Tag Archives: SNAP

NETWORK Reflects on the Do Not Be Afraid March and Vigil in El Paso

Tenemos Esperanza! Choosing Compassion in a Time of Scapegoating

Colin Martinez Longmore
April 4, 2024

A beacon of hope shone brightly in EL Paso, Texas, the evening of March 21, 2024 as hundreds gathered for the “Do Not Be Afraid” March and Vigil for Human Dignity, hosted by the Diocese of El Paso and Hope Border Institute. The march and vigil, a show of solidarity with asylum seekers and migrants, powerfully displayed unity in the face of adversity.

Ruben Garcia, Annunciation House, “Esta noche, todos somos Casa Anuncion (Tonight, we are all Annunciation House)”

Ruben Garcia speaks at the “Do not be afraid” march and vigil. Mary J. Novak is second from left holding the banner.

Over the past few months in the U.S., persistent hostility and scapegoating of migrants–and the direct service providers who aid them–has taken a sharper turn, particularly in Texas. Annunciation House, a network of shelters that receives and assists vulnerable asylum seekers, was targeted in unjust political probes.  Additionally, troubling state legislation like S.B. 4, which would allow local law enforcement to racially profile and arrest anyone suspected of being an undocumented migrant, was also signed into law (although it has not taken effect yet due to court challenges). Despite these actions, faith and borderland organizations showed they were unafraid. At the invitation of El Paso Bishop Mark Seitz, NETWORK Executive Director Mary J. Novak and I were proud to join them in offering support and prayer from the NETWORK community, and our help strategizing a way forward.

Bishop Mark Seitz, Diocese of El Paso said, “The work of God can never be made illegal”

Bishop Mark Seitz, Diocese of El Paso

The rally began in San Jacinto Plaza and drew a diverse crowd, including many Catholic Sisters, religious and clergy, students, leaders from different faith traditions, as well as local and national organizations serving migrants.

NETWORK Reflects on the Do Not Be Afraid vigil and march in El Paso, Texas

left to right, Elvira Ramirez (Executive Director, Maryknoll Lay Missioners), Mary Novak (Executive Director, NETWORK), and Sister Genie Natividad (Vice President Maryknoll Sisters)

Hope as a form of resistance against fearmongering was emphasized by the speakers who also held up the shameful criminalization of compassion; welcoming the stranger — a fundamental principle of faith — cannot be made illegal. We proclaimed in one voice, which rang out through the plaza: We have hope!Tenemos Esperanza! 

Marchers at the "Do Not Be Afraid" Vigil

Marchers at the “Do Not Be Afraid” Vigil

From the plaza, the crowd moved to Sacred Heart Church, where we filled every pew. The interfaith vigil, led by the Bishops of El Paso, testified to the city’s resilience and unity. Local leaders from across religious traditions, migrant organizations, and even asylum seekers spoke powerfully of solidarity and led the community in prayer.

The "Do Not Be Afraid" Vigil for Human Dignity at Sacred Heart Church

Attendees of the “Do Not Be Afraid” Vigil at Sacred Heart Church, El Paso, TX

The Holy Spirit’s presence was palpable throughout the evening, encouraging everyone to reject the fear and division often weaponized against communities like El Paso. As we enter this election season, we have clarity about the continued challenges that lie ahead for our migrant siblings and the communities that welcome them. However, our time in El Paso reminded us there is light and hope in the collective compassion and actions of communities standing together.

 

Louisville, KY Rally for a Better Federal Government

Get Beyond ‘Bandage’ Work in the Federal Budget

David J. Dutschke,
Guest Contributor from the Kentucky NETWORK Advocates Team
October 13, 2023
Oct 2, 2023, Louisville Rally Speakers Speak Out for a Better Federal Budget at the Ali Plaza in Louisville, KY

Louisville, KY advocates spoke out for a better federal budget at the Ali Center Plaza

We often talk about a “living wage.” Now it’s time to talk about a “living budget.” A

On Monday, October 2, 2023, a group of about 15 persons of faith and action gathered under the NETWORK umbrella at the Mohammed Ali Center Plaza in Louisville, Kentucky to challenge our elected officials to pass a budget that includes those on the margins struggling to afford housing, meals, health care, and more.

David Dutschke was the Oct. 2 Louisville Rally emceeSpeakers at our gathering included George Eklund, Director of Education and Advocacy, Coalition for the Homeless; Mary Danhauer, a retired nurse practitioner from Owensboro working in low-income clinics; the Honorable Attica Scott, former state Representative and Director of Special Projects at the Forward Justice Action Network; and the Rev. Dr. Angela Johnson, pastor of Grace Hope Presbyterian Church. They all spoke from different perspectives, but highlighted the fundamental role that you, me, and our government must take to provide for people in the margins. All of the speakers shared stories of the “bandage” work, or what I’d call charity or direct service work, that they do–myself included at St. Vincent DePaul. But all of us also emphasized the need for work to transform structures. The systemic change work that I do is with NETWORK and Clout (Citizens of Louisville Organized and United Together). And to start that systemic change work, Sr. Emily TeKolste, SP, an organizer with NETWORK, and leader of the Kentucky Team, provided very specific actionable items.

So here are some of my takeaways from our gathering: first, the largest provider of assistance to those on the margins is the U.S. people, at the direction of the federal government, in the form of rent assistance, housing programs like Section 8, SNAP, and Medicare assistance. We have to support these programs and ensure that Congress bolsters them, not slashes them.

George Eckland, Coalition for the Homeless and Rev. Angela Johnson, Grace Hope Presbyterian Church

George Eckland, Coalition for the Homeless and Rev. Angela Johnson, Grace Hope Presbyterian Church

Second, we don’t have a living wage mandate. In Louisville, a family of 3 needs at least $66,893 per year of income. Translated to wages, they need one job that pays at least $32.16 per hour. We can talk about food pantries, shelters, assisted living spaces, assisting our neighbors with paying rent and utilities, but eventually one comes down to the question: how many jobs do you have to have to raise a family today? Third, we have to reject the myth of scarcity.
There are 5,671,005 Americans with a net worth of over $3 million. There is $381 billion in unpaid taxes. And there are 37.9 million persons in the U.S. who live in poverty.
Finally, we need to do both charity work and system change work. All together, we the people of the U.S., have the resources to pay our bills and to shrink the margins. Our federal budget is a moral document to help us move forward. Solutions require the change of the system. And to do that, we have to organize. In organizing work, we say that there are only 2 sources of power—organized money and organized people. We have the people.

David Dutschke, a member of the Kentucky NETWORK Advocates Team, is former director of Parish Social Ministry and Housing Development at Catholic Charities of Louisville.

Watch Video from Louisville, KY Rally for a Better Federal Government

We must act, always with others, to make the Good News of our communal action THE news. We are all challenged to make our policies, including our budget, a beacon of moving forward on this great shared cosmic journey on which the Cosmic God leads us. Peace be with you all.
                                                               ~David Dutschke

Justice-Seekers Supported Safety Net Programs at the Youngstown, OH Care Not Cuts Rally

Youngstown, OH Justice-Seekers Supported Safety Net Programs at the Care Not Cuts Rally

Sister Eilis McCulloh, HM
Grassroots Outreach and Organizing Specialist
June 27, 2023

NETWORK organizer Sr. Eilis McColluh, HM, speaks to the media about the Youngstown, OH Care Not Cuts RallyAs Congress was in the final days of negotiations around the debt ceiling and trying to avoid a default, more than 40 faith-filled justice seekers gathered in Youngstown, Ohio at St. Patrick’s Church on the city’s southside.

Because I grew up in Youngstown, I have a soft spot for the city that is still trying to claw its way out of the devastating effects of the steel mill closures in the 1970s. I often talk about the grit and determination the city and its people have to build itself anew.  Folks have come together – in  faith-based and secular organizations, local government, and churches–to make sure everyone has access to human needs resources.  Fresh food is provided through a mobile pantry and housing resources, food assistance, medical assistance, and so much more are being delivered, too. But, from the rally’s speakers, we learned that they cannot do that alone.

Tom Hetrick, President of City Council, told us that more than one-third of all residents rely on SNAP to feed their families. However, the city is considered to be a food desert, so most people do not have access to fresh food within their neighborhoods. What good is SNAP when locations to access the benefit are lacking? Additionally, many residents rely on Medicaid and housing subsidies. Youngstown would be decimated if these vital social safety net programs were cut. Local non-profits are stepping up to fill the gaps, but they cannot do this forever.

“No matter how many organizations will come to the rescue, we need our federal government and Congress to stand up, as we strive to give you the benefit of the doubt…Because each and every one of us needs food, clothing, and shelter. And we ask that you would consider and not make these severe cuts to humanity, to our communities. As we gather together as organizations, we are striving to do our part, but we cannot do it without our Congress and federal government stepping up and doing the right thing by the people. “   ~ Rev. Carla Robinson

Watch Video from the Youngstow, OH Care Not Cuts Rally

NETWORK thanks the community advocates who spoke out to protect the social safety net at the Youngstown, OH Care Not Cuts Rally.

Tom Hetrick
Youngstown City Council

Michael F. Stepp
St. Vincent de Paul

Fred Berry
Humility of Mary Housing, Inc

Elder Rose Carter
ACTION

Minister Joseph Boyd
UU of Youngstown

Rev. Carla Robinson

Dr. Alexis Smith

At the Care Not Cuts Rally in Erie, PA, Justice-Seekers Called for a Moral Budget

At the Care Not Cuts Rally in Erie, PA, Justice-Seekers Called for a Moral Budget

Mary Nelson,
Guest Contributor from the Erie NETWORK Advocates Team
June 8, 2023
NETWORK organizer Sr. Eilis McColluh, HM, and Mary Nelson, justice-seekers in Erie PA speak to the media about the Care Not Cuts Rally in Erie, PA

May 23, 2023: NETWORK organizer, Sr. Eilis McCulloh, HM, left, and Mary Nelson, in the blue sweater, speak to the media about the Care Not Cuts Rally in Erie, PA

On May 23, 2023, I gathered with a group of community and religious leaders in Erie, Pennsylvania for a “Care Not Cuts” rally. Speakers and attendees were advocating for a moral federal budget as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Biden negotiated a bill that would raise the debt ceiling in exchange for significant cuts to critical human needs programs in our community. Over 60 people from the Erie community joined together to protect Medicaid, housing, and food assistance in our community.

 

Erie, PA NETWORK Advocates Team members Cynthia Legin-Bucell (far left), Mary Nelson (fourth from right), and Michael Bucell (second from right)

Erie, PA NETWORK Advocates Team members Cynthia Legin-Bucell (far left), Sister Eilis McCulloh, HM (second from left), Mary Nelson (fourth from right), and Michael Bucell (second from right)

Our Erie Advocates Team of NETWORK supporters had been following the federal budget negotiations with concern, hearing proposals of drastic cuts to the social safety net that aids Erie’s vulnerable populations. Attempts by the House of Representatives to balance the budget on the backs of people living in poverty, while not raising taxes for the ultra wealthy and corporations, seemed a painful and immoral way to address the country’s debt.

Erie is fortunate to have three orders of religious women (Sisters) who have served the community and northwest PA for decades: the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, the Sisters of St. Joseph (SSJ), and the Sisters of Mercy. They serve the people of God in Erie and the surrounding counties in a myriad of ministries and remind us of what it means to be in relationship with God and with each other. They lead by example to inspire and educate. They show up in all kinds of weather to protest, protect and advocate, and to call out the best in us. The Sisters demonstrate what a thriving community can become, if only we can be brave enough to work together and to care.

Sisters of St. Joseph and friends, pose with Erie, PA Mayor Joe Schember at the Care Not Cuts Rally in Erie, PA

May 23, 2023: Women Religious from the SSJ community and friends pose with Erie, PA Mayor Joe Schember at the Care Not Cuts Rally in Erie, PA

And so, on that sunny, warm spring day, most of the people who responded to NETWORK’s call to attend the “Care Not Cuts” rally in Erie were Sisters and allies from the Erie area. One of the speakers was Sr. Dorothy Stoner, OSB, who works with refugees and people seeking job training at the St. Benedict Education Center. Sr. Dorothy shared about the extensive services the Benedictines offer, from food pantries and soup kitchens to environmental education and safe-space programs for children. She called out the irony of certain members of Congress seeking to cut funding for the very support of food, housing, and Medicaid, while insisting people work in such low-wage jobs that they are unable to afford food, housing, and healthcare!

Another speaker, Susannah Faulkner, who works for the SSJ Neighborhood Network and serves on the Erie City Council, noted that “The city of Erie’s child poverty rate is three times higher

Susannah Faulkner of the SSJ Neighborhood Network & Erie City Council speaks at the Erie, PA Care Not Cuts Rally

Susannah Faulkner of the SSJ Neighborhood Network and Erie City Council speaks about poverty and policy choices at the Care Not Cuts rally in Erie, PA

than the state and national average…[they are] trapped in this situation depriving them of opportunity, good health, and stability.” If we believe that poverty is a policy choice, we should be able to mold a federal budget that is also a moral budget.

Betsy Wiest described how St Patrick’s Haven, another ministry of Sisters of St Joseph that provides temporary overnight shelter and a ministry of friendship for unhoused men, was supported by the community after a fire last year. The proposed 2023 budget would strip a significant portion of their federal HUD funding, which provides emergency shelter for men with nowhere else to go, critical during Erie’s frigid winters. She asked, “How is this practicing love of neighbor without distinction?”

Jennie Haggerty spoke to how the Mercy Anchor Center for Women was recently expanded at a repurposed Catholic elementary school. This transitional home for women and children also includes extensive support services for the community. Since 2017, none of their clients have become homeless again, which should be an indicator of its success in reducing homelessness and improving the dignity and employability of its clients.

Mayor Joseph Schember demonstrated his Catholic heart by sharing what the city is doing to address economic and racial inequities. He noted that evidence has shown that by providing housing and support services to people with addiction first — instead of requiring them to meet certain requirements before receiving assistance — gives people a better opportunity to turn their lives around and reduce chronic homelessness. New initiatives seek to revitalize long-neglected areas that will require federal investment but will recoup significant financial payback. There are local, state, and federal investment programs, neighborhood coalitions, and downtown partnerships which are primed to move us forward to prosperity and equality, if they are funded.

Gary Horton, of the Minority Community Investment Coalition, exhorted everyone to get involved politically, and like Congressman John Lewis said, to make good trouble. He said, “Democracy is on the line, and we must vote like our lives depend on it.”  We must speak up for people who have been disproportionately impacted by bad policies that have created generational poverty, which is so evident in the divided and high poverty areas in Erie and the surrounding counties.

Their passionate pleas to protect federal funding for these programs that help vulnerable people in our communities  is a call to the rest of us to contact our legislators, to advocate for those whom some policy makers in Washington have ignored for far too long.

People gathered in Erie, PA to listen to local leaders talk about love and care for all in the community at the Care Not Cuts Rally.

Together, by speaking out in support of federal safety net programs, and the local organizations that tend to our struggling neighbors, we can build thriving communities. “Care, not cuts,” indeed.

Watch Video from the Care Not Cuts Rally in Erie, PA
Justice-seekers defend vital human needs programs from federal budget cuts at NETWORK's Care Not Cuts rally in Brentwood, N.Y., on May 22.

Justice-Seekers Call for ‘Care Not Cuts’ in Long Island

Wisdom from Long Island Justice-Seekers at the Care Not Cuts Rally for the Safety Net

Social Justice seekers advocate for thriving communities at the Long Island, NY Care Not Cuts Rally

From left to right: Fr Frank Pizzarelli, Sr. Tesa Fitzgerald, Angel Reyes, Serena Martin-Liguori, Monique Fitzgerald

In the face of the unjust healthcare, housing, and food program cuts proposed by House Republicans, justice-seekers came together in New York on May 22 to continue NETWORK’s Thriving Communities Campaign and demand a moral budget that protects all our neighbors! Almost 100 Sisters, clergy, partners, and advocates turned out to oppose these cuts and defend food, housing, and healthcare programs.

In order to highlight the devastating harm their proposed social program cuts would bring to the local community, NETWORK invited organizations who provide vital services to impacted families and individuals of all backgrounds. The result of that work culminated in the first of our Care Not Cuts rallies on Long Island, New York, which drew over 85 attendees and 12 community organizations that are on the frontlines of care in Long Island.

 

Justice-seekers gather at the Care Not Cuts rally in Long Island on May 22.

Almost 100 Sisters, clergy, community leaders and other justice-seekers gathered at Thera Farms in Brentwood, N.Y. to oppose cuts to food, housing, and healthcare programs in the federal budget.

Thera Farms, located on the beautiful, sprawling campus of the Sisters of Saint Joseph in Brentwood, served as the backdrop for the rally. Thera Farms is a local community farm that offers fresh produce to women, children, families and seniors by accepting SNAP, WIC and other nutritional benefits at their farm stand.

We heard from powerful advocates like the Sisters of Saint Joseph Brentwood, New Hour for Women and Children, Mercy Haven, and Make the Road New York. Together we spoke about what is at stake from the immoral social program cuts, and called on the community to contact their members and demand a moral budget.

Wisdom from Long Island Justice-Seekers at the Care Not Cuts Rally for the Safety Net

Selected statements from justice-seekers at the Care Not Cuts Rally for the safety net

“We need to stop putting the poorest of us on the line when Washington wants to balance the Federal Budget,” said Skyler Johnson of New Hour.

“It’s tax cuts for the wealthy that have blown up the debt in our country. It is not the social programs for those in need,” said Mark Hannay of Metro New York Healthcare for All.

“This isn’t just about the government and people being held hostage. This is a blatant attack on working people, on the hungry, on the homeless and work insecure, on children, on veterans, on the disabled, on women, on LGBTQI people, on Black and Brown communities, on our Indigenous neighbors. This is an attack on all of us,” said Ani Halasz of Long Island Jobs with Justice.

Justice-seekers defend vital human needs programs from federal budget cuts at NETWORK's Care Not Cuts rally in Brentwood, N.Y., on May 22.

Justice-seekers defend vital human needs programs from federal budget cuts at NETWORK’s Care Not Cuts rally in Brentwood, N.Y., on May 22. Melanie D’Arrigo, Campaign for New York Health (in red), Rev. Peter Cook and Rashida Tyler, New York State Council of Churches.

The consequences of an immoral budget are dire, but the efforts and resilience of our advocates and justice-seekers are strong enough to make a change. Throughout our rally, we could see a clear, hopeful vision: when we come together, we can create a community where everyone can thrive.

 

 

 

 

 

Colin Martinez Longmore is NETWORK’s Grassroots Outreach and Education Coordinator.

Photo of produce on grocery store shelves.

End of Health Emergency Will Impact Immigration, Other Human Needs

End of Public Health Emergency Will Impact Immigration, Other Human Needs

JoAnn Goedert, Ignatian Volunteer Corp Member
Government Relations Special Contributor
May 8, 2023

President Biden has announced that the federal government’s COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) will end on May 11. The Emergency has been in effect since early 2020, and its termination signals a welcome easing of the tragic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. But for millions of our neighbors who struggle at or near the poverty in the U.S., and for those hoping to enter the country at our borders, the implications of the PHE’s end will be significant.

Impacts on Domestic Human Needs

In recognition of the economic devastation of the pandemic, benefits were added and eligibility and reporting requirements were suspended for many federal programs, but only until the end of the PHE. For individuals and families living at or near the poverty level, the consequences of terminating these protections will be serious, especially in the areas of health care and food assistance.

“Unwinding” of Medicaid Continuous Enrollment Protections: Pandemic legislation provided enhanced Medicaid funding and authorized Medicaid recipients to keep their coverage until the end of the PHE without having to re-certify their eligibility on a regular basis. Not surprisingly, enrollment in Medicaid grew by over 23 million during the pandemic. However, in December Congress prematurely ended this enrollment protection and instead allowed states to begin “unwinding” the continuous enrollment in April.

Some states already have aggressively begun disenrolling Medicaid recipients, many of whom may be unaware that their enrollment is in jeopardy and even more who will struggle to rapidly document their current eligibility. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that up to 15 million individuals will be disenrolled in the coming months, and that nearly half of those who lose coverage are in fact eligible but unable to surmount the bureaucratic challenges of proving it. As a result of the unwinding of Medicaid continuous enrollment, the number of uninsured adults and children in the U.S. is predicted to soar, with tragic consequences for families and massive new burdens on health care system.

Restoration of SNAP Benefit Limits for Individuals Without Jobs: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has strict and complex work requirements for “able bodied adults without dependents” under age 50 that terminate their benefits after three months unless they can prove that they are employed or in a job training program. In response to widespread unemployment during the pandemic, the government suspended that three-month limit. With the end of the PHE, however, this suspension will cease for most SNAP participants on June 30, and these individuals will once again be limited to only three months of SNAP eligibility while unable to meet the work requirements in any three-year period.

March 1 Termination of SNAP Emergency Benefit Allotments: It is important also to note that increases in SNAP benefits provided as pandemic relief were ended nationwide by March 1. This substantial reduction in benefits amounted to an average of approximately $90 per month per individual and over $200 per month for most struggling families. Soup kitchens and food banks nationwide already have reported an overwhelming increase in need since the cut.

Phase-out of SNAP Benefit Expansion for Students: In addition, pandemic legislation extended SNAP eligibility to many more higher education students. With the end of the PHE, their eligibility will be phased out over the next year. Here is an explanation of this change in student SNAP eligibility.

Impact on Immigration

Termination of Title 42: Title 42 expulsion policy is a Trump administration order issued in 2020, purportedly as a public health measure, that allowed border authorities to expel migrants without giving them the opportunity to seek asylum. Public health experts have long declared that Title 42 is not related to any health measure. Reports are that the rule has been used more than two million times to abruptly turn back immigrants since 2020.

Title 42 will expire with termination of the PHE, and the expulsions are set to end on May 11. However, NETWORK is deeply alarmed that, the new measures announced by the Biden administration to purportedly ease pressures at the border, comes at the expense of the right to seek asylum at our southern border and does not support a just and humanitarian immigration policy.

NETWORK is monitoring the critical impacts of these policies and protections that end with the termination of the PHE. We will share this information with you, along with any calls for action that they may require to safeguard the welfare of our neighbors in the U.S. and at the southern border.