Category Archives: Staff

The Moment is Now: Pass H.R.40

The Moment is Now: Pass H.R.40

Mary Novak
July 16, 2021

On July 13 2021, I joined faith leaders to call on Congress to pass H.R.40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act, before the August recess. What a Spirit-Filled gathering with the incomparable Nkechi Taifa, Founder of The Taifa Group; Laura James, Program Coordinator for Grassroots Organizing; Yolanda Savage-Narva Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Director, Union for Reform Judaism; Diane Randall, General Secretary of Friends Committee on National Legislation; Jarrett Smith, Government Relations Fellow, NETWORK Lobby; Bishop Eugene Sutton, Episcopal Church, Maryland Diocese; Victoria Strang, Policy Advocate with Faith Communities, Human Rights Watch; Reverend Timothy Tutt, Senior Minister, Westmoreland Congregational UCC; and Jim Winker President and General Secretary, National Council of Churches.

What is not named cannot be healed. It is time to name our country’s sickness. Using the frame of the  Catholic tradition — it is time to name our original sin of slavery and move towards repair, reparations. That moment is now.

For the first time, we are talking about reparations in the national conversation. States, local authorities, and religious orders are all moving on reparations. We have been waiting 32 years for this moment. We cannot wait another day or another week. We are  calling on House leadership to bring H.R.40 to the floor. The moment is now.

It is no coincidence the momentum for movement on reparations follows that terrifying day of January 6th. We not only survived that shameful day, but are seeing for what it was: evidence of our need for collective salvation. The moment is now.

We know there is resistance to move towards healing from our collective soul sickness. Resistance comes because healing can be hard and oftentimes painful. We must overcome that resistance because the freedom on the other side is calling us. The moment is now.

My friends:

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul

That balm can begin now, so let’s do this; let us get this Commission going and pass H.R.40. If not, my friends, we must call on President Biden to make it happen by any means necessary. The moment is now.

Watch the Faith for H.R.40 Press Conference to learn more. Watch on Facebook or YouTube.

Stay engaged and find more ways to take action to advance policies that build our systems and structures anew at www.networklobby.org/ActNow.

Our Commitment to Equally Sacred Issues

Our Commitment to Equally Sacred Issues

NETWORK Lobby Staff
July 1, 2021

We know that Catholics, and people of all faiths or no faith, are called to be politically active in many policy areas that promote human dignity and the common good. Our elected officials deserve our encouragement as well as our engagement in addressing today’s most pressing moral and political issues.

As Pope Francis wrote in his apostolic exhortation Gaudete et exsultate, caring for immigrants, dismantling racism, and putting an end to immoral levels of economic inequality are equally sacred to care for the unborn.

We, the people, have valuable and critically important authority. This is true in both our democracy and the Church. During the 2020 election, the members of our Spirit-filled network acted to support “Equally Sacred” issues. You told candidates and fellow voters that abortion is not the only issue that matters to Catholics.

Right now, the NETWORK community is lobbying to advance legislation like the For the People Act, the EQUAL Act, the Dream and Promise Act, H.R.40 (Creating a Reparations Commission), and more. These bills reflect a justice-oriented, multi-issue policy agenda.

We at NETWORK will keep Building Anew by promoting policies that work to dismantle systemic racism, cultivate inclusive community, root our economy in solidarity, and transform our politics. By valuing and practicing justice, our unified commitment is strong.

Download your copy of the “Equally Sacred” Scorecard now.

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.

Juneteenth 2021 Events List

Juneteenth 2021 Events List

Caraline Feairheller
June 17, 2021

On June 19, 1865, about two months after the Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Virginia, six months after Congress passed the 13th Amendment and more than two full years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the first proclamation; Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform enslaved Black people of their freedom and that the Civil War had ended. Since then, Juneteenth has been a day of celebration in the Black community and continues to be an act of resistance and resilience in the face of racial oppression that shamefully continues today.

This Juneteenth we must pause and acknowledge the immense gap between the freedom promised in 1865 and the freedom delivered. The events listed below are opportunities to engage with the history and celebration of Juneteenth as well as recognize the work that can and still must be done:

[Virtual] 4 Generations of Black Civil Rights Leaders | June 17 at 8:00 PM Eastern

Hosted by the Center for Common Ground. This event will feature four Black Civil Rights Activists from Georgia and Virginia who are working to ensure that Black voters are able to vote. The event guests are Dr. William Ferguson “Fergie” Reid, Cliff Albirght, Andrea Miller, and Evan Malborough.

[Virtual] A Global Conversation on Reparations | June 18 at 1:30 PM Eastern

Hosted by the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center at Howard University School of Law. Presented in honor of Juneteenth, this program examines reparations from a global perspective, with advocates from the United States, the Caribbean, the UK and Europe discussing the challenges and progress in achieving reparations. In addition, the webinar will share information about international advocacy for reparations, and discuss where and how this work fits within the context of the International Decade for People of African Descent.

[Virtual] Live with Carnegie Hall: Juneteenth Celebration | June 19 at 7:30 PM Eastern

Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes Jr. leads this celebration—along with Tamara Tunie, and special guests Wayne Brady, Martin Luther King III, and Annette Gordon-Reed—to recognize the importance of this historic day and to acknowledge the long road still ahead. In addition to music, dance, and commentary, the evening also recognizes contributions made by prominent African Americans today: Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative; Robert F. Smith, businessman and chairman of Carnegie Hall’s Board of Trustees; and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee.

[In-Person and Virtual] Juneteenth Now 2021: Get Us Free | June 19 at 5:00 PM Eastern and June 20 at 3:30 PM Eastern

Hosted by the Middle Church and the Riverside Church. This Black-led celebration and fundraiser, is produced by Charles Randolph-Wright and Shanta Thake. Join in-person, or stream virtually, for an evening showcasing a rare LIVE performance by Stephanie Mills who will debut her new single, “Let’s Do the Right Thing.” This ticketed event will be hosted by Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis and Rev. Michael Livingston with more talented performing artists including Loretta Devine; Kamilah Forbes; Martha Redbone; Tituss Burgess; Celisse Henderson; Kaliswa Brewster, an ensemble of Riverside Church & Middle Church choirs, spoken word, dance and jazz! Come in-person or watch from home to celebrate a stunning night of fierce resilience. Proceeds from the event will continue to power Black wellness programming at both institutions, as well as support in Middle rising from its devastating fire in 2020.

[Virtual] Night of a Thousand Conversations | June 19 at 8:00 PM Eastern

Hosted by the Grassroots Reparations Campaign More than ever, our nation needs to understand that #reparations are much more than a check.  True repair healing, education and culture shifting, compensation, restitution and guarantees to stop the harm that began with slavery and continues through various forms of discrimination. The Grassroots Reparations Campaign invites you to participate in a Night of a Thousand Conversations. On June 19th, known as Juneteenth, we honor and observe those last to receive the news of emancipation from slavery. Our hope is that between June 19 and August 21 (#ReparationSunday) to reflect on African chattel slavery, its legacy and its impact on your community and find your path to building a culture of repair.

Honoring Pride Month by Ending LGBTQ+ Housing Disparities

Honoring Pride Month by Ending LGBTQ+ Housing Disparities

Caraline Feairheller
June 14, 2021

The month of June marks the beginning of Pride Month. First celebrated in 1970 as a commemoration of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, the month is both a celebration of LGBTQ+ individuals and the LGBTQ+ community and a recognition of the violence faced by LGBTQ+ communities throughout history – violence that continues to this day. This Pride Month, we call on the Biden administration and Congress to pass federal policies that bring justice and equality for the LGBTQ+ community in the United States.

LGBTQ+ people face multi-faceted and intersecting forms of stigma and discrimination across their lifetime. The inequities faced by LGBTQ+ communities do not only take the form of physical violence but often also stem from discriminatory policies, including our country’s unjust lack of affordable housing. Access to safe, stable, affordable housing is a human right. However, the rising costs of housing paired with the legacy of anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in housing continues to threaten the physical and mental health of LGBTQ+ people in the United States. Today, LGBTQ+ people experience higher rates of poverty and lower raters of homeownership compared to non-LGBTQ+ people. The lack of explicit legal protections has led to one in five transgender and non-binary people facing housing discrimination and nearly one in ten having been evicted.

It is critical that the Biden administration and Congress support housing policies that honor the dignity of each person and ensure all have access to safe and affordable housing. In order to build anew and cultivate an inclusive community, anti-LGBTQ+ housing discrimination policies and practices must end. In particular, these federal policies must extend protections for Black trans women who face an epidemic of violence and immoral rates of discrimination because at the intersection of racism, transphobia, and sexism. While there is still much work to do, President Biden’s American Jobs Plan is a necessary start to reshape our country’s housing.

The American Jobs Plan would allocate $213 billion to build, preserve, and retrofit 2 million homes by:

  • Creating public housing and addressing capital needs following years of disinvestment in our public housing ($40 billion)
  • Instituting Neighborhood Homes Investment Act tax credits for low- and middle-income homebuyers to build or rehabilitate 500,000 homes in underserved communities ($20 billion)
  • Developing 1 million affordable, resilient, accessible, energy-efficient, and electrified housing units in underserved communities nationwide, including rural and tribal areas ($126 billion)

In addition to the programs and funding included in the American Jobs Plan, NETWORK calls on Congress to increase funding for public housing in order to adequately meet the needs of our country’s families and provide housing vouchers to all who qualify by creating a universal housing voucher program.

Along with increased investments in housing, the Senate should pass the Equality Act (H.R.5), which would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in housing as well as other areas.

Housing is a basic human right and the foundation for a person’s ability to meet their needs and achieve their God-given purpose. Justice demands that every member of our human family is protected from discrimination; Congress must allocate funding and pass policies that protect the rights of all LGBTQ+ individuals.

Stay engaged and find more ways to take action to advance policies that build our systems and structures anew at www.networklobby.org/ActNow.

Virtual Lobby Day: Dismantling Racism in Our Criminal Legal System

Virtual Lobby Day: Dismantling Racism in Our Criminal Legal System

Caraline Feairheller
June 1, 2021

On May 12, 2021, more than 120 justice-seekers from across the country went on 50 lobby visits to urge their Representatives to co-sponsor and vote YES on the EQUAL Act (H.R.1693). Thanks to you, our community of activists, the EQUAL Act now has ten new cosponsors – moving us closer to a criminal legal system that provides fair and equal justice under law!

For decades, the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine offenses has contributed to our country’s shameful legacy of systemic racism and mass incarceration despite being two forms of the same substance. As Executive Director of New Hour for Women and Children Serena Ligouri said at the Lobby Day Kick-Off Rally, “It is by no mistake, in fact it is intentional that racism has continue to perpetuate disproportionate sentencing in the carceral system. It is no longer okay to let our legislators stand back and perpetuate this in our communities.” As we celebrate our advocates for educating our elected officials on the importance of the EQUAL Act, we know there is much more work to do.Mary J. Novak emphasizes how “being sentenced in today’s U.S. criminal legal system is essentially a life sentence if you consider the severe consequences economically, the disruptions in family life, the limited future access to employment, housing, voting, the stigma, the trauma to both the person incarcerated and that person’s family.” In order to build anew, Congress must pass legislation that lifts bans on housing assistance and other social safety net programs for those who have been released from incarceration.

Every person is made in the image and likeness of God and deserves respect, dignity, and equal justice under law. We must support each other in these challenging times and continue working to pass policies like the EQUAL Act and George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. This will help dismantle systemic racism, eliminate the wealth and income gap, improve the wellbeing of our communities, and allow all people to thrive.

Stay engaged and find more ways to take action to advance policies that build our systems and structures anew at www.networklobby.org/ActNow.

“We Want Change and We Don’t Mean Pennies.”

“We Want Change and We Don’t Mean Pennies.”

Meg Olson
May 18, 2021

On Wednesday, May 19, McDonald’s workers in the Fight for $15 are going on strike in 15 cities across the country. Their demand? That “every worker who wears the McDonald’s uniform” makes at least $15/hr.

If that seems shocking or radical, consider this: last year, McDonald’s earned nearly $5 billion in profits, and paid shareholders nearly $4 billion in dividends. Meanwhile, thousands of their workers—essential workers—received an average of $10/hour, just over $20,000 a year for a full-time employee, without health or dental benefits or access to paid sick leave.

McDonald’s worker and Fight for $15 Organizer Ieshia Townsend said, “Some workers ask me why I do what I do and I tell them, ‘The reason I do what I do is so I can make a better life for my kids and your children, and our next generation. You should be able to go on family vacations and spend time with our kids if they get sick. We should not have to keep living in poverty.”

Fast food workers, who have been essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, are struggling to survive. Every day, these workers are forced to make decisions between basic needs such as food, medicine, and transportation. Many of them work two and even three jobs and are still unable to make ends meet, especially when it comes to housing. The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s 2020 Out of Reach Report, finds that in Illinois, where the minimum wage is $10/hour, one would have to work 72 hours a week to be able to rent a 1-bedroom apartment at fair market rent without spending more than 30% of income on housing. In Mississippi, where the minimum wage is the federal rate of $7.25/hour, a worker would have to work 68 hours a week.

The good news is that the Fight for $15 is working! Since Fight for $15 started in November 2012, workers in the fast food industry and other minimum-wage jobs have led the movement for the passage of $15 minimum wage laws in states such as California, New York, and Massachusetts, as well as the District of Columbia, and cities as diverse as Flagstaff, Arizona, St. Paul, Minnesota, and Seattle, Washington. In 2018, the National Employment Law Project reported that “22 million workers [had] won $68 billion in raises” thanks to the movement. Unfortunately, legislatures in states such as Florida, Missouri, and Kentucky fought back against the workers’ efforts and passed preemption laws that kept cities from raising their wages. This is why Fight for $15 is now focusing its efforts on McDonald’s.

I first got involved with the Fight for $15 in 2013, when I was the diocesan director of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development in St. Louis and a member of Missouri Jobs with Justice Faith and Labor Coalition. While it was thrilling to strike and shut down a McDonald’s or Wendy’s at 5:00AM, my participation in the movement was also a steep lesson in the principle of Subsidiarity. Catholic Social Tradition teaches us that Subsidiarity means that the people who are most injured by the injustice should have the dominant voice in creating a solution. Fight for $15 is a worker-led movement that truly embodies Subsidiarity. The workers are, to quote Pope Francis, “social poets” and “protagonists of their own destiny.” We faith leaders, an interfaith coalition of clergy, vowed religious, and laypeople, learned to listen, step back, and support the workers. This meant driving around the city the day before the strike delivering notices to surly store managers, letting them know that their employees had the legal right to strike. It meant babysitting children and serving snacks and cold water on hot days. It also meant accompanying workers when they returned to their first shift after the strike.

Faith leaders also had the responsibility of holding the fast food restaurants accountable if they retaliated against the workers. Once, one of SEIU’s lawyers called and told me that an Arby’s near my workplace was threatening to fire one of the workers, a young woman and mother of two. “Would you be willing to make a bunch of noise with other people of faith tomorrow? Are you willing to be arrested?” I told him yes. When we arrived at the Arby’s the next day, we were greeted by an H.R. Director from corporate headquarters who assured us that the managers now understood the labor laws.

Every time we gathered on a strike day, the workers asked to pray. Workers I talked to explained how working multiple jobs and second and third shifts made it nearly impossible to go to church. “So this is our church!” This was my ultimate lesson: for people of faith, the call to be in solidarity with workers means not just avoiding certain stores or companies, or hitting the streets, but also figuring out how to make Church fully inclusive to the low-wage workers, even if that means holding a service at 2:00 AM. Until then, “this is our church.”

To participate in a Fight for $15 day of action in your city, please visit https://actionnetwork.org/event_campaigns/15hr-day-of-action.

Email your Members of Congress to pass the Raise the Wage Act
www.networklobby.org/actnow.

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.

Locating the COVID-19 Vaccine in Your Community

Locating the COVID-19 Vaccine in Your Community

Caraline Feairheller
May 7, 2021

Nearly 200 million people in the United States have at least one vaccine shot in and that number is growing daily. Vaccinations are one of the best tools to slow the spread of COVID-19 and prevent future severe outbreaks. As of April 19 2021, the COVID-19 vaccine is available to all persons 16 and older in the United States. The vaccine is free regardless of access to medical insurance and regardless of immigration status.

Access to the vaccine should be not a barrier to care, which is why the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has created the Vaccine Finder Tool. Vaccines.gov helps you find locations that carry COVID-19 vaccines and their contact information. By entering your zip code into the finder, the website connects you with a number of nearby appoints. Most providers require and appointment and the Vaccine Finder links you directly to the page to sign up.

Vaccines.govCurrently, there are three available vaccines: Pfizer, Moderna, and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. All three have undergone the FDA’s rigorous standards for safety and effectiveness. Each works by training the immune system to recognize the virus and trains the cells to hold the virus off. As a result, many people experience side effects like soreness of the arm injected, fever, or headache – all of which will go away in a few days. The vaccines have been shown to be highly effective in preventing severe cases of COVID-19 that lead to hospitalization and help to reduce the likelihood of its spread.

Following the appointment, you get the vaccine, you should still wear a mask and maintain social distancing. At the vaccine appointment you will receive a vaccination card that tells you what COVID-19 vaccine you received and the date you received it as well as a paper or electronic fact that that tells you more about the specific vaccine you are receiving. The COVID-19 vaccine is critical for the safety and health of our communities. As Pope Francis said, “I believe that morally everyone must take the vaccine. It is the moral choice because it is about your life but also the lives of others.”

For more information:

Frequently Asked Questions About COVID-19.

What to Expect After Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine.

After You’re Fully Vaccinated.

NETWORK’s Blog on Talking with Friends and Family About the Vaccine.

Talking with Your Community About the Vaccine

Talking with Your Community About the Vaccine

Caraline Feairheller
May 7, 2021

The COVID-19 vaccines are the safest way to build protection and minimize the severe effects of COVID-19 for you and your community. As the COVID-19 vaccines are new, it is normal for people to have questions. The sheer volume of information, and misinformation, on the vaccines can be overwhelming. According to experts, the best approach to vaccine hesitancy is having trust figures, like family members and peers, address the root cause of the hesitancy. When community members are able to see others in their circle embracing the vaccine and all its benefits, they are more likely to be willing to get the vaccine themselves. It is important we each do our part to limit misinformation by listening to our communities concerns without judgement. As Pope Francis says, “Whenever people listen to one another humbly and openly, their shared values and aspirations become all the more apparent. Diversity is no longer seen as a threat, but as a source of enrichment.”

When talking with friends and families about the COVID-19 vaccines, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends five key steps:

Listen to their questions with empathy

By listening without judgement, you can identify the root of their concerns. It is important to listen fully and attentively, without interrupting. You can read more on strategies for active listening through the article “Effective Communication: Barrier and Strategies” by the Centre for Teaching Excellence at the University of Waterloo.

Ask open-ended questions to explore their concerns

By asking open-ended questions, you can help to understand what your community is worried about and what sources they are getting their information from. It is important to respectfully ask questions and avoid dismissive language like “That’s a silly concern” or “Why would you be worried about that?”

Ask permission to share information

Once you understand your community’s questions and concerns, ask if you can share information from trusted sources. It is important to not push information on them too quickly and when you do not know the answer consider offering to help look for the information.

Help find their own reason to get vaccinated

Everyone who chooses to get vaccinated does it for a different reason – to protect their community, to visit their family, to return to school. The reasons that someone chooses to get vaccinated will always be those that are most compelling to them personally. It is important to not only focus the conversation on the “why not” of the vaccine but to steer it towards the “why” of the vaccine.

Help make their vaccination happen

Offering to help a community member make a vaccine appointment can help make the path to vaccination easier and less stressful.