Category Archives: Voting and Democracy

Juneteenth: A Celebration and Call for Freedom

Juneteenth: A Celebration and Call for Freedom

Jeremiah Pennebaker
June 19, 2018

“In its spread across the country and gradual supplanting of other emancipation celebrations, Juneteenth has always retained that sense of belatedness. It is the observance of a victory delayed, of foot-dragging and desperate resistance by white supremacy against the tide of human rights, and of a legal freedom trampled by the might of state violence. As the belated emancipation embedded in the holiday foretold generations of black codes, forced labor, racial terror, police brutality, and a century-long regime of Jim Crow, it also imbued the holiday with a sense of a Sisyphean prospect of an abridged liberty, with full citizenship always taunting and tantalizing, but just one more protest down the road.” – Vann R. Newkirk II, “The Quintessential Americanness of Juneteenth”

“What’s Juneteenth again?” I ask myself in my head because I did not want to admit out loud in front of my fellow interns that I didn’t know the meaning behind it. We were trying to figure out how to better integrate racial justice themes into our summer service locations. For the longest time my only connection to Juneteenth was an obscure Boondocks reference. Luckily for me there was another Black student in our intern small group who was able to explain what it was. “Juneteenth is the celebration of coming freedom,” she said.

“Coming freedom” tells us that freedom exists, but it is not here yet. The Emancipation Proclamation — the legislation that freed all enslaved Black women and men on U.S. soil — was signed into law on January 1, 1863. But like many things concerning the freedom and civil rights of Black individuals, the process was delayed. Juneteenth was established two-and-a-half years after the Emancipation Proclamation on June 19, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger issued Order #3 in the district of Galveston, Texas informing the residents that slavery was abolished and that the freed people should now operate under an employer/ employee relationship.

Over two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, news of liberation finally reached slaves in the southernmost parts of the country. Despite this, enslavement and mistreatment of Black people continued as slave owners took their slaves to the yet-to-be-unionized New Orleans, where emancipation was just folklore. There was no relief or instant jubilation as many might imagine; instead, some faced consequences if they celebrated too openly or tried to run away. This is evident in the account of former slave Susan Merritt in Leon Litwack’s book, Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery: “Those who acted on the news did so at their peril. You could see lots of niggers hangin’ to trees in Sabine bottom right after freedom, ’cause they cotch ’em swimmin’ ‘cross Sabine River and shoot ’em.’”[1] Although slaves were free in theory, they were not free in practice.

Coming freedom is the Black American Dream–the idea that we will be free one day as it has already been proclaimed. Growing up in the church I imagined that freedom was something similar to the idea of kingdom come. As my father would say, we stand on tiptoe anticipation for the day that we can lay our burdens down and rejoice in the presence of the Lord. But what I’ve also learned about kingdom come and coming freedom is that obstacles still lie between us and the freedom. Lynch mobs and police units still lie between us and the coming freedom. Protests and assassinations still lie between us the coming freedom. Colorblind classmates, coworkers, and Members of Congress still lie between us and coming freedom. But the hope within coming freedom and the jubilation of Juneteenth lies within the fact that regardless of what lie between us and coming freedom, it is still coming.

[1] What Is Juneteenth?

Questions to Ask Yourself for the 2018 Primaries

Questions to Ask Yourself for the 2018 Primaries

Mary Cunningham
June 14, 2018

With midterm elections rapidly approaching, it is time to start thinking about primaries. While certain state primaries have already passed, there are some that are just around the corner! Primaries are preliminary elections used to determine which candidates will face off for the general election scheduled for November 6, 2018. With a surge of new candidates on the ballots, particularly women, it is important to ascertain whether or not these candidates will implement the policies you care about if elected to office. So with all that in mind, what are the important questions you should ask yourself before voting in your state’s primary?

  1. How will the candidates lived experience and background contribute to a more nuanced and diverse Congress?

When you see photos of most Members of Congress you will notice a striking pattern: they are typically white, middle-aged men. Imagine what it would be like to have more diverse voices in our offices– people of different genders, races, and religious affiliations. Take women as an example: according to Vox, women currently constitute less than 20% of Congress. That boils down to just 22 female senators and 83 female representatives in a Congress made up of 535 people total. It’s even more discouraging when you look at the number of women of color in Congress. According to Axios, 30 states have never elected a woman of color to Congress. Instead of leaving it up to the men to decide, we need female perspectives on issues such as paid-family leave and childcare. There is hope in the fact that more women are running for Congress, but that hope will only be realized if we take the extra step and vote for them!

  1. What is the candidate’s approach to the importance of human dignity for all in local, state, and federal policies?

As Catholics we hold dear the belief that all people have an inherent dignity: rich or poor, citizen or noncitizen.  We do not get to decide whether or not someone is not worthy of love. In Pope Francis’s new apostolic exhortation he calls us to value the life of migrants as we would any other life. Multiple candidates for the midterm elections have come out with flagrant anti-immigrant agendas. There is no place for these egregious mindsets in Congress. We need elected officials who recognize that there is value in every human being and who will enact policies that allow all to reach their full potential. This means recognizing the plight of those who cross the border and the dignity of all people, not making unsubstantiated assumptions about them!

  1. How will the candidate respond to the most vulnerable members of their community?

Back in November, the Republican tax bill passed, promising tax cuts for the wealthy largely at the expense of the poor. The new law is estimated to increase the United States debt by over $1 trillion.  Almost immediately after its passage, Republicans pivoted and took aim at safety net programs. This can be seen in the recent efforts to introduce Medicaid work requirements, SNAP work requirements, and harsh policies imposed on those who receive federal housing subsidies.

In another blatant show of hypocrisy, several House Representatives voting for stricter work requirements and SNAP restrictions in the Farm Bill are themselves benefitting from the federal farm subsidies they will pocket if the bill passes. It’s one thing to claim to support the needs of your constituents, but it’s another to fight for policies that actually help them. Without access to federal assistance programs, many families will not be able to stay afloat. When casting your vote, ask yourself: can you rely on that candidate to protect the needs of people who are marginalized?

When voting for a candidate, it is important to be informed about their platform. Furthermore, as Catholics, it is important to make sure that the people we elect to office represent our closest held values—whether that be dignity of life, care for the poor, or others After all, these are the people that will be representing you and all you stand for over the next few years. That should not be taken lightly!

The Right to Vote: Then and Now

The Right to Vote: Then and Now

Claudia Brock
June 6, 2018

Every election my mom likes to remind my sister and me of the time we accompanied her to vote in the 2000 presidential election. At the ages of 4 and 6, we were convinced that voting was one of the most glamorous and exciting things an adult could do. After all, you had to be 18 and you got to have a say in who ran the country. On Election Day, my sister and I donned our finest tutus and costume jewelry to accompany our mom to the polls for this truly sophisticated event. Imagine our disappointment when we walked into our local elementary school’s cafeteria and waited as our mom went into the voting booth, only to head out the door five minutes later. I’m not sure what my sister and I hoped to see, but we were grossly unimpressed.

When I voted for the first time in the 2012 election, the experience was completely different—entering a voting booth at a local park pavilion felt plenty exciting. I had carefully researched all of the candidates on the ballot and even called my county election commission to make sure I could bring my notes into the booth with me. I took, and still take, my right to vote very seriously because not only do I help elect leaders I think will benefit my community, but I also understand that thousands of women fought for my right to be in the voting booth.

The Nineteenth Amendment, which prohibits states and the federal government from denying the right to vote on the basis of sex, was originally introduced in Congress in 1878 and was finally passed 41 years later on June 4, 1919 and submitted to the states for ratification. Suffragettes had marched, protested, and lobbied for the inclusion of women in the vote since the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention in New York. For 71 years, these women built a grassroots movement, but they also were imprisoned, endured physical and sexual assaults, were disowned from their parents, and had their parental rights terminated as a result of their work and beliefs.

Despite their work for greater access to democracy, these women failed to address the dual oppression of racism and sexism faced by Black women. Suffragettes barred Black women from the movement and presented voting rights as an extension of white supremacy to make it more palatable to other white Americans. It was not until the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlawed discriminatory polling laws like voting taxes and literacy tests, that Black women secured the right to vote.

In the United States, those who vote have more representation than those who do not. This is a problem when you consider that there are still efforts to suppress the votes of people of color, including the dismantling of the Voting Rights Act, strict voter ID laws, racial gerrymandering, polling place intimidation, voting roll purges, and more. As I reflect on my first time voting, I realize my experience was ripe with privilege: I had the time and resources to go to the polls, my name was not purged from the voting roll, I was not asked to show ID, I was not harassed at the poll, and there were enough poll workers present so my voting lasted only 10 minutes.

Voting is a great step in reducing inequality of all kinds and achieving racial equity through public policy. It plays a large role in the allocation of government resources, who benefits from public policies, and the size of government. If you are able to vote, you should! You can register here. Around the anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, use your voice to advocate for voting rights to create a more perfect and inclusive union.

2020 Census Gets Almost $2 Billion Increase from House Appropriators

2020 Census Gets Almost $2 Billion Increase from House Appropriators

Tralonne Shorter
May 30, 2018

On Thursday, May 17, 2018 the House Appropriations Committee approved $4.8 billion in overall funding for the Census Bureau, as part of the fiscal year (FY) 2019 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) spending bill.   The appropriation is a $1.985 billion increase above the FY 2018 enacted level; almost $1 billion above the President’s FY 2019 budget request.  The funds would primarily support 2020 Census activities such as technology improvements, address canvassing, End-to-End tests, and the opening of 248 Census field offices.

Regrettably, the bill contains several unacceptable provisions.  One major upset for advocates was a decision by the Committee to reject an amendment to remove the citizenship question.  NETWORK submitted written testimony and organized faith leader sign on letters in opposition to the citizenship question. We were also disappointed that the Committee included a big increase for illegal immigration enforcement.   In particular, the Committee approved a $126 million increase above FY 2018 for the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), a division within the Department of Justice that adjudicates immigration removal proceedings.  This increase would annualize 100 new immigration judge teams the Committee approved in the FY 2018 Omnibus and would provide funds for 100 additional immigration judge teams in FY 2019. This total increase of 200 new immigration judge teams over a two-year period would drastically reduce the immigration case backlog while resulting in more families being torn apart.

A floor vote on final passage in the House has not been scheduled, but we anticipate it will occur before the August recess.  The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to consider its own FY 2019 CJS spending bill sometime in June.  NETWORK will continue to push for full funding and oppose the addition of a citizenship question.

Feast of St. Joseph the Worker

Feast of St. Joseph the Worker

Mary Cunningham
April 30, 2018

“He carried out this vocation with complete fidelity until at last God called him, saying: ‘Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.’ ” – St. Bernardine of Siena

On May 1, we celebrate the feast of St. Joseph the Worker. Pope Pius XII established this feast day in 1955 to honor St. Joseph and celebrate the Catholic Church’s commitment to the dignity of labor. St. Joseph cared for Mary, his wife, and Jesus, his son, through his work as a carpenter, representing for us the ideal of dignified work and faithful contribution to the common good. His example reminds all workers to participate in God’s continuing creation each and every day through our own labor.

As I reflect on St. Joseph the Worker, I am reminded of the teacher strikes emerging throughout our country in the past few months. Beginning in West Virginia –and growing to Colorado, Kentucky, Arizona, and Oklahoma– teachers are uniting to demand higher wages and better conditions for the schools where they teach. The teachers rallying are from states with some of the lowest salaries for educators in the country. They are calling for more state funding for public education, which is currently inadequate.

In a pivotal move, teachers are leaving their classrooms to go on strike. In West Virginia, the teachers hoped to point out not only inadequate pay, but also changes to PEIA (Public Employees Insurance Agency), a health insurance company that covers state employees. They also wanted to highlight the large number of teacher vacancies (700 in West Virginia) resulting from poor school conditions and low teacher pay. In Colorado, teachers rallied at the State Capitol for various reasons, among them fear of changes to retirement and pension plans. United for a common mission, these teachers have gained national attention, and in some cases, secured greater education funding.

Like teachers, workers across professions are joining together to demand just wages and benefits for their work. At the Christian Care Home  in Ferguson, Missouri, healthcare workers participated in a 104 day-long strike because the nursing home mishandled vacation and violated  the contract for time off  for its employees. Around 65 full-time employees and 25 part-time workers participated in the strike, which eventually led to a 20 cent an hour raise to $9.85 an hour. Christian Care Home also agreed to cover health insurance rates and cover payouts for unfair labor practices. This is another striking example of what it looks like to take action to secure dignified labor.

As we celebrate St Joseph the Worker today, we recall all workers who have experienced injustice and sought better working conditions for themselves and those around them. The teachers going on strike, and all teachers across the United States, are shaping our education system and forming the young women and men who will soon enter the workforce, and serve as our politicians, engineers, and innovators. Their contribution to the common good cannot be understated. All workers deserve dignity, fair compensation, and safe work environments that allow them to shape our shared future and contribute to the common good.

My Family’s Immigration Story

My Family’s Immigration Story

Monsieree de Castro
February 21, 2018

Allow me to tell you all a (very common) story about “chain migration,” a portion of the immigration system the current administration and members of Congress are trying to eliminate.

In 1977, my father was petitioned by my aunt, who was living in Seattle, to come join her in the United States using the sibling category of family reunification (what some offensively refer to as “chain migration”). The waiting process for family visas can take decades, and my father waited 17 years to have his papers approved for him to come to the United States. It wasn’t until 1994 that we as a family finally stepped foot on American soil for the first time.

It has been 24 years of struggling in a country that more often than not makes you feel unwanted for your brown skin and foreign customs, but also 24 years filled with triumphs and success. My parents have held multiple jobs since we first came to this country, from caregiver to custodian. Today, our family has grown and my siblings and I lead successful lives and are all contributing taxpayers and members of the community. Of my siblings, we currently have a Director working in social services at the Asian Counseling and Referral Service, an IT professional working for Paul Allen’s business/philanthropy, an accountant providing her skills at a hospital, and finally, the youngest and most Americanized sibling, foolishly pursuing her dreams in the most American way possible; living and working in politics in Washington DC hoping to contribute to the country that has given so much to her. Additionally, major props to my awesome parents and each of my siblings who all own their own homes, collectively owning 5 pieces of real estate across the Seattle area (I’m clearly the millennial of the clan, probably eating avocado toast instead of buying a house).

My family’s story is not at all unique. This is the story of millions of Americans who come here seeking the opportunity for a better life. This is the simplified version of the story, leaving out the heartaches of visas that were never approved after years of waiting, and parts of our family that continue to be split apart (no, you can’t “bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives,” there are countless restrictions). This is also the story of a privileged family that was lucky enough to have a pathway to pursue the American dream and citizenship, and had the economic stability to wait 17 years to have a visa approved.

The current administration claims that the program that allowed my family to come and succeed in the United States needs to be eliminated for the sake of the “economy and the future of America”. But Mr. President, I am CERTAIN that allowing families like mine to be welcomed into this country is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY for the success of our economy and future of our great nation.

Monsieree de Castro is a former NETWORK associate. She currently works at Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights.

In 2018, We Commit to Activism

In 2018, We Commit to Activism

Claudia Brock
January 17, 2018

I felt rejuvenated when I came back to work in the New Year. That is, until I opened my email to find a 33-page document my colleague had emailed me detailing why 2018 will make 2017 seem tame. All I could think was, Are you kidding me??

As I thought of all of the work that the NETWORK community did in 2017 I was reminded of Kimmy from the Netflix series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt declaring “you can do anything for 10 seconds!” as she turns a heavy mental crank in her underground bunker. She starts out smiling and cheery as she counts, “1, 2, 3, 4…” but by the time she reaches number 5 she is straining and once she is at number 9 you are not sure if she will make it. But when she finishes, she goes right back to smiling with another round of cranking, starting at number 1. If you have not yet seen the show you can get a visual here.

Remaining politically active right now can feel a lot like we are Kimmy turning her heavy crank. At first we are energized and willing to tackle the task, but as we keep going our energy wanes and it gets harder and harder until we are right back in the grind with another important issue. If one thing about our work in 2018 is clear it is that we really need YOU. We need you to keep making calls to your legislators; we need you to schedule lobby visits in your district; we need you to be engaged in whatever way you can be.

Around 80% of New Year’s resolutions are abandoned by February. So if you are looking for a new resolution or a way to amend your current one to make it a bit more realistic, here are 3 ways you can resolve to be a better activist in 2018:

  1. Claim your title

NBC News reported that millennial men are 15% more likely to call themselves activists than millennial women. What makes this discrepancy more disconcerting is that most nonprofits are led by women and most phone calls to Congress have been made– you guessed it– by women! If you are a person who believes in political or social change and are taking part in activities to make this happen, then you are an activist. Resolve to claim both your title and your power and continue to work towards your vision of society.

  1. Use listening and storytelling as a form of activism

Being an activist does not have to mean hosting the next Women’s March; it can be as simple as seeking out new perspectives on issues. Use the experiences of others to expand your understanding of an issue and be open to updating your position. You can intentionally watch documentaries, read books by authors of color to get their perspective, or resolve to have a transformative conversation.

When going on a lobby visit, calling your Member of Congress, or even posting a position on your Facebook page, be sure to not just post facts and figures, but to ground your policy position in stories about human realities. Talk about a family member who has lost their health care or a friend who is undocumented to bring a human face to policies that can often feel abstract.

  1. Find balance and community

In these turbulent political times it is so easy to feel overwhelmed with all there is to do. Resolve to find a balance in your activism that leaves you feeling engaged but not over-extended. Whether it is incorporating a daily phone call to your Member of Congress into your lunch break or writing an email to your legislator once a week, find an action and frequency that works for you and add it into your routine; soon it will become a beneficial habit.

Taking action as part of a community might also help you stick to your political engagement resolutions. Find a buddy to make phone calls to Congress with so you are not tempted to hang up when you are put on hold, or go to a town hall meeting with a family member. Tackling an action with another person can make activism fun and connect you to other people working hard to create social change.

I am so thankful for all of the actions that our community of justice-seekers took in 2017. Now let’s see what we can accomplish in 2018!

Who Are We the People?

2020 Census: Who Are We the People?

Lily Ryan
August 10, 2017

With the many ups and downs of health care and immigration over the last seven months, I’ve found myself quoting numbers and statistics all the time: Who receives benefits from what programs; which states have the most to lose if the ACA was overturned; numbers that illustrate immigration’s positive impacts of on a state and national level.

Thinking deeper into each of these data points, a more basic question emerges—from “Who are the people who will be affected?” to “Who are the people?” Every ten years we have a constitutionally-mandated census and we as a country get to ask this question: “Who is here?” The answer we find shapes legislation, budgets, and federal policies and programs for the next ten years.

Catholic tradition tells us that every person matters and that no one deserves to be left behind. The 2020 Census is an opportunity to affirm the presence and worth of our entire population, most especially those who have been left out of the minds and hearts of lawmakers. As people of conscience and members of a diverse and changing society, it is our duty to make sure everyone is counted and treated with dignity, and the fate of funding for the 2020 Census will have a major impact on whether or not we can succeed.

The U.S. Census Bureau is one of the most overlooked agencies in the federal government, but its work has an enormous impact on the functioning of the rest of government. As Congress shifts its focus to the federal budget, funding for the Census Bureau at the level needed to gather an accurate picture of the United States in 2020 is in serious jeopardy.

Funding for the census in the Fiscal Year 2018 budget will either establish or prevent an effective and efficient 2020 Census process . The GOP and the White House have signaled their reticence to allocate adequate funding to the census, focusing particular ire on the Census Bureau’s modernized techniques, including statistical and spatial analysis in combination with traditional mail-in and door-to-door surveys.

Full funding of the census must be a budget priority starting now because an effective census process will ensure a more accurate count of the population. Insufficient counting methods have, in the past, led to an undercount of some populations and an overcount of others.

The populations most likely to be undercounted- low-income people, people of color, young children and undocumented immigrants- are also the groups who are most at-risk as the GOP and Trump administration seek to make cuts to social programs. An undercount of these populations in the 2020 Census would only compound the exclusion and damage caused by the GOP’s draconian budget proposals.

An accurate census count will have long-lasting ramifications on the allocation of federal money for programs that help low-income families with healthcare and child care, provide job training and employment programs to people without jobs, and promote safe and healthy communities across the country. In a time of alternative facts and fake news, we should all agree that the census is something we need to get right.

Lily Ryan is a summer intern with the NETWORK Communications team.

Time for Moral Leadership on Census

NETWORK Lobby Position on Funding the Census

Download as a print-friendly PDF to share with your friends, or elected officials!

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NETWORK believes it is every citizen’s right and responsibility to participate in the political process. No individual or community should be disenfranchised by federal policy. A modern, accurate, and equitable 2020 Census is necessary for a fair democracy in which everybody counts.

What We Know

Since 1790, the U.S. Census Bureau has conducted a count of the country’s population every 10 years, as required by the U.S. Constitution. In conjunction with this count, the American Community Survey (ACS) gathers more detailed information on the changing economic and social conditions of the population. Both of these programs are crucial for informing policymakers, apportioning Congressional districts, and distributing over $450 billion in federal program funding each year that is used for public healthcare, education, development, transportation, housing, the enforcement of civil rights, and much more.

Our Values
  • Our faith traditions compel us to care for those most in need, and providing adequate funding for an effective 2020 Census is a crucial prerequisite for federal policies and programs to respond to the needs of marginalized communities.
  • Our faith mandates that everybody counts.
  • Political participation is vital to fulfilling the moral obligation to concern ourselves with the common good and to strive for a just society.

Investing in the Common Good

The census and ACS are crucial sources of information for state and local governments, researchers, businesses, and many other stakeholders working for the common good. Despite the importance of this Constitutional requirement, preparation for the 2020 Census is threatened by uncertain and insufficient funding. A failure to provide adequate funding for the Census Bureau will not only impact the effectiveness of the census, but also cost taxpayers billions of dollars as the Census Bureau is forced to fall back on more costly counting methods of the past.  For effective governance to respond to the needs of the people and promote the common good, we need to invest in Census Bureau preparations so that nobody is left out.

Federal Policies Must Mend Gaps, not Widen Them

Providing adequate funding for an effective and accurate 2020 Census is a crucial prerequisite for federal policies and programs to respond to the needs of marginalized communities. Past decennial censuses have tended to undercount communities of color, people experiencing poverty, young children, and rural residents. The systematic undercounting of these communities decreases their access to federal funding and proportional representation. If the Census Bureau is not able to ramp up spending to conduct necessary tests and prepare for 2020, we fear that these gaps in the census will persist.

A modern, accurate, and equitable 2020 Census is needed for effective governance to promote the common good. Many of the programs that help to mend the gaps in our society and allow all to live in dignity depend on data from the decennial census. The 2020 Census will have implications for the funding of:

  • Rural business and industry development loans
  • Job training and other employment programs under the Job Training Partnership Act
  • Health care for infants and children
  • Child care to enable low-income and working families to work, train for a job, or obtain an education
  • Water and waste disposal systems
  • Policing agencies and community-based entities to work together to reduce crime
  • Monitoring and enforcing employment discrimination laws under the Civil Rights Act
  • Local agencies for food, health care, and legal services for senior citizens and individuals with disabilities

An underfunded, inaccurate 2020 Census would skew the projections of needed resources and programs away from the communities that need them. An equitable census is the foundation for a society in which everybody has a chance for success, all have dignity, and everybody counts.

What Congress Can Do Now

Ramp up Census Bureau funding in FY 2018:
The Trump Administration’s request of $1.5 billion for the Census Bureau is woefully inadequate. Congress should ensure the Census Bureau has adequate resources to prepare for the 2020 Census in the crucial FY 2018 budget year.

Oppose efforts to weaken the Census:
Congress must oppose efforts that would steer money away from the Census Bureau to other programs funded by the Commerce, Justice, and Science bill. We also urge Congress to oppose any amendments during consideration of FY 2018 appropriations bills that would change the mandatory status of the American Community Survey

Blog: Concluding the 114th Congress, Moving Right Along to the 115th

Concluding the 114th Congress, Moving Right Along to the 115th

Sister Marge Clark
December 20, 2016

The 114th Congress ground to a halt about 1:00 a.m. on Saturday, December 10 after just barely managing to not shut down the government.  A vote passed extending 2016 funding levels into the seventh month of fiscal year 2017. We strongly believe, however, that one temporary Continuing Resolution (CR) after another is no way to responsibly fund our government.

As we prepare to enter 2017, NETWORK continues work to support all at the margins of society due to unemployment or under-employment, immigration status, health issues, and many other concerns. Our 2020 Policy Vision guides our lobbying, outreach, and education to mend the access and wealth and income gaps that are rampant in our nation.  With this Continuing Resolution in place, the only means of increasing funding where absolutely necessary is through an anomaly.

NETWORK’s 2020 Vision did not fare well in the Continuing Resolution.  We focused our efforts on three items desperately needing increased funding and  advocated forincreased funding in each of the three following areas:

1. Census 2020

This is one area that did receive an increase from 2016 funding in the CR. The Census Bureau will be allowed to spend money earlier in the cycle, in an attempt to meet urgent planning needs.  This does not give the Census Bureau additional money, as had been requested. Instead, it leaves them with the same uncertainty about long-term funding for comprehensive planning in many areas, including: the census communications campaign, development of in-language materials, updating address lists, and adequate enumerator training, not to mention making progress on updating all census IT systems and cyber-security protocols. Using this money will also reduce the funds available to conduct the annual American Community Survey which provides important data on economic and healthcare status used by many departments.

2. Refugee Resettlement

Meeting this grave responsibility requires sufficient funding for the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to welcome and support refugees as they strive to adapt and to thrive in the United States. In FY 2016, $1.67 billion in funding was calculated to serve 75,000 (and in the end assisted 85,000). The United States announced that, due to the global refugee crisis, we would accept 110,000. However, increased funding (a minimum of $2.18 million required to support the additional refugees, unaccompanied children and trafficking survivors) was not provided.

One allowance was made, if needed, for the housing and care of unaccompanied children, with the recognition that, due to the variability in the increased number of children coming into the country, it is possible that additional funds may be needed for this population.

3. Housing

Housing in the United States continues to be in short, and expensive, supply for households with low- or no-income. Federal rental assistance is critical for there to be available, affordable housing units. Thousands of public housing units are lost each year, from deterioration and lack of repair. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of families and individuals are homeless, living with others, in shelters, and even living on the streets. For many, they are unable to get rental assistance vouchers to help pay rent. NETWORK advocated for funding to at least be able to support the number of vouchers already in use, as well as funding to repair public housing. These requests, however, were not honored in the CR. The existing number of vouchers supported by the 2016 funds cannot be supported at 2017 costs. Additionally, owners’ costs will increase and those costs will be passed on to renters who are unable to cover that increase. This leaves federal housing assistance to cover the gap. Ultimately, with this CR, more households face homelessness.  A small increase was given for rural housing, in the Agriculture appropriation.

Our elected officials have left Washington for their winter break – to be with family, celebrate the holidays, and perhaps vacation. The same enjoyment is not available for members of our communities who rely on some government assistance to live a life with dignity. This may be a person sleeping on the street, a refugee stuck in a camp somewhere in the world, or those who will not be counted in the 2020 census, leading to inadequate funding for future years of “promoting the general welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…”  We hope all legislators take a moment during their time away from Washington to reflect on the needs of the common good.