Category Archives: Policy Update

The GAP Index: An Important Measure for Our Future

The GAP Index: An Important Measure for Our Future

Did you hear the great news?  At the end of April the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released its “advance” estimate of economic growth for the first quarter of 2019: Real gross domestic product (GDP) increased 3.2 percent!1  To put that in perspective, in the last quarter of 2018, real GDP only increased 2.2 percent.  So by all accounts, the U.S. economy is thriving and strong, right? Not exactly.

BEA produces some of the most closely watched economic statistics that influence decisions of government officials, business people, and individuals.  The most familiar and hackneyed is the GDP—it provides a great talking point but minimal insights for policymakers. Nonetheless, policy decisions continue to be based on promised GPD growth gains.

The problem is that the real GDP measurement doesn’t comprise “all accounts.” This single top-line number conceals a less-rosy and complicated reality in which the richest three Americans hold more wealth than the bottom 50% of the country. While CEO pay rose 8 percent on average in 2018 to $7.4 million, the average median wages for employees at the same companies stayed about the same. And the CEOs made about 150 times what a typical worker did last year.2

GDP measures national economic growth, which combines inputs like jobs, savings, business opportunity, consumption and profits into such a macro-level snapshot that it has little significance for the daily, lived reality of average people.

Overdependence on GDP as the primary measure of our economic health is not only misleading, it distracts us from arguably more pressing issues. The pervasive and damaging myth that “growth is always good” relegates economic inequality as an unfortunate feature of economic growth or, even worse, as a necessary side effect. This myopic focus on maintaining endless growth even at the expense of the lived reality has damaging implications. In Laudato Si, Pope Francis posits that the near exclusive focus on economic growth and ever-increasing consumption as solutions to social problems is a fundamental cause of global crisis and economic injustice.

NETWORK hosted “Town Halls for Tax Justice” during our Nuns on the Bus tour in 2018. To begin the town halls, Sisters role-played individuals along the spectrum of income (one character, Diana, was among the lowest 20% of income earners while another, George, was in the top 1% of earners). After introducing themselves and talking about their financial hopes and concerns, each character took steps forward (or backward) based on how much their income bracket experienced growth over the past 35 years. The physical gap between the richest and poorest widened significantly based on the economic impacts of trickle-down policies since the 1980s. Then each character took additional steps depending on the tax return that they could anticipate under the 2017 Tax Law, creating an even larger divide.

According to audience feedback, these Town Halls were eye-opening and impactful—the breakdowns demonstrated how policies are making the rich richer while the poor and middle class fall further and further behind. We need our government to begin quantifying and regularly reporting on these dynamics of economic growth. With the data analysis capabilities available to us in the 21st Century there’s no reason we cannot have a meaningful economic measure generated to capture this each quarter.

GDP 2.0—what NETWORK calls the “GAP Index”—is a campaign to change how the United States reports economic progress. Instead of a one-number release, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis might instead release four or more numbers describing growth for those at different levels of income. Eventually, the agency might also break down growth benefits by demographic or geographic characteristics. Such quarterly reports would dramatically change the narrative around economic growth and stability by refocusing our statistics on the lived experience of the average individual or family in the United States.

The U.S. Government already has the necessary data; three simple policy fixes would enable the BEA to generate GDP 2.0 data and report it on a quarterly basis:

  • Require BEA to include distributional breakdowns in its aggregate income tables.
  • Make IRS tax return data accessible to the BEA under section 6103(j)(B) of the tax code.
  • A small increase in BEA funding to create capacity for these new statistics.

Congress is working on dual tracks to make this a reality: legislatively and via the appropriations process.  Legislatively, The Measuring Real Income Growth Act has been sponsored by Senators Chuck Schumer and Martin Heinrich as well as Representative Carolyn Maloney. Concurrently, there are efforts to incorporate the recommended policy fixes into the Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations legislation which ultimately funds the BEA.

Having a quarterly Gap Index could have profound political impacts, because the new data will enable economists, interest groups, and scholars to produce studies showing how various groups are faring as the economy grows. Richer economic measures like GDP 2.0 allow law-makers and advocates like NETWORK to more clearly show how policies diminish or contribute to inequality in our nation.

New HUD Rule Aims to Harm Immigrant Families

New HUD Rule Aims to Harm Immigrant Families

Bridget Falzon
May 20, 2019

On May 10, 2019, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released a proposed rule titled “Housing and Community Development Act of 1980: Verification of Eligible Status.” The rule would significantly change HUD regulations by further restricting eligibility for federal housing assistance based on immigration status. If finalized, the proposed rule will effectively evict 25,000 immigrant families from their homes, affecting over 55,000 children (citizens or legal residents) who are fully eligible for housing assistance under federal law.1

NETWORK is deeply concerned about the impact of this proposed rule on families. Housing security supports the dignity and well-being of every person; all people deserve access to housing regardless of their socioeconomic standing or immigration status. It is wrong to forced families to choose between staying together and risking homelessness or splitting their family up.

The proposed rule prohibits “mixed-status” families from living in federally subsidized units subject to immigration status restrictions under Section 214 of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1980 (“Section 214”). Mixed-status families are households comprised of members who have eligible and ineligible immigration statuses defined by Section 214. Currently, families with at least one U.S. citizen or eligible immigrant are permitted to live in a subsidized housing unit. Mixed-status families receive housing assistance on a prorated basis—where the amount of the housing subsidy for the household is decreased to account for family members with ineligible immigration status.

Under current HUD regulations, only family members that are applying for housing assistance need to have their immigration status verified. Family members who would not qualify for assistance based on their immigration status can elect not to contend eligibility for the housing assistance, allowing the family to receive assistance on a prorated basis. The proposed rule would eliminate an individual’s ability to elect not to contend their eligibility for the subsidy, and would require all household members under the age of 62 to submit verification of their immigration status through the Department of Homeland Security’s Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) system.

Under the proposed rule, U.S. Citizens and Nationals, who currently must only provide a signed declaration of U.S. citizenship or U.S. nationality, would also need to submit documentation of their citizenship status. Furthermore, noncitizens who are 62 years old and older, who currently are only required to provide a signed declaration of eligible immigration status and a proof of age document, would also be required submit immigration documentation, although the documentation would not be verified through SAVE. If these individuals are not able to produce the documentation in the required timeframes, they risk losing their housing assistance.

NETWORK Lobby is gearing up to fight this proposal and will soon be inviting NETWORK members to submit comments about this rule to HUD by July 9.  We can work to stop the Trump administration’s attack on immigrant families if we raise our voices in opposition to this cruel proposed rule.

House Healthcare Package Seeks to Lower Drug Prices and Stabilize the Marketplace

House Healthcare Package Seeks to Lower Drug Prices and Stabilize the Marketplace

Siena Ruggeri
May 13, 2019

The House has released a newly-combined package of healthcare bills that will have a positive effect on both prescription drug prices and the affordability and accessibility of health insurance coverage. NETWORK supports all seven bills included in the Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act (H.R. 987). The package contains three bills concerning drug pricing and four bills addressing the stabilization of the healthcare marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act. The prescription drug pricing legislation would mainly increase generic competition, which can help make affordable drugs available more quickly to consumers. The four bills in the package designed to strengthen the Affordable Care Act would increase support for consumers and state marketplaces and ensure health care plans offer full coverage.

Prescription Drug Bills

The prescription drug pricing bills included in the package are:

  • The Protecting Consumer Access to Generic Drugs Act of 2019 (H.R. 1499)
  • The BLOCKING Act of 2019 (H.R. 938)
  • The CREATES Act of 2019 (H.R.965)

The Protecting Consumer Access to Generic Drugs Act of 2019 would make it illegal for brand-name and generic drug manufacturers to enter into agreements in which the brand-name drug manufacturer pays the generic manufacturer to keep a generic equivalent off the market. These agreements are known as “pay-for-delay” deals.

Two other two drug pricing bills are bipartisan proposals. The BLOCKING (Bringing Low-cost Options and Competition while Keeping Incentives for New Generics) Act of 2019 discourages an exclusivity period for generic applicants wanting to produce a drug that is no longer patented.

The CREATES (Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples) Act of 2019 would help generic drug manufacturers quickly acquire the samples they need to start making an affordable generic version of a drug. Currently, brand-name drug companies can game safety protocols to delay generic entry into the market. If enacted, this legislation would help generic competition get on the market faster and ensure consumers have affordable options for the prescriptions they need.

ACA Stabilization Bills

The bills concerning the Affordable Care Act in the package are:

  • The MORE Health Education Act (R.987),
  • R. 1010, Limiting the availability of “junk plans”
  • The State Allowance for a Variety of Exchanges (SAVE) Act (R.1386)
  • The ENROLL Act of 2019 (R.1386)

The Marketing and Outreach Restoration to Empower (MORE) Health Education Act would provide funding for outreach to underserved communities to help community members enroll in healthcare plans on the ACA marketplace. This funding has been slashed by the Trump administration in the past couple of years, making it harder for consumers to stay informed about the health insurance options.

H.R.1010 reverses the Trump Administration expansion of short-term, limited-duration insurance plans. These “junk plans” do not cover maternal or mental health, can discriminate based on age, gender, and preexisting conditions, and leave users without care in a medical crisis.

The SAVE Act provides federal funding to help states set up state-based health insurance marketplaces and expand healthcare to more people in their states.

The ENROLL Act would provide $100 million in funding to the Federally-Facilitated Marketplace (FFM) navigator program. Navigator programs are an essential part of the ACA’s success and have faced devastating cuts for the past couple of years.

Restoring the Affordable Care Act

These fixes would restore important provisions in the original Affordable Care Act that ensured low-income and medically underserved communities had access to information and support to decide between their health insurance options. All healthcare coverage must be comprehensive and reliable in an emergency—short-term insurance is no substitute. In order to provide accessible, affordable, and high-quality healthcare, we must ensure these ACA provisions stay in place to protect consumers and support them in their healthcare choices.

NETWORK Calls for Affordable Drugs in NAFTA 2.0 Negotiations

Congress Must Demand the Administration Remove New Pharmaceutical Monopoly Protections from the Text of NAFTA 2.0

Laura Peralta-Schulte
May 10, 2019

Laura Peralta-Schulte, NETWORK Senior Government Relations Advocate, participated in a briefing on Capitol Hill to raise concern for policies included in the Trump administration’s ongoing trade negotiations. Read Laura’s speech below:

Good afternoon. My name is Laura Peralta-Schulte and I am a Senior Government Affairs Advocate for NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice. NETWORK is a Catholic leader for justice founded over forty years ago by Catholic Sisters and open to all who share our passion. Some of you may know us by our campaign, “Nuns on the Bus.”

People of faith across traditions believe every life has dignity and is sacred. NETWORK Lobby grounds our work in the principles of Catholic Social Justice, which hold that access to healthcare is human right because it is necessary for well-being. The Catholic Sisters and activists of NETWORK reject the notion that only the wealthy should have access to care. Our most sacred texts urge us to “Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed.” (Isaiah 1:17)

We acknowledge the genius of scientists who create cures for disease and the role industry plays in our health system. Business is a noble calling if performed in the service of the common good.

Provisions in the current NAFTA 2.0 text, however, are not pro-patient and do not promote the common good. Instead, they prioritize profits over patients.

Powerful companies are attempting to use complicated trade negotiations to lock in current U.S. drug policies and prevent Congress from taking reasonable steps to curb drug price gouging. The new agreement creates new roadblocks for generic companies to compete with brand name products after a patent has expired. It also attempt to export our bad policies to our neighbors.

This is the wrong way forward.

The provisions of the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), currently in effect in all NAFTA countries, should continue to be the standard in the new NAFTA agreement. TRIPS calls for respect of intellectual property rights, including those for medicines. It also recognizes each nation’s right to take necessary steps to ensure that medicines are available to all of their residents.

We urge your offices to insist that the Administration change the text of the current Agreement to get rid of the following anti-competitive, anti-patient provisions:

First: The current text of NAFTA 2.0 locks in a minimum 10-year marketing exclusivity period for new biologic medicines. (Article 20.49.1).  These medicines include many new treatments for cancer, heart disease and even vaccines.

This provision would lock in current rules and stop from Congress from being able to make change.

The faith community has particular concern about how this rule would affect Mexico, where access to medicines for many patients is already simply out of reach. According to the OECD data, seven of every 10 Mexicans live in or near poverty.1 If unchanged, even fewer people will be able to afford needed medicines causing preventable suffering and death.

Second: NAFTA 2.0 expands what drugs get special biologic protections and doubles exclusivity for some medicines. This is in Article 20.49.2. Congress expressly excluded certain drugs from additional monopoly protections. This provision, and others, must be changed to conform to U.S. law.

Third: NAFTA 2.0 extends monopoly protection through “evergreening” provisions. It requires nations to extend patents through minor changes without any increased therapeutic benefits for patients well beyond the original 20-year patent. This is in Article 20.36.2.

Lastly, the agreement requires nations to provide patent term extensions or grant longer protections for perceived administrative delays. This is Article 20.44. This provision would block competition from the marketplace and limit Congress from making changes.

No matter what your position is on trade policy, we believe Congress should establish U.S. healthcare policy, not trade negotiators and industry lobbyists.

We believe each nation has a right to ensure residents have access to life-saving treatments.

At the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis wrote a letter were he sharply condemned what he called an “an economy of exclusion.” He wrote, “Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say, “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. “

Today, high prescription drug prices force people to choose whether to take the medicines they need, or, instead, to ration or simply go without needed treatments in order to be able pay for other necessities like food and shelter. This is wrong.

Congress must say no to an economy of exclusion and insist the Administration remove these provisions from the current text.

 

View NETWORK’s Principles of Drug Pricing.

 


  1. https://www.oecd.org/fr/mexique/global-and-mexico-economic-outlook-2018.htm 

Paid Leave Proposals Shouldn’t Slash Social Security

Paid Leave Proposals Shouldn’t Slash Social Security

Siena Ruggeri
May 2, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Feature image courtesy of Demos

How H.R. 4 Would Reinstate Crucial Voting Rights Protections

How H.R. 4 Would Reinstate Crucial Voting Rights Protections

Sister Quincy Howard, OP
April 29, 2019

The ideal of “one person, one vote” is central to our understanding of democracy in the United States, but the reality in our country falls short. While the legal discrimination that prevented people of color from voting for hundreds of years is no longer in place, today a new combination of restrictive standards and requirements keep voters from exercising their right to vote. Whether implementing voter ID requirements, purging voter rolls, restricting early voting, or closing polling locations, state-level election laws can make it considerably harder, if not impossible for many eligible citizens to vote. Furthermore, these requirements have a disproportionate impact, often by design, on low-income and voters of color who are less likely to have flexible schedules, access to transportation, or a government photo ID.

Many of these tactics are familiar to communities of color, but ever since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 there had been an effective mechanism in place to apply federal oversight of potential voting rights violations. Specifically, Sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) used a formula determined by the VRA in 1965 to identify jurisdictions with histories of racial discrimination and subject them to federal preclearance requirements prior to implementing any changes in voter registration or casting of ballots. In 2013, however, the Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court decision stripped the VRA of this preclearance mechanism—deeming the formula outdated—and opened the door for states to pass more restrictive voting standards with impunity.

Since the Shelby ruling, 23 states have freely implemented more restrictive voting laws and conducted elections accordingly. The only recourse left is under Section 2 of the VRA—to challenge these laws after the fact. Meanwhile, the resulting voter disenfranchisement has already taken place and the results of potentially rigged elections stand. Accordingly, unfair elections around the nation have begun to resemble a discriminatory game of wack-a-mole: lawsuits of voter discrimination have quadrupled in the five years since the Shelby decision. Expensive and slow-moving litigation is an untenable approach to reinstating fair elections; and Section 2 offers no remedy for the impacts of disenfranchisement.

In contrast, under the Section 5 process the Justice Department provided quick, inexpensive reviews and decisions on proposed changes to voting requirements or procedures. The vast majority of proposed changes to elections were cleared and there was space to appeal decisions when they were not.  It was a system that worked; the VRA without this preclearance mechanism is not working.

This Wednesday, the House Oversight and Reform Committee will be conducting a hearing on “Protecting the Right to Vote: Best and Worst Practices.” Chairman Jamie Raskin (MD-08), who is also a professor of Constitutional Law, the First Amendment, and Legislative Process, will lead the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee in this effort to get to the bottom of voter suppression today.

For six years, Congress has made multiple unsuccessful legislative attempts to update the preclearance formula and restore this crucial provision of the VRA. Part of the process to adopt a preclearance formula that the courts will uphold is gathering and documenting evidence of efforts to disenfranchise voters. Congress is currently building this record to demonstrate ways in which jurisdictions have changed laws to disenfranchise voters, particularly voters of color. Most recently, we can look to states like Georgia, Texas, North Carolina, North Dakota, Florida, and Alabama for flagrant examples of manipulated election procedures that effectively suppress the vote of communities of color.

Throughout April and May, the House Administration Committee’s Subcommittee on Elections is holding a series of field hearings on voting rights and election administration. Hearings have taken place in Standing Rock, ND; Halifax, NC; and in Cleveland, OH. Still to come are field hearings in Alabama and Florida to review and hear testimony about the impacts of new voting and registration laws on communities of color. These hearings are the opportunity to examine what voter disenfranchisement in the 21st Century looks like—so we can prevent it from happening.

In late February, Representative Teri Sewell (AL-07) and Senator Patrick Leahy (VT) introduced the 116th Congress’ high-priority legislative fix to restore and extend these key provisions of the VRA. It’s not the first time that a “Shelby-fix” bill has been introduced since 2013, but this year it’s coming on the heels of an historic election in which rampant and flagrant voter suppression was apparent. H.R. 1 (the For the People Act) has also already passed in the House and specifically named this as a crucial component for democracy reform.

The Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019 (VRAA), H.R. 4, represents the most robust and inclusive proposal to revise the criteria for determining which States and political jurisdictions should be subject to preclearance requirements. Specifically, the formula proposed in VRAA subjects any jurisdiction with 15 or more voting-rights violations over the past 25 years to 10 years of federal preclearance. The threshold would be lowered to just 10 violations if any of them were committed by the state itself. VRAA is not solely a defensive measure. It’s intended to be punitive, to deter people who take advantage of the fact that there are few real consequences for officials found in violation of the Constitution. The VRAA would add teeth that the Voting Rights Act didn’t have even at full strength. While alternate bills are already emerging with less-expansive formulas, NETWORK strongly supports H.R.4 as the way to quickly address and end voting rights abuses that have become commonplace across our country.

NETWORK Strongly Supports the Equality Act

NETWORK Strongly Supports the Equality Act

Siena Ruggeri
April 26, 2019

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice urges a yes vote on H.R. 5, the Equality Act. NETWORK is open to all who share our passion. We are proud to raise our voices for our LGBTQ+ friends and colleagues to ensure they live free from discrimination. We know that all people have inherent dignity. No one should tolerate hate or discrimination towards any member of our human family. In our efforts to mend the gaps in our society, we will leave no one behind.

Guided by our Catholic Social Justice values and founded by women religious, we welcome and affirm all LGBTQ+ members of our human community. In the spirit of our founders, our work is guided by relationship and encounter. We have seen the pain, alienation, and violence that our society has inflicted upon members of the LGBTQ+ community. We call upon Congress to end these grave injustices.

We cannot mend the gaps of our society without changing how our nation has permitted discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Those who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community live in fear of being denied a place to live, losing their job, barred from bathrooms, and refused medical care because of who they are and who they love. We must act for the common good and heal our nation. We must end the unique oppression LGBTQ+ people encounter in their daily lives.

Passing the Equality Act would offer legal protections in every aspect of the lives of members of the LGBTQ+ community. It builds upon existing federal civil rights laws to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in education, employment, housing, credit, federal jury service, public accommodations, and the use of federal funds. While many aspects of LGBTQ+ equality have been affirmed by the courts, it is important to enshrine LGBTQ+ civil rights protections into law to provide certainty for all people.

As people of faith, we are disturbed by how our beliefs have been used to deny the sacredness and dignity of members of our community. Our scripture tells us that we should walk towards everyone—no exceptions. We are called to radical acceptance and see God in all people. Guided by this prophetic vision of justice, we urge Congress to vote yes on H.R. 5 and pass the Equality Act.

Advocating for Congress to Pass H.R. 6: The Dream and Promise Act of 2019

Advocating for Congress to Pass H.R. 6: The Dream and Promise Act of 2019

Laura Peralta-Schulte
April 17, 2019

The Dream and Promise Act of 2019, H.R. 6, was recently introduced in the House of Representatives. This legislation establishes a roadmap to U.S. citizenship for (1) immigrant youth and (2) current or potential holders of (a) temporary protected status (TPS) or (b) deferred enforced departure (DED). The bill provides conditional permanent resident (CPR) status and a roadmap to lawful permanent resident (LPR) status and, eventually, U.S. citizenship for immigrant youth who entered the U.S. before age 18, have four or more years of residency, and graduated from high school (or the equivalent). In addition, it provides an opportunity for people who currently have or who may be eligible for TPS or DED who have three or more years of residency to apply for LPR status and, eventually, U.S. citizenship. This common sense legislation mends the gap in access to citizenship and allows our immigrant sisters and brothers to receive legal protections that will allow them to continue to thrive.

Dreamers, TPS, and DED holders have lived in the United States for years. They are an integral part of our society. For example, in 1990, Salvadorans were given TPS and many have lived in the United States since then.  Individuals from other countries were also given similar protection in response to emergency conditions in countries impacted by war, famine or natural disaster.  Likewise, Dreamers have lived the majority of their lives in the U.S. and some have been protected by DACA since 2012. DACA, TPS, and DED programs have allowed these immigrants to work in the U.S. and shielded from deportation.  In return, they have contributed billions to our economy, started American families, and integrated into American culture.

How does H.R. 6 help immigrant youth?

  1. Longer CPR status. Extends the length of CPR status from eight to ten years to give applicants more time to fulfill requirements.
  2. Expands stays of removal. Stays the removal of minors who are not yet eligible for relief but may become eligible in the future and who temporarily unenroll from school.
  3. Better hardship standard. Permits people with CPR to obtain LPR status without satisfying the employment, military, or educational tracks if their deportation would cause “hardship” to themselves or immediate family members (instead of “extreme hardship”).
  4. Apprenticeship eligibility. Includes apprenticeship programs as a qualifying education to obtain CPR status.
  5. No medical examination. Eliminates the costly medical examination for applicants.
  6. Caps fee. Establishes a fee ceiling of $495 for immigrant youth applying for CPR status.
  7. Professional licenses. Clarifies that people with CPR can access professional, commercial, and business licenses.
  8. Career and technical education. Permits people with CPR who obtain a certificate or credential from an area career and technical education school to obtain LPR status.
  9. Criminal and inadmissibility bars. Updates the criminal background bars and inadmissibility requirements.1

Additionally, H.R. 6 has the following provisions that are similar to the Dream Act of 2017:

  1. LPR status. Provides LPR status to CPR holders who: (1) serve in the uniformed services for two years, (2) complete two years at or obtain a degree from an institution of higher education, or (3) work 75 percent of the time in CPR status (with flexible evidentiary burdens such as affidavits).
  2. Removes barriers to in-state tuition. Makes it easier for states to provide in-state tuition to immigrant students.
  3. Federal financial aid. Establishes that CPR-holders are eligible for federal loans, work study, services, but not grants.

How does H.R. 6 help people with TPS or DED?

  1. LPR status. Provides LPR status for people with TPS or DED (and those who were eligible but did not apply) who apply within three years from the date of enactment if they (1) had at least three years of continuous residence (as well as residence since the date required the last time that the person’s nation of origin was designated) and (2) were eligible for or had (a) TPS on Sept. 25, 2016, or (b) DED on Sept. 28, 2016. This includes nationals of 13 countries: El Salvador, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, Liberia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
  2. Inspection and admission. Classifies people with TPS or DED as inspected and admitted for the purposes of Immigration & Nationality Act (INA) section 245(a), making it easier to obtain LPR status through existing channels (e.g., a family-based petition).
  3. Stay of removal. Stays the removal (deportation) of individuals while an application is pending.
  4. Caps fee. Establishes a fee ceiling of $1,140 for people with TPS or DED applying for LPR status.
  5. Transparency for TPS. Requires the secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) to provide an explanation for and report within three days of publishing notice to terminate TPS designation for certain nationals.

How does H.R. 6 help both immigrant youth and people with TPS or DED?

  1. Deported immigrants eligible. Enables certain immigrant youth deported under the Trump administration and people who had TPS or DED who were deported as of September 2016 to apply for relief from abroad.
  2. Protections for detained and non-detained. Allows immigrants in deportation proceedings, including those in detention, to apply for relief under the INA and protects eligible applicants from deportation.
  3. Administrative review. Provides robust administrative and judicial review of denials.
  4. Grant program. Establishes a grant program for nonprofit organizations to assist applicants.
  5. Fee exemption. Provides a narrow fee exemption for applicants who meet certain requirements.
  6. Advance parole and employment authorization. Allows individuals with a pending application to apply for advance parole and employment authorization (a work permit).
  7. Adjustment through existing channels. Clarifies that individuals may apply for LPR status through existing legal pathways, such as through family- or employment-based sponsorship.
  8. Confidentiality provisions. Protects the information submitted by applicants (and all DACA requests) from disclosure.

NETWORK is working to get every Democratic member in the House to co-sponsor the bill and to find Republican co-sponsors as well.

Now is the time for all of us to ask our Members of Congress to support H.R. 6.

Family-Friendly Workplaces Are Crucial for Our Nation

Family-Friendly Workplaces Are Crucial for Our Nation

Tralonne Shorter
March 17, 2019

On March 14, NETWORK Senior Government Relations Advocate Tralonne Shorter spoke at a press conference with Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Senator Patty Murray, Rep. Lauren Underwood, and Rep. Alma Adams about the introduction of the Healthy Families Act. View photos of the press conference on NETWORK’s Flickr account.

At NETWORK we are working every day for the dignity of the common good: urging elected officials, including the President, to join us on our mission to put people over profits. We not only advocate for social justice on Capitol Hill, but we also are a leading example of family-friendly workplace policies that reflect the current and future nature of families and women in the workforce.

Inspired by Catholic Social Justice, we believe that workplace and labor policies must respect the dignity of every human being, and recognize the needs of every human being to be in community with one another. In our advocacy for family-friendly workplace policies, we have focused on guaranteeing that all workers have access to paid family leave and sick leave, ending the gender and racial wage gap, and encouraging flexible scheduling to give employees and employers more tools and resources to create mutually beneficial schedules.

Current bills coming up in Congress include issues that support national paid family and medical leave insurance programs (Family and Medical Insurance Leave [FAMILY] Act), as well as setting a consistent standard for earning sick days (Healthy Families Act). It is our hope that the successful passage of these bills will enable more workers to access necessary time off that would allow them to care for themselves and their families.

The patchwork of existing workplace policies is not a sufficient safety net for workers and their loved ones. Just 17% of workers in the U.S. have access to paid family leave, and only 40% of workers can take paid personal medical leave.[1] The private sector is making strides in offering family-friendly workplaces, but those protections are not enough on their own and often leave out the lowest-paid workers. The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not provide universal paid leave benefits, making time off inaccessible to lower-wage workers. While 92% of the highest wage earners has access to paid sick leave, only 31% of the lowest earning workers can take paid sick time.[2]

The Healthy Families Act and the FAMILY Act would serve as two major solutions to promoting family-friendly workplaces, and upholding workers’ inherent dignity in allowing paid leave. As people of faith, we value an economy that puts people, not profit, at the center. We know that when the people at the economic margins of our society do better, we all do better.

The Healthy Families Act would set a consistent standard for accruing sick days: workers would earn a minimum of one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to 56 hours (seven days) per year. Additionally, the act would enable workers in businesses with fifteen or more employees to earn up to seven job-protected, paid sick days each year. These sick days would allow people to recover from illnesses, access preventive care, provide care to a sick family member, or attend school meetings related to a child’s health condition or disability.

The FAMILY Act would provide workers with up to partial income to take time for their own serious health conditions, pregnancy and childbirth recovery, care of a family member, birth or adoption, or military caregiving needs. The act covers all workers—part-time, lower-wage, and self-employed workers are all eligible. All companies are covered, no matter their size; the paid leave would be funded by small employer and employee contributions that amount to 2 cents for every $10 in wages.

The Healthy Families and FAMILY Acts not only contain provisions that would allow workers to earn paid sick days and family leave to care for themselves or an immediate family member, they also include important protections for victims of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault. No one should have to worry about losing their job while recovering from the trauma of intimate partner violence or harassment. These laws ensure every worker has access to the time they need to care for themselves and their loved ones.

We know paid sick days work because we’ve seen them implemented in 10 states and 20 cities around the country. Providing family-friendly workplace protections is necessary to build an economy that puts people, not profit at the center. Catholic Social Justice teaches that workplace and labor policies must respect the dignity of every human being, and recognize the needs of every human being to be in community with one another. The right to work must operate in concert with human needs of community – and our government should institute laws to ensure family-friendly workplaces.

Now is the time for Congress to pass the FAMILY Act and the Healthy Families Act, so that every employer can provide a pro-family friendly workplace that reflects the current and future nature of families and women in the workforce.


[1] http://www.nationalpartnership.org/our-work/workplace/paid-leave.html

[2] https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/ebs2.pdf

Health Equity: Examining How Systemic Racism Has Sickened Our Communities

Health Equity: Examining How Systemic Racism Has Sickened Our Communities

Siena Ruggeri
April 16, 2019

As the NETWORK community undergoes our Lenten journey through racial justice, we are committed to identifying how racism manifests itself through federal policy. While many are familiar with how racial injustices are perpetuated by our criminal justice system and immigration system, the racism embedded in our healthcare system may not be as evident. Our identity, and especially our racial identity, plays a huge factor in our physical and mental health.

While we must continue to fight for accessible and affordable healthcare for all, that alone will not address the deep racial inequalities in health outcomes. When examining health systems, we must examine how our social location affects our ability to be healthy. Health care cannot be ignorant to identity, because our identity and social location affect both our access to healthcare and our ability to have healthy outcomes.

The healthcare system tends to view people in a vacuum, and often fails to consider how culture, environment, or socioeconomic status affects health. For example, someone reliant on public housing assistance may struggle to get enough exercise when they live in an area that lacks recreational facilities like parks or rec centers. A person with a physical disability might lack the accessible transportation options to get to an appointment with a provider. Type 2 diabetes is difficult to manage living in a food desert with limited access to healthy food options. Many LGBT+ people struggle to find providers accepting of their sexual orientation and may forgo care if there are no safe options in their community. For a non-English speaking patient, a language barrier at the pharmacy can result in inaccurate information on how to safely use a prescription.

The data is clear– marginalized populations have worse health outcomes. While the exact causes of these outcomes is not completely definitive, it’s clear that these disparities are  a result of structural barriers. Black women are four times more likely to die as a result of childbirth than white women. Despite a lower incidence rate of cancer overall, African-American women have a higher cancer death rate when compared to white women. While the opioid crisis is too-often framed as a “white problem,” U.S. opioid death rates for African-Americans have increased over twice as fast as death rates for white individuals.

Like many other inequalities, society often individualizes the problem, blaming specific patients for their failure to “take care of themselves.” We have to break out of this culture of individualism. There are systemic inequalities at play. In fact, there’s a term for it— social determinants of health. The quality and accessibility of health care is only one determinant of health outcomes– other social determinants of health play a massive role. Things like the walkability of our neighborhoods, our access to early childhood education, and how much debt we carry have direct impacts on our overall health. Of course, people of color are disproportionately more likely to have poor social determinants of health. We have a shared responsibility to ensure everyone has the opportunity to be healthy– which means examining our solutions to our broken healthcare system through an equity lens.

We cannot improve health outcomes just by looking narrowly at medical systems. We also cannot continue to approach health in a race-neutral way. The opportunity to be healthy will only be fair and just when we interrogate how systemic inequalities have literally sickened communities of color, and when we redesign those systems to be equitable to all.

Infographic courtesy of Families USA: https://familiesusa.org/product/racial-and-ethnic-health-inequities-among-communities-color-compared-non-hispanic-whites