Category Archives: Policy Update

Recovery Update: Building Anew with a Bold Recovery Package

Recovery Update: Building Anew with a Bold Recovery Package

Laura Peralta-Schulte
July 21, 2021

Right now, Congress is crafting their budget reconciliation proposal. Over the next weeks and months, our elected officials will decide what policy priorities to include and what to leave out.

Budget reconciliation gives us the opportunity to make bold, transformational investments in our families and our communities by:

  • Making the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit permanent
  • Increasing access to health care, eldercare, childcare, education, and broadband
  • Building affordable housing and increasing access to rental assistance
  • Providing a pathway to citizenship for those with DACA, TPS, farmworkers, and other essential workers
  • Establishing a national paid family and medical leave program, and more.

We cannot go back to the status quo of exclusion and inequality. We must build anew with racial and environmental justice at the center. The recovery package Congressional Democrats are working to pass through budget reconciliation will make bold investments in a more just future. We can afford this by reforming our tax code to ensure that the wealthiest people and big corporations pay their fair share of taxes. We urge Congress to unrig the tax code by:

  • Repealing the 2017 Republican corporate tax cuts
  • Strengthening IRS enforcement to prevent tax evasion
  • Eliminating tax breaks that encourage offshoring
  • Closing tax loopholes used by big corporations to avoid paying their fair share, and more.

Fixing our tax code is essential to closing the racial wealth gap and creating an economy that benefits all of us.

Recent Supreme Court Decisions Highlight Urgent Need for Voting Rights Legislation

Recent Supreme Court Decisions Highlight Urgent Need for Voting Rights Legislation

Allison Baroni
July 14, 2021

On July 1, the Supreme Court released rulings on two highly significant cases: Brnovich v. DNC and Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta. Both decisions (each decided 6-3) were disastrous to efforts to strengthen and protect the integrity of United States elections. This tells us what we already knew: the courts will not save us. Now more than ever, we must demand Congress pass the For the People Act (H.R.1/S.1) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Only through such legislative action can we ensure the protection of our democracy — or, rather, build anew the democratic society that the United States has only imagined itself to be.

The right to vote is often presented as sacrosanct, as if voting has been free and fair since the inception of this nation. But we know that at the time of the first presidential election in 1789, only 6% of those living in the United States (i.e., property-owning white men) were able to vote. And, although gains have been made thanks to organizing and advocacy from marginalized communities pushing to expand that 6%, the right to vote is still denied to many today.

Still, through the efforts of activists we have made historic gains for free and fair elections across the centuries. These gains are not linear and have always been accompanied by losses and by the pushback of those seeking to protect an oppressive status quo. In terms of advancing the freedom to vote in the United States, the July 1st Brnovich v. DNC ruling was a travesty for voters who have historically been disenfranchised by our systems and structures.

The court’s decision in Brnovich v. DNC reverses a Ninth Court decision that had struck down two Arizonan laws, one of which bans third parties from collecting others’ ballots to turn in, and another requiring precincts to throw out ballots accidentally cast at the wrong location. These laws both disproportionately hurt voters of color, and it was on this basis the Ninth Court struck them down, arguing that they violated Section 2 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. In reversing this decision, the Supreme Court fundamentally gutted this section of the Voting Rights Act, establishing a precedent for which further laws can be passed without concern for their disproportionate impact on Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities’ access to the ballot box.

In Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta, the Court ruled in favor of major donors to charities and nonprofit groups, striking down a California law that had attempted to mitigate the impact of invisible money on our politics. Instead of supporting efforts to address the growing control of money on our elections and institutions, this decision prioritizes the interests of wealthy donors and dark money under the guise of protecting First Amendment rights. This justification for the decision begins to collapse upon only a little investigation: the California law had only required disclosure to the Attorney General, not the public, already protecting these donors from pushback from public opinion.

Fortunately, the impact of both rulings can be remedied by passing legislation currently before Congress. The For the People Act would ensure a basic standard of access to the ballot for everyone ­— no matter one’s zip code. It would also apply disclosure laws for big donors and dark money and strengthen our federal enforcement of campaign rules. Additionally, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would protect the disenfranchised by preventing states from passing racially discriminatory laws moving forward. We have come too far to move backwards. Passing both of these bills is the only acceptable Congressional response to these decisions from the Supreme Court. Doing so, continuing to build an equitable democracy, is how we bring into existence the world we wish to live in.

Allison Baroni is a rising senior at Villanova University where she studies Peace and Justice & Theology. Allison is a member of the NETWORK Government Relations team this summer.

Eviction Moratorium Remains Extended to July 31

Eviction Moratorium Remains Extended to July 31

Caraline Feairheller
June 30, 2021

The COVID-19 Pandemic has exacerbated the affording housing crisis — leaving millions of renters at risk of losing their homes. Renters of color in the United States disproportionally face this hardship and are now twice as likely to report being at risk of eviction. On June 24, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention extended the eviction moratorium from June 30 until July 31.

Despite being challenged in the courts, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the extension of the eviction ban. This 5 to 4 decision will allow government agencies to continue working on getting Emergency Rental Assistance into the hands of tenants who are in need.

Throughout the pandemic, Congress has provided more than $46 billion in emergency rental assistance through the Consolidate Appropriations Act and the American Rescue Plan. Recently, the White House and United States Treasury updated their guidance on the qualifications and possibilities of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. Renters or landlords apply for this assistance from the state or local entities selected to administer the program, find the right place to apply here.

As clarified by the National Low Income Housing Coalition FAQ on the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, the updated guidelines:

  • Provide ERA funds to families who have lost or are at risk of losing housing by paying for relocation assistance, prospective rent, security deposits, and temporary hotel accommodations.
  • Provide ERA Funds to families who are temporarily displaced living in hotels or motels.
  • Provide ERA funds to families living in federally subsided housing.

Eligibility for Emergency Rental Assistance Funds:

  • If one or more individuals has qualified for unemployment benefits or experienced other financial hardship due directly or indirectly to the pandemic.
  • If one or more individuals can demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability.
  • The guidelines do not impose restrictions based on immigration status. State and local governments cannot impose their own immigration status or Social Security requirements.

Finally, when ERA payments are being made on the household’s behalf, landlords are prohibited from evicting renters for nonpayment.

NETWORK welcomes the decisions to extend the eviction moratorium and applauds the Supreme Court for prioritizing the health of the nation. The updated guidelines for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program will keep families in their homes. However, the extension of the eviction moratorium and updated guidelines is only a short-term solution to the affordable housing crisis in the United States. Congress must work to pass the American Jobs Plan in order to honor the human dignity of every person by investing in long-term affordable housing.

Read the Full National Low Income Housing Coalition FAQ Sheet Here.

2021 Is the Year to Pass the Equality Act

2021 Is the Year to Pass the Equality Act

Gina Kelley
June 24, 2021

In many U.S. states, members of the LGBTQ+ community can be fired at will, denied a place to live, and refused medical care. Our LGBTQ+ friends, family, and neighbors can legally face disrespect and discrimination because of who they are and who they love. Discrimination has no home in our country or in our communities. No one should be excluded in a society that respects and supports human dignity.

The Equality Act (H.R.5/S.393) would provide consistent and explicit anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people across key areas of life, including employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs, and jury service.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, the Equality Act does this by “amending existing civil rights law — including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Jury Selection and Services Act, and several laws regarding employment with the federal government — to explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics. The legislation also amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination in public spaces and services and federally funded programs on the basis of sex. The Equality Act would also update the public spaces and services covered in current law to include retail stores, services such as banks and legal services, and transportation services.”

These legal protections would ensure that folks in the LGBTQ+ community can fully belong and participate in our society without the risk of being subject to discriminatory and punitive practices.

The Equality Act (H.R. 5) passed the House of Representatives in February of this year. It joins the long list of legislation that will not reach the floor while the filibuster remains. The Equality Act, like the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, the For the People Act, and more would help us create a more just economy and a more equitable society, and deserve a real chance in the Senate.

At NETWORK, we affirm that our faith calls us to welcome and love everyone—no exceptions. Additionally, many members of the LGBTQ+ community are people of faith – up to 20% LGBTQ+ Americans are Catholic. People of faith and the majority of voters support laws like the Equality Act, which protect members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Not only is this legislation popular but we know that our faith calls us to practice welcome and inclusion and to see and affirm God in all people. NETWORK Lobby urges the Senate to pass the Equality Act and finally include protections for our LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers into our country’s fundamental civil rights laws.

Investing in Housing Infrastructure Answers Gospel Call

Investing in Housing Infrastructure Answers Gospel Call

Jarrett Smith
June 9, 2021

I will also appoint for a place for my people, and will plant them, that they may live in their own place and not be disturbed again, nor will the wicked afflict them anymore as formerly.

2 Samuel 7:10

On January 20, 2021,  President Biden was elected as the President of the United States of America.  As a practicing Catholic, Biden understands God’s call to pursue justice, and help amplify the power of the oppressed. For many, the Biden/Harris administration offers hope, especially when it comes to relief for basic human needs. A place to call home is a right ordained in scripture.

Here at NETWORK Lobby, specific policy goals on the topic of eradicating racism must be part of President Biden’s housing infrastructure proposal. NETWORK would like to see the following included as part of the foundation of President Biden’s American Jobs Plan:

    • Bridging the gap between incomes and housing costs by expanding rental voucher assistance to every eligible household. Currently, only 1 in 4 families eligible for rental assistance receives it;
    • Providing at least $70 billion to start increasing the supply and renovating existing rental housing; There is no state or congressional district in America with enough affordable homes for families with the lowest incomes.

According to researchers at Columbia University, universal housing vouchers would cut child poverty by 36 percent. This policy proposal is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to cut child poverty by one-third. Only government elected officials can make these decisions.

NETWORK believes that even the lowest-earning household or individual should have a place to call home. Housing is a human right, and we can no longer allow federal policy to get in the way of this goal. A change in housing policy must happen today.  Homelessness is almost always a remnant of racial inequity. And while homelessness is a national crisis, here in Washington D.C. is a place many homeless people of color call home. We must eliminate racial disparities in housing on all levels.

NETWORK’s Build Anew cornerstone of “rooting our economy in solidarity” should be fundamental to future federal housing policy. Housing is the basis for stable economic prosperity. Without owning a place to live, how can contributions be regularly made to society, moreover, how can a person feel secure and accumulate capital? President Biden’s infrastructure housing proposal is an excellent start, and we will advocate for that proposal and further steps as it becomes our nation’s new infrastructure housing reality.

Access to Broadband is a Matter of Racial and Economic Justice

Access to Broadband is a Matter of Racial and Economic Justice

Jarrett Smith
May 28, 2021

President Biden recently released details of his much-anticipated infrastructure plan. It is a bold statement on the direction the President wants to take the country, and it is unprecedented. The President’s plan touts jobs which is an exciting step towards getting many people in the U.S. back to work.  President Biden’s plan focuses on increasing access to broadband in our country. At NETWORK, we believe broadband should be a utility, as every aspect of life requires access to the internet, like social services, health care, education, unemployment benefits, and more.   The COVID-19 pandemic proved that broadband is an absolute necessity for healthcare and other critical needs in communities across the country.

In NETWORK’s Raising Rural Voices report and national Raising Rural Voices event, lack of internet infrastructure was named as a key issue for communities, as it cuts them off from critical supports. A participant in the Wabasha, MN Rural Roundtable said, “Broadband is now essential to attracting people into the community. Many come with a job and then their spouse needs to work remotely. If there isn’t broadband, it really isn’t possible.” Stories like this emphasize the urgent need for comprehensive broadband investments.

President Biden’s proposal includes the following:

  • High-speed broadband – Investment: $100 billion;
  • Broadband coverage expectation: 100% coverage;
  • Enlists support from local governments, nonprofits, and cooperative broadband communities;
  • Providing set-asides for tribal broadband initiatives;
  • Provides price transparency for internet providers; and
  • Reduces internet prices, instead of subsidizing overpriced services.

Broadband USA recently hosted a webinar to illustrate the economic importance of broadband. According to a report by Professors Indraneel Kumar and Roberto Gallardo, internet providers contributed more than 77,000 jobs and more than $10 billion in economic activity across industries in 2017. So not only is expanding broadband needed for vital social services, it grows an equitable economy by creating jobs.

The path to implementation may be to use best practices developed in states. Virginia’s broadband initiative is a great example of expanding access. The state’s General Assembly passed legislation that simplifies the permitting process for broadband deployment and requires local jurisdictions to show detailed plans as proof for future deployment. This way, broadband service will not just be for the rich part of town. Another piece of Virginia’s broadband policy that could be part of the infrastructure bill requires utilities to lease their unused fiber to jurisdictions for alternative or supplemental use.

NETWORK believes that the new federal broadband policy must include funding and policy regulations to provide high-quality service to all users, whether they live in cities, suburbs, or rural communities. A way to guarantee the same level of service is implementing neighborhood block speed maps. Without block speed maps, the industry contributes to digital redlining, which allocates the best service to those with the highest income in a zip code.

At NETWORK, our Build Anew Agenda is based on four cornerstones inspired by Catholic social justice. A community that offers the same broadband service throughout regardless of economic status is cultivating an inclusive society and rooting our economy in solidarity. NETWORK hopes for the American Rescue Plan broadband subsidy to become permanent. It would help millions of people in the U.S., especially those most in need. It is impossible to be a community committed to inclusivity and economic solidarity without excellent broadband service for all community members.

A Year After George Floyd’s Murder, Still Working for Policy Change

A Year After George Floyd’s Murder, Still Working for Policy Change

Caraline Feairheller
May 25, 2021

On the one-year anniversary since George Floyd’s death at the hands of Derek Chauvin, it remains clear that the criminal legal system will not self-correct. The racism embedded in the system continues to terrorize Black and brown communities across the nation. We cannot tolerate the loss of another life to police violence. In order to build anew, we must affirm that every person is made in the image of God and entitled to dignity and equal justice under law. This is a sacred responsibility. As Pope Francis reminds us, “we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life.”

Since passing the House in the 117th Congress on March 3, 2021, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act (H.R.1280) has seen no action in the Senate. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is a crucial step in facilitating greater police accountability and towards dismantling the white supremacy in policing by ending long-held practices that allow law enforcement to murder Black people with impunity. The legislation:

  • Ends qualified immunity for law enforcement
  • Establish a national standard on use of force
  • Bans chokeholds and no-knock warrants at the federal level
  • Mandates data collection on encounters with law enforcement
  • Restricts police access to military-grade equipment
  • Improves federal laws to prosecute excessive force

Congress has a moral and civic duty to protect Black lives. NETWORK calls on the Senate to pass H.R.1280, The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act immediately.

Opportunities to remember George Floyd and act for racial justice:

  1. Call your Senators at 888-496-3502 and ask them to pass H.R.1280 the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
  2. Join the Sisters of Mercy in prayer at 2:00 PM Eastern.
    Register here.
  3. Mark the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death with prayer with Catholics 4 the Common Good – GA at 8:00 PM Eastern. Register here.
  4. Watch the George Floyd Memorial Foundation’s panel discussion From Protest to Policy.
  5. Follow the George Floyd Memorial Foundation to stay informed of their work on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.
  6. Participate in the George Floyd Memorial Foundation’s Virtual Day of Action.

Both the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act are needed to Build Our Democracy Anew

Both the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act are needed to Build Our Democracy Anew

Two critical bills, the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, are being considered in Congress to transform our politics and safeguard our democracy. These bills have key similarities and differences, but both are essential in ridding our democracy of systemic racism and exclusion and building a new democracy that honors both the dignity of each individual and the value of community.

What is The For the People Act (H.R.1/S.1) and what does it do?

  • The For the People Act is a once-in-a-generation bill that reimagines American democracy into one that works for the people. It protects the freedom to vote, ends partisan gerrymandering, gets big money out of politics, and strengthens government ethics and accountability.
  • From a voting rights perspective, it creates a national floor of accessibility to the ballot box that doesn’t currently exist, making same-day voter registration, no-excuse vote by mail, and at least two weeks of early voting the law of the land no matter where a voter lives. Many of the challenges of voting during COVID, for example, would be addressed through For the People Act.
  • And, in terms of the voter suppression laws currently moving in the states, S.1 would override many of them by requiring all states to meet this baseline of accessibility.

What is the John Lewis Voting Rights Act (H.R.4) and what does it do?

  • The John Lewis Voting Rights Act (VRAA) would restore the full power and protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
  • In 2013, in the disastrous Shelby County v. Holder decision, the Supreme Court struck down the pre-clearance provision of the Voting Rights Act. This provision required states with a history of enacting racist anti-voter laws to get pre-clearance from the Department of Justice before their state’s election laws could be changed.
  • This bill would restore the pre-clearance provision of the Voting Rights Act and hopefully expand the list of covered states.
  • This would prevent future discriminatory laws from being allowed on the books — like we are seeing proliferate across the country now.

How they work together

  • These bills are complementary and are both sides of the same coin — so if you hear folks talking about how we need to pick one or the other — that is a false choice and needs to be called out as such.
  • We should not be picking one — both of these bills are wildly popular — and both are 100% necessary to protect the freedom to vote. They accomplish different things.
  • If we’re thinking of this as a battle for voting rights the For the People Act can be seen as a sword—an assertion of rights and reclaiming the power of the people. The VRAA can be thought of as the shield, our defense against racist, discriminatory voting laws.

Different Bills on Different Timelines: Why aren’t the bills aren’t moving together or combined?

This is because of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act — it requires a legislative record of field hearings on voter discrimination to protect it from a potential legal challenge in the future. So that means it is moving at a somewhat slower pace than the For the People Act, and it hasn’t yet been introduced in 2021 because there is a lot to incorporate into the record from the 2020 election.

The For the People Act is ready to go and is on an aggressive timeline: it passed the House in March and we need it to be signed into law by the end of the summer. It will impact redistricting and it could positive impact voting laws for the 2022 election, but its reforms need time to take effect, so it is critical this bill moves in the next couple of months

We need to move forward with passage of S.1 now and take up JLVRAA as the next immediate step in our democracy agenda. Think of American democracy as a sick patient.  The For the People Act is the treatment the patient needs to survive, H.R.4 is the vaccine to ensure it doesn’t get sick again. If we want to nullify the laws that have passed in states or those that will pass in the coming months, we need the For the People Act to pass.  The voting rights provisions of H.R.1 came straight from the late John Lewis’s Voter Empowerment Act, which he originally introduced in 2012 and reintroduced every session since.

Supporting a Pathway to Citizenship for Essential Workers

Supporting a Pathway to Citizenship for Essential Workers

Audrey Carroll
May 17, 2021

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, around 5.2 million undocumented essential workers in every state across the U.S. continued working in critical industries, including as health care providers and agricultural workers. Despite being an integral part of our communities and contributing to our shared wellbeing, these mothers, fathers, siblings, friends, and neighbors do not have an assured, safe path to citizenship. Nearly one million essential workers are Dreamers with no pathway to permanent status in the U.S. currently. It is time for this to change.

On May 12, Senator Alex Padilla chaired a subcommittee hearing focused on legislation which would provide a pathway to citizenship for essential immigrant workers.  The Citizenship for Essential Workers Act creates a pathway to citizenship for over 5 million undocumented essential workers in the U.S. The bill has been introduced in the Senate by Senators Alex Padilla and Elizabeth Warren and in the House by Representatives Joaquin Castro and Ted Lieu.

NETWORK Lobby submitted a statement for the record for the Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, and Border Safety’s hearing, highlighting the vital role of undocumented essential workers in our society. Immigrants have always been at the heart of our communities, and the COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized that without essential immigrant workers, we cannot survive. Undocumented workers have been working on the frontlines of the pandemic without vital benefits and protections. We can no longer treat essential immigrant workers as expendable.

NETWORK’s statement tells the story of Jose*, an undocumented student and worker who overcame the odds to receive approval for DACA. Despite Jose’s achievements, he lived in fear of what may happen to him and his family without the security of U.S. citizenship status. Undocumented workers are the backbone of our society and should not live in fear. No one should live in fear in the United States. Our immigration system has been broken for decades and we must build anew with a vision of inclusion and welcome for the future of our country.

All people in the United States, regardless of immigration status, make up one single community. Policies that prevent immigrant families from accessing citizenship, permanent legal residence, or needed resources for food, housing, and health care are unjust and hurt not only immigrant families but also our entire national community. It is time to respect and honor the human dignity of undocumented immigrants in the United States by providing an accessible pathway to citizenship.

*Name changed.

NETWORK Urges Congress to Vote Yes on Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

NETWORK Urges Congress to Vote Yes on Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

Caraline Feairheller
May 10, 2021

 

Ahead of this weeks vote on the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (H.R.1065), Government Relations Associate Gina Kelley sent a vote recommendation to the Hill urging Representatives to vote yes. NETWORK Lobby proudly endorses the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and we ask each member of the House of Representatives to recognize the dignity of life and work by voting yes.

In the aftermath of the pandemic and an economic recession, this legislation is urgently needed. Despite current protections included in the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, pregnant workers are routinely denied basic, temporary accommodations to ensure a healthy pregnancy. In lieu of reasonable accommodations at the workplace, many pregnant workers face undue pressures to take an often-unpaid leave of absence, which may jeopardize their livelihood.

While pregnancy discrimination effects many, Black and Brown workers carry a heavier burden as they disproportionately occupy jobs with low wages and few pre-existing benefits and protections. Low wage jobs are often more physically and emotionally demanding, which increase the risk for pregnancy complications. Black and Indigenous women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy complications compared to white women. We cannot allow this racial and gender inequity to continue and the PWFA takes a step towards ending this cruelty.

As Executive Director Mary J. Novak writes, “This common sense, bipartisan legislation is faithful to the principles of Catholic Social Teaching—and the dignity of the human person in particular—by caring for the health and economic security of pregnant people and their families. Forcing workers to choose between a healthy pregnancy and a paycheck is immoral and the PWFA ends this injustice.”

Read NETWORK’s Vote Recommendation on the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.