Category Archives: Policy Update

DACA is Under Immediate Threat

DACA is Under Immediate Threat

JoAnn Goedert, Ignatian Volunteer Corp Member
Government Relations Special Contributor
October 27, 2022, Updated on January 23, 2023

Previously, JoAnn Goedert shared that DACA was under immediate threat. Sadly, the message in this update remains the same — the policy under which Dreamers have built homes, attended schools, and raised children remains on course to be struck down.

Whether Dreamers are teachers, landscape artists, or doctors, they are integral members of families, churches, and communities. Some people with political and judicial power fail to see their humanity, but we know they are our siblings in God’s beloved community and should not suffer as pawns in court proceedings. 

As JoAnn writes, “Once Judge Hanen issues his final decision, the case almost certainly will be appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and then to the Supreme Court.” As people of faith, we must be vigilant in our efforts to protect DACA. Working together, we can overcome the forces who want to remove our neighbors and family members from our country.

NETWORK will let you know when there is action you can take. For now, read on for JoAnn’s update and scroll further for her original blog. 

Updated on January 23, 2023 

Texas v. U.S., et al.: In response to Texas v. U.S., a lawsuit challenging DACA’s legality by a group of Republican state attorneys general, Judge Andrew Hanen in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Texas ruled in 2021 that DACA is unlawful. He held that DHS failed to follow required regulatory process when it established DACA and that the agency did not have the power to create the program without Congressional legislation. The judge issued an order barring DHS from approving any new DACA applications but he allowed current participants to retain protection under DACA for now. On appeal, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Judge Hanen’s reasoning and returned the case to him for further proceedings.

In October 2022, Judge Hanen held a hearing where he stated that he would likely decide to end DACA in the near future. His ultimate decision has been delayed, however, to give the parties an opportunity to file additional briefs in the case. At this time, we don’t expect movement until mid-Spring. DACA is under immediate threat and daily life for DACA recipients remains in jeopardy.

What Happens Next: In the October hearing, Judge Hanen reiterated that current DACA participants can continue in the program and apply for renewals, but that DHS cannot accept any new DACA applications. This means that current DACA holders still have all of the program’s protections. Once Judge Hanen issues his final decision, the case almost certainly will be appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and then to the Supreme Court. This process will likely extend into 2024, and it is hoped that, at least, the courts will allow the program to continue for current DACA participants during this time. Meanwhile, we know the Biden Administration is exploring alternative protections for Dreamers in preparation for negative court actions.

Congress’ Failure: As in earlier Congresses, legislation was introduced in 2021 to give DACA recipients permanent U.S. residency status. There was some hope, too, that Congress would act to ensure the program’s future during the final weeks of 2022. But once again, legislative efforts failed. There is little optimism that the program will fare better in the 118th Congress. Given the worrying signs from both the courts and Congress, we must all heed the warning of DACA advocates at United We Dream: “DACA is dying.”

October 27, 2022

10 Years of DACA: After repeated efforts to reform the U.S. immigration system failed—for lack of adequate Republican support—President Obama’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) established the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012. DACA has provided children brought to this country in violation of established federal immigration law protection from deportation, employment authorization, and access to Social Security and Medicare benefits.  It has been a lifeline to young immigrants, also known as Dreamers, who came to the U.S. as children with undocumented status. While 800,000 participants have been able to build a life in this country under the program, DACA is under immediate threat, its future is in jeopardy.

The Trump Administration’s Attack on DACA: In 2017, the Trump administration cruelly attempted to rescind DACA, but the Supreme Court ruled that the rescission did not comply with the federal Administrative Procedures Act and narrowly upheld the program’s continuation. DACA has endured with support from the Biden Administration which recently issued proposed regulations–scheduled to take effect on October 31–under the APA to continue DACA permanently.   

The Current Threat to DACA in the Courts: Nonetheless, a group of Republican state attorneys general filed yet another challenge to DACA in a federal district court in Texas. In July 2021, Judge Andrew Hanen ruled that DACA is unlawful on the grounds that DHS did not follow proper APA procedures when it established the program, and that the agency lacked the authority to establish the program without Congressional authorization. The judge issued an injunction barring DHS from approving new DACA applications, but allowed current participants to continue in the program.

On appeal, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, known for its conservatism, upheld Judge Hanen’s decision. However, with the DHS’s new DACA regulations set to kick in on October 31, the Court of Appeals remanded the case to Judge Hanen for further consideration. 

What Happens Next:  In a hearing last week, Judge Hanen indicated that, despite the new regulations, he will very likely decide to end DACA in the near future. His final decision has not been issued yet, so current DACA participants can continue in the program and apply for renewals.  However, there is little reason for optimism.  As DACA advocates at United We Dream have warned, “DACA is dying.”

Judge Hanen’s signal makes it clear that DACA is under immediate threat. It is crucial that the Biden administration and Congress act to ensure the program’s future with immediate legislation. Congress will return shortly after the Midterm elections. Faith communities, and all people of good will, must advocate for DACA legislation this year to provide permanent protection for our nation’s Dreamers.

NETWORK Welcomes H.R.51 for D.C. Statehood Re-Introduction

NETWORK Welcomes H.R.51 for D.C. Statehood Re-Introduction 

Update:

On January 24, 2023, Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, led a group of Senate Democrats in reintroducing S.51, the Washington, D.C. Admission Act, to make Washington, D.C. the 51st state and give Washington D.C. citizens full representation in Congress. This legislation is the Senate companion to H.R.51, introduced by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia.

Minister Christian Watkins
January 18, 2023

On January 9, 2023, Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC) introduced H.R.51, the Washington D.C. Admission Act, to the 118th Congress. The bill was introduced with 165 original cosponsors, which Rep. Norton noted was the most cosponsors of any bill introduced that day.

Rep. Norton has introduced this bill on the first day of every Congress for decades. Each time it has gained more support. In June 2019, the D.C. Statehood Bill passed the House for the first time and it passed again in April 2021, with NETWORK Spirit-filled justice-seekers adding their voices to the call for D.C. Statehood.

NETWORK strongly supports the movement for D.C. statehood to uphold every citizen’s right and responsibility to participate in the political process as an expression of their inherent human dignity.

D.C. Statehood is a Racial Justice Issue

Voting representation is the foundation of our democracy, and if passed into law, this legislation would finally extend it to the people of D.C. With a majority Black and brown politically active population currently disenfranchised from representation, D.C. statehood is a racial justice issue.

The District houses nearly 700,000 citizens, a larger population than states like Wyoming and Vermont. All D.C. residents pay federal taxes and fulfill all other obligations of American citizenship and yet are denied full representation in our Congress and full local self-government.

As Rep. Norton noted when introducing the bill, “The United States was founded on the principles of no taxation without representation and consent of the governed, but D.C. residents are taxed without representation and cannot vote on the laws under which they, as American citizens, must live.” Many believe that establishing The District as a state will abolish the permanent seat of the federal government. But H.R. 51 does not abolish the national capital — it only shrinks it, making a new state of the District’s non-federal area.

Last year, the Biden administration committed its “strong support” for H.R.51 in a statement of administration policy and President Biden has promised to sign it into law if passed by Congress. Ending the continued disenfranchisement of a non-minority Black jurisdiction that has left hundreds of thousands of Americans without representation in Congress must become a reality. Congress must take this opportunity to correct this injustice and pass D.C. Statehood in both the House and the Senate during the 118th Congress.

 

* Currently, Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton serves as a delegate, a non-voting representative to the United States House of Representatives. In the 118th Congress, the House has six non-voting members: a delegate representing the District of Columbia, a resident commissioner representing Puerto Rico, as well as one delegate for American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Delegates can introduce legislation and vote in committee, but generally cannot vote the passage of legislation in the full House.

Biden Administration Restored Pre-Trump Era Public Charge Regulations

Did Congress Strive for Economic and Social Transformation with the 2022 Omnibus Law?

As we begin a new year, NETWORK looks back to see whether Congress made inroads in economic and social transformation with the 2022 Omnibus Law. Every person in our country, whether they live on a sprawling estate, in a farmhouse along a country road, or in a public housing development, should have the resources they need to care for themselves and their families. Sadly, we know that lobbyists and dark money special interests work with some elected officials to block policies that would create just laws and equitable access to economic prosperity.

But NETWORK’s community of justice-seekers know that we can have just and equitable communities where all of us–not just the rich and powerful–can have thriving lives. When we work together and join our efforts with others who share our vision for a multi-racial democracy, we can bring about the economic and social transformation for which we strive.

One of the most important pieces of legislation for the Build Anew agenda last year was the $1.7 trillion FY2022 Omnibus. This bipartisan end-of-year spending package made significant investments in healthcare, housing, criminal legal systems reform as well as critical democracy reforms and investments in voting infrastructure to ensure free and fair elections.

For months, NETWORK advocates across the country (like you!) lobbied Congress to include policy priorities in the Omnibus package like the expanded Child Tax Credit, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented community members. Justice-seekers called, emailed, and tweeted to Congress, wrote Letters to the Editor, and attended rallies, to advocate for a federal budget that supports just and equitable communities where everyone can thrive. Thank you for your advocacy!

An Overview: Where did Congress Invest in Economic and Social Transformation with the 2022 Omnibus Law?

A Check List: Where did Congress Invest in Economic and Social Transformation with the 2022 Omnibus Law?Congress made significant progress toward eonomic and social transformational changes with the 2022 Omnibus in healthcare and housing. Medicaid recipients in Puerto Rico and U.S. territories, and Black mothers who are unable to pay for maternal healthcare receive more aid. For example, Medicaid coverage for new moms is guaranteed for 12 months and infants cannot be removed from Medicaid, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, for a continuous 12 months, even if their family’s income changes.

Housing measures support people experiencing homelessness, public housing voucher recipients, people in rural communities, and homeowners.

Movement toward justice in the omnibus legislation is also noted in criminal legal system reforms where new laws bridge significant racial equity gaps in health care, access to housing, and equity in the judiciary and police forces. We hope the funding leads to improved health outcomes and treatment by the criminal legal system for Black, brown and indigenous communities.

The omnibus also includes critical democracy reforms that shore up Presidential elections (Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act of 2022) and a $75M investment in election security grants to ensure all votes are counted by continuing provisions from the Help America Vote Act of 2002.

Sometimes, Policy Not Included in a Bill is a Positive Result

NETWORK celebrates the harm avoided in the omnibus. For example, the continued misuse of Title 42 cannot be part of a fair, humane asylum process. It was not codified into law thanks to Democratic Members of Congress who rebuked attempts to incorporate outdated public health policy into permanent immigration law.

Movement Toward Justice in a Polarized Congress

We are disappointed that significant NETWORK priorities were left out of the package but appreciate that Congress took steps toward social and economic reform with some of the omnibus investments. Ultimately, the bipartisan passage of the FY2022 omnibus package was a significant accomplishment in a polarized Congress.

The leadership of Senate Appropriations Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT), now retired, and House Appropriations Chair Rep. Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) allowed Congress to reach an agreement and fund the government before the end of the year. However, it is unacceptable that more Members of Congress did not support including needed policies like a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, the expanded Child Tax Credit, and the EQUAL Act.

NETWORK will continue making these issues top legislative priorities into the future and – with your help – continue building support for these common-good policies in the 118th Congress.

Reclaim Rev. King’s Dream, Repair What Has Been Broken

Reclaim Rev. King’s Dream, Repair What Has Been Broken

A Recommittal to Build Anew

After a restless and tumultuous midterm election year, we entered 2023 with bated breath and anxiety over what is to come. The initial days of this 118th Congress provided negligible relief. Four days of disputatious debate and back-room negotiations making international headlines, demonstrations of ineffective leadership, and stirring spectacles of brute disputes in the House chamber were newsworthy manifestations of similar occurrences on the local, state and federal level that we have seen for too many years to count. Not to mention remembering January 6th, the insurrection’s aftereffects, investigation, and repudiation thereof. Politically, these past 16 days have been a whirlwind, and we have 349 to go.

One of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s final socio-theological inquiries remains with us nearly 55 years after his ascent to the ancestral realm. “Where do we go from here: chaos or community?” This decades-long question needs a robust, faith-filled response THIS year. Ourselves, our children, and the whole of Creation deserve it. Future generations depend on it.

Beyond Rev. King’s Civil Rights movement accolades, and even beyond his consistently brilliant articulation and yearning for the church and society to realize what it means to truly be the “Beloved Community,” he helped us to understand more fully the essence of human dignity and worth, and the importance for these to be enacted among all of us if we will ever be all that God calls us to be.

The sacred interconnectedness of our diversely complicated existences cannot be ignored. Our nation and “world house” are in peril. The inescapable mutuality of our problems and robust solutions to resolve them for our destiny’s sake must be a priority. This holiday is not just to be a means for rest, but a day of remembrance and service towards that end. Moreover, we must not be so distracted and dismayed by the antics of this and previous years to forget the many accomplishments of yesteryear.

Some of the accomplishments towards building the “Beloved Community” include: 

Passage of the Inflation Reduction Act meant to curb inflation by reducing the deficit, lowering prescription drug prices, and investing into domestic energy production while promoting clean energy. Enactment of a  $1.2 trillion infrastructure package which drastically increased investment in the national network of bridges and roads, airports, public transport, national broadband internet, as well as waterways and energy systems. President Biden appointing the highest number of federal judges since Reagan. Re-joining the international Paris Climate Accord, which President Trump had parted ways with, allowing the U.S. to restart and improve its commitment to combatting climate change, working with global players to thwart the climate’s deterioration. We cannot forget that President Biden started his term signing into law the American Rescue Plan. The law kept millions of families housed while Covid-19 ravaged the country. The list of legislative accomplishments goes on, and none could have been possible without your commitment to the practice of caring for those people and families too often judged as “the least of these.” Reflecting on these achievements must refuel our fervor for faithful advocacy.

As we look forward to future acts of making Justice possible by the works of our hands, feet, and voices, we must recommit to repairing what has been broken through an unwavering recommitment to build anew. While NETWORK remains steadfast to the prevailing priorities of social justice and racial equity, our policy advocacy is rooted in repairing what has been broken since the Doctrine of Discovery was signed, for the benefit of future generations that will follow. We welcome your collaboration on ending poverty and a progressive pursuit of reparations, repairing and strengthening the Voting Rights Act, and advancing robust criminal legal system reforms. Your participation in working to eliminate hunger and houselessness, assuring that labor is not in vain and equitably compensated, guaranteeing the “more than haves” pay their fair share into our nation’s support systems to adequately care for those who have not, and more!

Rev. Dr. King’s legacy proclaims, “We are now making the choices which will determine whether we can achieve these goals in forthcoming decades. We cannot afford to make these choices poorly.” We are now making the choices which will determine whether we can achieve these goals in forthcoming decades. We cannot afford to make these choices poorly.

We can do better! Our existence demands we must do better! Will you journey with us until we realize what Brother Martin saw on the Mountain Top?

H.R.40 Re-Introduced in the 118th Congress

H.R.40 Re-Introduced in the 118th Congress

Update:

On January 24, 2023, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey introduced S.40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act, legislation that would establish a commission to consider proposals for reparations for African American descendants of slavery. The legislation is the Senate companion to H.R. 40, introduced by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX-18).

Jarrett Smith
January 11, 2023

On the first day of the 118th Congress, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) reintroduced H.R.40 with a speech on the House floor. In her speech, Rep. Lee noted, “H.R.40  is a crucial piece of legislation because it goes beyond exploring the economic implications of slavery and segregation. It is a holistic bill in the sense that it seeks to establish a commission to also examine the moral and social implications of slavery.

H.R.40 was first introduced in 1989 by former Representative John Conyers (D-MI) and has been introduced in every Congress since. In the last Congress, H.R.40 passed out of the House Judiciary Committee for the first time in its history, however, it failed to receive a vote on the House floor.

NETWORK, and our multi-faith coalition partners, strongly support the passage of H.R.40, however, given the reality of the divided Congress, we also call on President Biden to establish a commission on reparations via Executive Order.

A table in front of the White House holds a large letter with signatures at the bottom and candlesLast year, more than 2,000 Catholic Sisters and Associates sent a letter to President Biden, urging him to fulfil his campaign promise to support reparations. The letter followed a months-long campaign to build support for reparations with vigils organized by NETWORK advocates to pray and act for reparations. The vigils were held across the country in-person and online with local and national faith leaders.

Creating a commission to study and develop reparations proposals, as outlined in H.R.40, is the only policy that will lead to concrete proposals for repairing the damage that the United States government has inflicted on Black people. Its passage will allow us to move towards dismantling white supremacy and towards repair so that we can build anew together.

Catholic Social Teaching is clear: racism is a sin. Our faith teaches us to reject the immoral system of white supremacy and to work for truth-telling and repair. We can no longer deny the sins of the past and its ongoing implications Black people experience every day. NETWORK urges Congress to support and pass H.R.40 in the 118th Congress.

Iowa Advocates Call on Senator Grassley to Support EQUAL Act

Iowa Advocates Urge Senator Grassley to Support EQUAL Act

Minister Christian S. Watkins
December 14, 2022

The Senate recently joined the house in passing the FY2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Unfortunately, the final NDAA legislation failed to include the EQUAL Act (S.79/H.R.1693); a key NETWORK priority we had hoped would be included and passed as a part of that larger bill.

With bipartisan and bicameral support, NETWORK strongly supports the EQUAL Act’s much needed reforms to eliminate the disparity in sentencing for cocaine offenses, a major contributor to mass incarceration. Local Op-eds and even the New York Times Editorial Board are also calling for Senator Grassley and Congress to pass this legislation to ”finally dismantle the nation’s failed war on drugs.”

There is still time for Congress to pass the EQUAL Act, but it has to happen before the end of the year. Now is the time for Congress to act, uplifting human dignity by ensuring sentencing equity in our nation.

Winning Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley’s support for the EQUAL Act is key to securing its passage, because of his position as ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Therefore, after the Senate failed to pass the EQUAL Act via the NDAA, NETWORK delivered a letter to Senator Grassley signed by nearly 130 Iowans, including 45 Catholic Sisters, expressing strong support for the EQUAL Act. The letter urges Senator Grassley and the Senate to pass this critical bill and other criminal justice reforms before the end of this year:

“As people of faith, we cannot continue to tolerate racial profiling, police brutality, the loss of future generations to mass incarceration, or the perpetuation of poverty. We affirm the truth that every person is entitled to dignity and equitable justice under law.”

Help us spread the word about this important and urgent legislation and urge Senator Grassley to support the EQUAL Act!

Biden Administration Restored Pre-Trump Era Public Charge Regulations

Major Developments in the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) Program — December 2022

Major Developments in the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) Program -- December 2022

JoAnn Goedert, Government Relations Special Contributor
December 13, 2022
Major Developments in the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) Program

For immigrants from countries beset by violence, natural disasters and other turmoil, TPS provides protection from deportation and other benefits–at least temporarily. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimates that over 504,170 immigrants from 15 countries have or are eligible for TPS in the U.S. The program has been much in the news lately and, in recent weeks, the news has been good.

What is Temporary Protected Status? 

DHS grants TPS to immigrants in the U.S. from countries that it identifies as unsafe due to political unrest, natural disasters, and other hazardous conditions. Immigrants with TPS can remain in the U.S. temporarily without fear of deportation and can work and travel regardless of their immigration status, even if they were otherwise here without lawful authorization.  Typically, DHS grants TPS for 18-month periods that are often extended, and it applies it to immigrants already in the U.S. at the time of their home country’s TPS designation. TPS is not a direct path to permanent residency or citizenship, but it temporarily provides solid protection from deportation and a means of employment for hundreds of thousands of TPS recipients.

TPS Re-Designation for Haiti

On December 5, DHS announced the TPS re-designation of Haiti, a country struggling with government upheaval, widespread gang violence, the aftermath of hurricanes and earthquakes and, now, a cholera outbreak. The TPS status of approximately 100,000 Haitian immigrants who arrived in the U.S. in recent years was scheduled to expire on February 3, 2022 unless the Biden Administration took action. With the new re-designation, Haitian nationals who arrived in the U.S. by November 6, 2022 will be eligible for TPS through August 3, 2024.

The Biden Administration’s TPS Expansion

The Biden Administration’s expansion of the use of TPS was especially welcome, and a departure from Trump Administration efforts to dismantle the program (which were impeded by court action). The Biden Administration tried to legislate permanent protections for TPS recipients, but that failed when Republican Senators refused to consider immigration reform.

The Biden Administration has extended prior TPS protections for immigrants from South Sudan, Sudan, and Syria. It also added eight new countries—and more than 175,000 newly eligible immigrants–to the TPS list, including Venezuela, Myanmar, Somalia, and Yemen in 2021, and Afghanistan, Cameroon, Ukraine, and Ethiopia earlier in 2022.

A Crisis Averted

On October 25, a threat to long-standing protections for TPS holders from El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Nepal abruptly surfaced, resulting from the revival of a 2018 court challenge to Trump Administration efforts to dismantle TPS. While immigration advocates initially succeeded in federal district court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision and held that Trump’s actions were lawful. When the Biden Administration took over in 2021, the parties entered into many months of settlement negotiations that stayed further court action. But those talks broke down in late October with no settlement, leaving the future of nearly 370,000 immigrants whose TPS was scheduled to terminate on December 31, 2022 at serious risk.

On November 11, that crisis was averted when DHS announced an 18-month extension—to June 31, 2024 for existing TPS recipients from El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Nepal who were subject to the December 31 deadline. This extension was an act of simple humanity, especially since most of the individuals caught up in the court case have been in the United States for decades. NETWORK joined with the TPS-DED Administrative Advocacy Coalition, a coalition of over 100 representatives of faith-based and secular organizations, in urging the Administration to take quick action to announce a prompt TPS extension.  (https://static1.squarespace.com/static/60b79f3630f94f1039bd0125/t/635a9dde506660168de54139/1666883038701/2022-10-27+Press+Release+re+Ramos+Settlement.pdf).  To the great relief of the faith community and all people of good will, that call was answered.

The Future of TPS

At this time, more than 500,000 immigrants in the U.S. are secure in their TPS protection, but TPS remains only a temporary benefit, and any future extensions or expansions of the program will be decided by whoever is in the White House. NETWORK will monitor future developments in the TPS program and continue to advocate for TPS holders and all of our immigrant neighbors.

Faith-based Organizations Call for End of Year Health Care Policy for Vulnerable Communities

Faith-based Organizations Call for an End-of-Year Funding Package that Prioritizes Health Care for Vulnerable Communities

Laura Peralta-Schulte
December 6, 2022

Dear Member of Congress,

The undersigned organizations from the Washington Interreligious Staff Community (WISC) Health Care Working Group write to urge you to advance an end-of-year funding package that prioritizes health care for vulnerable communities. We are grateful for significant healthcare advancements made since the beginning of the 117th Congress to expand healthcare and create greater health equity, and we believe Congress must take further action to better protect the health and economic security of vulnerable populations.

Guided by the belief that healthcare is a fundamental human right, our organizations work each day to protect existing domestic healthcare programs and increase access to quality, affordable, and equitable health care. Our diverse faith traditions compel us to protect the most vulnerable among us – including individuals in rural areas, low-income people, People of Color, Indigenous people, immigrants, people with disabilities and chronic illnesses, and seniors and children. Many populations, including those listed above, face unique barriers to obtaining comprehensive care and continue to experience significant healthcare disparities.

We urge Congress to pass an end-of-year funding package that includes the following provisions:

Promote Continuous and Expanded Medicaid and CHIP Coverage

Over the past three years, the uninsured rate in the United States has reached a record low and
Medicaid and CHIP enrollment has increased, in part due to continuous coverage requirements implemented under the COVID-19 public health emergency. Given that the public health emergency will likely expire in the coming months, however, these continuous coverage requirements will also cease. Between 5 and 14 million people are expected to lose coverage, and people with disabilities, individuals with limited English proficiency, and those who moved since the pandemic began are at the greatest risk.

Provide 12 Months of Continuous Eligibility for Adults and Children

Because each state manages Medicaid and CHIP programs within federal guidelines, there is
tremendous variation in the scope of services available across the United States. Congress must heed the lessons of recent years and guarantee 12 months of continuous eligibility for adults and children through Medicaid and CHIP to avoid large scale disruption of coverage. Continuous eligibility for children and adults in Medicaid and CHIP ensures that people will remain eligible for Medicaid coverage or for CHIP for a one-year period, regardless of changes in their family’s income. While all vulnerable populations would benefit from this action, there are long-term benefits for children as those with health coverage are more likely to show improved health, lower rates of disability, and greater financial security in adulthood. By guaranteeing continuous Medicaid or CHIP eligibility in every state, Congress can advance health equity by promoting continuity of treatment for low-income individuals who
experience disproportionate rates of health disparities.

Provide 12 Months of Postpartum Coverage

Providing continuous Medicaid coverage for one year postpartum is critical to improving maternal and child health outcomes. While Medicaid finances roughly 40 percent of births in the United States, including 59 percent of births to Hispanic mothers and 65 percent of births to Black mothers, federal law only requires states to continue covering these mothers for 60 days postpartum. One-third of pregnancy-related deaths occur postpartum, including almost 12 percent that occur in the late postpartum period (between 43 and 365 days postpartum). Even as the American Rescue Plan Act allowed states to extend coverage via a state plan amendment, only half of states have or are planning to do so. Yet the need for postpartum medical care does not end after two months; in fact, over 70 percent of postpartum spending occurs between three and twelve months after delivery, as continuous postpartum care is critical for detecting postpartum depression, birth-related complications, and other
chronic conditions. Congress must provide 12 months of postpartum coverage to ensure that mothers can continue accessing life-saving care beyond 60 days.

Increase Medicaid Funding to the U.S. Territories

Due to limitations in the funding statute, Medicaid programs in the territories operate differently than Medicaid programs in the states. First, although federal funding covers a specified share of each state’s Medicaid spending, the territories receive federal funding via temporary fixed block grants that are inadequate to meet their needs. Second, while the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) in the states is tied to per capita income, the FMAP in the territories is fixed at artificially low levels, even as per capita income is lower than the poorest states.

As a result of these unequal funding structures, the territories face a looming Medicaid cliff, and even recent improvements to the territories’ Medicaid programs are in jeopardy. While a recent Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services interpretation determined that future allotments in Puerto Rico (which is still recovering from Hurricane Fiona) should increase from $400 million to $3 billion, Congress is facing pressure to reverse that interpretation, which would cause the 2023 allotment to plummet. Similarly, although the 2022 Consolidated Appropriations Act temporarily increased the FMAP from 55 percent to 76 percent for Puerto Rico and 83 percent for Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa, the FMAPs will revert to 55 percent on December 16 absent Congressional action. Given that most residents in the territories are People of Color, this is a racial
justice issue.

Congress must act swiftly to avert the funding cliff. Most urgently, Congress should maintain the CMS interpretation on Puerto Rico, increase the block grant allotments for all territories, and maintain or increase the federal matching rates to align with the states. In the long term, Congress must reform the funding structure for the territories’ Medicaid programs to ensure they can operate at parity with state Medicaid programs.

Addressing the Black Maternal Health Crisis

Congress must also take bold action to address the maternal health crisis that disproportionately affects Communities of Color. Black mothers in the United States three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women, while Hispanic, Native American, and Asian American and Pacific Islander people experience disproportionate mortality and morbidity rates as well. To address these disparities, Congress must include the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act (S.346/H.R.959) in end of the year legislation. This package invests in social determinants of health, funds community-based organizations seeking to improve maternal health outcomes, and expands and diversifies the perinatal workforce.

Increase COVID-19 Funding

While the United States has made significant progress since the beginning of COVID-19, the virus poses an ongoing danger to the country. Each day, the United States still experiences hundreds of deaths and thousands of new hospitalizations and reported cases. Long COVID remains a significant threat, already affecting 16 million U.S. adults and has forcing up to 4 million people out of the workforce. As public health protections fade and individual protective measures prove insufficient, the sustained spread places everyone (especially people with disabilities, immunocompromised people, and the elderly) at significant risk.

Continued harm from COVID-19 is not inevitable, and Congress must act swiftly to increase COVID-19 funding. The federal government has already begun to run out of money to continue its pandemic response, resulting in a dramatic contraction in free rapid tests, personal protective equipment, and treatments. The lack of funding has also limited the federal government’s ability to raise awareness about bivalent boosters, monitor cases, and conduct research into new vaccines and treatments.

Three years into the pandemic, we cannot accept this devastation as our new normal. As the United States faces a projected winter surge, and as pediatric emergency rooms and intensive care units become overrun due to RSV and flu, Congress must act quickly to mitigate COVID-19 and ensure that hospitals remain functional. We urge Congress to provide robust funding and partner with federal, state, and local officials to confront the ongoing pandemic.

Conclusion

Health inequities in the United States are the result of a long history of systemic racism, ableism, classism, and other forms of oppression. All our faiths call us to end these stark divides and ensure that everyone has access to quality, affordable, and equitable medical care. Congress must work to promote continuous and expanded Medicaid coverage, increase Medicaid funding to the territories, address the Black maternal health crisis, and increase COVID-19 funding, we will fail to eliminate the inequities that have plagued the United States for far too long. We urge you to support a year-end funding package that advances these priorities.

Sincerely,
Alliance of Baptists
American Muslim Health Professionals
Bread for the World
Church and Society Team, Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference of the United Methodist Church
Church World Service
Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, U.S. Provinces
Friends Committee on National Legislation
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Council of Jewish Women
National Latino Evangelical Coalition
Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Justice Team
Sojourners
The Episcopal Church
The Presbyterian Church (USA): Washington Office of Public Witness & Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations
The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society
Union for Reform Judaism
Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice
United Church of Christ