Category Archives: Women and Families

Mending the Gaps Experienced by the LGBTQ+ Community

Mending the Gaps Experienced by the LGBTQ+ Community

Siena Ruggeri
June 7, 2019

NETWORK is proud to have supported the recent passage of the Equality Act in the House, and we urge the Senate to also pass this important legislation. While the Equality Act would extend critical anti-discrimination protections to the LGBTQ+ community in both the workplace and housing, many of NETWORK’s Mend the Gaps other issues have a direct impact on the LGBTQ+ community. As we work to mend the gaps in our nation, it is important to consider the challenges facing the LGBTQ+ community and ways federal policies can reduce those challenges.

Paid family leave, for example, is a significant issue for LGBTQ+ families. Even in areas and workplaces that do offer paid leave, LGBTQ+ families face an extra hurdle to taking the necessary time they need to be with their families. According to a survey by the Human Rights Campaign, 27% of LGBTQ+ people of color and 16% of LGBTQ+ white people say they are afraid to request time off to care for a loved one because it might disclose their LGBTQ identity. 44% of LGBTQ+ people of color are afraid of losing their job if they took paid leave, compared to 37% of their white counterparts.

Paid family leave is already challenging to access for countless families. LGBTQ+ workers have to disclose their gender identity or sexual orientation in order to access paid leave, putting them in a highly vulnerable spot. In our efforts to expand access to paid leave, we must intentionally include all types of families. This is why legislation like the FAMILY Act (H.R.1185) is so important to advance — this policy has a broad definition of family, allowing for all types of families, biological and chosen, to take equal advantage of paid leave.

LGBTQ+ people may also face barriers to healthcare because of discrimination against their gender identity and/or sexual orientation. Just last week, the Trump administration proposed rolling back an Obama-era HHS rule called the Health Care Rights Law, which ensures healthcare providers cannot discriminate on the basis of sex. The rollback of this rule will strip away the protections established by the ACA, which were critical for LGBTQ+ healthcare access.

According to a 2015 report by the Center for American Progress, 23.5% of transgender respondents and 10.3% of LGBT people of color avoided doctors’ offices in the past year due to fear of discrimination. Ensuring affordable, accessible healthcare is an LGBTQ+ issue, and we must consider the unique challenges the community faces as we advocate for greater access to quality, affordable health care.

LGBTQ+ issues also intersect with immigration. Those who identify as lesbian, gay, and bisexual are three times more likely to be incarcerated. As a result, LGBTQ+ migrants are uniquely vulnerable to overpolicing, discrimination, and violence. There has also been an increase in violence towards undocumented LGBTQ+ people. According to the Center for American Progress, 6% of survivors of hate violence were LGBTQ in in 2014, compared to 17% in 2015. While immigrants already face discrimination, those who also identify as LGBTQ+ face even more danger.

The threat of deportation is also a life or death issue for countless LGBTQ+ migrants. 76 countries allow the criminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity. This means many of our nation’s refugees seeking asylum are fleeing their home countries based on the threat of violence due to their LGBTQ+ identities. By denying asylum claims and deporting undocumented LGBTQ+ immigrants, our nation is putting their lives at risk. The Trump administration’s attacks on immigrants puts already vulnerable LGBTQ+ immigrants in dangerous, often life-threatening situations.

The experiences of the LGBTQ+ community intersect with each of NETWORK’s Mend the Gaps issues. This Pride Month, we continue to work toward federal policies that bring justice and equality for the LGBTQ+ community in the United States.

Paid Leave Proposals Shouldn’t Slash Social Security

Paid Leave Proposals Shouldn’t Slash Social Security

Siena Ruggeri
May 2, 2019

We are at a rare moment of bipartisan agreement on the importance of paid leave. The Trump administration has expressed support for the idea of paid family leave, and suggests six weeks of paid parental leave in its 2020 budget proposal.  Senators Marco Rubio and Mitt Romney’s New Parents Act (S.920) offers a leave option for new parents. Senators Joni Ernst and Mike Lee have introduced the Child Rearing and Development Leave (CRADLE) Act, a discussion draft that is very similar to the Rubio bill. Finally, Senators Bill Cassidy and Kyrsten Sinema are collaborating on a bipartisan paid leave proposal.

While there is hope in the bipartisan enthusiasm for paid leave, the details of these proposals are highly concerning. We must be diligent in informing our members of Congress what a truly robust paid leave program looks like.

These proposals have a narrow view of what constitutes paid leave. The proposals would only offer leave for parents caring for a new child through birth or adoption. While this type of leave is important, family leave is used for many other reasons. Three out of four workers have a caregiving responsibility, and a lack of paid leave makes it incredibly difficult for them to remain financially secure while providing the care their family members need. If a worker has a child with a disability, an aging parent, or a spouse with a serious illness, they would not be covered under these proposals. Paid leave legislation is not family-friendly unless it addresses all the types of caregiving situations workers live with.

When looking closely at the funding of these proposals, it becomes apparent that the paid leave is not responsibly paid for. Both the New Parents Act and the CRADLE Act are funded by cuts to Social Security. In order to access their “paid leave,” new parents have to borrow from their Social Security benefits. As a result, parents would have to either delay their retirement by half a year or take a 3% overall cut to their lifetime benefits. Working parents already lose an estimated $10,513 in wages for taking 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Instead of addressing this problem, the proposed legislation punishes working parents in a different way by cutting their benefits. Cuts to Social Security are irresponsible and unacceptable.

These legislative proposals ignore how women and people of color, are most impacted by paid leave policies. Of the estimated 43.5 million unpaid caregivers, 60% are women. Among Millennial caregivers, over half are people of color. These populations are taking on the most caregiving responsibilities yet face pay and benefits cuts for doing so. Due to structural barriers in the workplace, 73% of Latinx and 62% of Black workers qualify for FMLA yet cannot afford to take it. These proposals do nothing to remedy these disparities. Instead of addressing the wealth gap, workplace discrimination, and unpaid labor caregivers face, these proposals force them to make more impossible choices between work and family.

We must reach out to the writers of these proposals and emphasize that family-friendly workplace legislation must be comprehensive and responsibly funded. The FAMILY Act provides a self-sustaining family and medical leave fund that includes all types of caregiving. Instead of taking away Social Security benefits, it is funded by a modest payroll tax that costs employees $1.50 a month. If Congress wants to improve workplaces for families, any reform must be universal, inclusive, and responsibly funded.

 

Feature image courtesy of Demos

Family-Friendly Workplaces Are Crucial for Our Nation

Family-Friendly Workplaces Are Crucial for Our Nation

Tralonne Shorter
March 17, 2019

On March 14, NETWORK Senior Government Relations Advocate Tralonne Shorter spoke at a press conference with Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Senator Patty Murray, Rep. Lauren Underwood, and Rep. Alma Adams about the introduction of the Healthy Families Act. View photos of the press conference on NETWORK’s Flickr account.

At NETWORK we are working every day for the dignity of the common good: urging elected officials, including the President, to join us on our mission to put people over profits. We not only advocate for social justice on Capitol Hill, but we also are a leading example of family-friendly workplace policies that reflect the current and future nature of families and women in the workforce.

Inspired by Catholic Social Justice, we believe that workplace and labor policies must respect the dignity of every human being, and recognize the needs of every human being to be in community with one another. In our advocacy for family-friendly workplace policies, we have focused on guaranteeing that all workers have access to paid family leave and sick leave, ending the gender and racial wage gap, and encouraging flexible scheduling to give employees and employers more tools and resources to create mutually beneficial schedules.

Current bills coming up in Congress include issues that support national paid family and medical leave insurance programs (Family and Medical Insurance Leave [FAMILY] Act), as well as setting a consistent standard for earning sick days (Healthy Families Act). It is our hope that the successful passage of these bills will enable more workers to access necessary time off that would allow them to care for themselves and their families.

The patchwork of existing workplace policies is not a sufficient safety net for workers and their loved ones. Just 17% of workers in the U.S. have access to paid family leave, and only 40% of workers can take paid personal medical leave.[1] The private sector is making strides in offering family-friendly workplaces, but those protections are not enough on their own and often leave out the lowest-paid workers. The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not provide universal paid leave benefits, making time off inaccessible to lower-wage workers. While 92% of the highest wage earners has access to paid sick leave, only 31% of the lowest earning workers can take paid sick time.[2]

The Healthy Families Act and the FAMILY Act would serve as two major solutions to promoting family-friendly workplaces, and upholding workers’ inherent dignity in allowing paid leave. As people of faith, we value an economy that puts people, not profit, at the center. We know that when the people at the economic margins of our society do better, we all do better.

The Healthy Families Act would set a consistent standard for accruing sick days: workers would earn a minimum of one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to 56 hours (seven days) per year. Additionally, the act would enable workers in businesses with fifteen or more employees to earn up to seven job-protected, paid sick days each year. These sick days would allow people to recover from illnesses, access preventive care, provide care to a sick family member, or attend school meetings related to a child’s health condition or disability.

The FAMILY Act would provide workers with up to partial income to take time for their own serious health conditions, pregnancy and childbirth recovery, care of a family member, birth or adoption, or military caregiving needs. The act covers all workers—part-time, lower-wage, and self-employed workers are all eligible. All companies are covered, no matter their size; the paid leave would be funded by small employer and employee contributions that amount to 2 cents for every $10 in wages.

The Healthy Families and FAMILY Acts not only contain provisions that would allow workers to earn paid sick days and family leave to care for themselves or an immediate family member, they also include important protections for victims of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault. No one should have to worry about losing their job while recovering from the trauma of intimate partner violence or harassment. These laws ensure every worker has access to the time they need to care for themselves and their loved ones.

We know paid sick days work because we’ve seen them implemented in 10 states and 20 cities around the country. Providing family-friendly workplace protections is necessary to build an economy that puts people, not profit at the center. Catholic Social Justice teaches that workplace and labor policies must respect the dignity of every human being, and recognize the needs of every human being to be in community with one another. The right to work must operate in concert with human needs of community – and our government should institute laws to ensure family-friendly workplaces.

Now is the time for Congress to pass the FAMILY Act and the Healthy Families Act, so that every employer can provide a pro-family friendly workplace that reflects the current and future nature of families and women in the workforce.


[1] http://www.nationalpartnership.org/our-work/workplace/paid-leave.html

[2] https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/ebs2.pdf

In Order to Call Itself Family-Friendly, the U.S. Must Examine its Workplaces

In Order to Call Itself Family-Friendly, the U.S. Must Examine its Workplaces

Siena Ruggeri
February 5, 2019

February 5th is the anniversary of the Family Medical Leave Act, which was passed in 1993. This law gives employees up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was a huge step forward for working families, but it still excludes many. The Washington Center for Equitable Growth estimates that half of all working parents and 43 percent of women of childbearing age are excluded from FMLA coverage due to outdated eligibility requirements.[1] Family leave policies need to be updated for 21st century workplaces and include low-wage earners.

Even if a worker qualifies for FMLA coverage, in many cases, they can’t afford to take it. Quite simply, far too many people can’t weather the sudden loss in income, and often fear they will lose their job if they take unpaid leave. Family leave needs to be paid for workers to utilize it, but paid leave remains rare in U.S. workplaces: 93% of low-wage workers have no access to any paid family leave.[2].

In 2019, the United States remains the only industrialized nation that does not provide universal paid leave benefits. After 26 years without landmark paid leave legislation, the time has come to not only offer family leave, but ensure all working families can access it. We need a federal universal paid leave policy to accomplish this goal.

A lack of family-friendly workplaces is bad for both employers and their workers. Employers must deal with the costs associated with high turnover, and employees are forced to choose between advancing their career and caring for family members.

The growing demands of caregiving can’t be ignored by federal policymakers any longer. According to a recent Harvard Business School study, almost three quarters of U.S. workers are caregivers in some capacity. Of those, 80% said that their caregiving responsibility made it harder to do their job. As a result, 32% of all employees surveyed said they left a job to accommodate their caregiving responsibilities.[3]

With women taking on a huge majority of caregiving, they are disproportionately impacted by a lack of paid leave. Women are twice as likely to stay home to care for a sick child, and three in five women say they have their care responsibilities on their mind when they’re at work. [4] Our society can’t achieve true economic justice for all women when we offer them no support or legal protections to balance caregiving and a career.

Government inaction on paid leave also reinforces the racial wealth gap. Already paid lower for the same work as their white peers, people of color are deeply impacted by inaccessible leave policies. Black women are the primary breadwinners for 70 percent of their families.[5] They’re also more likely than white women to leave or lose their jobs after birth.[6] By refusing to support black women in their careers, we create yet another structural barrier to push women of color out from opportunities for economic advancement.

Let’s take the anniversary of the FMLA to push Congress to give working families, and especially working moms, the relief they need. It is not just the smart thing to do, it’s the right thing. We cannot call ourselves a family-friendly country until we do so.

 


[1] https://equitablegrowth.org/research-paper/paid-family-and-medical-leave-in-the-united-states/?longform=true

[2] United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Table 32. Leave benefits: Access,private industry workers,” National Compensation Survey, March 2018, https://www.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/benefits/2018/employee-benefits-in-the-united-states-march2018.pdf.

[3] https://www.hbs.edu/managing-the-future-of-work/Documents/The%20Caring%20Company%20-%2001.17.19.pdf

[4] “Modern Family Index,” Bright Horizons, https://solutionsatwork.brighthorizons.com/~/media/BH/SAW/PDFs/GeneralAndWellbeing/MFI_2017_Report_v4.ashx

[5] Sarah Jane Glynn, Breadwinning Mothers. (taken from this link: https://www.clasp.org/sites/default/files/publications/2018/12/2018_pfmliscriticalfor_0.pdf)

[6] Lynda Laughlin, Maternity Leave and Employment Patterns. (taken from this link: https://www.clasp.org/sites/default/files/publications/2018/12/2018_pfmliscriticalfor_0.pdf)

Congress Takes First Step to Lower Maternal Mortality and Improve Health Equity

Congress Takes First Step to Lower Maternal Mortality and Improve Health Equity

Siena Ruggeri
December 17, 2018

There’s a silent but deadly epidemic occurring across the United States: women are dying during childbirth at an alarming rate. The United States is the only developed country where the maternal mortality rate is rising. Pregnancy-related deaths increased from 7.2 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1987 to a high of 17.8 deaths per 100,000 in 2009 and 2011. On top of that, 50,000 mothers a year experience dangerous complications that have the potential to kill them. U.S. women had a better chance of surviving their pregnancy thirty years ago than they do today. The fact women are worse off than thirty years ago is an embarrassment and a terrifying reality for women who are choosing to start families. If we truly care for one another, we must put a special focus on this critical issue impacting women across the country.

The rising maternal mortality rate is a public health crisis that is receiving a woefully low amount of coverage and legislative responses. California is the only U.S. state that has successfully lowered their maternal mortality rate. From 2006 to 2013, the state cut its maternal death rate in half. This was accomplished by a thorough investigation of the care process, and an implementation of better practices. California hospitals work in a collaborative that shares information and best practices specifically about maternal care. In order for other states to replicate California’s success, Congress must act.

Recently the House and the Senate passed the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act, which was introduced by Rep. Jaime Herrera-Beutler, with bipartisan support and a companion bill in the Senate introduced by Senator Heidi Heitkamp.  It creates maternal mortality review committees in every state that gather data and report their findings back to the Department of Health and Human Services.

(image courtesy of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice)

The U.S. healthcare system denies far too many women the care they need before, during, and after giving birth, a fact that needs to be remedied through legislation. Due to the medical racism that permeates the healthcare system, women of color are frequently ignored by providers when they advocate for their medical needs.

Black women are almost four times more likely to die of pregnancy-related causes, pointing to a shocking racial disparity. This is intensified in maternal health care deserts, where women lack access to critical healthcare. In rural and urban areas with limited OB-GYN services, women of color suffer greatly. In her congressional testimony, Stacey Stewart, the president of the women’s health nonprofit March of Dimes, emphasized that women of color often feel less trusted and feel less listened to in the medical system. She pointed to the fact that there are no obstetrical services east of the river in Washington, D.C.’s predominantly Black neighborhoods—women must cross the river to receive any sort of prenatal care. She also observed that in New York City, women of color are 12 times more likely to die as a result of pregnancy than white women. Women of color are disproportionately vulnerable to deadly pregnancy complications, making the maternal mortality crisis a horrifying manifestation of racial injustice.

In his testimony to the House Energy and Commerce health subcommittee in September, maternal healthcare advocate Charles Johnson told how he lost his wife Kira after she gave birth to their second child. Kira and Charles, a young Black couple, made sure that hospital staff were aware that Kira was bleeding heavily after her C-section. Yet the hospital waited ten hours to address her medical crisis. By the time hospital staff acted, it was too late. Kira died of massive internal bleeding, leaving behind an 11-hour-old child, her husband, and her other young child. Kira did everything right; she advocated for herself and her child throughout her time in the hospital. Despite Kira and her husband’s persistence, her symptoms were ignored until it was too late.

The CDC Foundation estimates that 60 percent of American pregnancy- and childbirth-related deaths could be prevented. The U.S. healthcare system is focused on infant health while ignoring the holistic needs of women.  As a result, healthcare providers are not equipped to protect pregnant women and prevent complications that can be easily addressed under the right care. We know many of these deaths can be avoided, but we must take action to examine how our healthcare system fails women and create policies that will prevent this.

Congress has taken the first step passing the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act, which was only possible because of the continued advocacy of the public. Using this as a first step, it’s important to keep the momentum going to fight for even bigger reforms to make health care safer and more equitable.  Health advocates need to make it clear to legislators that maternal health needs to be a key priority, both as we come to the end of the 115th Congress and in the new Congress. Far too many women, especially women of color, have needlessly died in this public health crisis. The only way to begin working toward a solution to this crisis is providing resources to gather more data on this epidemic so healthcare providers have the tools to prevent more tragic losses.

Stronger Borders, But Weaker Morals: What’s Happening to Asylum Seekers at the End of the Road?

Stronger Borders, But Weaker Morals: What Happens to Asylum Seekers at the End of the Road

Lindsay Hueston
November 26, 2018

On the westernmost portion of the U.S.-Mexico border, the taunting iron fence stretches from mountain to sand to sea – disappearing after a few hundred yards into the ocean. The water that chops around is the same, splashing both U.S. and Mexican soil. The most radical thing that struck me about being at the border was that birds could fly so easily over it, which seemed so normal – but the U.S. government, simultaneously, so heavily regulated the movement of people on land.

The U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego, CA – June 2013

That was five years ago when I went to the border. Now, instead of birds, there are capsules of tear gas hurled over the border: the only thing in the air now is intense fear.

I’ve had the opportunity to visit the U.S.-Mexico border twice: first in the summer of 2013 during a college campus ministry conference in San Diego bordering Tijuana; and again in the winter of 2016 leading a service-immersion trip to El Paso, a city thoroughly integrated with its neighbor Ciudad Juárez in Mexico.

I never crossed over to Mexico in either of these encounters, but exchanged words, held hands, and prayed with people mere feet away from me, the only thing separating us an immense wall of steel and millions of dollars built up to create a militarized border. I stood on the U.S. side; a recently deported family stood less than three feet away in Mexico. We breathed the same air. We each huddled from the same chill.

That was three years ago; had I met that family at the border there now, they and their three kids would be running away from the fence to avoid tear gas and rubber bullets.

Last week the Trump administration put out a statement authorizing the use of lethal force against families and individuals from Central American countries who trekked thousands of miles to enter our country, with the possibility of closing “the whole border.”

The news of tear gas attacks on thousands of people coming to the United States to flee violence – and being met with more violence – hits me to my core.

Lethal force? For people seeking safety, fearing they’d die in their home country – and facing the possibility of death instead of new life?

I’ve eaten and laughed and cried with people whose life stories and trials are likely near-identical to the droves of asylum seekers searching for welcome in our country. What kind of country are we creating when we say we are a nation of immigrants, then turn away the most vulnerable?

The U.S.-Mexico border in Sunland Park, NM – January 2016

The images and videos I’ve seen are of women, children, families – people who should not be faced with the immensity of physical punishment that the U.S. is inflicting upon them for fleeing violence in their own countries. It is unconscionable that the Trump administration has come so far as to demonize infant children and their mothers, and anyone seeking asylum, so much so as to accept their injury, trauma, and potential death as merely a necessary consequence of our political debate and national security.

Firing tear gas on children and families who are here seeking asylum is both legally and morally wrong.

The actions of the U.S. government in turning people away and further militarizing our borders are a result of systematic racism, and do not reflect the core of our foundational communal values. The immigration system in our country has long been broken, but the recent attacks against immigrants and refugees under this administration have attempted to fundamentally reshape our system with the aim of closing our border to all but wealthy, white immigrants.

The structures of our country were never set up to benefit the most marginalized, but we don’t have to accept policies that perpetuate these evils. Instead, we can change them.

Children shouldn’t choke on tear gas. Parents shouldn’t have to make pilgrimages hundreds of miles on foot to seek a better life for their families. People in neighboring countries shouldn’t have to face a life-threatening decision: stay and die, or go and live.

Bridge into Juárez, Mexico from El Paso, Texas – January 2016

Yet our administration sees these migrants from Central America as criminals for the very fact that they are pleading to us for help.  We are failing to live up to our own laws and international human rights obligations to offer asylum to those who qualify. We are willing to let innocent people die before we open our borders.

It isn’t right – none of it is right.

We must continue to pressure the Trump administration against the harmful consequences they are inflicting upon our sisters and brothers who deserve protection, not condemnation.

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.

NETWORK Responds to Week of Violence, Bigotry, and Anguish

NETWORK Responds to Week of Violence, Bigotry, and Anguish

NETWORK Staff
October 29, 2018

After a would-be assassin mailed pipe bombs to 14 prominent Democratic figures, including the families of 2 former Presidents; after a gunman tried to enter a Black Church in Kentucky intent on doing harm but was unable to gain access so walked to the nearest Kroger grocery store and killed two people instead; after all of that, there was the terrible mass shooting of Jewish worshippers at a Pennsylvania synagogue.  It was a devastating week and we are still reeling from it.

Nevertheless, we join the country in offering our most heartfelt and sincere condolences to the family and friends of those 11 people who were killed in Pennsylvania and the 2 people in Kentucky.  No words can express how profoundly we grieve with you in your time of need.  We stand together as the nation mourns your, and our, loss.

At the same time, we condemn, in the strongest possible language, these senseless murders of 13 ordinary people, worshipping at Tree of Life Synagogue and buying groceries at the local Kroger store.  They were simply going about their day until two white men, fueled by anti-Semitism and racial animus, attacked them.  These innocent people lost their lives to hate and fear in a country founded on freedom, opportunity and religious values.

But our Catholic faith tells us that we are all created in the image and likeness of God.  No exceptions.  And as a result, every human being is imbued with an essential dignity that must be honored, respected and protected.  The hate-filled actions of the gunmen belie that fundamental truth.   Whether or not you are religious or have some faith-based beliefs, there is something profoundly wrong in society when people turn to violence against others simply because they belong to a different religious tradition or have a different skin color.  We condemn every action based on hatred, bigotry and violence.

Sadly, this is not the first time we have witnessed, endured and decried the presence and menace of such evil in our midst.  But this can be the last.  This is a time when the whole country can stand up and speak out against it.  This is a time when we must demand of our leaders and each other the guarantee of civility, respect and safety for everyone.  For our sake.  For our children’s sake.  For the sake of our country’s future.  We must not let this hatred, violence and division defeat us.  The only question is:  will we do it?  Or will we once again pay a terrible price for our silence?  People are fond of saying “we are better than this.”  Now is the time to prove it.

May God grant eternal rest to those who were slain.  May God shower peace and consolation on all those who mourn.  And may God have mercy on all of us if we fail to stand up to this moment in history.

Reflections on the Kavanaugh Hearing

Reflections on the Kavanaugh Hearing

Alannah Boyle
October 5, 2018

Catholic Social Justice teaches us that all people have inherent dignity. We are called to uphold the dignity of every person as an equally valuable member of the human family.

It is our Catholic duty to believe women. Was it not women who shared the seemingly impossible truths of Jesus? Mary, a virgin, announced she was pregnant with the child of God. Mary Magdalene spread the news that Jesus had risen from the dead. At first they both were not believed. Both women knew this would be the case when they told people. They did it anyway.

Dr. Ford’s courage has inspired the country. She had nothing to be gained, and yet still told her story. She knew she would not be believed by many, and yet she did it anyways.

Watching Dr. Christine Blasley Ford’s testimony was incredibly painful. I and many of those around me found ourselves bursting into tears throughout her testimony. The triggers varied, but many had the same thread: we identified with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. As Sister Simone said, “almost every woman I know has a #MeToo moment.” In watching Dr. Ford, it was clear her story was not unique: we have experienced the visceral memory of trauma, we have experienced being cut off or talked down to by a powerful man, we have desperately tried to stay composed while retelling the intimate details of our trauma.

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is all of us, and goes to show that hers is not a new experience. We are all Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in the same way we are all Mary and Mary Magdalene: for centuries we have told our truth and still not been believed.

We have both a biblical and moral responsibility to believe women.

Working in an environment committed to women in leadership, such as the one at NETWORK, has been refreshing. Engaging with my co-workers guided by sister-spirit is a compassionate environment rooted in Catholic Social Thought that I am proud to be a part of.

When Dr. Ford recounted the story of her assault to the Judiciary Committee, she spoke to 17 men and just 4 women. Twenty-seven years ago, when Anita Hill testified before the very same committee, she spoke to 0 women. We are moving in the right direction, and the treatment of Dr. Ford reflected this, but there is something to be said about telling stories in an environment of those who have a shared lived experience. We need more women in positions of leadership not to blindly support women, but to identify with the experience of having to fight to be heard.