Category Archives: Women and Families

Ending the Black Maternal Health Crisis Is a Moral Imperative

Ending the Black Maternal Health Crisis Is a Moral Imperative

Joan F. Neal
April 15, 2022

This week marks the five-year anniversary of Black Maternal Health Week in the United States. During Black Maternal Health Week, advocates and elected officials build community and draw awareness toward the maternal mortality epidemic that is sweeping our nation. At NETWORK, we believe that access to quality, affordable health care is a fundamental human right. It is our moral responsibility as Catholics to ensure accessible health care for all and eliminate racial and economic health disparities. As Representative Lauren Underwood (IL-14) who is the co-chair and co-founder of the Black Maternal Health Caucus stated, “This work is deeply personal” during an interfaith event NETWORK helped to organize.

Statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in February revealed that the Black maternal mortality crisis has only gotten worse. The data shows that the mortality rate for Black women rose by 26 percent in 2020—a rate three times greater than that of white women. In an interfaith event last month, Representative Alma Adams (NC-12) said, “Overlooking the pain of Black women in health care results from implicit bias and racism.” The United States has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, especially for birthing people of color. This is unjust and sinful.

On Wednesday, Vice President Kamala Harris announced a historic call to action to improve lives and health outcomes for birthing people, especially people of color, across the country. The Biden-Harris administration made a series of announcements that will work toward health equity including extending Medicaid and CHIP coverage for a full year after pregnancy in 11 additional states, and proposing “Birthing-Friendly” hospital designations to make improvements in maternal health outcomes. These announcements, along with the 12 key bills in the Momnibus Act, are vital steps forward to invest in maternal health and dismantle systemic racism in our health care systems.

Black mothers should not fear for their lives or their infant’s life while giving birth. As Representative Ayanna Pressley (MA-7) said during Wednesday’s Black Maternal Health Week event, “Birthing while Black should not be a death sentence.” NETWORK is proud to see the work done by the Biden-Harris administration to achieve healthcare equity for Black mothers, and continually supports the work of the Black Maternal Health Caucus to pass the Momnibus. With ongoing advocacy and a commitment to Build Anew, we can end the Black Maternal Mortality crisis in the United States. And we should do that.

Equal Pay Day: Privilege Should Not Predict Pay

Equal Pay Day: Privilege Should Not Predict Pay 

Gina Kelley
March 15, 2022

This year Equal Pay Day is March 15th, symbolizing how far into the year women have to work to earn what men earned the year before [1]. Women are not a monolith, a woman’s race, assigned gender at birth, ability, or sexuality can widen the gap. Therefore we mark multiple ‘equal pay’ days throughout the year to raise awareness for the persistent gender and racial income gaps that have become the norm.  

May is AAPI Women’s Equal Pay Day, marking the 85 cents Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander women earn for every dollar a white man does. June and July have LGBTQIA+ and Moms Equal Pay Days respectively. Black Women’s Equal Pay Day is in September marking the 63 cents they earn in comparison to white male counterparts.  

Both Native and Latina equal paydays are in December with Native women earning 60 cents on the dollar and Latina women earning 57 cents. Meaning that Native and Latina women have to work over two years just to earn what a white man earns in one. 

Cents on the dollar can seem abstract. A recent study found that in 2021 the difference in median earnings nationally found that in U.S workers employed full-time last year women earned $10,000 less. This difference in median earnings varied by states with states and territories like Wyoming, Washington, D.C., and Utah having gendered wage disparities of more than $15,000.  

In an even bigger picture, some reports have estimated that women earn over 400,000 dollars less than their male counterparts do over the course of a 40-year period. The total wage differences between men and women on average is more than $799 billion every single year. 

These gender and racial discrepancies are harmful examples of the ways our society undervalues women and communities of color. There are multiple ways labor laws and employment practices create this loss of women’s wages.  

Blatant pay is discrimination is only one of the ways these inequities are formed. Job segregation is a subversive way that women are overrepresented in lower-paying (and often) service-providing industries due to assumptions about the types work different genders are best suited due to an imagined inherent gendered quality. However, compounding on top of job segregation is that across occupations women are most often employed at the lower end of the wage distribution. A powerful example of this is that women make up 52.8% of legal positions in the U.S but only 37.4% of lawyers are women—meaning that women disproportionately occupy lower-paying positions like legal assistants and paralegals.  

NETWORK continues to actively support policies that address economic inequalities. This includes major labor law reform like the Protecting the Right to Organize Act because we know that collective bargaining agreements and implementing standard wage policies are critical steps to closing these gaps for women and people of color. We also know that creating a national paid family and medical leave program is instrumental in making sure women are not punished for the caretaking responsibilities they disproportionately hold. We also support legislation that implements equitable employment practices like the Paycheck Fairness Act, the Schedules That Work Act, and the Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights.  

This Equal Pay Day and this Women’s History Month we have to recognize that labor issues are women’s issues and these issues matter and demand prioritization. Women’s issues require our attention now more than ever and what women need is economic stability and just labor laws.  

 

1 All studies referenced compare women’s earnings to non-Hispanic white men—even if something more general like “male counterparts” is used. There are also harmful disparities between men of color and white men.  

Unnecessary and Harmful: The Security Bars and Processing Rule

Unnecessary and Harmful: The Security Bars and Processing Rule

Ronnate Asirwatham
February 17, 2022

While the preposterous Title 42 expulsion policy and ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy continue at the border, we are very concerned that the Biden Administration would install yet another Trump Era policy – Security Bars and Processing Rule.

In December 2020, one of the Trump Administration’s last acts on immigration was to propose the Security Bars and Processing Rule to go into effect in 2021. This rule would label asylum seekers a “danger to the national security of the United States” merely because they transited through or come from a country with a communicable disease, or exhibit symptoms “consistent with” such disease. This is ANY communicable disease ranging from the flu, to cholera, to HIV AIDS — not just COVID-19. Under the rule, covered asylum seekers would be barred from refugee protection in the United States. Which violates both U.S. law and international treaty obligations; all but ensuring their deportation to persecution or torture.

The Biden administration extended the period of comment in 2021 so that it didn’t go into effect then. However, now it is closing the comment period on February 28th, and advocates fear that the administration will then work to make the rule permanent.

A plethora of experts have already highlighted grave concerns that this rule is both fatally flawed and “xenophobia masquerading as a public health measure.” In their comments leading public health experts, including at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health and Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and School of Nursing, found no public health justification for this sweeping ban. In a comment submitted by Physicians for Human Rights, Dr. Monik Jiménez of Harvard Medical School concluded that the targeting and classification of asylum seekers as a public health threat is “not based on sound epidemiological evidence.” Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, a humanitarian organization with 50-years’ experience responding to disease outbreaks, characterized the rule as “counterproductive” and noted that “public health measures work best when they are inclusive. They fail when vulnerable people, like migrants and asylum seekers, are excluded.”

As the African Human Rights Coalition commented, the rule “exacerbates racist tropes and myths of immigrants as carriers of disease.” Deeply rooted in eugenics, this ideology echoes throughout this rule. Many LGBTQ groups and HIV advocacy and treatment organizations also expressed alarm that the rule, similar to the discriminatory immigration ban on individuals living with HIV that was finally lifted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2010, would discriminate “against individuals on the basis of immigration status [and the] countries in which the person has lived or traveled” and would put particularly vulnerable populations such as “women, people from the LGBTQ+ community, and people from ethnic or religious minorities at risk.”

The rule violates U.S. law and treaty obligations, including those adopted by Congress through its passage of the Refugee Act of 1980. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus stressed in its comment that the rule would have “devastating and senseless consequences” for asylum seekers and violate the clear intent of Congress, “reiterated over and over for four decades,” “that the United States provide a meaningful and fair path to protection for those fleeing persecution.” The American Bar Association and the Round Table of Former Immigration Judges, a bipartisan group of dozens of former immigration judges, similarly objected to the rule as inconsistent with domestic and international law.

We urge the administration to withdraw this unjustifiable, illegal, and harmful rule. The Departments have repeatedly paused the rule’s implementation due to ongoing litigation against a related regulation and as they are “reviewing and reconsidering” the rule and “whether to modify or rescind” it. The Departments now request comment on whether to further delay implementation. Ample time to study the legality and impact this baseless ban would have on asylum seekers has already elapsed. There is no need for additional delay. The administration can and must swiftly and completely rescind the rule.

Comment here to join our call for the Administration to rescind the Security Bars and Processing Rule.

Advent 2021: Celebrate the Alleviation of Child Poverty

Advent 2021: Celebrate the Alleviation of Child Poverty

Sister Eilis McCulloh, HM
December 10, 2021

The Third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete “rejoice” Sunday – pink candle) symbolizes Joy with the “Shepherd’s Candle” reminding us of the Joy the world experienced at the coming birth of Jesus. As part of NETWORK’s ongoing Advent reflection series, Sr. Eilis McCulloh, HM, NETWORK Grassroots Mobilization Fellow, shares how cutting child poverty via federal policy is one cause for rejoicing this year:

This Advent, Celebrate the Alleviation of Child Poverty

At Christmas, God appears to us as a defenseless child. In the U.S., child poverty threatens millions of children. Children are a source of joy, hope, and renewal in every life they touch. Their existence should not be marked by such suffering, and as followers of Jesus, we should answer their cry with action. Happily, in March of this year, that’s exactly what happened.

The American Rescue Plan of 2021, which NETWORK supported, made the Child Tax Credit fully refundable, meaning families who qualified for the credit have received direct payments from the government rather than having the amount counted toward their taxes at the end of the year. Those payments have reduced child poverty in the U.S. by 40 percent! The majority of the children who benefitted are children of color.

We know that the Child Tax Credit has brought stability to children whose lives have been rocked by instability, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the direct payments, families have been able to keep a roof over their heads, food on the table, and pay utility bills and, as a result, their children are able to focus more fully on school. This has the power to affect an entire generation of children.

As NETWORK prepares to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of our founding, we can look to this success as an example of the vision that animated the Catholic Sisters who gathered in Washington one cold December weekend with a vision of politics transformed by the belief that the federal government can create legislation that serves the common good. Half a century later, Pope Francis shares this vision, writing in his encyclical Fratelli Tutti that politics are “a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity.”

NETWORK will always seek this highest form of charity – better translated as love – such as in our continued lobbying for the Build Back Better bill and its provisions that will serve families, such as the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit and the four weeks of paid family leave and medical leave. This Advent, let us prepare for the arrival of Jesus by making our country a more hospitable place for all children. That’s something worth celebrating!

Take Action!

What’s In the Latest Build Back Better Framework?

What’s In the Latest Build Back Better Framework?

Audrey Carroll
November 10, 2021

On October 28, President Biden unveiled the framework for his Build Back Better Plan. The $1.75 trillion package includes key provisions such as permanent refundability of the Child Tax Credit, closing the Medicaid coverage gap in the 12 non-expansion states, a $150 billion investment in affordable housing and vouchers, $100 billion for immigration system reforms, four weeks of paid family leave, and more.


Source: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/10/28/build-back-better-framework/

Here’s a breakdown of the NETWORK priorities included in the Build Back Better framework:

Health Care

*Expand Medicaid coverage in 12 non-expansion states
*Address the Black maternal health crisis

The $130 billion health care investments in the Build Back Better framework will expand Medicaid coverage to 4 million uninsured people in 12 non-expansion states. Medicaid expansion will help elders, rural communities, low-income communities, and other folks with health care accessibility issues receive care. Also included in the package are historic maternal health equity investments to address the Black maternal health crisis.

Tax Credits

*Permanent refundability of the Child Tax Credit
*One-year extension of the expanded Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit

The proposed Build Back Better framework includes permanent refundability of the Child Tax Credit, and will provide more than 35 million households with the expanded Child Tax Credit of up to $3,600 per child for one year. Full refundability of the Child Tax Credit means that low-income families who do not typically file a tax return will still qualify for the credit and get the support they need.

The framework also extends the expanded Earned Income Tax Credit for about 17 million low-wage workers. The American Rescue Plan tripled the credit for childless workers, many who  are essential workers, and the Build Back Better framework will extend this provision to work towards alleviating poverty.

Housing

*$150 billion for housing investments including: $25 billion in new rental assistance; $65 billion to preserve public housing infrastructure; and $15 billion for the national Housing Trust Fund 

President Biden’s plan would invest $150 billion in housing affordability, especially for rural communities. These investments will fund more than 1 million new affordable homes, rental assistance, public housing, and expand housing vouchers to hundreds of thousands of families in the U.S. This is one of the biggest affordable housing investments in history and will help eliminate the racial wealth and income gap by allowing first-generation homebuyers to build wealth.

Paid Leave

*Four weeks of paid family and medical leave

After initially being gutted from the original Build Back Better framework, four weeks of paid family and medical leave is now included thanks to the tireless advocacy of workers and families across the country. The U.S. is one of the only countries in the world without a national paid family and medical leave program. A federal paid leave program will allow low-income workers and workers of color to access paid leave for the first time. Workers will no longer have to choose between a paycheck and caring for themselves or their family members.

Immigration

*Reforms to our immigration systems
*Work permits and deportation protection for undocumented people in the U.S. 10 years or longer

The Build Back Better framework includes a $100 billion investment for immigration systems reforms, contingent on a Senate parliamentarian ruling. While the current framework includes access to work permits and deportation protections for nearly 7 million undocumented people living in the U.S. for a decade or longer, it disappointingly does not include a pathway to citizenship Dreamers, TPS holders, farm workers, and other essential workers despite strong bipartisan support.

Additional Investments in Children, Families, and Our Communities

In addition to these NETWORK priorities, additional investments the Build Back Better plan will establish universal and free preschool for more than 6 million 3- and 4-year-olds, expand access to high-quality, affordable child care, improve Medicaid coverage for home care services for seniors and people with disabilities while improving the quality of caregiving jobs, and provide $550 billion of investments in clean energy and other climate change initiatives.

How will the Build Back Better plan be paid for?

The Build Back Better plan will be paid for by requiring ultra-wealthy millionaires and billionaires and corporations to pay their fair share. The framework reverses some of the 2017 Trump-era tax cuts for the wealthy to raise revenue for families and workers in the U.S. The tax justice provisions include:

  • A surtax of 5% on personal income above $10 million, and 3% on income above $25 million.
  • A 15% minimum tax on corporate profits of large corporations with over $1 billion in profits.
  • A 1% tax on stock buybacks.
  • A 50% minimum tax on foreign profits of U.S. corporations.
  • Closing loopholes that allow wealthy taxpayers to avoid Medicare taxes, and more.

Unfortunately, the Billionaires Income Tax was left out of the framework. With the tax changes in the Build Back Better framework, we will raise more than enough revenue to pay for the $1.75 trillion plan.

It’s time to pass Build Back Better!

The Build Back Better framework outlines transformational investments in workers and families that will work towards eliminating the racial wealth and income gap and building a new, equitable society. The framework falls short by not including a pathway to citizenship, but is overall a significant step towards dismantling systemic racism in our federal systems. House Democrats are currently working on moving the Build Back Better plan across the finish line before the end of the year. Email your Representative today or dial 888-738-3058 to call your Representative and tell them you support the Build Back Better framework!

The Child Tax Credit is an Important Investment in American Families

The Child Tax Credit is an Important Investment in American Families

Julia Morris
October 28, 2021

The expanded Child Tax Credit is one of the most significant expansions of the social safety net the U.S. has had in decades and provides necessary assistance to millions of middle class families, and families living at or below the poverty line. This safety net expansion is essential. Nine in ten families qualify for the Child Tax Credit, supplementing up to $300 for each child, which played a major role in bolstering families struggling to afford food, clothes, and childcare in the pandemic.

This universally beneficial tax credit is in jeopardy, with Senators Joe Manchin (WV) and Krysten Sinema (AZ) posing major threats to getting these essential funds to children in need despite the major success they’ve seen in their home states.

In September, 86% of West Virginians said the expanded Child Tax Credit made a “huge difference.” In Arizona, poverty rates would decrease by 45% if the Child Tax Credit was expanded.

As it stands now, the credit will only be expanded for one year, and it is not likely to be renewed in Congress again. Our economy is going to need longer than one year to recover — which will leave millions of families without the support they need.

In addition, Senator Manchin wants to impose strict work requirements for this bill. This ignores that wages are as low as they’ve ever been in American history. Putting in a hard days work in the United States is no longer a guarantee that you won’t live in poverty, leaving many parents to work two jobs — meaning they will have to pay for child care, which many can no longer afford. Let’s face it: raising children is work and strong families are the building block of our society.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer are hoping to pass the Build Back Better plan by October 31. These next few days in Congress are critical.

NETWORK needs your support to pass one of the significant investments in our country to date.

Here are a few highlights of this bill:

  • Expansion of the Child Tax Credit
  • Lowering Child Care Costs – necessary as 120,000 children have lost caregivers in the pandemic
  • Lowering Higher Education Costs

All of these bold provisions are necessary to ensure a full economic recovery.  As Pope Francis said, recovery needs to be: “capable of generating new, more inclusive and sustainable solutions to support the real economy… and the universal common good, not a return to an unequal and unsustainable model of economic and social life, where a tiny minority of the world’s population owns half of its wealth.”

A budget is a reflection of our values, but past budgets have too often caused harm by underinvesting in our people and our communities. We at NETWORK know this from meeting and listening to families across the country who struggle to make ends meet every month or face impossible choices between paying for rent or paying for medicine.

Now is the time to show Congress your support; this is the final push we will need to get this passed.

You can write an email to tell your Senator to support Build Back Better here.

Or if you are a constituent of Sen. Sinema or Sen. Manchin, you can call them at 1-888-436-6478, to show your support for the bill.

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Approved by Senate Committee

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Approved by Senate Committee

Gina Kelley
August 6, 2021

On August 3rd the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee approved the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (S.1486) with bipartisan support. We thank the group of Republican and Democratic Senators who voted to move this common sense legislation to the Senate floor for a vote.

In NETWORK’s letter of support to the committee, we urged them to vote yes on this critical bill because it modernizes current law and closes the gaps in protections afforded to pregnant workers. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) recognizes the dignity of work and life as it would open doors for gainfully employed women who choose to bring new life into the world.

Pregnant workers are routinely denied basic, temporary accommodations to ensure a healthy pregnancy. These accommodations are often as simple as a stool to sit on, a break from lifting heavy boxes, schedule changes, and protection from dangerous conditions. These accommodations are especially important for women in jobs requiring physical activity or exposure to hazardous environments. In lieu of reasonable accommodations at the workplace, many pregnant workers face undue pressure to take a leave of absence, which may jeopardize their livelihood. The PWFA takes critical steps to ensure healthy pregnancies and economic securities for pregnant workers and their families.

NETWORK Lobby urges the Senate to schedule a vote quickly and send the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act to President Biden’s desk.

Read NETWORK’s letter of support here. 

2021 Is the Year to Pass the Equality Act

2021 Is the Year to Pass the Equality Act

Gina Kelley
June 24, 2021

In many U.S. states, members of the LGBTQ+ community can be fired at will, denied a place to live, and refused medical care. Our LGBTQ+ friends, family, and neighbors can legally face disrespect and discrimination because of who they are and who they love. Discrimination has no home in our country or in our communities. No one should be excluded in a society that respects and supports human dignity.

The Equality Act (H.R.5/S.393) would provide consistent and explicit anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people across key areas of life, including employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs, and jury service.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, the Equality Act does this by “amending existing civil rights law — including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Jury Selection and Services Act, and several laws regarding employment with the federal government — to explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics. The legislation also amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination in public spaces and services and federally funded programs on the basis of sex. The Equality Act would also update the public spaces and services covered in current law to include retail stores, services such as banks and legal services, and transportation services.”

These legal protections would ensure that folks in the LGBTQ+ community can fully belong and participate in our society without the risk of being subject to discriminatory and punitive practices.

The Equality Act (H.R. 5) passed the House of Representatives in February of this year. It joins the long list of legislation that will not reach the floor while the filibuster remains. The Equality Act, like the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, the For the People Act, and more would help us create a more just economy and a more equitable society, and deserve a real chance in the Senate.

At NETWORK, we affirm that our faith calls us to welcome and love everyone—no exceptions. Additionally, many members of the LGBTQ+ community are people of faith – up to 20% LGBTQ+ Americans are Catholic. People of faith and the majority of voters support laws like the Equality Act, which protect members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Not only is this legislation popular but we know that our faith calls us to practice welcome and inclusion and to see and affirm God in all people. NETWORK Lobby urges the Senate to pass the Equality Act and finally include protections for our LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers into our country’s fundamental civil rights laws.

NETWORK Urges Congress to Vote Yes on Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

NETWORK Urges Congress to Vote Yes on Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

Caraline Feairheller
May 10, 2021

 

Ahead of this weeks vote on the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (H.R.1065), Government Relations Associate Gina Kelley sent a vote recommendation to the Hill urging Representatives to vote yes. NETWORK Lobby proudly endorses the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and we ask each member of the House of Representatives to recognize the dignity of life and work by voting yes.

In the aftermath of the pandemic and an economic recession, this legislation is urgently needed. Despite current protections included in the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, pregnant workers are routinely denied basic, temporary accommodations to ensure a healthy pregnancy. In lieu of reasonable accommodations at the workplace, many pregnant workers face undue pressures to take an often-unpaid leave of absence, which may jeopardize their livelihood.

While pregnancy discrimination effects many, Black and Brown workers carry a heavier burden as they disproportionately occupy jobs with low wages and few pre-existing benefits and protections. Low wage jobs are often more physically and emotionally demanding, which increase the risk for pregnancy complications. Black and Indigenous women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy complications compared to white women. We cannot allow this racial and gender inequity to continue and the PWFA takes a step towards ending this cruelty.

As Executive Director Mary J. Novak writes, “This common sense, bipartisan legislation is faithful to the principles of Catholic Social Teaching—and the dignity of the human person in particular—by caring for the health and economic security of pregnant people and their families. Forcing workers to choose between a healthy pregnancy and a paycheck is immoral and the PWFA ends this injustice.”

Read NETWORK’s Vote Recommendation on the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.