Category Archives: Policy Update

During Black Maternal Health Week, We Call on Congress to Pass the Momnibus Act

During Black Maternal Health Week, We Call on Congress to Pass the Momnibus Act

Caraline Feairheller
April 14, 2021

This week, Congresswoman Alma Adams (NC-12), Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (IL-14), and 77 original cosponsors introduced a resolution recognizing Black Maternal Health Week, “to bring national attention to the maternal health crisis in the United States and the urgent importance of reducing maternal mortality and morbidity among Black women and birthing persons.”

The United States has a maternal mortality health crisis that must be addressed. Around the developed world, pregnancy-related mortality rates are falling, except in the United States – where birthing people are dying at a morally unacceptable and rising rate. Approximately 700 women die each year due to pregnancy-related causes with an additional 50,000 experiencing severe health complications from pregnancy. This crisis is most severe for Black birthing people, who are dying 3 to 4 times the rate of their white counterparts. This is a tragedy for our society and for the families who have lost loved ones, and the racial disparities are unjust and sinful.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only increased the barriers to accessing care and exacerbated the already existing racial disparities. Congresswoman Adams, co-founder and co-chair of the Black Maternal Health Caucus pointed this out, saying, “Black Americans were one of the hardest hit communities during this pandemic, and Black and Hispanic mothers accounted for a majority of COVID-19 cases among pregnant women in the United States.” We must dismantle the systemic racism in our health care system and our nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in order to build anew together.

Earlier this year,  members of the Black Maternal Health Caucus introduced the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act (H.R.595/S.346) to address the maternal health crisis. In a country where at least 60% of maternal deaths are preventable, the Momnibus helps to fill current policy gaps in receiving care.  This comprehensive legislation seeks to address social determinants of health, invest in community-based organizations, fund research development and data collection, and invest in efforts to diversify the perinatal workforce. In total, the Momnibus is a combination of 12 standalone bills that have been introduced or reintroduced into the 117th Congress. NETWORK is proud to support the Momnibus Act, applauds the Black Maternal Health Caucus for its leadership, and calls on Congress to pass this critical legislation immediately. The Momnibus includes the following legislation:

The Social Determinants for Moms Act (H.R.943):

Introduced by Representative Lucy McBath (D-GA-06), this legislation recognizes that social determinants of health, defined as the conditions where people live, learn, work, and play; affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes. By focusing on these social determinants, this legislation will address the root cause of gaps in care by establish a task force to coordinate federal efforts to address social determinants, provide funding for safe and quality housing for pregnant people, extending Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) eligibility periods for new moms, and invest in funding research that will explore environmental risk, transportation barriers, and more.

The Kira Johnson Act (H.R.1212):

Introduced by Representative Alma Adams (D-NC-12), this legislation is named after Kira Johnson who, despite being in excellent health, died from a hemorrhage after delivering her son Langston. Unfortunately, Kira’s story is not unique in the United States. In order to combat the complex causes of maternal mortality and promote accountability, this legislation invests in community-based organizations that are leading the charge to support outcomes for Black pregnant and postpartum people and women of color. It provides support for bias and anti-racism training programs as well as establishes the Respectful Maternity Care Compliance Programs within hospitals so families can report instances of racial or other types of bias.

Protecting Moms Who Served Act (H.R.958):

Introduced by Representative Lauren Underwood (D-IL-14) and Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), this legislation seeks to uncover the reality for the more than two million women veterans in the United States and their maternal health outcomes. As so little is known about maternal health among veterans, this legislation will commission the first-ever study on the maternal health crises among veterans; with a specific focus on racial and ethnic disparities and identifying potential mental and behavioral risks. Following the study, recommendations will be made to healthcare providers. The legislation will  also provide funding towards ensuring coordination takes place between Veterans Affairs and non-Veterans Affairs facilities, facilitate access to community resources, and offer childcare and parenting classes to veterans.

Perinatal Workforce Act:

Introduced by Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI-4) and Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), this legislation addresses the lack of access to maternity care found in both rural and urban communities. More than 1/3 of counties in the United State are considered ‘maternity care deserts meaning that more than 7 million birthing people live where there is no or limited access to maternity care. Specifically, this legislation establishes grant programs to increase access to maternity care providers, provides guidance to states on diverse maternal care, will allow programs to increase number of nurses and other health care workers, and fund studies on barriers that prevent women from entering maternity care professions.

Data to Save Moms Act (H.R.952/S.347):

Introduced by Representative Sharice Davids (D-KS-3) and Senator Tina Smith (D-MN), this legislation builds off the 2018 Preventing Maternal Deaths law by promoting greater levels of representative community engagement in Maternal Mortality Review Committees (MMRCs). MMRCS gather key stakeholders together to listen to the experiences of pregnant people and how these stories can inform health quality measures that promote safe, culturally competent, patient-centered maternity care. Also, this legislation invests in improving data collection and maternal health research at Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs.) Finally, this legislation will establish the first-ever comprehensive study to understand the scope of the Native American maternal health crisis, who are more than twice as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than their white counterparts.

Moms Matter Act (H.R.909/S.484):

Introduced by Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE-AL), Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Representative John Katko (R-NY-24), this bipartisan legislation addresses the unique challenge maternal mental health conditions as “mental health conditions are one of the leading causes of pregnancy-related deaths.” This crises is disproportionately felt by Black birthing people who are at increased risk for suicidal ideation and intentional self-harm during pregnancy and postpartum. This legislation will make investments in programs that support moms with maternal mental health conditions and substance use disorders, create initiatives that address stigma, and invest in suicide prevention programs. Also, it will provide funding to grow and diversity the maternal mental health care workforce in order to create culturally-competent care for pregnant and postpartum people with maternal mental health conditions.

Justice for Incarcerated Moms Act (H.R.948/S.341):

Introduced by Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-MA-07) and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), this legislation addresses the maternal health crises of pregnant people who are incarcerated, as they face a heighted risk for maternal mortality. The consequences of the United States addiction to mass incarceration from 190 to 2016 has resulted in the number of women in prison increasing nearly 742%, of those who are incarcerated it is Black women who are imprisoned at twice the rate of white women. This legislation will seek to end the immoral practice of shackling pregnant people, provide funds for reentry assistance programs, funds for diversionary programs to prevent incarceration of pregnant and postpartum people, and study the negative implications of Medicaid coverage termination for incarcerated mothers.

Tech to Save Moms Act (H.R.937):

Introduced by Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX-32) and Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), this legislation recognizes that digital tools, such as telehealth services, can play an important and unique role in addressing maternal health in underserved areas. Specifically, this legislation will promote integration and development of telehealth, provide grants to ensure high-speed, reliable internet access; promote digital tools designed to address racial and ethnic disparities, and study the use of new technology in preventing racial and ethnic bias.

IMPACT to Save Moms Act (H.R.950/S.334):

Introduced by Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-09) and Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), this legislation recognizes that maternal care payment options affect maternal health outcomes. The legislation will establish a new Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that promotes equitable and quality maternal health outcomes for pregnant people covered by Medicaid. It also develops strategies to ensure continuity of health insurance coverage for pregnant and postpartum people, including presumptive eligibility for Medicaid/CHIP programs, automatic reenrollment in Medicaid/CHIP for birthing people, and prevents any disruptions on coverage during pregnancy, labor, delivery, and up to one year postpartum.

Maternal Health Pandemic Response Act:

Introduced by Representative Lauren Underwood (D-IL-14) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), this legislation recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemics has worsened the already existing and immoral maternal mortality crisis in the United States. Pregnant people are at a significant risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes and Black women experienced a disproportionate number of deaths. This legislation makes targeted investments to advance safe maternal health outcomes during COVID-19 and beyond. It will require COVID-19 data collection be disaggregated by pregnancy status, ensure vaccines are safe for pregnant people, and establish a take force for creating safe birthing experiences during COVID-19 and potential future disease outbreaks.

Protecting Moms and Babies Against Climate Change Act (H.R.957/S.423):

Introduced by Representative Lauren Underwood (D-IL-14) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), this legislation recognizes the reality of climate change exacerbating risks for pregnant people. As climate change results in greater air pollution and heat exposure, pregnant people and their infants are at risk and the legacy of environmental racism leaves Black mothers particularly at risk. This legislation will establish research opportunities on the relationship between climate change and pregnancy, design programs to identify climate change risk zones for pregnant people and their babies, provide health professional training on how to mitigate the risk of climate-change related risks, and provide funding to improve infrastructure.

Maternal Vaccination Act (H.R.951/S.345):

Introduced by Representative Terri A. Sewell (D-AL-07) and Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), this legislation will provide funding for programs to increase maternal vaccinations rates and develop maternal vaccinations campaigns with community-based partner organizations and trusted leaders.

The Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021 is a necessary and comprehensive collection of 12 bills that must be passed into law in order to address the immoral legacy of the United State maternal mortality crisis. NETWORK Lobby urges members of Congress to quickly pass the Momnibus, in its entirety, in order to honor the essential dignity of each human person.

Learn more about each of the bills included in the Momnibus Act here.

NETWORK Urges Congress to Pass the Paycheck Fairness Act

NETWORK Urges Congress to Pass the Paycheck Fairness Act

Gina Kelley
April 14, 2021

Ahead of the expected House vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 7) NETWORK sent a letter to members of the House of Representatives urging them to support this legislation as it eliminates loopholes in existing legislation, helps break harmful patterns of pay discrimination, and strengthens workplace protections for women.

Our faith teaches us that just and equal pay is necessary to recognize the dignity of work. Almost six decades after the landmark Equal Pay Act was signed into law, the gender and racial pay gap persists and this legislation takes a necessary and immediate step towards ending this immoral reality. Women, especially women of color, have been carrying a devastating burden for decades. Equal pay cannot be up for debate. Women have been economically exploited and treated as second-class citizens since the inception of this country. Widespread wage discrimination continues that legacy today. The Paycheck Fairness Act takes a necessary step towards ending systemic wage theft and discriminatory practices against women.

The choice could not be clearer. Now is the time to support women. NETWORK advocates strongly urge Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act because of the victories it achieves for working women across the country.

Read Our Vote Recommendation Letter on the Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R.7)

The EQUAL Act Helps Us Dismantle and Build Anew

The EQUAL Act Helps Us Dismantle and Build Anew

Joan Neal and Sr. Mara Rutten, RSM
April 13, 2021

The Eliminating a Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law (EQUAL) Act (H.R.1693/S.79) is bipartisan legislation that seeks to eliminate the disparity in sentencing for cocaine offenses, a major contributor to mass incarceration, and apply retroactively to those already convicted or sentenced.

The EQUAL Act was introduced in the House on March 9, 2021 by Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY-08), Bobby Scott (D-VA-03), Kelly Armstrong (R-ND-AL) and Don Bacon (R-NE-02). Across the Capitol, Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), both members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had previously introduced the bill on January 28, 2021.

Before introducing the bill, Senator Booker said, “For over three decades, unjust, baseless and unscientific sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine have contributed to the explosion of mass incarceration in the United States and disproportionately impacted poor people, Black and Brown people, and people fighting mental illness… I encourage my colleagues to support the EQUAL Act as a necessary step in repairing our broken criminal justice system.”

While there are many provisions within the justice system that produce discriminatory and racist impacts, the crack/powder sentencing laws are among the most obvious. For many years now, science and experience have shown us there is no difference between use of crack or powder cocaine. Neither one is more or less addictive nor produces more violent behavior in the user. The difference is that crack cocaine has historically been used in more urban communities of color, specifically Black communities, while powder cocaine has more often been found in whiter, more suburban communities. The racial implications couldn’t be clearer.

Furthermore, the sentencing disparity between these two drugs has contributed significantly to the growth of mass incarceration in this country. According to FAMM, in 2019 alone, 81% of those convicted of crack cocaine offenses were Black, even though historically, 66% of crack cocaine users have been white or Hispanic. It is time to end this racist policy and restore proportionality in sentencing.

Events of the past few years have illuminated the systemic inequalities in our country’s criminal legal system. At NETWORK, we cannot continue to tolerate racial profiling, police brutality, the loss of another generation to mass incarceration, or the perpetuation of poverty. As we Build Anew, we affirm the truth that every person is entitled to dignity and equal justice under law. It is time for Congress to act and take a firm stance against institutional racism embedded within the criminal legal system by passing the EQUAL Act (H.R.1693/S.79).

Join NETWORK’s Virtual Lobby Day on May 12 to lobby your Representative to pass the EQUAL Act in the House! Learn more and register here.

Senate Hearing Examines Legacy of Racial Discrimination in Housing

Senate Hearing Examines Legacy of Racial Discrimination in Housing

April 12, 2021

Ahead of tomorrow’s hearing “Separate and Unequal: The Legacy of Racial Discrimination in Housing,” NETWORK Lobby expresses its gratitude to Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs for holding this important hearing on the intersection of systemic racism and housing. Having access to safe, stable, affordable housing improves physical and mental health, and honors the dignity of every person. Despite this sacred truth, racism in our housing system has barred Black and brown individuals and families from securing quality housing at an affordable cost for centuries.

We must name and dismantle racism in our society and our economy in order to advance the common good. Tomorrow’s hearing plays an important role in that. As we move forward together, it is critical that President Biden’s infrastructure plan affirms that housing is a human right and seeks to ensure that every person and family in the United States is housed. As Pope Francis said in 2015, “We can find no social or moral justification, no justification whatsoever, for lack of housing.”

At NETWORK, we are working to realize our vision of a just and inclusive society where all can thrive, including especially those who are most often left out: women, people of color, people on the economic margins, and those at the intersections of these identities. We look forward to continuing to work with Senator Sherrod Brown and other Senators to build our nation anew through our federal policies.

Separate and Unequal: The Legacy of Racial Discrimination in Housing
U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs

DATE: Tuesday, April 13, 2021
TIME: 10:00 AM

Watch the Hearing here: https://www.banking.senate.gov/hearings/separate-and-unequal-the-legacy-of-racial-discrimination-in-housing

Immigration: Where We Are and Where We’re Going

Immigration: Where We Are and Where We’re Going

Audrey Carroll
April 8, 2021

On March 17, NETWORK Government Relations Director Ronnate Asirwatham presented a webinar to NETWORK members on the current status of immigration legislation in Congress, as well as highlighting current Administrative wins and ongoing issues at the Southern border.

Currently, NETWORK is tracking six immigration bills that have been introduced in the 117th Congress. The immigration bills are: the U.S. Citizenship Act, Citizenship for Essential Workers, the Dream and Promise Act, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, the DREAM Act, and the SECURE Act. Each bill includes a path to citizenship for our currently undocumented community and family members, including DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients and TPS (Temporary Protected Status), and DED (Deferred Enforced Departure) holders. This pathway to permanent residence and citizenship is critical for “security and dignity,” according to Ronnate. Here is the breakdown of with the legislative process for these bills:

-U.S. Citizenship Act: Could provide a pathway to citizenship for up to 11 million individuals.
-Citizenship for Essential Workers: Could provide a pathway to citizenship for up to 5.2 million individuals.
-Dreamers and TPS legislation: Could provide a pathway to citizenship for up to 4 million individuals.
-Farm Workforce Modernization Act: Could provide a pathway to citizenship for up to 1 million undocumented farmworkers.

Bill number Bill Name Creates a pathway to citizenship for: Legislative Goal Progress
H.R.6 Dream and Promise Act 4 million DACA recipients, TPS and DED holders Pass the House, conferenced with 2 Senate bills, the DREAM Act (S.264) and the SECURE Act (S.306) and signed into law Passed the House in a 228-197 vote on March 18
H.R.1603 Farm Workforce Modernization Act 1 million undocumented farmworkers Pass the House and the Senate and signed into law by the President Passed the House in a 247-174 vote on March 18
S.264 DREAM Act Current, former, and  future undocumented high school graduates Pass the Senate, conference with the Dream and Promise Act in the House and sign into law Introduced in the Senate on Feb. 4, 2021 by Senators Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham
S.306 SECURE Act Approximately 400,000 TPS holders Pass the Senate, conference with the Dream and Promise Act in the House and sign into law Introduced in the Senate on Feb. 8 by Senator Van Hollen
S.747 Citizenship for Essential Workers 5.2 million undocumented essential workers Needs to pass the House and the Senate – may end up being added to a larger piece of legislation Introduced in the Senate by Senators Padilla and Warren; Introduced in the House by Reps. Castro and Lieu
H.R. 1177/S.348 U.S. Citizenship Act 11 million currently undocumented individuals Needs to pass the House and the Senate Introduced in the House on Feb. 18 by Rep. Sanchez and in the Senate by Sen. Menendez

More hearings and votes for these critical pieces of immigration legislation are expected to take place in April and May. The Dream and Promise Act and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act have already passed in the House of Representatives and await a vote in the Senate. Hearings for the DREAM Act in the Senate and the U.S. Citizenship Act in the House and Senate are expected in April/May.

Three months into the Biden-Harris administration, there have already been some wins for Americans in terms of immigration. Venezuelans are now able to secure TPS, the harmful Public Charge Rule remains blocked, information sharing between U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Health and Human Services has been stopped, and people in MPP are now being processed. These actions reverse years of racist and xenophobic policies against immigrants and are an important step towards passing immigration legislation centered on human dignity.

Despite recent rhetoric describing the situation at the Southern border as a sudden “crisis,” Ronnate Asirwatham debunked this by describing border issues as a slow, ongoing issue. The most pressing concerns are unaccompanied children, lack of shelter, and family reunification. The Title 42 Order is also a large concern, as it blocks people from exercising their right to seek asylum, disproportionately affecting Black immigrants and migrants.

Going forward, NETWORK urges its members to ask their Members of Congress to support these immigration policies in Congress that center human dignity and provide a pathway to citizenship for our undocumented siblings.

Pressure also must be placed on the Biden administration to rescind the racist Title 42 order. Title 42 was instituted by the Trump administration and used the COVID-19 crisis to turn away all immigrants and asylum seekers at the border. Much of the current rhetoric against immigration legislation is xenophobic, and this impacts the passage of bills. Despite this, We the People know that immigrants are an important part of our communities, and the majority of voters support a pathway to citizenship for our undocumented neighbors.

In order to dismantle the racism and white supremacy in our immigration system and Build Anew, Congress must enact these policies to reunite families, provide real opportunities for undocumented immigrants to apply for citizenship, welcome asylum seekers, and grow compassion in our communities.

Senate must pass PRO Act for Workplace Justice and Equity

Senate must pass PRO Act for Workplace Justice and Equity

Audrey Carroll
March 24, 2021

The House of Representatives recently passed the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act in a 225-206 vote. The PRO Act achieves one of the labor movement’s leading priorities by protecting the right of workers to organize. With the current labor system structured to favor big businesses and corporations over worker-led unions, the PRO Act levels the playing field by making union organizing less difficult. Catholic Social Justice teaches us that we must invest in the value of human labor, which helps maintain the fabric of our society. The PRO Act honors the ability of work to achieve growth and personal development by restoring workers’ rights to collectively bargain so they may advocate for higher wages, better benefits, and protections from discrimination. Congress must pass the PRO Act and update labor laws to make advances towards just and equitable workplaces. 

According to a 2020 report, 65% of Americans approve of labor unions, and roughly 48% of non-union workers would vote for a union if given an opportunity. Despite increasing support, less than 15% of workers were supported by a union in 2020. Current labor laws make it difficult for workers to unionize and employers have discovered ways to penalize workers for organizing. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) was passed by Congress in 1935, however every amendment to the law has made it harder for working people to form unions. 

The PRO Act will amend the NLRA and related labor laws to extend vital protections to workers. The bill includes provisions such as: allowing injunctions against employers engaging in unfair labor practices, permitting workers to participate in collective litigation, ending the misclassification of employees, prohibiting the replacement and discrimination of workers who participate in strikes, expanding penalties for labor law violations, and more. 

President Biden has shown strong support for the PRO Act and is a close ally of the labor movement. In a March 9 statement, Biden acknowledged the various ways employers prevent workers from organizing through “anti-union attacks.” President Biden also displayed support of Amazon workers’ ongoing union drive in Alabama, citing unions as “vitally important” to addressing racial and economic disparities in the U.S. 

The PRO Act is needed to expand the protections once offered by the NLRA. It is a historic proposal that restores the dignity of workers and reinforces and praises their value. The Senate must follow the example set by the House of Representatives and pass the PRO Act. 

The Racist Filibuster Must Go for Us to Build Anew

The Racist Filibuster Must Go for Us to Build Anew

Sister Simone Campbell
March 25, 2021

The Senate filibuster — currently 60-vote threshold to close debate on a bill and move to a vote — is a relic of the Jim Crow-era that has blocked democracy reform, civil rights protections, and health care expansion for far too long. Since its inception in 1806, the filibuster has been weaponized against people of color to block bipartisan legislation that addresses structural racism and inequality in the United States. Catholic Sisters and NETWORK advocates do not accept antiquated traditions steeped in a racist past to prevent progress and will mobilize across the country to end the racist filibuster.

Constitutionally, bills require a simple majority to pass — just 51 votes in the Senate.  However, the filibuster is a procedural tool which allows senators to block legislation from receiving a vote at all if there are 41 of them that oppose the bill. For centuries, elected officials in the minority have used the filibuster to stop common good, anti-racist legislation from passing and becoming law. In the 19th Century, white Southern Senators used the filibuster to kill Reconstruction and the earliest civil rights bills in order to maintain white supremacy. In the 20th Century, anti-lynching legislation which was widely popular among Congress and the United States people was consistently blocked by a small minority in the Senate. The use of the anti-democratic filibuster as a tool of white supremacy had direct consequences: racist lynching mobs killed an estimated 4,400 Black Americans throughout our nation’s history. To this day, Congress has failed to pass federal anti-lynching legislation. In the Civil Rights Era, Senators employed the filibuster to prevent desegregation and voting rights legislation from becoming law.

The racist application of the filibuster is a clear legacy of the rule, and it continues today. Senators are exploiting the power of the filibuster to block critical legislation meant to dismantle systemic racism and known injustices in the 117th Congress.  The For the People Act, the Justice in Policing Act, the Equality Act, the PRO Act, are all bills that deserve a vote and stand a real chance of passing but for the filibuster rule.  The filibuster is not protecting voters in the minority party; it protects politicians set on preserving the status quo. We cannot allow an arbitrary Senate rule with no grounding in the Constitution to block legislation that enjoys widespread bipartisan support by voters across the country.

The Senate has a moral duty to use this opportunity to end the filibuster.

Add your name to join the Catholic Sisters and activists of NETWORK calling for the elimination of the Senate filibuster.

NETWORK Supports the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

NETWORK Supports the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

Caraline Feairheller
March 18, 2021

In February, a bipartisan group of House lawmakers officially re-introduced The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act into the 117th Congress. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) was first introduced in 2012 and has been re-introduced in the House in almost every legislative session. NETWORK has previously supported the legislation, but Senator Mitch McConnell’s Senate failed to do their moral duty to protect mothers by not taking up the legislation. Once again, we are proud to support the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act because it modernizes current law and closes the gaps in protections afforded to pregnant workers. This legislation would open doors for gainfully employed women who choose to bring new life into the world.

Despite current protections for pregnant workers from workplace discrimination included in the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA), 2 out of 3 women who fight to get pregnancy accommodation lose their case in court. Pregnant workers should not have to choose between their income or their family’s health. However, the failure of current legislation has forced many women to choose and this moral failure is only exacerbated by the global pandemic and accompanying economic recession.

The time is long overdue for pregnant workers to get reasonable accommodations, such as extra bathroom breaks, limited contact with certain chemicals, and a reduction in lifting requirements. Catholic Social Teaching clearly states that, “human work has a special dignity and is a key to achieving justice in society.” Now is the time for Congress to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and recognize the dignity of labor.

Read Our Letter in Support of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

The American Rescue Plan Meets the Moment

The American Rescue Plan Meets the Moment

Caraline Feairheller
March 16, 2021

On March 11th, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan into law. This historic and widely popular $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package is both an investment in our communities’ future and provides immediate relief to struggling families.

Across the country, people navigating these unprecedented health and economic crises know what is needed for their families and communities to thrive. This new law includes funding for vaccine distribution, cuts child poverty in half, and protects essential workers. The American Rescue Plan will help our vulnerable communities survive this deadly pandemic, and all the NETWORK members and advocates who helped pass it should be proud.

NETWORK has consistently called on Congress to uphold their moral responsibility to quickly deliver a robust COVID-19 relief package that prevents more needless suffering. While there is still more work to do, NETWORK celebrates the final relief package, which includes:

Relief Payments: $1,400 emergency payments.

What we lobbied for: Automatic cash rebates, regardless of immigration status, age, or tax filing.

People need money to pay rent and mortgages, utility bills, grocery bills, and so much more. The automatic and immediate cash relief payments included in previous COVID-19 relief packages and in the American Rescue Plan will help individuals and households weather job losses and economic disruption. Specifically, the American Rescue Plan:

  • Provides $1,400 emergency payments to single filers with incomes up to $75,000, head of household filers with incomes up to $112,500, and joint filers with incomes up to $150,000.

The American Rescue Plan makes relief checks available to citizens and family members with Social Security Numbers in mixed status families, giving 3 million people and 2.2 million children access to aid. Unfortunately, undocumented immigrants who are also experiencing the same negative health and economic effects of this pandemic still do not receive a stimulus check under the American Rescue Plan.

Tax Justice: Increases the Child Tax Credit, allows parents to receive it monthly, and raises low-income workers’ maximum Earned Income Tax Credit.

What we lobbied for: Permanently expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and a robust Child Tax Credit to reduce children poverty

The pandemic has resulted in many families with young children struggling to keep a roof over their head and food on the table. Alternatively, more than 5 million childless workers are taxed into, or deeper into, poverty. The expanded Child Tax Credit and EITC benefits will cut childhood poverty in half and help mend the racial wealth and income gaps. Specifically, the American Rescue Plan:

  • Increases the current $2,000 per child to $3,000 per child and to $3,600 for children under age 6.
  • Makes the Child Tax Credit fully refundable which ensures that 27 million children currently left out are able to receive the full benefits.
  • Allows parents to receive regular monthly checks beginning on July 1, 2021 so families have access to assistance throughout the year.
  • Raises the maximum Earned Income Tax Credit for adults without children from $530 to nearly $1,500 and raises the income limit for the credit from $16,000 to about $21,000, resulting in additional income support to over 17 million working childless adults.

The increased Earned Income Tax Credit and the increased, and monthly, Child Tax Credit are only approved for one year. Further legislation is needed to make these poverty-reducing policies permanent.

Food Security: Increases and extends Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, funds the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program , and extends Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) to include both the school year and summer.

What we lobbied for:  Extend 15% boost in SNAP benefits by, Eliminate SNAP eligibility barriers for immigrants, and expand school lunch programs in order to provide meals when school is not in session.

The pandemic and accompanying economic downturn have led to a rising hunger crisis. The American Rescue Plan combats this rising insecurity through critical investments in SNAP, WIC, and Pandemic-EBT programs. Specifically, the American Rescue Plan:

  • Extends the 15% boost in monthly Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to September 2021.
  • Allocates $880 million in funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). This funding will support WIC outreach, innovation, and program modernization.
  • Invest $5 billion in Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) so families have access to school meals during the school year and summer months.   

The American Rescue Plan makes aid available to children who would have received free or reduced-price meals at a school that is closed are eligible for P-EBT, regardless of immigration status. WIC, The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), and home delivered meals are also available to immigrant families. SNAP is only available for certain non-citizens such as asylees, refugees, and some green card holders. Parents who are not eligible for SNAP can apply for their eligible household members.

Minimum Wage: Federal minimum wage remains at $7.25.

What we lobbied for:  Raise the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2025.

NETWORK denounces the fact that the American Rescue Plan failed to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. It is well past time to raise the wage and is shameful that low-income workers have gone over a decade without a raise from the federal minimum wage of $7.25. A raise in the wage would take significant steps in addressing income inequality and would lift the pay of nearly 32 million workers. Congress must find a way to take meaningful action to care for our struggling families and uphold the dignity of workers by raising wages.

Housing Assistance: Provides billions of dollars towards emergency rental assistance and other housing-related costs.

What we lobbied for: Extend the federal eviction moratorium and invest $5 billion in emergency rental and utility assistance, as well as $28 billion in funding for housing vouchers.

A growing number of people are staying at home across the nation, without work, and reliant on emergency paychecks designed to stimulate economic growth and pay for last month’s rent. The pandemic has resulted in nearly 1 in 5 renters not being caught on up on rent and with renters of color disproportionately expiring this hardship. Continual investment in housing assistance with help struggling families have a safe place to live as the pandemic continues. Specifically, the American Rescue Plan:

  • Provides $22.5 billion to state and local governments to help low-income households cover back rent, rent assistance, and utility bills.
  • Provides $10 billion for the Homeowner Assistance Fund, which allocates funds to struggling homeowners directly or indirectly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Provides $5 billion for emergency housing vouchers to transition individuals and families who are at risk or are currently experiencing homelessness.

However, the American Rescue Plan does not include a specific provision to extend the national eviction moratorium — which is set to expire March 31, 2021.

Unemployment Benefits: Raises unemployment payments by $300 a week and extends them through September 6, 2021.

What we lobbied for: Extended and expanded unemployment benefits until at least September 2021.

As the COVID-19 pandemic enters into another year, many individuals and families have used the last of their savings. The nation’s Unemployment Insurance (UI) program is one of the primary infrastructures needed to provide financial help and its extension will prevent workers and families from experiencing total financial devastation. Specifically, The American Rescue Plan:

  • Extends the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) through September 6 at $300 in benefits per week.
  • Exempts up to $10,200 in unemployment benefits received in 2020 from federal income taxes for households making less than $150,000.
  • Extends Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) through September 6.

The American Rescue Plan is a broad and historic piece of anti-poverty legislation. President Biden and his administration have passed legislation that centers families experiencing poverty and communities of color, who have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.  While the legislation is far-reaching and this summary only captures our top priorities, NETWORK Lobby is proud to have lobbied on a bill that will allow us to begin the work of Building Anew.

American Rescue Plan Must Protect Incarcerated Populations

American Rescue Plan Must Protect Incarcerated Populations

Caraline Feairheller
March 4, 2021

Nearly a year later, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to shape the daily lives and policies of everyday people – from social distancing to mask mandates. However, nearly a year later the Congressional response to protecting and ensuring the health of people who are incarcerated has failed to measure up. This moral failure is coupled with the fact the United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world and disproportionately incarcerates people of color.

From the onset of the pandemic, it was clear that the enclosed nature and overcrowding of jails, prisons, and detention centers would make social distancing impossible. The failure to adequately address these challenges has resulted in 1 out of every 5 people in prison being infected the loss of and the loss of thousands of lives. While incarcerated, many inmates face barriers to access health services such as expensive medical co-pays especially considering how incarcerated people typically earn 14 to 63 cents per hour which is equivalent to charging a free-world worker $200 or $500 for a medical visit.

The moral failing to protect the health of those incarcerated extends beyond the walls of the prison as upon release returning citizens face intersecting obstacles of low wages, lack of affordable housing, and barriers to government sponsored safety net programs. These harmful barriers to eligibility to exacerbate the hardships of families at a time where an unprecedented number of people are experiencing food insecurity and unemployment.

Our country’s addiction to mass incarceration has jeopardized the health of millions of people. In order to Build Anew, Congress must reintroduce and pass the COVID-19 Corrections Facility Emergency Response Act in order to cover costs of testing, treatment, and provide community support services. , Congress must eliminate health care costs for those who remain incarcerated. Finally, Congress must remove barriers of eligibility to government safety net programs and increase the benefits provided by those programs to better meet the needs of families.

Download the full list of NETWORK asks in the next COVID-19 relief package. 

Don’t miss your chance to advocate for the American Rescue Plan with NETWORK. Text “JUSTICE” to 877-877 to sign up for NETWORK’s text alerts.