SALT's Year 2016 Federal Legislative Priorities


NETWORK

For complete and updated information on federal legislative social & economic justice issues please make contact with NETWORK by following this Link to be informed and updated: Here’s the Link to NETWORK’S new action center on federal policy: www.networklobby.org/act

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Catholic Mobilizing Network to End the Use of the Death Penalty  
For complete and updated information on the death penalty and Restorative Justice please make contact with Catholic Mobilizing Network to End the Use of the Death Penalty in Virginia by following this Link to be informed and updated:    http://catholicsmobilizing.org/virginia/.

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The Catholic Mobilizing Network supports Catholic institutions and organizations in their efforts to end the use of the death penalty in the United States, and in initiatives promoting restorative justice. 

 

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President Obama’s proposals strengthen our commitment to children and families.

President’s Obama’s domestic priorities for 2016 include priorities to help poor and low-income families lift themselves into the middle class. SALT has long advocated for similar priorities. Together their impact is greater than any of them could have alone.

The president’s proposals on community college, child care, paid leave, and tax credits addressing poverty recognizes the importance of supporting both parents and children. These policies link the well-being of parents to children’s physical, and economic well-being. The president’s focus on the following initiatives is directly responsive to the needs of today’s struggling families:

1. Middle class tax relief. Propose to help the middle class through tax credits for working families, paying for college, and tripling the child care tax credit. The presidents plan pays for this by raising taxes on big banks, the top 1 percent and by eliminating loopholes, which currently allows the wealthiest among us to avoid paying taxes.  While the cost of living increased, from 2000 to 2012, incomes remained stagnant.

2. Free community college. Raising taxes on the top 1 percent and Wall Street would also pay for “America’s College Promise,” the President’s plan to eliminate tuition for 2 years of community college.  Being able to earn half of a bachelor’s degree tuition-free would be a lifeline for low- and middle-income students.

3. Expand paid family leave. Propose expanding paid family leave to workers for up to six weeks as well as requiring that workers be allowed to earn up to seven days of paid sick leave. Only 12 percent of workers have access to paid family leave  to care for a new child or seriously ill family member, and fewer than 40 percent have access to personal medical leave.

4. Broaden child care programs. In addition to expanding the child care tax credit, there is a need to access to high-quality, affordable child care programs and increase Head Start funding. Only a handful of the 42 million women living on the brink of poverty and raising 28 million children have access to high-quality, affordable child care.

5. Strengthen the Voting Rights Act. Propose ways to strengthen the Voting Rights Act, following the Supreme Court gutting preclearance, a key tool in ensuring that everyone has the right to vote.

6. Standardize apprenticeship programs. Propose ways to standardize apprenticeship programs that remain a gateway for workers to gain the skills they need to join the middle class.

7. Reform the criminal justice system. Propose ways to reform the criminal justice system to restore rights of persons with records and to improve reentry programs that reduce recidivism and support reuniting with their family.

8. Reforming subsidies. Propose ways to cut corporate subsidies and close loopholes.

9. Income inequality. This, of course, is a big one — a central theme that supports many of the policies above.

We applaud this vision that offers a ladder up for hard-working poor and low-income families by addressing the needs of both children and their parents.  Achieving the American dream by helping struggling hard-working families improve their skills, take care of their children, and better their and their children’s prospects ought to be something we can all agree on.  It’s the right package at the right time.

Republican leaders have said that one of their first acts will be an attempt to repeal the new healthcare law, and they will likely keep trying to dismantle the law as the year goes on. They also promise to cut government spending. Democratic leaders continue to say they will focus on the economy and jobs.

SALT opposes any legislation that weakens the commitment to affordable healthcare for all, and we will advocate for adequate funding for programs that help those who are struggling to find jobs, homes, food, and enough income to provide for their families. We’ll keep you informed.

SALT proposes to strengthen the nation’s nutrition safety net for the many Americans who continue to struggle with hunger, lost jobs, and reduced wages. Chief among his proposals are: restoration of cuts to SNAP (food stamps) benefits made in the 2010 child nutrition bill and scheduled to take place in FY 2013; and the suspension for a fiscal year of time limits on benefits for certain unemployed, working-age, low-income adults without dependents.

“As the nation recovers from the recession, tens of millions still struggle with hunger. In 2010 alone, nearly one in four households with children said there were times they were unable to afford enough food for their households,” said FRAC President Jim Weill. “The President’s budget makes important investments in our nation’s nutrition safety net, and FRAC is committed to working with the Administration and with Congress to ensure that the programs are protected and improved.”

In addition to the SNAP proposals, the budget should also:

Provide funding to support an estimated Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) caseload of 9.1 million individuals.

Include funding to cover an increase in the WIC fruit and vegetable vouchers for children from the current $8 to the IOM-recommended amount of $10.

Extend permanently expansions of the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit that were passed in the 2009 Recovery Act and continued as part of the bipartisan Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act, providing greater tax relief for low-income households.

Provide funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), an increase of $450 million from last year’s request to reflect the rising cost of heating oil.

Provides funding for the Emerson/Leland Hunger Fellowships.

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DID YOU KNOW… The wealthiest 1% of our population own more than 90% of us combined. The wealthiest 10% of our popuhas less than ten cents of wealth for every dollar of wealth owned by the median white family. (These statistics and more appear in NETWORK'S Mind the Gap! blog [6].)

Many of us may know that there is a large and growing wealth gap between a tiny fringe of super-rich Americans and most of the rest of us. But how many realize that this gap robs all of us? And that doesn’t mean just financially. It helps keep people in poverty, erodes the middle class, and results in a decline in numerous measures of our nation's wellbeing, as is shown in recent research.  

In response, we are called by our faith to be justice-seekers – to help ensure that the basic human needs of all people are met and that our government truly serves the common good. Do you want to learn more? Join NETWORK's Mind the Gap! campaign to educate about our huge and widening wealth gap, where it came from, and its impact on all of us. This campaign is a joint project of NETWORK and NETWORK Education Program. Feel free to email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.!

“The dignity of the individual and the demands of justice require, particularly today, that economic choices do not cause disparities in wealth to increase in an excessive and morally unacceptable manner … Economic activity . . . needs to be directed towards the pursuit of the common good, for which the political community in particular must also take responsibility.”

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SALT Supports the TANF Welfare Ban Opt Out:

H.R.3053

Title: To amend the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 to repeal the denial to drug felons of eligibility for benefits under the program of temporary assistance for needy families.

Sponsor: Rep Carson, Andre [IN-7] (introduced 6/25/2009)

Cosponsors (6)

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Supporting Transitional Assistance for Drug Offenders

TANF Welfare Ban Opt Out:  The Issue.  Since the 1996 Welfare Reform Act , anyone convicted of a drug felony has been banned from ever receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), also known as Welfare, or Food Stamps.  States have the option to opt-out of or modify this lifetime ban, but many have not.  To date, 15 states have maintained the federal ban, and 23 have modified the ban in some way, such as lifting it for food stamps but maintaining the lifetime ban on TANF benefits, or only applying it to specific drug felonies.

While we do not support drug use and understand why the federal government is concerned about the sale, distribution and use of illicit drugs, we feel very strongly that those who have already been punished for a crime and have served their time in prison must have assistance in reentering society.  TANF and Food Stamps offer badly needed assistance to those who are trying to begin a new life, and they should be made available to all those who need them.

v Many people do not come out of prison "job-ready," and require substance abuse treatment, education, or job training before they can find sufficient employment.  TANF and food stamps help them during this critical time.

v While it is true that the children of felons can still receive TANF and food stamps, these usually go towards helping with family costs, and the children and parents will be better served if assistance is given to each member of the family.  Family support is crucial in stopping recidivism rates, and the government should make every effort to make it easier for families to stay together, rather than making the returning parent a burden.

v No other kind of felon is prohibited from receiving TANF or Food Stamps after incarceration.  All those who have paid their debt to society and been punished for their crime should be allowed the same opportunity to rebuild their lives.

v Those who are reentering society are badly in need of services in order to prevent recidivism. According to a 2006 Zogby poll, over 70% of Americans believe that there should be state funded rehabilitative services available to prisoners both during and after incarceration.  TANF and food stamps provide badly needed basic services and valuable nutrition during a former prisoners' most vulnerable time.

Recommendations.

We urge Congress to remove the lifetime ban on TANF and Food Stamps for those who have been convicted of a drug felony. This unfairly puts a lifetime punishment on one class of criminal, an increases recidivism by making it more difficult for prisoners to access services and provide for their families when they leave prison. Providing these services will support families, decrease recidivism, and provide assistance to those trying to rebuild their lives.  

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The Issue--TANF Reauthorization:  The 1996 Welfare Reform Act introduced many changes to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), also known as Welfare.  Among them, the money for TANF has been dispersed to states in block grants, with significant flexibility given to states in how much they give in TANF benefits, and how much of the money can be diverted to programs intended to help current and former TANF recipients.  Unfortunately, with too few controls or guidelines on how TANF programming money can be used, states have grown dependent on TANF funds to balance their own budgets, using them for "everything under the sun," as Welfare Reform architect Ron Haskins put it. This means there is too little available for needy families, those TANF is meant to benefit.

v Since 1996, Virginia's TANF caseload has decreased by 54%, but VA families have only seen one increase in TANF benefits.  Instead, almost $20 million from the block grant goes to "TANF programming," social service programs previously funded by the Virginia General Fund.

v In July 1998, the Wisconsin Budget Director sent a memo to all agency heads asking them to identify programs wherein TANF funds could replace state general funds.  Starting in FY 1998, nearly the full Social Service Block Grant was used to replace state spending, not to expand program operations.

v In FY 01/002 Texas used $162 million in TANF funds to replace state spending.

v According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, "there is no obligation to direct supplanted state funds to low-income families," and in many cases these state funds simply disappear, or are redirected towards other programs.

Recommendations:

v Funding benefits and the VIEW program for TANF recipients must be the priority for the TANF program. Virginia-and other states-should be required to bring benefits up to the minimum poverty line before money can be used for other programs.

v Surplus funds should be given to programs in a targeted manner, and steps should be taken to ensure that these are given to programs that specifically serve current and recent TANF recipients.

v Funds dispersed through TANF programming grants and transferred to the Child Care Development Fund and Social Service Block Grants should be dispersed through a competitive process. Currently, they are dispersed based on the discretion of the General Assembly, leading to critical gaps in program and geographic needs.

If you have any questions or would like further information, please contact John Horejsi, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.\"">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Living Wage

Congress raised the federal minimum wage, to take effect over a two year period which began on July 24, 2007. This is still far from a living wage for families in most parts of the nation. Legislation is needed to raise the base and index the amount.

For more information send email to John Horejsi at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.