Category Archives: Policy Update

Congress Finally Passes a FY2018 Budget

Congress Finally Passes a FY 2018 Budget

NETWORK Government Relations Team
March 22, 2018

At long last, Congress will pass a bipartisan FY 2018 spending bill that will send communities across the country much anticipated resources. This legislation is six months overdue, and Congress should be ashamed. That being said, while it is not perfect, the FY 2018 consolidated appropriations measure contains robust investments in vital safety net programs.

Many of NETWORK’s Mend the Gap issues were among the programs that fared well. The spending measure significantly boosts funding for the 2020 Census, low-income housing, as well as healthcare for seniors, children, and people who are disabled. Investing in safety-net programs is paramount to ensuring the common good.

We are disappointed that Congress did not muster the courage to include a permanent fix for more than 800,000 DACA recipients. That being said, we know the Trump Administration wanted – and failed – to expand their mass deportation agenda. NETWORK continues to support our champions in the House and Senate for their unwavering commitment to protect Dreamers and their families from harmful attempts to tear apart families.

All of us at NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice look forward to working with Congress throughout the FY 2019 appropriations process to ensure passage of a Faithful Budget.  It’s our hope that Congress will turn a new leaf and set aside petty partisanship in order to complete its work on time.

Below is a detailed look at how the omnibus bill affects NETWORK’s Mend the Gap priorities:

Department of Agriculture

  • Decreases funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by $4.5 billion primarily due to declining enrollments

Department of Commerce

  • Fully funds the 2020 Decennial Census at $2.814 billion, an increase of $1.344 billion above the FY 2017 enacted level

Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

  • Increases the HUD budget by $4.6 billion in additional program funding compared to FY 2017, and more than $12 billion above the president’s FY 2018 request
  • Renews all Housing Choice Vouchers and provides new vouchers to veterans and people with disabilities—the president’s budget request proposed to eliminate 250,000 Housing Choice Vouchers
  • Allocates nearly $1 billion in additional funding to repair and operate public housing
  • Boosts funding for the HOME Investment Partnerships program to the highest level in seven years
  • Does not include any of the rent increases proposed by the president in his FY 2018 budget request

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

  • HHS would receive approximately $98.7 billion, an $11.6 billion increase above the FY 2017 enacted level, including $2.6 billion in new funding
  • Tweaks Medicare reimbursement status of several prescription drugs
  • Increases the Child Care Development Block Grant from $2.9 billion in FY 2017 to $5.2 billion in 2018
  • Raises funding for the Low Income Heating Assistance Program by $250 million to $3.6 billion, although the Trump administration requested elimination of the program for the second year in a row
  • Fails to stabilize the health insurance market by providing subsidy payments to insurers and allowing states to develop more flexible insurance requirements

Department of Homeland Security

  • $1.6 billion as down payment for border wall construction and to make repairs of existing fencing structure
  • Scales back on detention beds: includes 40,520 beds with a glide path down to 39,324 by the end of the fiscal year, a decrease of 12,055 from the FY 2017 enacted level.
  • Freezes number of ICE agents at FY 2017 level
  • Cuts Homeland Security Investigations agents from 150 down to 65

Department of Labor

  • Prevents the Trump administration from carrying out a controversial rule that might have resulted in employers of tipped workers restricting how the tips were distributed
  • Increases funding for employment and training services to $3.5 billion, compared to $3.3 billion in FY 2017

The Acute Need for an Accurate Census

The Acute Need for an Accurate Census

Mary Cunningham
March 19, 2018

With the 2020 Census rapidly approaching, it is important to consider exactly what is at stake. Although the census is not a process which typically figures into the public consciousness, the information we obtain from it is vital. Census data is used, among other things, to determine the distribution of federal funds for healthcare, housing, infrastructure programs and more.  An accurate census is sorely needed to ensure communities –particularly marginalized communities–receive their fair share of resources.

There is a plethora of programs that depend on census data to determine funding distribution. During fiscal year 2015, 132 programs used Census Bureau data to allocate $675 billion to communities across the United States. These programs included: Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, the Section 8 Housing Assistance Payment Program, the School Breakfast Program, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, Low-Income Home Energy Assistance, Highway Planning and Construction and others.[1] In order to distribute funds, these programs rely on a variety of datasets such as Population Estimates, Poverty Guidelines, Per Capita Income and more. Without an accurate census count, states may not only receive inadequate funds, but they also may experience lower reimbursement rates for expenses accrued from the programs.[2]

If there is an undercount, areas that need funding the most will not get the resources they need. This is now an issue of particular concern due to a new citizenship question introduced by the Department of Justice that is currently under consideration. The Justice Department is requesting the census ask participants to indicate their citizenship status on the questionnaire. This is highly intimidating for immigrants who are already feeling vulnerable in the current political climate. They may fear that an honest answer would expose them or their families to deportation despite the fact that census data is anonymous and protected information.

The decennial census survey has always counted both citizens and noncitizens. In fact, the Constitution calls for a census which accounts for the “whole number of persons in each State” (14th Amendment, Section 2), not just citizens. Adding this question threatens to undermine efforts to gather a fair and accurate count by dissuading immigrants from participating. This could have a severe effect on Latino communities in particular.  This potential citizenship question, along with anti-immigrant language and increased ICE funding by the Trump Administration, together creates an environment of heightened anxiety and mistrust towards the census.[3]

What is there to take away from all of this? That participation in the 2020 census is vital! An accurate census, which includes members of the immigrant community, will ensure proper funding to communities in need and proper apportionment of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Everyone counts and everyone should be counted! Let’s make sure everyone gets their fair share for the next 10 years and beyond.

[1] https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/decennial/2020/program-management/working-papers/Uses-of-Census-Bureau-Data-in-Federal-Funds-Distribution.pdf

[2] https://gwipp.gwu.edu/counting-dollars-role-decennial-census-geographic-distribution-federal-funds

[3] https://www.salon.com/2018/02/25/why-the-2020-census-should-not-ask-about-your-citizenship-status_partner/

Six Reasons the President’s FY 2019 Budget Widens the Income Inequality Gap

Six Reasons the President’s FY 2019 Budget Widens the Income Inequality Gap

Tralonne Shorter
March 9, 2018

On February 12, 2018, President Trump submitted his Fiscal Year 2019 federal budget blueprint to Congress. This timing is consistent with the traditional release of the President’s budget, but in recent years the budget process has stalled down the road when Congress must agree on spending levels and appropriations bills. To illustrate: when President Trump’s FY 2019 budget plan was submitted in February, we were well into FY 2018 which began October 1 2017, and we should have had a functioning year-long budget firmly in place. Instead, because of months of delays, this was just days after Congress approved the two-year Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 that lifts both defense and nondefense spending caps and will finally put the FY 2018 federal budget in place slated for approval by March 23, 2018. President Trump’s FY 2019 budget proposal also comes on the heels of Congress’ recent passage of the largest tax reform law since 1986—which raised the deficit by $1.5 million to provide permanent tax breaks for the super wealthy.

The President’s FY 2019 budget calls for considerable defense spending, amounting to $716 billion, while reducing spending for non-defense programs by at least $57 billion below the bipartisan spending caps agreement that Congress just approved. Subsequently, starting in FY 2020, the President proposes roughly $3 trillion in spending cuts (disguised as deficit reduction) over 10 years to entitlement programs that support the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicare, and Medicaid, among other critical programs people rely on.

Yet again, the President fails to prioritize children, working families, people with disabilities and those simply in need of some help during a difficult time.  If enacted, this budget would exacerbate poverty by placing the burden on the most vulnerable among us while handing out tax breaks to the ultra-rich. The President’s budget proposal is morally deficient and NETWORK Lobby will endeavor to ensure that it’s not passed by Congress as written.

Here are six things every social justice advocate should know about President Trump’s FY 2019 Budget Blueprint:

  1. Proposes massive cuts to Safety Net programs. Despite promises made by Congressional Republican leadership not to attack entitlement programs, deep cuts over the next decade are slated for CHIP, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.  The most significant cut is to Medicaid, which would total $1.4 trillion over 10 years and be converted into a block grant with a per capita cap.  Another concern is funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as the Trump budget proposes a $214 billion reduction over 10 years, including a $17 billion cut in FY 2019. This program nourishes more than 42 million people, including 20 million children, 5 million seniors, and 4 million adults with disabilities in our nation.
  2. Underfunds the 2020 Decennial Census. The next decennial census will take place on April 1, 2020. Despite the Trump Administration adjusted request submitted in FY 2018 for $344 million in increased investments in the decennial census, funding lags behind what is needed to ensure a fair, accurate, and modern census.  Furthermore, delayed appropriations have led to the cancellation of two critical tests in South Dakota and Puerto Rico−the only Spanish-based test.  While the Secretary of Commerce has expressed serious concerns about the efficacy of the 2020 census, the President requests $3.015 billion in FY 2019–which is inadequate to support the volume of work needed for completion by census day. Outstanding issues include preparation for address canvassing, marketing and outreach, and final end-to-end testing which has been scaled back from three locations to only one.  NETWORK requests $3.928 billion for the decennial census activities.
  3. Increases funding to deport and separate immigrant families. President Trump’s budget requests $782 million to hire an additional 750 Border Patrol agents and 2,000 ICE officers and agents. The budget also provides $2.7 billion to fund 52,000 detention beds. Despite frankly impossible campaign promises to make Mexico pay for a border wall, the President’s budget includes a request for $1.6 billion in FY 2019 on top of the $18 billion requested in FY 2018 for the construction a border wall along the southern border.
  4. Eliminates Vital Affordable Housing and Community Development Programs. The President’s budget proposes eliminating the Community Development and Block Grant (CDBG) program ($3 billion), the Choice Neighborhoods program ($138 million), and the HOME Investment Partnerships Program ($950 million). Conversely, the budget includes $2 billion in federal rental assistance programs, including funding to restore 200,000 housing vouchers, sustaining the current level of 2.2 million vouchers that protect elderly and disabled households from rent increases.
  5. Offsets 6-Week Paid Family Leave Proposal Using State Unemployment Insurance Structure. In his budget, President Trump resubmitted a proposal championed last year by his daughter, Ivanka Trump, that would provide workers six weeks of paid family. The budget request includes $700 million in start-up costs for states to assist with developing the infrastructure to establish state-based paid leave programs. The budget pays for this proposal by using Unemployment Insurance as the baseline giving states autonomy for implementation. While most working families don’t currently benefit from paid family and medical leave, many states do not have sufficient reserve funds to support this significant financial obligation without raising taxes.
  6. Imposes Work Requirements for Critical Programs. The President’s budget is callously based on the assumption that there are too many “able-bodied” beneficiaries receiving federal and state-level assistance across 80 different programs. Consequently, President Trump proposes incentives for states to expand work requirements for able-bodied parents with children over age 6, and make it a condition to receive food stamps, Medicaid and public housing assistance. Some states have already imposed stricter work requirements that include no food stamps for those who own a vehicle valued more than $20,000 and require drug testing to qualify for public housing. These requirements are harmful and punitive for families and undermine the purpose of these programs, to assist those who need it the most.

Live Immigration Updates

Live Updates on Congressional DACA Debate

Updates are listed in reverse chronological order from the top of the page

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Sana Rizvi

Members are out for recess this week after an intense immigration debate that ended with the failure of four immigration bills. Although there is much bad news to go around about DACA, the one silver lining of last week’s votes was the overwhelming number of votes against the Administration’s immigration bill led by Senator Grassley: “The Secure and Succeed Act of 2018.” The Senate made clear that although it was fractured on the issue of what a DACA fix should look like, there is unity on what it should not look like (See: NETWORK and partners ask Congress to vote against Senator Grassley’s immigration bill.)  On the House side, Republican leadership attempted to whip votes for a similar anti-immigrant bill and determined that they did not have enough votes to pass.

Now, we must raise immigration from the ashes of last week’s debacle and find an immediate solution for DACA, 13 days from its cessation. We cannot allow Congress to drop this issue. Remember that after March 5, about 1,400 DACA recipients will lose their status every day.  We are using this recess to gather information and plan next steps for action and we are grateful that many NETWORK advocates are meeting in district with key members of Congress arguing them to pass bipartisan DACA legislation when they return to work next week, February 26.  We are keeping our eye on the process for a solution going forward and will update this space as we learn more and continue advocating for a solution.

Thursday, February 15, 2018, 6:00 pm

Sana Rizvi

The Senate has voted, and all four amendments have failed. Read Sister Simone’s response. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Sana Rizvi

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has filed for motion to cloture vote on four amendments and we could see a vote on the amendments individually sometime between today and Friday evening. Once an amendment reaches 60 votes it is attached to the final bill. The four amendments will be voted on in the order they have been filed. Below, please find NETWORK’s vote recommendations on those amendments for the Senate.

  • NETWORK strongly supports the “Uniting and Securing America Act” Senate Amendment #1955 led by Senator Coons (DE) and Senator McCain (AZ). The USA Act is a strong bipartisan bill which provides Dreamers with a pathway to citizenship and authorizes funding for data-driven border technology in consultation with border communities. This bill upholds the human dignity of those affected by DACA with a narrow bipartisan, bicameral solution.
  • NETWORK strongly opposes “Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act” Senate Amendment #1948 led by Senator Patrick Toomey (PA).   This bill threatens to break the trust between local law enforcement and immigrant communities and will make our communities less safe. This bill fails our test of upholding human dignity. NETWORK asks Senators to vote NO on this bill and urges Members to support a narrow, bipartisan solution for Dreamers with a pathway to citizenship.
  • NETWORK strongly opposes “Secure and Succeed Act of 2018 (S. 2192),” Senate Amendment #1959 led by Senator Charles Grassley (IA). This bill would permanently ban families from reuniting in the United States. Families belong together and this bill violates the sanctity of family. NETWORK asks Senators to vote NO on this bill and urges Members support a narrow, bipartisan solution for Dreamers with a pathway to citizenship.
  • NETWORK does not take a position on the “Rounds-King” proposal, Senate Amendment #1958.  We are grateful that this amendment provides Dreamers with a pathway to citizenship. We are, however, deeply concerned about the impact this bill will have on domestic immigration enforcement, wasteful spending at the border, and concerned that it removes discretion for considering the situations of families as well as limiting family reunification. We are a nation that values families and that should be recognized in our law.

We must recognize that passing a solution for our country’s immigrant youth is paramount. Since September 5, Dreamers and their families have lived in fear of deportation and Congress delayed a solution until the last minute, wherein thousands of Dreamers have already lost their DACA protections. This is the place we are in with a Republican-controlled Congress and a Republican-controlled Administration which has refused to let us pass a clean Dream Act to protect Dreamers. After March 5th, 1,400 DACA recipients will lose their status every day. This amendment raises some serious concerns for us and our immigrant communities but it is our last chance to pass a solution for DACA recipients. As people of faith, we cannot sit back and watch our immigrant youth be ripped away from their homes.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Sana Rizvi

The immigration debate continues in the Senate today and amendments are expected to hit the floor as members hurry to draft language from bipartisan negotiations with a possible vote in the next couple of hours. Fourteen amendments have been filed to date.  Most of them our Republican messaging bills aimed at making Democrats who are up in 2018 take tough votes on immigration hot button issues.  One of the amendments filed is the Secure and Succeed Act of 2018 sponsored by Senators Grassley (R-IA and Cornyn (R-TX) which contain the provisions President Trump has laid out for any DACA deal.  NETWORK and our partners sent a letter to Senators this morning urging them to vote NO on this bill which includes the Administration’s four immigration pillars. Read the letter here.

Thus far, there is only one bipartisan bill sponsored by Senators McCains (R-AZ) and Coons (D-DE)  – which is a narrow bill providing a pathway to citizenship with minimal border security.  There are also two other bipartisan efforts aimed at finding a compromise that garners the 60 votes needed to get a bill voted out of the chamber.  Democratic leaders and Republican moderates are currently meeting with the goal of finalizing a deal by the end of the day.

We are monitoring the floor closely today for narrow bipartisan amendments which include a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and continue to urge members to vote NO on bills which are harmful to our immigrant communities.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Sana Rizvi

As floor debate continues into today, Senate leadership will negotiate terms of amendment proposals and we will begin seeing amendments after the terms are set. As negotiations continue, we expect significant amendment action tomorrow.

The Congressional Black Caucus weighed in the immigration debate yesterday urging a no vote for any Republican plan that cuts family and diversity visa programs.  They further argued that the Administration is pitting black and brown immigrants against each other by offering a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers in exchange for tearing families of color apart.

We continue to see members of the Senate float “compromise” proposals to try to get to 60 votes.  They range from bills that have a pathway to citizenship for dreamers with limited border security to broad proposals that provide a pathway to citizenship paired with the Administration’s four immigration pillars, allocating $25 billion for a border wall, increase to interior enforcement and cuts to family based visas.

NETWORK urges Congress to pass a narrow bipartisan bill which upholds human dignity, family unity and provides Dreamers with a pathway to citizenship.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Sana Rizvi

With less than a month to go until the end of DACA, Congress is heading into a week of debate on immigration to find a solution for DACA recipients. Early last week, in an effort to avert another government shutdown, Senator Mitch McConnell and Senator Chuck Schumer came to an agreement on a two-year budget deal which advocates hoped would be paired with a DACA solution. As part of a budget deal, Senator McConnell asked to have DACA decoupled from the budget in exchange for a promise to create a fair process of debate for a DACA fix immediately following the passing of a budget. The strategy was agreed to by Democrats and the budget bill was passed with wide bipartisan support. Today as promised, Senator McConnell will begin the immigration debate which is expected to go through the week. The process will allow Republicans and Democrats to bring forth a number of immigration amendments to the floor for votes. The goal of the process is to pass a bill that gets at least 60 votes.

There are different perspectives of what should be in the bill. Anti-immigrant hardliners – including the Trump Administration – want to pair a DACA fix with major reforms to the immigration system that limits family visas, substantially increases border and interior enforcement and limits protections for unaccompanied asylum seekers. Moderate Republicans and Democrats are seeking a more limited bill that provides a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and includes more limited border enforcement funding. This weekend, hardline Senate Republicans introduced a proposal that contains priorities of the Trump Administration. It will likely be put on the floor this week as one option, although it will not have the votes necessary for passage. Democrats have signaled they will bring the Dream Act forward with the possibility of some border measures to get 60 votes as one of several options to get to 60 votes. Negotiations are underway at the Member level.

All eyes are on the Senate this week for the immigration amendment process…Things are moving quickly – Stay tuned, we will be updating this page as the amendment process proceeds. Senators need to hear from us now more than ever on the issue of DACA and the importance of a narrow solution for Dreamers which is includes a pathway to citizenship.

The Legacy of the Family and Medical Leave Act

The Legacy of the Family and Medical Leave Act

Tralonne Shorter
February 5, 2018

It’s hard to imagine that 25 years ago, pregnancy was a cause for termination. Back then, pregnancy discrimination was a legal workplace norm in which pregnant women were regularly fired from jobs, demoted, and denied interviews or access to health benefits. Moreover, women of color−who traditionally are more likely to hold caretaking responsibilities for young children, spouses and aging parents−faced greater barriers to sustaining employment.

The passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), enacted on February 5, 1993, granted employees legal protections to “balance the demands of the workplace with the needs of families.” The law permits 12 weeks of unpaid leave allowing parents to care for and bond with new babies or adopted children; and 26 weeks of intermittent leave to care for sick relatives. Over the years, the law has been expanded to provide protections for military service members, private contractors, and airline flight personnel. Today the law has been used more than 200 million times, including twice by former First Lady Michelle Obama, who was the primary breadwinner in her family at the time. Unfortunately, FMLA does not provide paid benefits and is available to fewer than 60 percent of workers because many can’t afford to take it. Only a handful of states have passed their own laws that would provide paid leave to employees for reasons beyond maternity leave such as: paternity, bereavement, or paid sick leave for men, women and domestic violence victims.

Our faith bestows great value to the institution of family. One example is the highly regarded historical woman who was a devoted wife, mother and business woman, seamlessly managing work-life balance, much to the chagrin of the modern woman. Today, technological advancements have revolutionized the way we connect at home and in the workplace. Employees can connect to email, video conferencing, cell phones, and text messaging, permitting round the clock productivity and virtually eliminating the need for physical presence in the workplace. Yet, the United States is the only industrialized nation that does not provide paid leave benefits.

Employers’ efforts to place profits over people diminish the common good and devalue the important roles of women and men within our families, the economy, and the workplace. Today more and more dads are requesting parental leave, same-sex couples are welcoming children, adult children are caring for aging parents, the loss of a loved one devastates an entire family, and domestic violence victims deserve time to recover and heal. Thus it is time for Congress to pass an updated law that requires employers to develop personnel policies that reflect 21st century norms without shortchanging employees.

25 years ago, I was a carefree, high school senior—determined to make my mark in Washington.  Today, I am a social justice advocate and also the mother of a three-year-old son, a partner, and primary breadwinner. I am grateful for the opportunity to work at NETWORK Lobby, a social justice organization I that provides a paid maternity leave policy and truly supports families. It is my sincere hope that 25 years from now, my son will reap the benefits of our collective efforts to create a new world where employers in the United States prioritize family-friendly workplace benefits and policies.

Congress Continues to Fail to Unify and Protect Dreamers

Congress Continues to Fail to Unify and Protect Dreamers

Sana Rizvi
January 19, 2018

Congress is still divided on a plan to protect DACA recipients from deportation. As bills emerge, NETWORK will continue to analyze and describe the differences between all possible proposals. Read NETWORK’s summary of the Dream Act, Bridge Act, and more bills introduced months ago.

As always, NETWORK continues to urge Congress to pass a bill as close to the Dream Act as possible, that includes a pathway to citizenship and doesn’t include a high cost for family migration or increase border expenses.

Uniting and Securing America Act (Hurd – Aguilar Bill H.R. 4796)

This bill, also known as the USA Act, is the House compromise bill that sponsors believe can garner support from House Democrats as well as a core group of Republicans.  The bill currently has 26 Republicans and 27 Democrats as cosponsors. It provides a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and TPS holders and carries over language from the Dream Act requiring eligible recipients to have been brought to the US before the age of 18, pass a background check and meet requirements for either work or education. It also calls for more immigration judges to push through the backlog of cases and authorizes tech on the border as a form of border security.  This bill was written in consultation with border community organizations and the Hispanic Caucus. The List of current cosponsors can be found here.

Durbin-Graham Proposal

Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have been working for months on a bill that can pass with a majority of Senators.  While no concrete language exists to date, their proposal provides a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and mirrors language from the Dream Act. It also authorizes $2 billion for border security, eliminates the visa lottery system and limits family-based migration by preventing Dreamers from sponsoring their parents. 3 Democrats (Durbin, Bob Menendez (D-NJ),  and Michael Bennet (D-CO)) and 3 Republicans (Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Graham) created this proposal and are currently trying to garner support from their colleagues.  Four Republican Senators – Susan Collins (R-ME),  Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Lisa Murkowski (R- AK) and Mike Rounds (R-SD) – signed on in support of the proposal.

“Securing America’s Future” Act (Goodlatte Bill H.R. 4760)

NETWORK opposes Representative Goodlatte’s bill because it fails to meet the most important criteria for a compassionate solution. H.R. 4760 does not offer Dreamers a pathway to citizenship, and it authorizes money for a border wall and aims to overhaul the entire immigration system by making severe cuts to family reunification programs. This bill would be devastating to our communities by taking an “enforcement first” approach by attacking the federal funding of sanctuary areas and heavily criminalizing visa overstays. Simply put, this is a terrible bill.

It’s time for Congress to stop playing with peoples’ lives and pass legislation to protect Dreamers in our country. Call your Senators today at 1-888-410-0619 (Call twice to reach both your Senators) and tell them to protect Dreamers. Call your Representatives at 1-888-496-3502.

Work Requirements: A Harmful Shift for Medicaid

Work Requirements: A Harmful Shift for Medicaid

Kaitlin Brown
January 18, 2018

You may have heard a lot about work requirements in the news lately. Last week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) announced that they would begin approving states’ requests for Medicaid work requirements, allowing states to make access to healthcare conditional based upon workforce participation. What’s worse, this new process could potentially open the door to other expensive and ineffective requirements for recipients of healthcare. Last Friday, Kentucky’s Medicaid work requirement was the first approved in over fifty years of the Medicaid program, and it is likely that other states will quickly be approved (nine other states have already submitted proposals). We believe that access to healthcare is a human right, and receiving coverage should not be conditional on employment status.

The vast majority of adults receiving Medicaid are either working, in school, or caregivers. Many other adults receiving Medicaid have serious health issues that preclude them from working. With work requirements in place, cancer patients for instance who are no longer on traditional employer insurance, would now need to go through a waiver process to prove that they are not able to work, adding an undue burden for people who are medically vulnerable.

Before the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion (when many states increased eligibility for people earning up to 138% of the federal poverty line, about $33,948 for a family of four), there were fewer working adults on Medicaid. Now, more than half of Medicaid recipients are working, many in jobs that neither provide employee health coverage nor pay enough for employees to buy their own insurance on the marketplace. This might be a family where both parents are working in low-wage jobs in a company that isn’t large enough to provide insurance, or an individual working multiple part-time jobs.

Medicaid recipients who are not working report that they cannot because of their own medical issues, lack of employment options in their area, and/or caring for children or elderly family.1 Moreover, Medicaid is not structured like other social safety net programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), to provide job training. Imposing work requirements therefore would leave many recipients stuck in low wage jobs with little chance of advancement.

Work requirements will also disproportionately hurt women. Women are more likely to be caregivers for children or other family members, or to be employed in non-traditional settings that do not provide high wages or employer-sponsored insurance. These women would then be forced to choose between high-cost childcare and losing their access to healthcare.

The administration’s decision to institute work requirements for the most vulnerable goes against what we stand for. It puts an additional burden on people who are sick or experiencing poverty, and puts the burden on a system that is not set up to provide adequate training for those joining the workforce.


Read more:

“Understanding the Intersection of Medicaid and Work.” Rachel Garfield, Robin Rudowitz. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. https://www.kff.org/medicaid/issue-brief/understanding-the-intersection-of-medicaid-and-work/

“Medicaid and Work Requirements: New Guidance, State Waiver Details and Key Issues.” MaryBeth Musumeci, Rachel Garfield, and Robin Rudowitz. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. https://www.kff.org/medicaid/issue-brief/medicaid-and-work-requirements-new-guidance-state-waiver-details-and-key-issues/

Immoral Tax Plan Makes Its Way Through Congress

Immoral Tax Plan Makes Its Way Through Congress

Mary Cunningham
December 13, 2017

Around 3 A.M. Saturday, December 2, the Senate voted to pass the Republican tax bill, a measure which will undeniably have detrimental effects on low and middle income households.  The bill also costs the U.S. treasury over $1.5 trillion dollars, which will soon be used as a reason to make cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security as well as other safety net programs.

With all of this happening, what’s really going on behind closed doors? Both the Senate and House have chosen members who will sit on the conference committee tasked to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the bill. There has already been a lot of back and forth as House and Senate leadership discuss which details to include in the final tax cut bill. These discussions largely surround debates on the repeal of the alternative minimum tax for corporations, concerns about the research and development tax credit, the repeal of the state and local tax deductions, and requests to lower taxes on small businesses.

Every Democrat in the House and Senate and numerous Republican members of the House have come out against the bill, recognizing the adverse effects it will have on their districts. Passing a bill that will increase taxes on their constituents is a large risk, especially with midterm elections approaching rapidly. The incentive to get this bill passed is largely political. Republicans, eager to have at least one major victory, are rushing to get it passed before this year’s end.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has condemned the tax bill, calling it “unconscionable.” They claim it will disproportionately affect working poor families and individuals while protecting the interests of the wealthy. In a letter to the House of Representatives, the Bishops noted that key programs which help people who are economically marginalized are at risk for elimination, including an income tax credit for persons with disabilities and the deduction for state and local taxes. While the Child Tax Credit would be expanded, it’s likely that low-income families will not be able to reap the benefits, especially immigrant families who file their taxes with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). They wrote, “No tax reform proposal is acceptable that increases taxes for those living in poverty to help pay for benefits to wealthy citizens.”

This bill will lead directly to automatic cuts in healthcare and other vital social programs, in part to offset the estimated $1.5 trillion cost of the bill over the next 10 years. House Speaker Paul Ryan has already signaled that the next step for Congress after passing the bill will be to reduce funding for entitlement programs to pay for the tax cuts. We can learn from other states that have implemented tax cuts experiments and see that they have not worked! In 2012, the Kansas state legislature passed a tax cut plan that they promised would boost the economy and pay for itself over the years. In reality, lowering income and business taxes only hurt the economy, and led to a severely damaging loss of state revenue. Now, the Trump administration’s tax plan poses the same threat on a national level. This is a bill that Republican members of Congress are pushing in order to satisfy their donors. It is not a bill for the 100% and is the wrong direction for our country.

Here are some ways to oppose to GOP tax plan:

  • Call your Representatives! The fight is not over. Call 1-888-422-4555 to speak to your Representative and tell her or him why you oppose the bill. Remember to share your faith perspective!
  • Speak out on social media! Use your Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram accounts to voice your concerns about the tax bill and the effects it will have on our most vulnerable neighbors.
  • Visit your Member of Congress’s office with friends in your community and talk directly to staff about why this bill is wrong for your district and wrong for the country.
  • Get creative: Hold a prayer vigil outside your Members’ office!

Legislative Update: Republican Representatives Call for a Solution for Dreamers

Republican Representatives Call for a Solution for Dreamers

Sana Rizvi
December 6, 2017

On December 5, just days after Representatives Carlos Curbelo (R-FL-26) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL-27) said they refused to pass a budget that does not include a solution for Dreamers, 34 House Republicans led by Representative Scott Taylor (VA-02)  sent Speaker Paul Ryan a letter asking him to pass a permanent legislative solution for DACA before the end of the year. The letter acknowledges the numerous contributions DACA recipients have made to our country and recognizes the urgent need for a solution.

Moreover, the Representatives write that they realize the urgency needed is driven by fear for the most vulnerable in our communities:

“We are compelled to act immediately because many DACA recipients are about to lose or have already lost their permits in the wake of the program’s rescission. Not acting is creating understandable uncertainty and anxiety amongst immigrant communities.

We must pass legislation that protects DACA recipients from deportation and gives them the opportunity for a more secured status in our country as soon as possible. Reaching across the aisle to protect DACA recipients before the holidays is the right thing to do.”

Read more: Letter to Speaker Ryan from 34 Republicans Asking for A DACA Fix Before the End of This Year

The Speaker has yet to reply to the letter and government funding is set to end this Friday, December 8. NETWORK continues to fully endorse the Dream Act as the bipartisan, bicameral solution for DACA recipients which provides Dreamers with a pathway to citizenship and protects them from deportation. We express gratitude to the 34 Republicans who led this letter and ask them to honor their commitments and pass a Dream Act before the end of this year.

The letter’s signers:

Representative Scott Taylor
Representative Dan Newhouse
Representative Mia Love
Representative Mark Amodei
Representative David Valadao
Representative Dave Reichert
Representative Brian Fitzpatrick
Representative Mike Coffman
Representative Charlie Dent
Representative Frank Lobiondo
Representative Peter T. King
Representative Carlos Curbelo
Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Representative Ryan A. Costello
Representative Fred Upton
Representative Jeff Denham
Representative Rodney Davis
Representative John J. Faso
Representative John Katko
Representative Chris Stewart
Representative Susan W. Brooks
Representative Adam Kinzinger
Representative Glenn Thompson
Representative Mike Simpson
Representative Mimi Walters
Representative Leonard Lance
Representative Pat Meehan
Representative Elise Stefanik
Representative Tom MacArthur
Representative Chris Smith
Representative Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon
Representative Joe Barton
Representative Will Hurd
Representative Bruce Poliquin

Interreligious Coalition Opposes H.R. 1

Interreligious Coalition Opposes House Republican Tax Bill

Laura Peralta-Schulte
November 16, 2017

Yesterday, the Interreligious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs, a coalition of faith-based organizations, sent a letter to the House of Representatives urging members to vote no on H.R. 1, the House Republican tax bill.

This immoral tax bill prioritize the wealthy at the expense of struggling communities and vulnerable families. It violates our call to care for the most marginalized and to work for the common good. We call on Congress to pass a just tax bill that asks everyone to pay their fair share to invest in our nation.

Read the text of the letter below, or download as a PDF.


November 14, 2017

Dear Speaker Ryan and Leader Pelosi:

As members of the faith community, we know that tax decisions are moral decisions. Taxation choices show who we preference as a nation and who pays the price.  These choices show who and what we care about as a nation. All of our faiths teach us that the center of our concern should be those at the economic margins of our society. Therefore, we, the interfaith community, are speaking with one voice.

We must oppose H.R. 1, the Tax Cut and Jobs Act, because the bill violates our faith values as well as the fundamental issues of tax fairness and fiscal discipline.

First, the Tax Cut and Jobs Act is fiscally irresponsible. It grows the deficit by $1.5 trillion dollars over ten years. Growing deficits and debt threatens not only the fiscal health of our country, but it also threatens future funding for the programs that help countless families put food on the table and provide for their children. This additional $1.5 trillion in lost revenues will lead directly to future cuts in critical anti-poverty programs and low-income services including Medicaid, SNAP, low-income housing assistance, and other critical services for families struggling to make ends meet. The tax system should be structured to support investments in programs that create economic opportunity and dignity for all, especially families struggling to make ends meet. This bill violates the moral responsibility to care for the vulnerable.

The Tax Cut and Jobs Act makes the tax code more regressive. The tax breaks included in the legislation are not targeted to low- and moderate-income individuals. Provisions such as repeal of the estate tax, lower rates for pass-through income, and lower tax rates for income between $480,000 and $1 million will give enormous benefit to those at the top. This proposal is the exact opposite of a moral mandate to focus on those who struggle the most.

At the same time low-income families are left out of the benefits of H.R. 1. The bill increases the Child Tax Credit, but without making the additional credit refundable or making any improvements for low-income households, 10 million children are completely left out of any benefit increase. We have grave concerns about the cuts to the Child Tax Credit and the American Opportunity Tax Credit for immigrant families. We also strongly oppose the way in which H.R. 1 inhibits low-income working families from accessing the EITC, arguably the most effective anti-poverty, pro-mobility program in the country. Yet again this bill fails a basic moral test.

Rather than cutting these key anti-poverty investments for working families, a morally faithful way forward would have Congress

  1. Expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit so that no worker is taxed into poverty,
  2. Expanding the Child Tax Credit for low income workers so that those who need the credit most benefit
  3. Expanding the American Opportunity Credit so that students can more easily afford higher education which is critical for success.

These are faithfully moral choices that Congress can make.

We call on Congress to put the needs of working families and struggling communities first in creating a just tax system.  All our faith traditions call us to prioritize struggling families and vulnerable communities in our laws and policies.  We respectfully ask you to ensure that any tax changes taken as part of our tax debate be based on principles of fairness and shared commitment to the common good.

Sincerely,

Alliance of Baptists

American Baptist Home Mission Societies

Bread for the World

Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, US

Dominican Sisters ~ Grand Rapids

Franciscan Action Network

Friends Committee on National Legislation

Interfaith Worker Justice

Islamic Relief USA

Jesuit Conference, Office of Justice and Ecology

Leadership Conference of Women Religious

MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger

National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd

National Council of Churches

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice

The Poligon Education Fund

Faith Action Network – Washington State

Union of Reform Judaism

United Church of Christ, Justice & Witness Ministries

‘The United Methodist Church- General Board of Church and Society