Category Archives: Taxes

We Are Truly One Body

We Are Truly One Body

Economic Interdependence Shows the Depth of Our Connection to One Another
Sister Simone Campbell
August 22, 2019

One of my favorite spiritual realities is that we are the body of God. All of us together make up the image of the Divine. We have different parts to play in the body, but we all serve in order to allow the other parts to function fully.

This image came to mind as I was at one of our rural roundtable listening sessions. Folks were talking about the challenge of being a farmer and only getting income once or twice a year when you sell your crops. This means that (unless you have other income) you have to stretch that money across the whole year. Dairy farmers around the table spoke up and said that in the dairy business they are paid more regularly because they sell their milk every day. For them, however, the challenge is that milk prices are so low that it is almost impossible to stay in business. The way the dairy farmers talked, it was faithfulness to their cattle that kept them going.

These farmers told us one of the big deterrents to family farms is the fact that many bills, like healthcare premiums, come on a monthly basis. This system is designed to work for salaried employees but not farmers.

I began to see that other businesses in farming communities then have different business models depending on how well the crops do on the market or the price of milk. Farming communities live, by necessity, in an interdependent economy of which I as a life-long “city person” was unaware.

As the conversation continued, I realized the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is an essential boost to rural economies. When families receive their tax returns, they can make purchases at local businesses that they would not otherwise be able to afford. This boosts the local economy and supports families.

It is this interrelationship that makes me know the living, breathing reality that we are one body. We are profoundly connected both economically and socially. The Earned Income Tax Credit, and the ways we organize our tax code, are one specific instance where we can see this interdependence.

This same reality of community interdependence exists in our nation’s urban areas, but it is more difficult to see because of the size of the economy. In areas with larger economies, the EITC’s impact for the families that receive it is significant, but businesses are less likely to notice a distinct impact. Still, the impact is there.

However, while the Earned Income Tax Credit aims to supplement low-wage earners’ income and succeeds on many counts, there are some gaping holes in the system. The EITC as it is currently designed leaves out childless adults as well as people who earn less than $3,000 in a year from salaried employment. Those who fall into these categories and are left out are struggling mightily to thrive and flourish in our nation. AND small businesses in their communities are struggling too. This is how we are “one body” in our nation. We are interconnected.

For this reason, we at NETWORK believe we must expand the Earned Income Tax Credit. Doing so will benefit families and entire communities. The benefit is felt most directly in rural communities, but it is also true in cities and suburban neighborhoods. We are connected in this one body.

Therefore, we are working with partner organizations, Members of Congress, our NETWORK members, and advocates across the country to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit and other tax credits to benefit families who are working but still not getting by in our nation. We are advocating for a tax policy that does a better job of helping the households and communities most in need. The one, interconnected body of our nation requires everyone to flourish for our nation to succeed. Federal policy should ensure that all of our families can live in dignity. Expanding the EITC would be one more step towards meeting our communal duty to our neighbors.

This communal duty is at the heart of the Gospel call to love one another. Oh one body, let us respond to the needs of our sisters and brothers and make this change for the common good.


This story was originally published in the July 2019 issue of Connection magazine. Read the full issue.

Putting More Money in the Pockets of Working Families

Putting More Money in the Pockets of Working Families

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown
August 21, 2019

People in the United States are working harder than ever before to make ends meet. But the cost of everything – from childcare to prescription drugs to a college education – is up, while wages are largely flat.

That’s why I led my colleagues to introduce the Working Families Tax Relief Act. This plan will cut taxes for workers and families by expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC).

Research has shown that these credits are two of the most effective tools we have to put money in the pockets of working people, pull children out of poverty, and help families with the cost of living. EITC and Child Tax Credit are simple to administer, and they give families in the United States what they need most – extra dollars. We worked to expand the EITC and make it permanent in 2015, and the following year, it lifted nearly six million people out of poverty.

As Americans filed their taxes this spring, more and more people saw President Trump and Congressional Republicans’ tax scam for what it really is – a handout to millionaires and billionaires at the expense of working families. Many families didn’t get the large refunds they were expecting, and some even owed money. Our plan is targeted directly to working families, and would boost the incomes for more than 114 million Americans.

And while the president’s tax scam left out 26 million children, our bill would fix that by making the Child Tax Credit fully refundable for the first time, helping to lift three million children out of poverty. The plan would also create a new Young Child Tax Credit, to provide families of very young children extra help when they need it most. Families would receive an extra $1,000 for each child under age five, up to $3,000 per family, because research shows investing in children in these formative years can set children up for success later in life.

The Working Families Tax Relief Act would also make sure workers can no longer be taxed into poverty. Right now, five million young workers without children are taxed into or taxed deeper into poverty. These are young people working hard at jobs that don’t pay high wages – they’re too young to qualify for the EITC under current law, but they still get hit by state and local taxes, and those taxes can push them below the poverty line. Our plan raises the maximum credit for these workers, and expands the age range to cover all workers from age 19 to 67.

Our plan would also stop families from having to turn to predatory payday lenders in an emergency, by allowing people to draw a $500 advance on their EITC. Right now, 4 in 10 Americans say they couldn’t afford an emergency expense of $400 without borrowing money. And we know what so often happens to those families – they’re forced to turn to payday lenders or car title lenders, and become trapped in a cycle of debt. A one-time, interest-free advance on people’s EITC payment would give families a real alternative. The plan would also establish minimum competency standards for paid tax preparers, to give families better peace of mind that they won’t get ripped off during tax season.

Right now, Democrats are united around this plan, and we want Republicans to join us.

Many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle have said over and over that they want to cut taxes for working Americans and support families. We have a plan to do it, and put more money in the pockets of millions of families.

_________________________________________

Senator Sherrod Brown is represents the state of Ohio and is a champion of middle-class families. Senator Brown supports workers and just trade policies and is proud of his work to help pass the historic health care law that made health insurance more affordable and accessible for American families. Informed by his faith as a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), Senator Brown is committed to social and economic justice.

This story was originally published in the July 2019 issue of Connection magazine. Read the full issue.

Strengthen Working Family Tax Credits to Reduce Poverty and Expand Opportunity

Strengthen Working Family Tax Credits to Reduce Poverty and Expand Opportunity

Chuck Marr
July 24, 2019

Many people across the country have stories about how a little-known part of the tax code—the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit—helped support their families and get ahead.

“As a single mother and new graduate, I count on the Child Tax Credit tremendously,” Travis from Tennessee told the national advocacy organization MomsRising.  “I am typically in the category of the ‘working poor,’ meaning I don’t make enough money to live above the poverty line, but I don’t qualify for state aid.  This makes it extremely hard to afford anything other than our base line bills and groceries for the month.  If something goes wrong with my car or an appliance in my house, it causes me panic attacks because I don’t [know] where I’ll get the money from. . . .  [T]he Earned Income Tax Credit also provides my daughter and I with funds that allow me to pay for opportunities for her that would otherwise be unavailable.”

Many low-income working families like Travis’s struggle to get by, as their costs have risen faster than their wages over the last several decades. Policymakers can help by strengthening the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC). These two highly successful federal tax credits lift millions of people out of poverty and give working people and children a better shot to get ahead, both now and over the long term.

Improving the EITC and Child Tax Credit — through changes like those in the Working Families Tax Relief Act, recently introduced in the Senate — should be a key part of an agenda to reduce income inequality and boost working people’s wages.

The EITC, enacted under the Ford administration in 1975, has long enjoyed bipartisan support.  President Reagan called the 1986 tax reform bill, which substantially expanded the credit, “the best anti-poverty, the best pro-family, the best job creation measure to come out of Congress.” President Clinton signed another major EITC expansion in 1993, while Presidents Bush and Obama enacted improvements as well.

Working people receive the EITC starting with their first dollar of earned income; the credit grows with their earnings until reaching a maximum level and then phases out at higher income levels. The EITC offsets federal payroll and income taxes and boosts the incomes of people who work hard but earn little. Families across the United States use EITC refunds to pay for necessities, repair homes, maintain vehicles they need to get to work, or get additional education or training to boost their employability and earning power.

Stephanie in Missouri, for example, explains: “I am a single working mom of four. My income is low, but I’m proud to support my family, running my own business from home which allows me to be here for my kids. Without the EITC my income would not be enough to cover our basic necessities, like food, housing and utilities.”

The extra money that people get from the EITC also helps them achieve more financial stability. The EITC lifted about 5.8 million people out of poverty in 2016, including about 3 million children.

The Child Tax Credit, enacted in 1997 and expanded with bipartisan support since 2001, helps working families offset the cost of raising children. It’s worth up to $2,000 per child under age 17 and is partially available to low wage working parents.

The CTC lifted roughly 2.8 million people out of poverty in 2017, including about 1.6 million children, and lessened poverty for another 13.1 million people, including 6.7 million children.

Congress Can Improve the EITC and Child Tax Credit

Despite their success, both the EITC and the Child Tax Credit have shortcomings that policymakers should address in order to target more assistance to those who need it most. The EITC for working people not raising children in the home is extremely small — too small even to fully offset federal taxes for workers at the poverty line. A childless adult earning poverty-level wages of $13,340 as a cashier, for example, owes $1,135 in federal income and payroll taxes and receives an EITC of just $172. As a result, this person is one of the over 5 million low-wage childless working people whom the federal tax code taxes into, or deeper into, poverty.

Beyond a threshold of $2,500 of earnings, the Child Tax Credit amounts to 15 cents on each additional dollar earned. This means the poorest children qualify for a very small credit or none at all, even though they are the children who need it most and for whom it would have the largest impact.

Unfortunately, when policymakers made major changes to the tax code most recently in 2017, they largely ignored the opportunity to raise living standards for low- and moderate-income people. The 2017 tax law was heavily tilted toward the wealthiest households and profitable corporations instead of working families. And even its highly touted increase in the CTC provided zero or only a token amount (ranging from $1 to $75) to 11 million children in low-income working families because their incomes were too low.

A landmark bill in Congress offers a promising path forward. The Working Families Tax Relief Act, introduced in the Senate by Senators Sherrod Brown, Michael Bennet, Richard Durbin, and Ron Wyden with more than 40 co-sponsors, would significantly strengthen the EITC and CTC. These expansions would make 46 million households more financially secure and benefit 114 million people — including 49 million children. Families of all races would benefit, including 24 million white families, 9 million Latino families, 8 million Black families, and 2 million Asian American families.

The bill would build on the EITC’s success among families with children, boosting their credit by roughly 25%. And it would substantially improve the credit for low-wage working people without children at home. It would raise their maximum credit (from roughly $530 to $2,100), raise the income limit to qualify for the credit (from about $16,000 for a single individual to about $25,000), and expand the age range of workers eligible for the credit (from 25-64 to 19-67). The above-mentioned cashier would see her EITC rise from $172 to $1,797, lifting her $662 above the poverty line.

The bill would also make big improvements in the Child Tax Credit.  As discussed above, the current credit partly or entirely leaves out many poor families with children because they earn to little. The bill would make the CTC available to all poor families – and not dependent on earnings — and expand the credit for children under age 6. Almost all low- and middle-income families with children would receive a $2,000 Child Tax Credit for each child age 6 or older and $3,000 per child under 6.

The larger tax credit for young children would help respond to the special economic challenges that families with young children can face.  Parents in these families tend to have lower wages because they are often less advanced in their careers, and the high cost of child care for young children can force many parents to choose between paying that expense or getting by on just one income.

To better target the Child Tax Credit to families who need it most, the bill would also begin phasing the credit down for married couples with incomes over $200,000 (compared to $400,000 under current law) and single parents with incomes over $150,000 (compared to $200,000).

Putting its EITC and CTC expansions together, the bill would make a substantial difference for low- and moderate-income working families. A single mother of two earning $20,000 would get a $3,700 increase, for example, while a married couple with two young kids making $45,000 would get a $3,500 increase. The bill would cut child poverty by 28%, lifting 3.1 million children out of poverty and making another 7.7 million children less poor.

The bill would also have lasting benefits for children, helping not only them but our country as a whole.  Studies show that kids in low-income families that receive added income from working-family tax credits like the EITC and Child Tax Credit do better in school and are likelier to attend college. They also are likelier to earn more as adults due to their higher skills and more years of education. And, kids whose families receive working-family tax credits are likelier to avoid the early onset of illnesses associated with child poverty, further boosting their earnings ability.

“Both the EITC and Child Tax Credit have made a huge difference for our family and have been critically important to our financial stability as parents of young children,” Kathleen from Utah explains.

That’s a key message for policymakers as they debate ways to reduce inequality and restructure the 2017 tax law to expand opportunity for low-wage working families. Strengthening the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit would advance both of those goals.


Chuck Marr is the Director of Federal Tax Policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). CBPP is a nonpartisan research and policy institute founded in 1981 to analyze federal budget priorities, with a particular focus on how budget choices affect low-income Americans. CBPP pursues both federal and state policies designed to reduce poverty and inequality and to restore fiscal responsibility in equitable and effective ways. Learn more at www.cbpp.org.

Special thanks to MomsRising for sharing the stories from people and families across the country who receive the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit.

This story was originally published in the July 2019 issue of Connection magazine. Read the full issue.

Faces of Our Spirit-Filled Network: Joe Sanberg

 

Faces of Our Spirit-Filled Network: Joe Sanberg

Joe Sanberg
April 2, 2019

Tell us a little about yourself and the work you do.

I am a progressive entrepreneur and investor working to end poverty and ensure that everyone can live with financial security and afford life’s basic needs.

I co-founded Aspiration.com, an online financial institution that allows people to bank, invest, and spend in accordance with their values.

In 2015, I helped convinced California lawmakers that our state needed to pass an Earned Income Tax Credit, one of the most effective anti-poverty policies in America. It is a cash back program that rewards work and provides needed support to predominantly single mothers, people of color, and children growing up in poverty. When they agreed but failed to put any outreach money into the program, I created a non-profit organization called CalEITC4Me to ensure every eligible Californian would get the credit they’ve earned. Over the past three years, our innovative ‘surround-sound’ campaign has helped more than 2 million low-income CA families get over $4 billion in tax refunds.

In 2018, I founded Working Hero Pac a people-powered political organization to support elected leaders and candidates who champion policies that support low-income people. This year, I created a national advocacy organization called Working Hero Action.  Its goal is to elevate poverty in the 2020 presidential election while reaching hundreds of thousands of low-income workers who are not yet claiming the EITC that they’ve earned, leaving billions on the table.

What issue area are you most passionate about?

Joe Sanberg at the 2018 Nuns on the Bus: Tax Justice Truth Tour kickoff event

I’m most passionate about the solving the crisis of poverty — poverty of housing; poverty of health care; poverty of education and poverty of freedom from discrimination and prejudice — that afflicts a super-majority of Americans and stymies their ability to live the fullest, most human life as I believe God intends for all of us.

My mission is nothing less than an end to poverty. This country has the tools to do it; what’s missing is the political will. That’s why I’ve been working through Working Hero PAC to support political leaders who share my mission, and Working Hero Action to advocate for policies that will help all Americans afford their basic needs.

How are you engaging your community on important social justice issues?

I am the founder of a California-based organization called CalEITC4Me that connects working families to the resources they need to claim their government refund from their EITC. Millions of EITC dollars go unclaimed every year, simply because so many of the people who are eligible and simply don’t know about it, don’t know how to claim it, or don’t earn enough to have to file taxes. For working families experiencing poverty, that amount of money — up to $6,000 — can be life-changing. So our job is to make sure that every family that’s get the money they’ve earned. In the past three years, our campaign has connected more than 2 million California families with more than $4 billion of tax credits, and this year we’ve expanded to Iowa and South Carolina as well. The movement is growing.

How has your advocacy for social justice shaped your view of the world?

My advocacy for social justice and the impact we’ve been able to create has made me more optimistic about the future, even as I see more and more suffering. My experiences have affirmed my belief that our problems are almost always the consequences of bad choices and failed democracy, where our leaders have strayed from the will of the people. I find hope in that, because that means with better choices and a healthier democracy, we can reverse course and start to solve these problems.

How does your faith inspire you to work for justice?

My Jewish belief in the directive of “Tikkun olam” is my source of energy and inspiration every day, and especially on the hard days. Tikkun olam means that we each have a responsibility to do everything we can and make the best use our abilities to repair the world and help others.

Who is your role model?

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Is there a quote that motivates or nourishes you that you would like to share?

From Dr King’s “Unfulfilled Dreams” speech of 3/3/68: “One of the great agonies of life is that we are constantly trying to finish that which is unfinishable.  We are commanded to do that.”

What social movement has inspired you?

The Poor People’s Campaign

What was your biggest accomplishment as an activist in the past year?

While I don’t want to call it a personal accomplishment, one of the things that I’m most proud of is the fact that our advocacy & activism in California has led to a dramatic expansion of the EITC over the last two years. In 2017, CalEITC4Me led a grassroots organizing campaign that won a massive expansion of the program to include self-reported freelance income—work, done disproportionately by women and people of color. And then last year, in response to our calls, texts, and emails, the legislature expanded eligibility once more to include workers age 18-24 and over age 65, meaning this tax season more working families now qualify for the EITC than ever. Now, as one of the signature proposals of his first term, Governor Gavin Newsom is proposing more than doubling the California EITC to $1 billion. This is an incredible validation of how successful the program has been, and a testament to the work of our community partners.

What are you looking forward to working on in the coming months?

Right now, all my focus is on tax day on April 15. For the next two weeks, Working Hero and CalETIC4Me are going to be doing everything we can to ensure that every eligible family in California, Iowa, and South Carolina files their tax return and receives the cash refunds they’ve earned. Once tax season is over, we’ll turn to our broader mission: advocating for policies to end poverty and help all Americans afford their basic needs, including expanding the EITC and passing policies like the Green New Deal and Medicare for All.

A Special Message from Nuns on the Bus

A Special Message from Nuns on the Bus

“We the People” Can Create Change!

Meg Olson
January 29, 2019

What a month it has been! As we recover from the anguish of the longest shutdown in our nation’s history, I’ve heard from activists all across the country what a whirlwind of emotions it has been. Despite the cruel insistence for wasteful spending on a border wall from Republicans in the Senate and the White House, it’s been comforting for us to remember the people we met along the road last year during our Nuns on the Bus tour.

During Nuns on the Bus, we heard from people all across the country committed to the common good. We are so inspired by you and all activists working for a more kind and generous vision for our nation and lobbying our elected officials, together. November 6, 2018 was a great day because “We the People” came together to create change.

We created the video above to renew our hope and commitment for the work ahead. Help us continue to care for the 100% in our nation, and take this message to newly elected officials by staying involved with NETWORK and sharing this video on Facebook or Twitter.

NETWORK Urges House to Vote No on Tax and Oversight Package

NETWORK Urges House to Vote No on Tax and Oversight Package

Laura Peralta-Schulte
November 29, 2018

Today, NETWORK sent the following letter to all members of the House regarding the Tax and Oversight Package that may be voted on as early as today. We oppose the package because it adds over $55 billion in debt and fails to make our tax code more just. Read the text of the letter below:


Dear Representative:

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice was founded by Catholic Sisters over 40 years ago and has 100,000 activists around the country.  We writes today in strong opposition to the newly released partisan Tax and Oversight Package scheduled to be taken up on the House floor as early as today.  The bill, unfortunately, mirrors many of problems found in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Law:  it was created in secret, it is loaded with benefits for corporations and wealthy individuals, and it adds over $55 billion in debt. We urge you to oppose this bill.

This fall, NETWORK’s “Nuns on the Bus” campaign toured 21 states over the course of 27 days to educate voters about the problems with the TCJA.  In state after state, we heard stories from people who are struggling and concerned about the viability of Medicare, Social Security and other vital programs.  Working people know the tax law rewarded the wealthy and the well-connected who are already not paying their fair share.  We should not be exacerbating that mistake.

Rather than giving more benefits to the extremely wealthy, Congress should be repealing its 2017 tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations in order to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and to generate enough revenue to make new investments in helping working families like expanding working family tax credits, creating affordable housing and green-energy jobs and providing healthcare for all.

Now is the time to stop business as usual in Washington.  Americans don’t want to see an end-of-year Christmas tree of gifts for all sorts of wealthy special interests.  It is time for Congress to put the interest of the common good over those of the wealthy few.  We urge you to vote no on the Tax and Oversight bill.

Sincerely,

Laura Peralta-Schulte,
Senior Government Relations Advocate

What to Look Out for in Lame Duck!

What to Look Out for in Lame Duck!

NETWORK Government Relations Team
November 5, 2018

The Midterm Elections are upon us — and NETWORK is busy looking ahead to the work that must be done for the rest of the year.

Members of Congress will arrive back to Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, November 13 to finish out the final legislative efforts for the 115th Congress. There are some time-sensitive issues Congress must address, as well as others that may be considered if there is time and political will. All the items on the agenda will be affected by two factors: the outcome of Tuesday’s election as well as subsequent leadership elections, especially in the House of Representatives.

With these uncertainties in mind, here is NETWORK’s analysis for upcoming issues in the final days of the 115th Congress.

Must Do: Fund the Government for 2019

Appropriations: Congress outperformed all expectations by passing 7 of the 12 appropriations bills for FY2019 before the start of the fiscal year, which began on October 1.  While kudos are in order, NETWORK is urging them to pick-up where they left off as soon as they return and it’s imperative that they finish the job before the end of the year.  Lawmakers have until December 7th to reach agreement on the 5 remaining spending bills which fund programs at more than 10 federal agencies, or risk a government shutdown.  Several of our Mend the Gap issues are among the log-jam.  These include: programs that fund the 2020 census, affordable housing and keep immigrant families together.

Border Wall

The most contentious issue will be funding for the Department of Homeland Security; which President Trump has already threatened a government shutdown if Congress fails to appropriate roughly $5 billion for his border wall.  A government shut-down would be detrimental just weeks before Christmas and would coincide with the anticipated arrival of thousands of migrants trekking toward the Southern border.  NETWORK has joined hundreds of advocacy organizations in calling for Congress freeze spending at FY 2018 levels for immigration enforcement officers, agents and detention beds.   And we urge Congress to pass a separate short-term extension for the Department of Homeland Security.  NETWORK is ready to kick our advocacy efforts into high-gear if we perceive threats around funding for our immigration and census priorities.

2020 Census

Funding for the Census Bureau, which requires a significant ramp-up for Census 2020 preparations and planning.   If Congress returns to the dysfunction we saw last year with repeated funding delays via Continuing Resolutions, it could seriously threaten the ramp-up and preparations for our government’s largest peacetime undertaking, the decennial.  Fiscal Year 2019 is the pivotal year leading up to the 2020 Census so postponing full funding would have dire consequences on the preparations and outcome of the count.  While the proposed funding levels from the Senate and the House seem acceptable, it is unclear what the budget impact would be on the impending court ruling on the controversial citizenship question.

Click here to read more about NETWORK’s FY 2019 appropriations priorities.

That being said, there are some outstanding “Maybe” issues that Congress could address: the Farm Bill, Criminal Justice, and the Low Income Housing Tax Credit.

Farm Bill: Protect SNAP

There has not been much apparent progress since the Farm Bill moved into conference in August.  One of the primary sticking points in negotiations is the nutrition title and reauthorization of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  The partisan House Bill—which passed by 2 votes on the second try—includes harmful provisions that would undermine the program’s effectiveness and cut nutrition assistance for millions of Americans.  The Senate bill, which saw the strongest bipartisan support of any prior Farm Bill (86-11), makes key improvements to strengthen SNAP without threatening food security of participants.  The 2014 Farm Bill expired this month but, fortunately major programs like SNAP have a funding cushion that minimizes the impact of Congress missing that deadline.  It’s highly likely, though, that the Farm Bill conference committee will kick into high gear when Congress returns on November 13th.  During Lame Duck NETWORK will need your help to ensure that the nutrition title from the Senate bill is what’s ultimately adopted and voted into law.

Criminal Justice

There is wide speculation that the Senate could join the House and take up a modest criminal justice reform package during the Lame Duck session, if 60 Senators agree to proceed.  In May, the House passed the First Step Act, a bipartisan bill purporting to be a significant step forward in prison reform.  Over the summer the President tentatively agreed to include several sentencing reform elements into a prison reform package. The Senate was split on the issue of separating prison reform from sentencing reform but has changed course given the President’s willingness to negotiate a compromise.  While NETWORK supports sentencing and prison reform as a joint legislative package we did not take an official position on the First Step Act.

Read NETWORK’s thoughts on the First Step Act, from when it passed the House, here.

Low Income Housing Tax Credit

As Congress concludes work for the year, there is a tradition that of a small group of tax bills that are bipartisan, non-controversial and relatively inexpensive get passed.  This group of tax bills is called “extenders.”  Members of the tax writing committees are now reviewing what their priorities are for any extender bill.  One of the tax initiatives under consideration is passage of “The Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2017” (S. 548) which expands the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) to meet the housing needs of extremely low income renter households. This credit is the primary tool to encourage private investment in affordable housing development and is responsible for 90 percent of all affordable housing developments built each year.  Since it was passed in the bipartisan Tax Reform Act of 1986, the credit has incentivized the creation of 3 million affordable rental homes around the country.  NETWORK will work with

Given the national shortage of affordable housing, NETWORK believes it is critical that new build more low income housing units. Passage of this bill will go a long way to meeting the needs of the homeless and other vulnerable low income individuals and families.

Remarks from Nuns on the Bus in South Bend

Nuns on the Bus in South Bend

Jessica Brock
October 19, 2018

The following remarks were delivered by Jessia Brock, attorney, at the Nuns on the Bus Rally in South Bend.

Good afternoon.   Your presence here is so important.  Thank you for being here.  Your voice needs to be heard.  And your vote is your voice.

My name is Jessica Brock.  I am an attorney here in South Bend, and my law practice has primarily served people living below the federal poverty line.  Most of my clients rely on income from SSI or Social Security Disability.  They rely on Medicare or Medicaid for healthcare coverage.  And they rely on other human needs programs like housing vouchers and food stamps in order to make ends meet, put food on their tables, and keep their families safe. I see on a daily basis how these programs make the difference, quite literally, between life and death.  One unexpected and expensive life event  – like the illness and death of a loved one or flooding like we experienced in February – can put a family barely making ends meet in serious financial trouble, and it is often difficult if not impossible to recover from such a setback.

In South Bend, almost 1/5 of the population lives below the federal poverty line.  That means there’s no wiggle room in the household budget – certainly no money for big, unexpected expenses.  The poverty rate here for whites is about 17%, for people of color as a whole it’s about 33%.  For African Americans in South Bend it’s about 42%.  Not only do we have income inequality.  We have racial inequality.

Republicans passed an immoral tax law in 2017, which prioritizes tax cuts for the highest income brackets and biggest businesses on the dime of basic human needs.  In 2017, the federal deficit went up 17%, and Republicans are blaming this on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  The truth is the immoral tax law is to blame for the deficit increase as well as increased government spending approved by the Republican-controlled Congress.  We do not have reasonable revenue for responsible programs.

People here are already struggling to meet basic needs.

  • There are women, survivors of domestic violence, in South Bend who are unable to afford to change the locks on their homes in order to protect themselves and their children from their abusers.
  • There are older adults in South Bend who cannot afford to pay for their burial.  They may have a family burial plot, but they can’t afford to pay for the cremation/burial and transportation to be buried with their loved ones.
  • We lost my father unexpectedly to brain cancer this April.  A simple funeral can easily cost $10,000.  All of the expenses were due upfront.  That’s a financial burden many cannot handle.

The truth is that Social Security and Medicare are paid for through separate payroll taxes.  They do not add to the national debt.  In fact, Social Security has a $2.5 trillion surplus right now.  The sad truth is that we are using the Social Security trust funds to finance our overspending on programming that does not meet basic human needs like being safe in our homes, having food to put on the table, healthcare, and dying with dignity.  We are robbing human needs programs in order to cut taxes for the rich and for big business.

There seems to be little we can agree on these days, as our leaders have played on our fears in an effort to divide us.  But there is much we have in common.  We all want to be safe.  We all need to eat and sleep.  We all want to be healthy, and we will all get sick.  We will all encounter unexpected, traumatic, and expensive life events that can quickly change our financial stability.

At times, it can seem like there is nothing we can do.  But that’s not true.  We can vote.  It’s free.  It doesn’t matter who you are, each vote counts the same.  Your vote is your voice.

Vote!  If you think that the government shouldn’t take from the poor to benefit the rich.  Vote!  If you want reasonable revenue for responsible programs.  Vote!

It’s We The People.  It’s us.  And we have a job to do.  No one can do it for us.   Let’s get out and vote!

View more photos from this event here.