Faces of our Spirit-Filled Network: Sister Erin Zubal

Sister Erin Zubal
June 4, 2018

How did you first learn about NETWORK?

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

What inspired you to get involved and join NETWORK?

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

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

Housing, healthcare and advocating for a faithful budget.

How does your faith inspire you to work for justice?

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

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

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

What social movement has inspired you?

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

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

President Trump’s Plan to Take Back Funding from the Children’s Health Insurance Program

President Trump’s Plan to Take Back Funding from the Children’s Health Insurance Program

Kaitlin Brown
May 29, 2018

Just as supporters of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) thought they could relax after the popular health insurance program was renewed for ten years with bipartisan support, Congress is again threatening to cut funding. This past winter, months after federal CHIP funding expired, families waited nervously as funds began to run low and states started to send out notices to families, warning them of the possible end of the program. At the eleventh hour, funding for the program was approved, and families across the country let out a collective sigh of relief.

Now, however, there is a new threat to CHIP. Last week, the Trump administration sent a request to Congress to begin a rescissions process. This is something that hasn’t been done since President Clinton, and is a bit complicated. At the President’s request, Congress has 45 days to take back money they previously allocated. They need to pass this by a majority vote, but they also have the option to not take back any of the money.

President Trump’s rescission request asked Congress to take back $7 billion from the CHIP program, along with money from some other social safety net programs, including housing. Some of the money (around $5 billion) is money that had been given to the states but was not spent. In programs like CHIP, more money is given to the states than what is expected to be needed, in case of increased expenses and these extra funds are usually re-appropriated to other health and human services programs if they are not used.

The other $2 billion is money that is set aside in what is called a contingency fund. This is money that can be used in the case of an emergency, like a natural disaster, or Congress failing to fund the program in a timely manner. Last winter, this was the fund that was used to help ensure kids in the program continued to have coverage while Congress stalled on funding the program.

White House officials argue that the money is unlikely to be used, and wouldn’t take healthcare away from kids. However, without the contingency fund last year, millions of children would have lost healthcare coverage. And while some of the money has not been used, it has traditionally been absorbed back into other healthcare programs that need it.

Instead, this funding President Trump requested to have taken away from CHIP will be used to drive down the deficit caused by last fall’s $1.3 trillion tax cut. After giving tax breaks to millionaires, Congress has faced pressure on the huge deficit it created and decided to try and decrease the deficit by taking money from CHIP. While the rescission package isn’t guaranteed to take healthcare away from children, the damage this will do is enough to make families nervous. After last winter’s unfortunate CHIP battle, families deserve peace of mind about their children’s health insurance, not further cuts to undo the damage caused by tax cuts for millionaires.

East Lansing Catholic Network Connects and Learns in Flint

East Lansing Catholic Network Connects and Learns in Flint

Janice Hudson
May 23, 2018

Recently, several members of the East Lansing Catholics Network visited Flint via St. Mary’s Parish for an education & awareness experience. Under the veteran direction of Mary Dowsett (Director of “Faith in Flint” for the Catholic Community of Flint), Patrick Brennan (one of our seminarians), Michael Hasso (campus minister for Flint), our own Deacon Ziggy, and Josh and Sarah Hamilton, we walked the streets and neighborhoods of the parish to meet and share with residents, and pray with/for them if they accepted the offer. This was the outgrowth of one of our Soup & Substance programs this past Lent, when Mary Dowsett, Deacon Ziggy, and Deacon Jim shared about our diocesan initiative in Flint. It was a great faith experience for all of us!

I was one of the members of the East Lansing Catholic Network who went to Flint, Michigan to participate in Faith in Flint, a Diocesan initiative to organize people of faith to walk the streets, knock on doors, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned (many, prisoners in their own home), sit with others at soup kitchens, and reach out and simply connect with people in Flint.

As volunteers, we first gathered in prayer to seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance, then we broke into small groups before heading out to walk the neighborhood with staff and other experienced volunteers. We walked in groups of 2 or 3, as Jesus did. We wanted to meet the neighbors, to let them know someone cares about them, and begin to establish a positive relationship with them. It was truly an amazing experience, both seeing the neighborhood (many burned out and abandoned houses, as well as perfectly groomed homes) and meeting the people. Those who opened their doors to us also opened their hearts.

Each person’s story was very different; some were very optimistic about their lives and the efforts to improve the neighborhood, while others were very pessimistic and spoke of leaving the area. Some had stable lives, several were dealing with multiple health issues, while others had experienced tragedy, including a son’s murder. Nearly everyone we spoke with blessed us by allowing us to pray with them and sharing smiles. Nearly all invited us back as we left. Because of our leader’s loving attitude and desire to greet anyone and everyone we passed, we also experienced very positive interactions and discussions with those passing by on bikes or on foot!

What an honor it was to follow our spirit-filled leader and be the Lord’s feet, mouth, and hands that day in Flint.

 Janice Hudson is a member of the East Lansing Catholic Network, one of NETWORK’s Advocates Teams.

Faces of our Spirit-Filled Network: Fran Quigley

Faces of our Spirit-Filled Network: Fran Quigley

Fran Quigley
May 17, 2018

How did you first learn about NETWORK?

Via the inspiring, exciting bus trips, like so many other folks did!

What inspired you to get involved and join NETWORK?

The wonderful leadership by Sister Simone and other Catholic sisters has made such an impact in promoting people over profits. That is an agenda that I see as the core of Catholic Social Teaching and a desperately-needed message in today’s society. It is a privilege to be in support of that remarkable work.

What issue area are you most passionate about?

Access to health care, especially access to essential medicines. I am part of a small group of folks who created People of Faith for Access to Medicines to promote medicines for all as a moral imperative and human right. NETWORK is both a big inspiration to us and a wonderful, generous partner in our advocacy.

How are you engaging your community on important social justice issues?

I am blessed to be a part of a robust Indiana team that includes volunteer NETWORK activists from across the state. We have met with our Members of Congress and their staffs, published op-ed columns, circulated petitions, and raised our voices in demonstrations. We have been taking all of these actions in support of NETWORK’s “Mend the Gaps” agenda in life-essential services, justice for our immigrant brothers and sisters, and economic justice for all.

How has your advocacy for social justice shaped your view of the world?

I find hope in faith communities’ shared devotion to ensure that we meet all of our brothers and sisters’ basic necessities of food, shelter, healthcare, safety, and an adequate income. That is a core message of the Torah, the New Testament, the Koran, and every other sacred text. So I believe that people of faith can transcend political parties and socio-economic class and ethnicity to support an agenda that respects the rights of all of our brothers and sisters to live safe, fulfilling lives.

Who is your role model?

Sister Simone, of course! In all seriousness, her tireless dedication to pursuing justice is an example for us all, especially when combined with her wonderful ability to explain the human impact of sometimes complex policy issues.  And it doesn’t hurt that she is a lawyer role model for us lawyers, too!

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

“By crying out unceasingly for the rights of the workers, the poor, of the destitute . . . We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever-widening circle will reach around the world.” –Dorothy Day

What social movement has inspired you?

The HIV/AIDS treatment movement of the 1990’s and 2000’s. Some of the world’s poorest and sickest and marginalized persons took on the most powerful industry in the world (the pharmaceutical industry) and the most powerful nation in the world (the U.S.) when even their global health allies thought it an impossible challenge. And they won, securing treatment for millions of HIV-positive persons who would have died otherwise.

What was your biggest accomplishment as an activist in the past year?

I actually think that, for all of us, our biggest accomplishment is the simple act of going out there and pushing for justice all year, and then doing so the year after that, and so on. Persistence is the mother of justice. If we don’t let ourselves get distracted by the short-term losses or victories, we will win in the end. That is the lesson of the abolition of slavery movement, the women’s suffrage movement, the labor movement, and the civil rights movement.

What are you looking forward to working on in 2018?

Access to health care for all!

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

Congress Finally Passes a FY2018 Budget

Congress Finally Passes a FY 2018 Budget

NETWORK Government Relations Team
March 22, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Department of Agriculture

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

Department of Commerce

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

Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

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

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

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

Department of Homeland Security

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

Department of Labor

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

Finding a New Measure of Winning

Finding a New Measure of Winning

Meg Olson
March 8, 2018

There is no doubt about it: 2017 has been a rough year for justice seekers. As I write this, I am sitting with the devastating reality that before leaving on their holiday vacations, Congress passed a bill that will increase taxes for taxpayers in the lowest brackets, cause 13 million people to lose their health insurance, and exacerbate our nation’s already staggering racial wealth gap. And this is just one example of how Congress and the Trump administration are hurting people living in poverty, people of color, immigrants, labor, women, the earth…

Some days I look at my postcard of Dorothy Day’s famous adage and think, “Dorothy, I DO have the right to sit down and feel hopeless! Nothing is working!”

And yet, I know that I need to pursue Gospel justice with joy and persistence and approach situations with hope and welcome. And, as the lead NETWORK organizer, I am called to model this joy, hope, and welcome for you, our members, who reach out on a daily basis, asking what else you can do to pass the Dream Act or save the Affordable Care Act.

If I take a step back from the immediate crisis at hand and look at this past year, I can actually muster up quite a bit of hope. I just have to accept that in these challenging times, I need to adjust my expectations about winning.

In my early days of organizing, I was taught to think of multiple answers to the question, “What does winning look like?” Yes, the ultimate “win” is stopping harmful legislation or passing a bill that supports the common good. However, “winning” also looks like people committing to taking action, strengthening relationships with those who share their values, and building power.

So here’s how I’ve seen NETWORK’s members and activists win in 2017:

  • You’ve committed to taking action by making over 50,000 phone calls to Congress this year; going on more than 40 in-district visits; and attending town halls, rallies, and even protests.
  • You’ve strengthened your relationships with your fellow NETWORK members, with organizations led by Dreamers, and members of other faith based organizations such as Bread for the World and Faith in Indiana.
  • You’re building power in your congressional districts. I know that because our Government Relations team will gleefully tell me when they get back from the Hill, “Congressman Pete King’s Legislative Assistant started our meeting by thanking NETWORK and crediting our members for urging Rep. King to get on Rep. Scott Taylor’s letter to get a solution for Dreamers before the end of the year!” or “Congresswoman Brooks’s staffer said that the Congresswoman told her about the great meeting she had with NETWORK members!”

We’ve got a long road ahead of us to mend the wealth, income, and access gaps in our nation, especially for people living in poverty, women, people of color, and those living in the intersections of those realities. But I have hope that in 2018, NETWORK’s members and activists will commit to taking more action, continuing to deepen their relationships with fellow justice-seekers, and building even more power.

And yes, I believe that we will win!

A Year of Protest, Prayer, and Persistence

A Year of Protest, Prayer, and Persistence

Laura Peralta-Schulte
March 7, 2018

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

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

Administrative Attacks on our Mend the Gap Agenda

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

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

Legislative Attacks on Mend the Gap Issues

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

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

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

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

End of the Year: Tax Cuts or Bust

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

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

An Uninspiring Federal Budget Process

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

Harmful Neglect of the Common Good

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

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

Read NETWORK’s 2017 Voting Record here.

Representative Crowley on Surprises, Challenges, and the Road Ahead

Representative Crowley on Surprises, Challenges, and the Road Ahead

February 27, 2018

Congressman Joseph Crowley represents New York’s 14 congressional district and is Chair of the House Democratic Conference. This year, Congressman Crowley received a 100% on NETWORK’s voting record for the sixth year in a row. (View the 2017 voting record.) His six-year record is the longest out of anyone currently serving in Congress. NETWORK spoke to Representative Crowley to learn about how his Catholic faith and his lived experiences inform his political decisions.

How does your faith inspire your work in Congress?
I was raised to live by the Golden Rule: ‘Do to others as you would like them to do to you.’ This has guided me in life and inspired my work in Congress. It is simple: we need to treat others with the same compassion and empathy with which we all want to be treated, and put forward just and fair-minded policies that ensure opportunity for all. This means doing the right thing and working hard to ensure that my constituents from Queens, the Bronx, and all Americans can enjoy the brighter future they and their families deserve.

What is the proudest vote you have cast this year?
I believe that health care is a right, not a privilege. That’s why I voted against the so-called “American Health Care Act,” which would have stripped access to quality health care for millions, and punished children, seniors, and those with pre-existing conditions. I am very proud to defend the right of Americans to have access to affordable, quality health care, but also know we must do even more to make sure health care is available to all.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced this year?
A big challenge has been President Trump’s attacks on immigrants and refugees, including his heartless decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has upended the lives of nearly one million talented DREAMers who contribute to their communities and the American economy. These young people have all the qualities our nation was built upon and should be welcomed here.

What about this past year has surprised you the most, politically?
I’ve been appalled by the completely inadequate response to the suffering and pain of our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. President Trump and congressional Republicans have treated the victims of these natural disasters like second-class citizens, when they are as American as you and I. I visited Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria and witnessed the extensive devastation there. We need to do more to ensure that everyone living there has the resources needed to rebuild and recover, and I’ve promised our fellow Americans there that the federal government commitment to them will continue for years and decades.

What policy area will you focus most on in 2018?
There are too many important policies to pick just one. But an issue I’m especially passionate about is ensuring that hard-working Americans have access to affordable housing. Housing is one of the most basic human needs and the lack of affordable housing is a crushing burden for many families in Queens and the Bronx and across the U.S. This year, I introduced the Rent Relief Act – legislation to help those struggling to balance the high costs of rent with the needs of their families. It would put money back in the pockets of renters who spend more than 30 percent of their income each month on housing. This is an extraordinary way for us to build the middle class and secure the financial stability of working men and women.

When times seem difficult, what keeps you motivated to continue working for the common good in Congress? 
My constituents in Queens and the Bronx. Meeting with them and hearing directly about their passions, dreams, and hope are always motivating and inspiring. Despite all the challenges we face, I’ll continue to defend our values and provide good solutions for my constituents and all Americans.

How have you seen policies you’ve promoted in the past positively affect your constituents and our nation?
Legislation such as the Affordable Care Act has positively improved the quality of life of my constituents and of millions of people across the nation. The ACA has expanded coverage, reduced costs, and improved our health care system. We need to continue protecting this accomplishment and come together to improve health care so every American has access to affordable and quality care.

You voted with NETWORK 100% of the time for the past six years, which is the longest record for any current members of Congress. How does it feel?
Extremely honored. From protecting and improving our health care system to creating economic opportunity – my positions on our nation’s most pressing issues are always guided by the common good. I’m proud to be an ally of NETWORK in working toward economic and social transformation in our communities.

Do you have any advice for advocates inspired by their faith to engage in politics?
Turn your faith into action and never underestimate the power of your voice. Now more than ever, your engagement is making a difference.

Originally published in Connection Magazine. Read the full issue here.

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/