Category Archives: Women and Families

Advent 2022: Better Neighbors Care for New Moms

NETWORK Lobby offers Advent reflections

Advent 2022: Better Neighbors Care for New Moms

Laura Peralta-Schulte
December 19, 2022

Reflection:

When we reflect on the coming of Jesus at Christmas, one detail is very striking as a person who have given birth: God decided to incorporate the birthing of a healthy baby – under far from ideal circumstances – into the salvation plan of the world.

Everything touched by God is forever transformed. And with Christmas now so near – the birth of Jesus so imminent – we should remember that welcoming Jesus into the world means supporting something sacred: maternal health.

The U.S. faces a devastating maternal health crisis. Over 800 women died due to pregnancy or childbirth in 2020, a record high. There are two concrete ways that justice-seekers can confront this crisis right now.

Call to Action:

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would guarantee pregnant workers a right to reasonable, medically-necessary accommodations, closing gaps in current law that have left too many pregnant workers unprotected for too long. Pregnant workers are routinely denied basic, temporary accommodations to ensure a healthy pregnancy. These are often as simple as a stool to sit on, a break from lifting heavy boxes, schedule changes, and protection from dangerous conditions. Many pregnant workers face undue pressures to take an often-unpaid leave of absence, which leads them to poverty. Despite current protections included in the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (the last time we passed any sort of legislation to protect pregnant workers), over 37,000 pregnancy discrimination charges have been filed between 2010 and 2020 with the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The establishment of nationwide 12-month postpartum Medicaid coverage would reduce disparities in coverage across states, eliminate racial inequities in maternal health outcomes, and end preventable maternal deaths. Extending Medicaid coverage from the current requirement of 60-days postpartum to 12-months nationwide is critical to lowering the nation’s maternal mortality rate. Medicaid covers at least 40 percent of all births in the U.S., a disproportionate number of which are to Black, Latinx, and Native American people.

Read more about NETWORK’s support for the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.

The legislative priorities not passed before the end of the 117th Congress will continue to be priorities of NETWORK in 2023 and beyond!

Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut speaks at a Dec. 15 press conference urging Congress to pass the Child Tax Credit.

Champion For Families: In Conversation With Rosa DeLauro

Champion For Families: In Conversation With Rosa DeLauro

NETWORK Staff
December 15, 2022
Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut speaks at a Dec. 15 press conference urging Congress to pass the Child Tax Credit.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut speaks at a Dec. 15 press conference urging Congress to pass the Child Tax Credit.

Numerous champions for Catholic Social Justice have walked the Halls of Congress since NETWORK’s founding 50 years ago, but when it comes to advocacy on behalf of families, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who has served in the House since 1991, is both peerless and tireless.

As chair of the House Committee on Appropriations, the Congresswoman is currently leading the push to get the Child Tax Credit (CTC) included with the legislation Congress must pass before the end of this session. On a recent episode of NETWORK’s podcast, Just Politics, she explained why the CTC makes such a difference in the lives of families.

The following is an excerpt of that conversation:

NETWORK: Your background is in labor organizing, and you experienced poverty early on in your life. How do these experiences shape the work that you do as a member of Congress?

Rep. DeLauro: What has had the most effect on who I am, what I’m about, and what issues I take up has to do with being brought up in an Italian Catholic family, with a mother who was a union member and a garment worker in an old sweat shop in New Haven. She used to have me meet her there every day after school. It was a dark, noisy, dirty place, with women hunched over sewing machines. They never took a lunch break. They worked as fast as they could because you got paid by the number of dresses or shirt collars that you made. Oftentimes you would get the needle in your finger, but you never went to a clinic or got a tetanus shot, you just wrapped up your hand and kept going because you had to produce in order to provide for your family. I didn’t realize until I was an adult that my mom had been showing me what the circumstances were for mostly immigrant women. So my work on workplace safety, minimum wage, and equal pay for equal work draws from that experience.

And, we were evicted when I was 9 or 10 years old—finding our possessions on the street because my parents had a tough time financially. We wound up having to live with my grandmother until we could get back up on our feet again. My parents would tell me, “Get an education, so that you don’t have to do this.” Coming from an immigrant family who believes education is the root to success, I want to make sure that we are funding education because it is the great equalizer for families.

All of these experiences propel me to work on the issues you talk about. Union organizing, equal pay, living wage, a child tax credit… that work doesn’t come from just sitting in this institution for all these years. It comes directly out of my and my family’s experience, which has been my guidepost.


NETWORK: You mentioned the Child Tax Credit, which you were able to get into the American Rescue Plan. We know that the CTC lifted 2.1 million children out of poverty in 2021. What pro-family policies are you currently working to get into Appropriations now?

Rep. DeLauro: We are not done with the CTC. It has been a lifeline for working, middle class, and vulnerable families. Some people demeaned these families by saying they wouldn’t go to work if they got a child tax credit, or that they would spend the money foolishly. But what did they spend it on? Food, clothing, diapers, childcare so that they could go to work, mortgage payments, and rent payments. Now, we need to continue to fight for the CTC.

$1.3 trillion every single year goes through the various Appropriations subcommittees. There is so much contained within Appropriations bills that has a direct effect on children, families, and workers. Title I, special education, early childhood, childcare, health, nutrition, broadband, technical schools, worker training, apprenticeships, mental health… all of these are within the Appropriations Committee purview, and they’ve had years of disinvestment. So that’s where I focus my time and attention. Our job is to make this government work for people.

With cost of living today, people are struggling, living paycheck to paycheck. During the pandemic, we saw women being pushed out of the workforce. Childcare was collapsing. These things are all integrated. It is our obligation—our moral responsibility—to address these issues so that we can have a safe and secure future.


NETWORK: You understand the intersection of labor issues and women’s issues better than just about anyone. Here at NETWORK Lobby, we strongly support a national family and medical leave program that provides comprehensive leave with progressive wage replacement, job protection for all workers, and more inclusive definitions of family. Can you tell us what might the future hold for something like paid family leave?

Rep. DeLauro: No one decides to get sick, either themselves or their family. You’re then faced with the choice of your family, your own health, or your job. I learned about family and medical leave from my work with Senator Chris Dodd. Though we could not at the time get it to be paid leave, it has been tremendously helpful. However, many cannot take advantage of it because they can’t be without wages.

To tell you my own two stories, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1986. I said to my then-boss, Sen. Dodd, “I’m going to the hospital.” I did not even know if I would ever return. He said to me, “Go get well, the job is here, your salary is here.” We had three kids and we were paying for their school. And two and a half months later, I went back to work and never missed a paycheck. Fast forward to 5 years ago, my mother was very ill at 103 years old, and I spent the last six weeks of her life with her. Nobody said, “You’re no longer a member of Congress.” Now if this is good enough for a staff member of an enlightened U.S. Senator, or the institution which I now serve, then it’s good for everybody else in this country. I introduced paid family and medical leave in 2013. We have made some progress on it, but we’re not there yet. We are going to continue to move!


NETWORK: You wrote a book about how these issues relate to your Catholic faith, called The Least Among Us: Waging the Battle of the Vulnerable.” What do you wish more people of faith understood about what the Gospel demands of us in the work for social justice?

Rep. DeLauro: This is so, so important to me. The rich Catholic heritage is grounded in social justice and economic justice. Leo XIII didn’t call it “social security;” he said that we have an obligation and a responsibility to take care of older people.

I was at Pope Francis’ inauguration, and he said that those of us who serve in public life have an obligation to be like Saint Joseph—to take care of family, to be inclusive, to look out for one another. I stood in St. Peter’s square with my colleague Rep. Anna Eshoo, and we were crying, because we have waited so long to hear those words. It’s who we are. It’s the ground that we stand on.

Everything that we do here impacts the wellbeing of people, and that is a responsibility. I end my book by recalling Robert Kennedy’s call to action, which is the way I feel about my faith in government. In Robert Kennedy’s words, “I believe that as long as there is plenty, poverty is evil. Government belongs wherever evil needs an adversary and there are people in distress.” I dream of an American future where all agree that anyone’s poverty is all of our business.

We have to continue to spread the word. I look forward to many more years of being an ally with you!

From NETWORK: Write a Letter to the Editor Supporting the Child Tax Credit

Advent 2022: Better Neighbors Welcome Their Neighbor

NETWORK Lobby offers Advent reflections

Advent 2022: Better Neighbors Welcome Their Neighbor

Sr. Eilis McCulloh, HM
December 12, 2022

Reflection:

The story is familiar. Mary and Joseph. No room at the inn. Giving birth in a barn. As Christians, spend this season commemorating their flight to Egypt where Mary gives birth to the Messiah.

Today, a “flight into the desert” evokes something different. We see and hear about families who must make the decision to leave everything they have and know in order to escape violence, crushing poverty, and other threats to their very existence. They courageously decide to make the perilous journey north. Their journey takes them north to the United States Southern Border where, instead of being welcomed with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, they are questioned by border police, detained in freezing detention centers, and bussed (against their will) to northern cities as punishment.

But, aren’t migrants today’s version of the Holy Family? Both flee with the hope of safety and an opportunity for their children to flourish. Instead, the United States, the richest country in their world, punishes migrants at every turn by invoking punitive immigrantion polices and refusing to act on legislation that could transform the lives of our immigrant neighbors living in the United States.

Yes, Advent is a time of waiting, but it is also a time of welcoming and a time of change. In 2013, Pope Francis said, “Migrants and refugees are. Or pawns on the chessboard of humanity.” Our immigrant neighbors have waited far too long and have been used as scapegoats in political play. Now is the time to create a pathway to citizenship to the more than 689,000 individuals who have DACA.

¡Que Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe!
Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, ruega por nosotros.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas, pray for us.

Call to Action:

It is beyond time for just and humane immigration reform that creates a path to citizenship through federal legislation. Join NETWORK Lobby in calling for Congress to act NOW!

Denying undocumented communities a pathway to citizenship holds us back from having a thriving society where everyone is valued. There is no doubt the contributions of immigrant youth, farmworkers, DACA and TPS holders are essential for our communities and our country.

Tell Congress to act now to pass a pathway to citizenship!

Faith-based Organizations Call for End of Year Health Care Policy for Vulnerable Communities

Faith-based Organizations Call for an End-of-Year Funding Package that Prioritizes Health Care for Vulnerable Communities

Laura Peralta-Schulte
December 6, 2022

Dear Member of Congress,

The undersigned organizations from the Washington Interreligious Staff Community (WISC) Health Care Working Group write to urge you to advance an end-of-year funding package that prioritizes health care for vulnerable communities. We are grateful for significant healthcare advancements made since the beginning of the 117th Congress to expand healthcare and create greater health equity, and we believe Congress must take further action to better protect the health and economic security of vulnerable populations.

Guided by the belief that healthcare is a fundamental human right, our organizations work each day to protect existing domestic healthcare programs and increase access to quality, affordable, and equitable health care. Our diverse faith traditions compel us to protect the most vulnerable among us – including individuals in rural areas, low-income people, People of Color, Indigenous people, immigrants, people with disabilities and chronic illnesses, and seniors and children. Many populations, including those listed above, face unique barriers to obtaining comprehensive care and continue to experience significant healthcare disparities.

We urge Congress to pass an end-of-year funding package that includes the following provisions:

Promote Continuous and Expanded Medicaid and CHIP Coverage

Over the past three years, the uninsured rate in the United States has reached a record low and
Medicaid and CHIP enrollment has increased, in part due to continuous coverage requirements implemented under the COVID-19 public health emergency. Given that the public health emergency will likely expire in the coming months, however, these continuous coverage requirements will also cease. Between 5 and 14 million people are expected to lose coverage, and people with disabilities, individuals with limited English proficiency, and those who moved since the pandemic began are at the greatest risk.

Provide 12 Months of Continuous Eligibility for Adults and Children

Because each state manages Medicaid and CHIP programs within federal guidelines, there is
tremendous variation in the scope of services available across the United States. Congress must heed the lessons of recent years and guarantee 12 months of continuous eligibility for adults and children through Medicaid and CHIP to avoid large scale disruption of coverage. Continuous eligibility for children and adults in Medicaid and CHIP ensures that people will remain eligible for Medicaid coverage or for CHIP for a one-year period, regardless of changes in their family’s income. While all vulnerable populations would benefit from this action, there are long-term benefits for children as those with health coverage are more likely to show improved health, lower rates of disability, and greater financial security in adulthood. By guaranteeing continuous Medicaid or CHIP eligibility in every state, Congress can advance health equity by promoting continuity of treatment for low-income individuals who
experience disproportionate rates of health disparities.

Provide 12 Months of Postpartum Coverage

Providing continuous Medicaid coverage for one year postpartum is critical to improving maternal and child health outcomes. While Medicaid finances roughly 40 percent of births in the United States, including 59 percent of births to Hispanic mothers and 65 percent of births to Black mothers, federal law only requires states to continue covering these mothers for 60 days postpartum. One-third of pregnancy-related deaths occur postpartum, including almost 12 percent that occur in the late postpartum period (between 43 and 365 days postpartum). Even as the American Rescue Plan Act allowed states to extend coverage via a state plan amendment, only half of states have or are planning to do so. Yet the need for postpartum medical care does not end after two months; in fact, over 70 percent of postpartum spending occurs between three and twelve months after delivery, as continuous postpartum care is critical for detecting postpartum depression, birth-related complications, and other
chronic conditions. Congress must provide 12 months of postpartum coverage to ensure that mothers can continue accessing life-saving care beyond 60 days.

Increase Medicaid Funding to the U.S. Territories

Due to limitations in the funding statute, Medicaid programs in the territories operate differently than Medicaid programs in the states. First, although federal funding covers a specified share of each state’s Medicaid spending, the territories receive federal funding via temporary fixed block grants that are inadequate to meet their needs. Second, while the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) in the states is tied to per capita income, the FMAP in the territories is fixed at artificially low levels, even as per capita income is lower than the poorest states.

As a result of these unequal funding structures, the territories face a looming Medicaid cliff, and even recent improvements to the territories’ Medicaid programs are in jeopardy. While a recent Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services interpretation determined that future allotments in Puerto Rico (which is still recovering from Hurricane Fiona) should increase from $400 million to $3 billion, Congress is facing pressure to reverse that interpretation, which would cause the 2023 allotment to plummet. Similarly, although the 2022 Consolidated Appropriations Act temporarily increased the FMAP from 55 percent to 76 percent for Puerto Rico and 83 percent for Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa, the FMAPs will revert to 55 percent on December 16 absent Congressional action. Given that most residents in the territories are People of Color, this is a racial
justice issue.

Congress must act swiftly to avert the funding cliff. Most urgently, Congress should maintain the CMS interpretation on Puerto Rico, increase the block grant allotments for all territories, and maintain or increase the federal matching rates to align with the states. In the long term, Congress must reform the funding structure for the territories’ Medicaid programs to ensure they can operate at parity with state Medicaid programs.

Addressing the Black Maternal Health Crisis

Congress must also take bold action to address the maternal health crisis that disproportionately affects Communities of Color. Black mothers in the United States three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women, while Hispanic, Native American, and Asian American and Pacific Islander people experience disproportionate mortality and morbidity rates as well. To address these disparities, Congress must include the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act (S.346/H.R.959) in end of the year legislation. This package invests in social determinants of health, funds community-based organizations seeking to improve maternal health outcomes, and expands and diversifies the perinatal workforce.

Increase COVID-19 Funding

While the United States has made significant progress since the beginning of COVID-19, the virus poses an ongoing danger to the country. Each day, the United States still experiences hundreds of deaths and thousands of new hospitalizations and reported cases. Long COVID remains a significant threat, already affecting 16 million U.S. adults and has forcing up to 4 million people out of the workforce. As public health protections fade and individual protective measures prove insufficient, the sustained spread places everyone (especially people with disabilities, immunocompromised people, and the elderly) at significant risk.

Continued harm from COVID-19 is not inevitable, and Congress must act swiftly to increase COVID-19 funding. The federal government has already begun to run out of money to continue its pandemic response, resulting in a dramatic contraction in free rapid tests, personal protective equipment, and treatments. The lack of funding has also limited the federal government’s ability to raise awareness about bivalent boosters, monitor cases, and conduct research into new vaccines and treatments.

Three years into the pandemic, we cannot accept this devastation as our new normal. As the United States faces a projected winter surge, and as pediatric emergency rooms and intensive care units become overrun due to RSV and flu, Congress must act quickly to mitigate COVID-19 and ensure that hospitals remain functional. We urge Congress to provide robust funding and partner with federal, state, and local officials to confront the ongoing pandemic.

Conclusion

Health inequities in the United States are the result of a long history of systemic racism, ableism, classism, and other forms of oppression. All our faiths call us to end these stark divides and ensure that everyone has access to quality, affordable, and equitable medical care. Congress must work to promote continuous and expanded Medicaid coverage, increase Medicaid funding to the territories, address the Black maternal health crisis, and increase COVID-19 funding, we will fail to eliminate the inequities that have plagued the United States for far too long. We urge you to support a year-end funding package that advances these priorities.

Sincerely,
Alliance of Baptists
American Muslim Health Professionals
Bread for the World
Church and Society Team, Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference of the United Methodist Church
Church World Service
Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, U.S. Provinces
Friends Committee on National Legislation
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Council of Jewish Women
National Latino Evangelical Coalition
Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Justice Team
Sojourners
The Episcopal Church
The Presbyterian Church (USA): Washington Office of Public Witness & Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations
The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society
Union for Reform Judaism
Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice
United Church of Christ

Advent 2022: Better Neighbors Set the Oppressed Free

NETWORK Lobby offers Advent reflections

Advent 2022: Better Neighbors Set The Oppressed Free

Min. Christian Watkins
December 5, 2022

Reflection:

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus proclaims the words of the prophet Isaiah and in doing so, makes very clear why he’s been sent among us:

“…to proclaim liberty to captives and to set the oppressed free…”

During Advent, as we prepare to welcome him with the observance of Christmas, these words should challenge us still. If Jesus is sent to proclaim liberty to people in captivity and freedom for those oppressed, how can we claim that he is with us in the U.S. today?

In a culture that seeks to denigrate and ignore entire groups of people, including the elderly and the sick, the U.S. holds some especially dubious distinctions when it comes to incarcerated people. With over 2 million of our people in prisons, the U.S. is the most incarcerated country in the world – not only in raw numbers of people behind bars but also our incarceration rate (639 per 100,000 people, according to the World Prison Brief).

Is this really the land of the free?

It’s even worse when race is taken into account. Despite being only 12 percent of the adult population, Black people account for over a third of those incarcerated in the U.S. That number climbs to over half when Black and Latinx people are counted together. The horrible combination of overly punitive drug policy, excessive sentencing, and the use of for-profit prisons makes for, in many ways, a form of legal slavery. It’s so bad that reform of the U.S. criminal legal system actually enjoys some bipartisan support.

Emmanuel means “God with us,” so for us to gather near to Jesus this Christmas season, we should remember the “with us” that Jesus himself said he came to proclaim his Good News to. Jesus is our melaninated Savior from the southern part of Jerusalem who was unjustly imprisoned shortly before having his life snuffed out in a shameful, public, state-sponsored execution. However, as his followers comprise the Body of Christ still in the world today, we can cooperate in his saving work by helping bring “liberty to captives and freedom from oppression.

Call to Action:

The EQUAL Act is bipartisan legislation that seeks to eliminate the disparity in sentencing for cocaine offenses, a major contributor to mass incarceration. It would apply retroactively to those already convicted or sentenced. As people of faith, we cannot continue to tolerate racial profiling, brutality and hyper-militarization in policing, the loss of future generations to mass incarceration, or the perpetuation of poverty. We affirm the truth that every person is entitled to dignity and equitable justice under law.

Help us ensure that the EQUAL Act is included in the Senate’s must-pass legislation by the end of this year.

Advent 2022: Better Neighbors Show Mercy to Families

NETWORK Lobby offers Advent reflections

Advent 2022: Better Neighbors Show Mercy to Families

Colin Martinez Longmore
November 28, 2022

Reflection:

The iconic image that so many people associate with Advent is the Holy Family – the baby Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, usually huddled in a stable and surrounded by livestock.

It’s not an auspicious start for the Son of the living God. A family that has no place to stay and barely any resources to get by is something we still associate with the margins of society. It’s clear that God wants to associate with humility and poverty.

But what happens next matters. In the Gospel infancy narratives – and our Christmas holiday traditions – we see people respond to this vulnerable family with effusive displays of mercy. The shepherds come to praise him. The magi arrive with their gifts. This is how they respond to a child born into poverty.

The Corporal Works of Mercy, understood by Catholics, are: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, shelter the homeless, visit the sick and imprisoned, give alms to the poor, and bury the dead. The visit of the magi brought with it not only material assistance (gold), but resources used in the care of the sick (frankincense) and the dead (myrrh). The mercy of strangers helped the Holy Family to survive on their perilous journey during the infancy of Jesus.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus invokes a similar set of criteria for those who will join him in paradise. “For you saw me hungry and you fed me.” “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” It is by participation in these concrete acts of mercy that we believe we too shall be shown mercy. And as Jesus points out, it in doing these acts of mercy that we directly encounter and come to know him, our Savior.

As Christians gather around manger displays in anticipation of another Christmas, it’s still good to reflect on how struggling families are getting by today. As with the Holy Family, it may still require the extraordinary intervention of personal strangers. Except instead of songs of praise and expensive gifts, we can offer acts of mercy through political action.

The Child Tax Credit, which was expanded in both size and scope for only one year as part of the American Rescue Plan, lifted 2.1 million children out of poverty in 2021. It stabilized the finances of more than 36 million families, including 62 million children, and resulted in 716,000 fewer Black children and 1.2 million fewer Latino children in poverty. Now NETWORK is pushing to get the Child Tax Credit once again included in the end-of-year tax package, but we need your help.

Call to Action:

You can take action to help support the Child Tax Credit by calling your Senators. Tell them that Congress has an incredible chance to drastically reduce child poverty by ensuring the Child Tax Credit makes it into the end-of-year tax package, and you expect them to act on behalf of the children in your state.

CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 Promotes Gender and Racial Equity in STEM Workplaces

CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 Promotes Gender and Racial Equity in STEM Workplaces

Gina Kelley
August 4, 2022

In a difficult year for the care economy, there has been a small but impactful victory.

The CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, passed on July 28, includes a key caregiving provision. The provision entitled “Broadening Participation in Science” increases flexibility for individuals working in the sciences when they have caregiving responsibilities. This increased flexibility promotes gender and racial equity in STEM workplaces and ensures people have the time they need to care for their loved ones.

NETWORK has worked on the need for paid family and medical leave and other policies that support caregivers for decades. While many industries still struggle to create environments that encourage equity and diversity, women and especially women of color in STEM fields are faced with both barriers to entry and internal barriers to full participation.

This provision is a critical step towards ensuring no people in STEM fields are penalized for having caregiving responsibilities. Specifically, the provision requires every federal science agency to establish policies that allow for flexibility regarding the timing of federal research grants if a principal investigator of a grant has a caregiving role. This provision does not alter the benefit policies at any individual institution but instead removes barriers currently in place by encouraging flexibility for specifically outlined responsibilities.

Providing support to families in the STEM field is a necessary step to preventing impossible decisions between economic stability and their loved ones needs. This provision will help women in STEM fields stay working and combat biases that are present in the workplace while simultaneously encouraging more men to take on more caregiving responsibilities at home.

In June, NETWORK joined our organizational partners in sending a letter to the Conference Committee on Bipartisan Innovation and Competition Legislation in support of the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022. See the letter here:

USICA-COMPETES_ Caregiving Provision Support Letter

New Agreement Would Advance Healthcare, Tax Justice, and Climate Protections

New Agreement Would Advance Healthcare, Tax Justice, and Climate Protections

Laura Peralta-Schulte
August 1, 2022

On Wednesday, July 27, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) issued a joint statement announcing an agreement on moving the fiscal year 2022 budget reconciliation process forward. This announcement was welcome after months of ups and downs in Senate negotiations since the House passed its budget reconciliation package last fall.

This new bill—the Inflation Reduction Act—addresses tax reform, prescription drug reform and healthcare costs, as well as climate change. If passed, this bill would be a huge accomplishment by beginning to require the wealthy and corporations to pay their fair share of taxes, while tackling the long-standing crises of healthcare costs and climate change.

Key tax provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act include:

  • $313 billion in revenue raised from a 15% corporate minimum tax. This is critical to ensure that wealthy corporations pay taxes.
  • $124 billion in revenue raised from better IRS tax enforcement. This provides the IRS with money to improve customer service systems as well as ensuring the wealthy pay what they owe.
  • $14 billion in revenue raised from closing the carried interest loophole.

Key healthcare provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act include:

  • Prescription Drug Pricing: The legislation empowers Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices directly, ensuring that seniors get better deals on their medications, and caps Medicare beneficiaries’ out-of-pocket costs for drugs at $2,000 per year.
  • ACA Premium Tax Credits: The Inflation Reduction Act extends enhanced Affordable Care Act premium tax credits for the next three years to enable working families and individuals support to pay for insurance through the exchange.

Key climate provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act include:

  • Incentives for Consumers to Go Green: The legislation provides money for home energy rebates, consumer tax credits for energy-efficient homes and vehicles, and grants to make affordable housing more energy efficient. These measures would help reduce energy costs for families by more than 10% on average.

Unfortunately, this package leaves out high-level policy priorities for us at NETWORK including Medicaid expansion, paid leave, funding for affordable housing, expanding the Child Tax Credit, and more. However, given the political and time constraints, this bill will do a lot to advance economic justice and address other problems in healthcare and climate.

No Republican Senators support this bill, and one Senator, Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), is the only Democratic member who has not yet expressed her full support for the bill. Democrats need all 50 members of their caucus to vote “yes” to pass the legislation. Senate Democratic leadership is planning a vote on this package later this week.

The Dobbs Decision and NETWORK’s Continued Work for Racial and Economic Justice

The Dobbs Decision and NETWORK’s Continued Work for Racial and Economic Justice

The Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization will have deep ramifications in people’s lives, many of whom may not even realize it yet. Undoing nearly half a century of precedent and jurisprudence will undoubtedly have a disorienting and destabilizing impact on our laws, the provision of maternal health care, and our already fraught civil discourse. 

At NETWORK, we speak from five decades of women-led, person-centered advocacy and hundreds of encounters with women, families, and communities across the country that have been disinvested in, and marginalized by, our systems and structures. As a Catholic organization with 50 years of political ministry in a pluralistic democracy, we recognize the role and distinction of the moral and legal questions at issue here.   

This Supreme Court decision leaves NETWORK with the following questions from our perspective of pursuing justice and the common good through federal policy:  

  • Will state and federal legislatures now introduce and pass a groundswell of policies to offer a robust social safety net of resources for all women and families that allow everyone to thrive?  
  • Are religious leaders prepared to allocate resources through the largesse of their institutions and donors to ensure that any gaps in the social safety net are filled?  
  • Will this decision lead to an increase in maternal mortality for the people who are already the most lacking in access to resources in our society, especially women living in rural, low-income communities and women of color?   
  • Will state legislatures continue to pass invasive and punitive measures that create a culture of surveillance and criminalization of women, including those experiencing ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage?   
  • Will this decision create a chilling effect among medical providers, making them hesitant or unable to provide life-saving care to patients suffering conditions such as ectopic pregnancy or hemorrhaging after a miscarriage 

With polarization and extremist violence growing in our country, people of faith have a moral duty to work toward the common good across a spectrum of issues. Catholic teaching states that a focus on one moral priority cannot lead to “dismissing or ignoring other serious threats to human life and dignity” (“Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” #29).   

For anyone who has made ending federal protections for abortion the singular focus of their political activity, we at NETWORK urge you to expand your focus to include the economic realities of women and families. Now is the time to listen to the experience of women, particularly women living in rural, low-income communities and women of color. 

Founded by Catholic Sisters and imbued with their charisms, NETWORK educates, organizes, and lobbies to create a society that promotes justice and the dignity of all. We invite all who share our passion for justice to work with us to create a more just, equitable, and inclusive future.  

 Joan F. Neal is NETWORK’s deputy executive director and chief equity officer. Mary J. Novak is NETWORK’s executive director. Sr. Erin Zubal, OSU, is an Ursuline Sister of Cleveland and NETWORK’s chief of staff. 

20+ Faith Organizations Send Letter to Senate in Support of Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

20+ Faith Organizations Send Letter to Senate in Support of Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

Gina Kelley
June 23, 2022

In this 117th Congress, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is closer than ever to becoming law. For 10 years, a broad range of organizations have worked to get this critical piece of legislation to where it is today. Now, with strong bipartisan support and enough votes to overcome the filibuster, the faith community has come together to show the urgency and need for its passage. More than 20 leading faith organizations have sent a letter to every Senate office urging each Senator to prioritize the bill and to vote in support of the legislation.

The letter’s message: “The faith community values the dignity of work and the family. Pregnant workers and their families need the Senate’s action. In the face of infant formula shortages and national economic difficulties, families across the country need the PWFA. We also know that support for healthy pregnancies means support for pregnant workers. The Senate must deliver on the promise of a dignified life for working families.”

The time is now to give pregnant workers the dignity they deserve— it is time to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.

Read the full letter here.

The letter was signed by the following organizations: Catholic Labor Network; Christian Reformed Church Office of Social Justice; Church World Service; Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, U.S.; Council on American-Islamic Relations; Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, Washington D.C.; Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Franciscan Action Network; Friends Committee on National Legislation; ICNA Council for Social Justice; Justice Revival; Leadership Conference of Women Religious; National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd; National Council of Jewish Women; Pax Christi USA; Sojourners; The Episcopal Church; Union for Reform Judaism