Category Archives: Policy Update

Washington, D.C. Deserves Equal Representation

Washington, D.C. Deserves Equal Representation

Sr. Quincy Howard, OP
June 26, 2020

Tomorrow, the House of Representatives will vote on H.R. 51, the Washington D.C. Admission Act, legislation introduced by Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton that would finally give equal representation to the more than 706,000 people who call Washington, D.C. their home. NETWORK supports this legislation and the movement to secure equal representation and equal rights in the U.S. Congress for the District of Columbia.

In a letter sent to Representatives today, we write, “With a majority Black and brown population, the fight for D.C. Statehood cannot be separated from the struggle for racial justice in our nation. The lack of voting representation for D.C. residents is part of the harmful heritage of racial injustice in our nation. Our government cannot continue to arbitrarily revoke the fundamental, constitutional rights of our fellow citizens living in the District. It is wrong to justify the status quo based on party politics or the historical precedent of preventing Black and brown people from voting.”

The House vote on H.R. 51 could be a significant step forward for Democracy, as Rep. Holmes Norton said on twitter, “Neither chamber has passed the DC statehood bill in DC’s 219-year history. This is the beginning of the end of taxation without representation and the start of consent of the governed for DC residents.” We urge all representatives to vote yes on H.R. 51!

Read NETWORK’s full letter to the House of Representatives below, or download as a PDF.

 

 

June 25, 2020

Dear Representative,

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice urges you to vote YES on the Washington D.C. Admission Act (H.R. 51). H.R. 51 is a vital piece of legislation that will finally give equal representation to the more than 706,000 people that call Washington D.C. their home.

Voting representation is the foundation of our democracy and it is past time to extend it to the people of D.C. Even with the passage of the 15th Amendment and the success of the women’s suffrage and Civil Rights movements, District of Columbia residents have remained disenfranchised from voting since its establishment. Today a population the size of Vermont—all neighbors to our nation’s epicenter for democracy—are stripped of their most fundamental right to vote. Our nation cannot proclaim to be the world’s strongest democracy when we deny hundreds of thousands of people political representation simply because of their zip code.

With a majority Black and brown population, the fight for D.C. Statehood cannot be separated from the struggle for racial justice in our nation. The lack of voting representation for D.C. residents is part of the harmful heritage of racial injustice in our nation. Our government cannot continue to arbitrarily revoke the fundamental, constitutional rights of our fellow citizens living in the District. It is wrong to justify the status quo based on party politics or the historical precedent of preventing Black and brown people from voting.

As people of faith, we believe that it is every citizen’s right and responsibility to participate in the political process as an expression of their inherent dignity. Our nation was founded on the principle of self-governance, but the people of D.C. do not have control over their own laws or their own budget. Residents of the District must no longer be denied this sacred right and responsibility—it is time for Congress to act.

Our status quo maintains that these Americans are not worthy of fully participating in our democracy. This historic vote brings us closer to achieving the ideals articulated in our founding documents. We urge a quick passage of H.R. 51 in the House of Representatives to grant Washington D.C. the sovereignty, rights, and dignity of statehood. Additionally, NETWORK Lobby urges a NO vote on any MTR’s introduced on the floor that diminish the pro-democracy reforms that H.R. 51 accomplishes as currently written.

Sincerely,
Sister Quincy Howard, OP
Government Relations Advocate, NETWORK

Police and Black Lives Matter protestor

We Call for Justice in Policing: Standards and Accountability

We Call for Justice in Policing

Necessary Standards and Accountability

Tralonne Shorter
June 11, 2020

Our nation is at a pivotal moment to redress systemic racism and the various ways it manifests as state-sanctioned violence, over-criminalization, and policing of Black people and communities. On Monday June 8, 2020, House and Senate Democrats unveiled a new policing reform bill in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis. The bill, the Justice in Policing Act, now has over 220 cosponsors.

NETWORK joins advocacy partners, including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, in encouraging all Members of Congress to support this legislation that would lay the groundwork for criminal justice reform by setting a standard for policing and safety and hold officers accountable for misconduct and excessive use of force. NETWORK sent the following letter to all Members of Congress in support of this critical legislation, as well as the accompanying leave behind document.

Download the letter as a PDF.
Download the Justice in Policing Act leave behind.

Read the letter:

 

June 11, 2020

Dear Members of Congress,

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice is pleased to express strong support for the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 (H.R. 7120) introduced by Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Karen Bass, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, Senator Cory Booker, and Senator Kamala Harris. We applaud our elected representatives for taking quick, bold action in response to the abhorrent and pernicious use of police force against Black adults and children. Now is the time for Congress to act and take a firm stance against the systemic racism embedded in police departments across the nation and within the criminal justice system. We implore you to pass this bill to honor George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Tony McDade, Tamir Rice, and the countless Black lives lost at the hands of police violence and in the name of keeping communities safe.

The Justice in Policing Act takes a monumental step toward dismantling the chokehold of white supremacy in policing by ending long-held practices that allow law enforcement officers to murder or maim Black people with impunity. These egregious acts of state-sanctioned violence terrorize Black communities across the nation, sowing deeper mistrust, and assailing communities that need investments in meaningful social and economic reform, not more dollars in militarizing the police force. For the United States to be great, we must root out all patterns and practices that destroy Black lives. This moment in history lays bare the reality that Black communities are traditionally under-resourced in education, health, housing, political representation, banking, and other federal and state programs that are necessary for people to thrive.

The Justice in Policing Act opens a route to reestablish trust in law enforcement and facilitate greater police accountability. This will enable the police to faithfully protect the communities they are meant to serve. The bill would ban chokeholds and support implicit bias training and community policing. As the House prepares to debate this bill, and negotiations with the Senate ensue, we urge you to include and adhere to the following principles in any legislation addressing police brutality and accountability:

    1. Require a federal standard that use of force be reserved for only when necessary as a last resort after exhausting reasonable options, and incentivize states to implement this standard; require the use of de-escalation techniques, and the duty to intervene; ban the use of force as a punitive measure or means of retaliation against individuals who only verbally confront officers, or against individuals who pose a danger only to themselves; and require all officers to accurately report all uses of force;
    2. Prohibit all maneuvers that restrict the flow of blood or oxygen to the brain, including neck holds, chokeholds, and similar excessive force, deeming the use of such force a federal civil rights violation;
    3. Prohibit racial profiling, and require robust data collection on police-community encounters and law enforcement activities. Data should capture all demographic categories and be disaggregated;
    4. Eliminate federal programs that provide military equipment to law enforcement;
    5. Prohibit the use of no-knock warrants, especially for drug searches;
    6. Change the 18 U.S.C. Sec. 242 mens rea requirement from willfulness to recklessness, permitting prosecutors to successfully hold law enforcement accountable for the deprivation of civil rights and civil liberties;
    7. Develop a national public database that would cover all police agencies in the United States and its territories, similar to the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training’s National Decertification Index,11 which would compile the names of officers who have had their licenses revoked due to misconduct, including but not limited to domestic violence, sexual violence, assault and harassment, criminal offense against minors, excessive use of force, violation of 18 U.S.C. § 242; perjury, falsifying a police report or planting and destroying evidence, and deadly physical assault; as well as terminations and complaints against the officers; and
    8. End the qualified immunity doctrine that prevents police from being held legally accountable when they break the law. To overcome the defense of qualified immunity, require that a victim must show that law enforcement violated “clearly established” law by pointing to a case arising in the same context and involving the same conduct.

A new day has dawned across the globe as millions march in protest, amid a pandemic, for an end to police assault of Black people and families. The time is long overdue for enacting policing reforms that hold law enforcement accountable and equally responsible for protecting and serving everyone in society. Failure to act now would be an abdication of your moral and civic duty and a blatant disregard for the humanity of Black lives.

Sincerely,

Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS
Executive Director
NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice

NETWORK Supports Fix for Corporate Tax Giveaway

NETWORK Supports Fix for Corporate Tax Giveaway

Laura Peralta-Schulte
May 8, 2020

NETWORK has worked to make sure each piece of coronavirus legislation cares for those with the greatest need in our nation. Unfortunately, the final laws have had their flaws, and left people out. Now, one of those flaws could receive a much-needed fix as the result of legislation introduced by Congressman Lloyd Doggett (TX-35), Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), and Senator Sherrod Brown (OH). NETWORK and other justice-seeking organizations support this bill, to repeal a Republican giveaway to millionaires included in the CARES Act. The provisions included in the CARES Act would reduce government revenue by $160 billion over ten years and overwhelmingly benefit the wealthiest taxpayers. These provisions must be repealed at a time when our nation’s economic outlook is so difficult, especially for those at the bottom of the economic ladder.

Senator Sherrod Brown noted NETWORK’s support on his website, sharing Sister Simone’s quote, “Rather than stewarding taxpayer resources to promote the common good during this historic pandemic, Senate Republican leaders snuck an outrageous tax break for 43,000 millionaires into the CARES Act. Hedge fund managers, real estate tycoons, and other millionaires will each receive a $1.6 million tax cut. This is a shocking misuse of scarce resources! This Republican give-away is what Pope Francis calls ‘an economy that kills.’ It takes resources from the common good and showers it on those who do not need it. This is wrong, and Congress must immediately repeal this giveaway and invest these precious funds into programs that sustain the health, safety, and well-being of our communities. Sen. Whitehouse’s bill will make this right.”

As we continue to lobby for the common good in light of the coronavirus pandemic, we support this legislation that would advance tax justice in our nation.

Read more about the legislation here.

Bold Bills Aim to Mend the Gaps in Access to Housing

Bold Bills Aim to Mend the Gaps in Access to Housing

Tralonne Shorter
May 7, 2020

In 2020, NETWORK started the year with an expanded focus on housing to address mending the gap between housing costs and stagnant wages. Our goal is clear: build a pathway from poverty to prosperity for families. To achieve this goal, NETWORK joined the Opportunity Starts at Home Campaign, a solutions-driven coalition comprised of multi-sector groups working at the federal, state, and local level to improve housing affordability and end homelessness.

While our lobby efforts continue to include increasing federal funding for critical affordable housing programs (like Section 8 vouchers, public housing, Community Development Block Grants and HOME Investment Partnerships), we are also supporting a growing list of critical bills that would make structural change by:

  1. Bridging the growing gap between renter incomes and rising housing costs.
  2. Providing aid to people experiencing job losses or other economic shocks to avert housing instability or homelessness.
  3. Expanding the affordable housing stock for low-income renters.
  4. Defending existing rental assistance and other targeted housing resources from harmful cuts.

Eviction Crisis Act (S.3030): A bipartisan bill introduced by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Rob Portman (R-OH) that would establish a federal emergency housing assistance grant program that would provide aid to people experiencing housing insecurity to avert homelessness and would create a national database to track evictions.

Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act (S.3083): A bipartisan bill introduced by Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Todd Young (R-IN) that would create an additional 500,000 housing vouchers specifically designed for low-income families with young children under 6 to expand their access to neighborhoods of opportunity with high-performing schools, strong job prospects, and other resources.

Housing Is Infrastructure Act (H.R.5187/S.2961): A bicameral bill introduced by House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA-43) and Senator Kamila Harris (D-CA). This legislation would invest more than $100 billion to improve our nation’s housing infrastructure, build affordable rental homes, and create jobs.

Homes for All Act (H.R.5244): Introduced by Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN-05), a bill that would commit $1 trillion to fund the construction of 12 million new homes in the U.S. over 10 years, mostly as public housing.  

Rent Relief Act (H.R.2169/S.1106): Introduced by Representative Danny Davis (D-IL-07) and Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), this bicameral bill aims to reduce rent burdens by creating a new, refundable tax credit for renter households paying more than 30% of their gross income for the taxable year on rent and utilities.

We applaud the authors of these bills for proposing solutions to the real problems facing too many families and individuals in the United States. In the coming months, NETWORK will mobilize to build support for this legislation in Washington, D.C. and across the country. Watch for additional communication from NETWORK with ways to support this faithful legislation.

Tralonne Shorter is a NETWORK Senior Government Relations Advocate.

 Housing Facts

  • When families struggle to pay rent, they face greater risks of instability, eviction, and even homelessness, which research links to food insecurity, poor health, lower cognitive scores and academic achievement, and more frequent foster care placement among children.
  • Our nation’s continued legacy of racism can be found within generations of public policy that continue to segregate communities by race and income.
  • On a single night in 2018, half a million people experienced homelessness in the United States.1
  • An estimated 1.3 million U.S. school children lived in unstable housing during the 2016-2017 school year.2
  • 4 million people in 5.2 million U.S. households use federal rental assistance to afford modest housing. 68% are seniors, children, or people with disabilities.3
  • 23 million low-income renters in the U.S. pay more than half their income for housing. Most do not receive rental assistance due to funding limitations.3

Who are they?

  • 32% are children
  • 34% are working adults
  • 12% are seniors
  • 18% have a disability
  • 3% are veterans

Sources:

  1. Department of Housing and Urban Development: hudexchange.info/resource/5783/2018-ahar-part-1-pit-estimates-of-homelessness-in-the-us
  2. Department of Housing and Urban Development: huduser.gov/portal/publications/Worst-Case-Housing-Needs.html
  3. Center for Budget and Policy Priorities: cbpp.org/research/housing/federal-rental-assistance-fact-sheets#US

NETWORK, Faithful Democracy Coalition Request $4 Billion for 2020 Elections

NETWORK, Faithful Democracy Coalition Request $4 Billion for 2020 Elections

As Congress begins discussions of the next coronavirus response package, NETWORK joins the Faithful Democracy coalition in urging Congress to protect voting rights during the COVID-19 pandemic. A letter signed by NETWORK and 28 other national faith-based advocacy organizations was sent to Capitol Hill today. The letter says:

“We cannot risk undermining our foundational democratic systems. The federal government must enable states and local jurisdictions to prepare for an historic election, even in the midst of this crisis. Planning and preparations must begin now to protect the integrity of the 2020 election and ensure that new protocols for voter participation are safe and accessible.…

The $400 million for elections in the CARES Act was a welcome start but is woefully insufficient. Faithful Democracy calls for $4 billion in the next response package for the Election Assistance Commission to uphold a safe and secure general election and to support states and localities still facing risks with primary elections”.

Read the full letter with signers.

Bearing Witness to Harmful Policies on Capitol Hill

Bearing Witness to Harmful Policies on Capitol Hill

Child Poverty Would Worsen Under Trump Administration Proposals

In February, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform held a series of four hearings over two days to examine the negative effects of regulations proposed by the Trump administration on children. The Oversight Committee invited Sister Simone Campbell, SSS to testify at the first hearing in the series, about how President Trump’s proposed change to calculating the federal poverty would harm children and families if it goes into effect. The remaining three hearings focused on: the Trump administration’s proposal to gut Fair Housing Accountability, proposed changes to Categorical Eligibility for SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), and the Trump administration’s proposal to undermine protections from Mercury Air Toxics Standards.

NETWORK was honored to participate and applauds the House Oversight Committee for holding these hearings. Using Chained CPI (Consumer Price Index) instead of regular CPI to calculate the poverty line — the proposed change that Sister Simone discussed — has been criticized by people of faith, advocates for children, and social justice organizations across the country. This hearing allowed Members of Congress to hear and discuss these concerns with experts, including Mr. Indi Dutta Gupta, the Co-Executive Director of the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Ms. Amy Jo Hutchison, an organizer with the Healthy Kids and Families Coalition, West Virginia, as well as Sister Simone Campbell.

While Mr. Dutta Gupta offered an economic argument and Ms. Hutchinson shared her lived experiences of raising children in a low-income family, Sister Simone’s testimony provided a moral perspective on this change, with an emphasis on how it would affect our nation’s most vulnerable children.

Here is a portion of Sister Simone’s testimony to the Committee:

Protecting children is about caring for the common good — today and into the future. Thanks to modern understanding of human development, we have a heightened awareness of how children are uniquely vulnerable to a variety of factors — physically, emotionally, psychologically. Grave, potentially lifelong impacts can result from malnutrition as children grow. Exposure to chemicals and stressors as children develop inhibit their health. Traumatic experiences and encounters early childhood can create lifelong scars. Children are also intensely responsive to the emotional well-being of their caretakers and are formed by their living situation and immediate surroundings. In so many ways, children are more susceptible to physical and psychological stressors and less able to respond or understand their experiences.

The Role of Government:
The Trump administration’s choices — reflected in the regulatory rule-changes under scrutiny in these oversight hearings — make it harder for families to survive and to support thriving children. While the rules under review in this series of oversight hearings may seem like technical decisions, they are, at their core, moral decisions and must be treated as such.

This proposed change in the calculation of the Consumer Price Index is based on the middle and upper class experience of “shopping around” to find the best price. It also is based on the capacity of wealthier families to buy in bulk. Lower income families have neither the extra money to buy a large quantity nor the space in cramped rental residences to store extra supplies. Creating a rule that incorrectly assumes those experiencing poverty have the same experiences as wealthier people betrays the Constitutional mandate to promote the general welfare.

The OMB’s proposal to change how poverty is measured is not only misguided, but is immoral. I am here to emphasize the lived reality of people in poverty and how this rule change not only ignores their reality, but would further sideline working families and the children they struggle to care for. Choosing to apply the Chained-CPI for setting poverty thresholds would not only further skew known shortfalls of the official CPI, but also would increasingly mask the extent to which families in the United States — and particularly children — suffer in poverty.

Poverty, the Lived Reality:
It is tempting to lump together all kinds of people to frame “poverty” in stereotypes. But people living in poverty are diverse and the challenges they face are varied. In 2019, NETWORK held 17 roundtables in rural communities in 16 states. What we learned was that these rural communities have no options for shopping.

In Tutwiler, Mississippi we were told that there was only the Dollar General and it had no fresh fruits and vegetables. If you wanted something else, there were no restaurants, fast food places, or farmers markets. There was only “gas station chicken”—fried chicken prepared at the gas station. There were no options or choices. Outside of Tiffin, Ohio, the story was the same. The rural residents referred to their Dollar General as the “shopping mall” because it carried a bit of everything and was their only option. In rural northern California, we learned that the casino was even beginning to stock food items for surrounding residents since the casino provided the only transportation option in several surrounding counties. It was the only way for many families to get somewhere they could purchase food. These rural residents had no store, no choice.

Conclusion:
We will never address these families’ struggles by masking the true extent of poverty in our nation. My faith tells me that both individuals and our governments have a responsibility to act for the common good. Central to this responsibility is protecting and supporting the most marginalized in our society. We should be investing in our nation’s children, not amplifying the crushing socioeconomic burdens of so many who are pushed into poverty.

NETWORK Responds to the Committee’s Questions

Following Sister Simone’s testimony, NETWORK submitted the answers below to the Oversight Committee in response to questions asked during the hearing. These questions and responses provide a look into how our nation’s elected officials are thinking about child poverty in the U.S.

Question: The 2020 poverty guideline issued by the Department of Health and Human Services is $26,200 for a family of four. Is this amount sufficient to meet families’ needs? Why or why not?

Answer: Under no circumstances is this income sufficient — at least not in the U.S. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed the Living Wage Calculator to estimate the cost of living in a community or region based on typical expenses. The tool helps determine a local wage rate that allows residents to meet minimum standards of living for their basic needs.

In 2019, Yahoo! Finance rated the top 25 least expensive cities to live in the U.S. and rated the Texas city of Harlingen as the cheapest place, overall. [i] According to the MIT Living Wage calculator, a single parent with three children living in Cameron County (where Harlingen is located) would need to earn $65,291 before taxes to cover their basic expenses.[ii] A family of three with both parents working would need to earn $50,509 to cover their expenses. This example alone demonstrates how out-of-sync our federal measures have become in light of the reality of living costs.

Question: In your testimony, you focused on the long-term effects that poverty has on children. How do children experience poverty differently from adults?

Answer: The contextual factors of poverty amplify the experience of children growing up poor. The neighborhoods in which children grow up shape many aspects of their adult lives, including life expectancy, how healthy they will be, and how much money they will earn.[iii] Nearly 10 million U.S. children live in low-opportunity neighborhoods, with limited access to good schools, parks, and healthy food and often experience discrimination as a result. Simply being born in these pockets of poverty puts these kids at a stark disadvantage. While adults may move through periods of hardship and bounce back, the experience for children can be formative.

The well-being of a child cannot be separated from the well-being of their household and their family unit. Children develop in an environment of relationships that begin in the home and they are uniquely sensitive to instability, disruption and the emotional well-being of those around them. I practiced family law for 18 years in Oakland California serving most of the low-income, high-conflict clients in our county. As such I learned that the single biggest cause of the breakup of a marriage is economics. Financial stress and the inability to pay the bills on time puts tremendous stress, guilt, and anger into any relationship. One poll from the Harvard School of Public Health found that more than 4 in 10 people “under a great deal of stress in the last month” reported that this stress made it harder to get along with family members (45%) and prevented them from spending time with family members (44%).[iv] For children growing up in a low-income home or neighborhood, caretakers with chronic or acute financial anxiety can further destabilize the environment and give rise to toxic stress, which can have lifelong impacts on children.[v]

Question: You have traveled across this country and seen poverty in different areas. What would you say are ways that poverty is different or similar across the nation?

Answer: Regardless of where they live, families living in poverty have something in common: their lives are regularly afflicted by obvious hardships and by invisible barriers. Across the board, U.S. families experience poverty as a relentless, crushing reality and a constant state of anxiety. People living in poverty in the U.S. share in their lack of access to needed goods and services and lack of options in decision-making.  Nevertheless, rural and urban realities of poverty differ in their manifestations. Rural poverty has the added burden of isolation and loneliness and lack of internet access. Childcare—and especially affordable childcare—is even less available in rural communities than in urban settings. Health care is challenging in both settings, but access to a pediatrician in rural communities is unheard of. Finally, mental health practitioners are simply absent in most rural communities.

Question: The Trump Administration’s proposal to apply the Chained CPI to the Poverty Line would cut many individuals from government programs, but some Republican members have touted it as helping to curb an ‘expansion of the welfare system.’ How would you respond?

Answer: This false narrative is tired and dangerously misleading. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) passed in 1996 as welfare reform and basically did away with cash assistance for struggling families. The amount appropriated in 1996 is approximately the same dollar amount appropriated today. There has been no increase for inflation or increase in amount to reflect the needs of struggling families, even during the Great Recession.

TANF was meant to have many supports for parents to go to work. There was to be funding for education, childcare, transportation, and much more. None of this materialized because Congress never fully funded their promise. The only thing that was done is cutting cash aid.

Any expansion of the “welfare system” in recent years is the result of formula-based programs responding to flat wages and growing income inequality. SNAP and Medicaid have become the actual safety net for allowing children to eat and get needed health care as their parents struggle in an increasingly perilous low wage labor market. The real spending value of SNAP benefits has actually gone down in the past several years so claiming “expansion” of the program is disingenuous and misrepresents the root cause of more need.

The short answer is that if we care about our future as a nation, we will ensure that our children eat and that they have access to health care. It is the least that we can do.

Question: How common is abuse by adult family members of programs like Free and Reduced Lunch programs or SNAP that are intended for children? Are there ways that we can better ensure these programs benefit children in need?

Answer: I was shocked by this question from Ranking Member Meadows. It evidenced his disconnect from the actual lived reality of children participating in the Lunch programs. His willingness to focus on a hypothetical scenario and the judgement built into that scenario is deeply disturbing. Rather than prioritize and lift up the benefits to children, he is focused on a misguided narrative that demonizes poor parents as prone to taking advantage of or neglecting their children. Any instance of this type of abuse of benefits in which a parent funnels food assistance away from their hungry child clearly could not stand.

I was told by a father in Milwaukee, Wisconsin that it might be okay for a parent to eat once or twice a day, but growing children (especially his 14-year-old boy) needed much more than that. I have also talked with parents in rural Iowa who shared the same concern and were so grateful for the lunch program for their growing children. This is the TYPICAL response of parents and Representative Meadows would do well to talk with them.

Parents — even parents struggling financially — can be trusted to prioritize the well-being of their own children. This question is the quintessential example of how out-of-touch lawmakers make classist judgments about the motives and accountability of people — and parents — struggling in poverty.

This story was originally published in the Second Quarter 2020 issue of Connection magazine. Read the full issue.

NETWORK Calls for Just Response to COVID-19

NETWORK Calls for a Just Response to COVID-19

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

Share your story with NETWORK

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

Friday, April 24, 2020
President Trump Signs Coronavirus Package Aimed At Small Businesses

Today, President Trump signed the latest COVID-19 related legislation, the result of negotiations between Speaker Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader McConnell, and Senate Minority Leader Schumer. The agreement provides nearly $500 billion in interim funding to small businesses, to hospitals, and for COVID-19 testing. NETWORK supports this funding, but there is still significantly more work to be done to make our nation healthy.

Read NETWORK’s press release after the agreement was reached. Also, continue signing up to “meet” with your Senators’ offices to communicate our priorities for additional legislation — including more funding for SNAP, unemployment insurance, and more!

Monday, April 20, 2020
Take Action: Congress Is Home, Working On Additional COVID-19 Legislation

While Members of Congress remain in their districts, there is still much that remains to be done to address the suffering caused by COVID-19 in the United States. Our priorities for the next legislative package include: protections for immigrants and additional support for individuals experiencing homelessness, incarceration, or food insecurity.

Now, we need to communicate those priorities to our Senators. Sign up here to schedule an in-district phone meeting with your Senator(s) or their staff.

Monday, April 6, 2020
NETWORK Webinar: The COVID-19 Response

On this webinar, NETWORK’s Government Relations team will review the three packages and explain what Congress still needs to do to ensure that all people are cared for and receive access to the medical and financial assistance they need.

Friday, March 27, 2020
Congress passes Coronavirus Economic Package

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

Read NETWORK’s press release responding to the legislation.

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

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

Read the letter NETWORK sent to Senators.

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

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

Read more from Politico.com.

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

Read the letter.

Friday, March 20, 2020
Economic Stimulus Negotiations Continue

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

NETWORK calls for Congress to:

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

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

Thursday, March 19, 2020
Third Package Negotiations Heat Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

To support states, municipalities, and health care:

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

To support business:

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

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

Read more from www.nbcnews.com.

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

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

Read NETWORK’s Senate vote recommendation.

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

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

Read NETWORK’s letter to Congress.

Still Advocating for Access to Democracy

Still Advocating for Access to Democracy

Yesterday, the Supreme Court issued an emergency ruling refusing to extend the deadline for absentee voting in today’s Wisconsin election. This is further evidence of how the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing our nation, and our world, to take a hard look at what values are most sacred to us, and demonstrating where our political leaders’ responses are falling short.

Our initial attempts at social distancing had not even run their course before President Trump began pondering loosening restrictions for the sake of the economy. The implication being that economic activity is as important as protecting human lives. The public outcry quickly shut down that debate. People recognized the false choice, when weighing economic activity and the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy simply has to adjust to the reality of the pandemic. Consensus emerged, at least for now, that protecting public health is the paramount concern, leaving our government and businesses to minimize the economic fall-out as best they can.

Unfortunately, this false choice was also embraced by the majority of Supreme Court Justices yesterday in deciding that the Wisconsin elections must proceed as planned, with no extension for absentee voting, despite the clear and present danger to public health in the midst of the pandemic. Not only was this ruling disturbing for Wisconsinites who now must choose between their right to vote and their safety, but it has grave and disturbing implications for the 2020 election. We are in desperate need of strong public outcry to again reject a false choice and demand that leaders find ways to uphold our deepest values and protect human life.

The Supreme Court’s decision strikes a massive blow to voting rights that defies common sense and threatens to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters. The Justices ruled 5-4 that Wisconsin voters would need to choose whether to comply with public health mandates or to exercise their right to cast a ballot. But, it did not have to be this way.

In the weeks leading up to the election, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers took a series of desperate executive actions to make emergency accommodations in the state’s election. He took steps to delay the Democratic Presidential primary and extended time to receive mail-in ballots so that Wisconsinites could maintain their right to vote in the new reality of social distancing and stay-at-home orders.

The Republican controlled legislature challenged each of these actions in court and the day before the election, the Supreme Court’s order reversed the extended deadline for voters to submit absentee ballots. The entire episode is a sad example of how quickly elections are being politicized in the midst of a pandemic. The outcome of this confusing and contentious fight was celebrated as a success for “law and order,” but has undermined both the public health AND the voting rights of the people of Wisconsin.

This false choice between safety and fair voting was avoidable, but the Wisconsin state legislature refused to act to protect the safety of Wisconsinites. This early case study is proof that Congress must act, and act now, to determine a coordinated approach to preparing states for the 2020 election. Without funding and direction from the federal government, we run the risk of massive voter disenfranchisement and will see increasing chaos and civil discord as states scramble to adapt on their own.

NETWORK Lobby and our faith partners are engaged in democracy reform and voting rights advocacy leading up to the 2020 election and into the future. Now, our entire focus is prioritizing the security of the 2020 election and protecting access to democracy as a crucial part of the federal government’s response to COVID 19.

Dreamers Brace for SCOTUS Decision

Dreamers Brace for SCOTUS Decision

Giovana Oaxaca
March 19, 2020

The executive action known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has withstood a number of legal challenges over the years. In a few months, however, the delicate future of more than 700,000 DACA recipients will face yet another test. Let the Senate know that immigrants are welcome in our nation by signing our petition.

On November 12, 2019, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for the DACA cases that the Supreme Court considered for review in the fall 2019 term. Although there exist legislative solutions, such as the Dream and Promise Act which passed the House and the Dream Act and SECURE Act (introduced in the Senate), Congress has so far failed to pass meaningful protections for undocumented immigrants eligible for deferred action and temporary protected status. This has deferred the DACA matter to court cases, which have put a halt to the Trump administration’s decision to terminate DACA in September 2017. The Supreme Court’s decision will have far-reaching effects by deciding the fate of the program for the near future.

Watch interfaith leaders pray for the protection of immigrants, refugees, and DACA recipients in the #Faith4DACA vigil.

The stakes have never been higher. In a recent survey, over fifty percent of DACA recipients reported that they fear being detained or deported from the United States at least once a day. An even greater share of DACA recipients surveyed reported that they feared being separated from their children. The Supreme Court’s decision will alter the reality for the millions of DACA recipients living and working in the U.S. If the Supreme Court rules with the Trump Administration, this would leave thousands stranded with few recourses, in the very place they call home.

Brief Overview

On September 5, 2017, the Trump administration announced that it was terminating DACA, a decision that was been met with instant legal pushback. More than ten cases were filed challenging the administration’s decision. After a number of judges issued preliminary injunctions protecting the program, the administration appealed to the Supreme Court.  Late last year, the Supreme Court granted the administration’s petition, agreeing to hear arguments for three cases on November 12th, 2019. The Supreme Court’s ruling on the DACA cases and an array of other high-profile cases are expected in June 2020.

Speculated Outcomes

Legal advocates, allies, and organizations are bracing for the court’s ruling.

  • The court may conclude it may review the administration’s decision. It may then rule that the termination is unlawful or lawful. A ruling stating that the action was unlawful would be good for DACA recipients because it would mean that the administration should not have terminated DACA under its reasoning at the time. The court may rule that the administration’s decision was lawful. This would be bad for DACA recipients because it would mean the administration could begin rolling back the program. It is also possible that the court could find DACA itself unlawful at this time. This would mean that the government could stop accepting renewals of applications.
  • The Supreme Court may decide not to review the administration’s decision to terminate. A ruling along these lines would mean that the administration could commence rolling back the program; it could also mean that a future administration could reinstate it.

High-profile businesseshigher education institutions, former national security officials, and religious organizations have joined a litany of amicus briefs in support of DACA recipients. The plight of Dreamers clearly resonates with the majority of Americans. As it stands, an overwhelming majority of Americans support a pathway to citizenship. For now, the decision to stay DACA rests in the hands of the Supreme Court.


Restoring the Right to Unionize

Restoring the Right to Unionize

Sister Quincy Howard, OP
February 12, 2020

For nearly a century, the right of workers to unionize for fair pay and working conditions has been a cornerstone of a fair and functional labor market. Established as a way to protect workers from dehumanizing exploitation during the Industrial Revolution, over the decades unions have represented workers in a variety of industries. Unions can ensure that workers are paid fairly, with benefits, and under reasonable working conditions.  Unions give workers a unified voice through collective bargaining, a process of negotiations between employers and employees. When unions are strong, they are able to set wage standards throughout an entire industry. For decades, unions have contributed to a vibrant middle class and have lessened income inequality and narrowed racial and gender wage gaps.

Union membership, however, has been steadily declining. Some estimates show that union membership has decreased by 3 million workers over the past 30 years.  Unfortunately, the decline of unions is not because they are no longer needed but because the fundamental right to unionize has been eroding year after year.  Employers exploit weaknesses in current labor laws to undermine workers’ rights—and face no real consequences for doing so. The result has been stagnant wages, unsafe workplaces, and rising inequality, especially for women and communities of color.

It is time to fully restore the right of our nation’s workers to unionize. Fortunately, the House of Representatives passed a bill last week that ensures that all private sector workers can bargain for just wages and benefits: The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act (H.R. 2474 and S. 1306).

The PRO Act encourages workers to unionize and collectively bargain, and it introduces vital protections for workers who choose to do so. Even though it is illegal, there are currently no consequences for employers who retaliate against workers attempting to organize in the workplace. The PRO Act would finally hold those employers financially accountable for illegally retaliating against their employees. The PRO Act also gives workers more freedom to organize and reach an initial agreement with their employers. As the Economic Policy Institute explains, the PRO Act overrides “right to work” state laws by requiring all workers who are covered by—and therefore benefit from—a union to contribute “fair-share fees” to support the cost of collective bargaining efforts.

The PRO Act enables workers to more readily organize by streamlining the process for forming a union, ensuring that new unions are able to negotiate a first collective bargaining agreement, and holding employers accountable when they violate workers’ rights.

In order to reverse decades of damage done to our nation’s labor laws, we now call on the Senate to pass strong legislation empowering workers to organize and bargain without fear of retaliation. Passing the PRO Act will help rebuild workplace democracy by ensuring every worker has a voice and will even the power imbalance between employers and workers.