OVERVIEW | SUPPLEMENTARY RESOURCES | MOMENT – CHILD TAX CREDIT | MOMENT – HOUSING | MOMENT – GUN VIOLENCE | MOMENT – ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE | MOMENT – GENDER BASED VIOLENCE | MOMENT – ASYLUM AND IMMIGRATION | MOMENT – VOTING RIGHTS
By design and adapted to present realities, August Recess is a congressional tradition that brings heightened opportunities to reach out to your federal lawmakers where you – and they – live. U.S. representatives traditionally return to their home districts in this month to engage with their constituents. Town Halls and in-district meetings may be available to you in this period that create windows to raise your experiences, the experiences of your faith community, and policy concerns locally.
Start by locating your lawmaker’s Web presence (govtrack.us is one place to connect). Doing a little homework by looking around at the person’s top issues and sphere of influence can deepen any encounter. If a Town Hall is listed, it may be an open forum or a virtual experience. Virtual experiences may be more constrained in question-and-answer format, but any Town Hall can be a meaningful connection point.
Alternatively, instigate a local meeting. Prepare what you want to say, with pointers from resources below. A virtual visit can be a value-added creative moment to showcase placement of your ministry in the community, building relationships and future potentials. Offering a lawmaker a chance to speak or connect with fellow constituents after a worship service or event will increase the chance of their participation.
Advocacy resources to help you plan from ELCA Witness in Society include:
- August Recess Guide
- In-District Meetings
- Virtual Visits
- Your state public policy office ideas – connect using links in our locations map
- In-District Activity Form – If you meet with a lawmaker, please let us know so we can amplify that foundation and increase our shared impact.
- How Do I Approach Policymakers? (video in series with Discussion Starters)
- Thank you notes (among “God’s work. Our hands. Sunday” tools) – In an era when public service is often maligned and vocation to government service often disparaged, Lutherans can lean into our tradition of affirming public service.
Below find suggestions from our ELCA policy staff about issues that intersect with 2022 ELCA Federal Policy Priorities that are presently on the horizon. The question prompts may help you shape a timely way to use August Recess opportunities.
“Although those living in poverty are particularly visible in cities, their more hidden reality in suburban, small town, and rural areas can be just as painful. A greater proportion of people of color live in conditions of poverty. The poor are disproportionately women with their children. Systemic racism and sexism continue to be evident in the incidence of poverty.” – From ELCA social statement Sufficient Sustainable Livelihood for All (p. 12)
Expanded provisions of the Child Tax Credit (CTC), authorized in the American Rescue Plan Act, expired at the end of 2021. The CTC lifted millions of children in our nation out of poverty. Working families, many struggling to feed their children in the face of rising food costs and other essential needs like childcare and school supplies, experienced an economic cliff in January. Expanding monthly and fully refundable CTC creates greater stability for families, reductions in poverty and hardship, and improves children’s’ educational and health outcomes plus long-term earnings potential. All children stand to benefit from CTC expansion, but children from groups that have disproportionately high hunger rates will benefit most. Making the CTC permanent is one of the most effective ways to reach those trying to meet basic human needs with positive, wide-ranging childhood and family impacts.
- Expanding the Child Tax Credit in the American Rescue Plan reached families in which food insecurity and hunger are widespread. Now that it expired, what are you doing to renew and make permanent this transformative policy that so effectively reduces hunger and poverty among our nation’s children?
“’Sufficiency’ means adequate access to income and other resources that enable people to meet their basic needs, including nutrition, clothing, housing, health care, personal development, and participation in community with dignity. God has created a world of sufficiency for all, providing us daily and abundantly with all the necessities of life.” – From ELCA social statement Sufficient Sustainable Livelihood for All (p. 11)
The historic shortage of housing supply in the United States has become one of the main drivers of homelessness, wealth inequality and inflation. This moment in time has led to a crisis in demand for many congregations, faith-based shelters and ministries seeking to address poverty and end homelessness in our communities. To address the root cause of these structural challenges, Congress should invest in programs that help expand the supply of housing, eliminate barriers that disincentivize development and back proven models that house people facing homelessness.
Find out your local affordable housing stats at nlihc.org/state-housing-profiles for greater context when speaking with policy makers.
- The cost of buying a new home for families continues to grow each year and has become one of the leading drivers of homelessness. What steps are you taking to expand the supply and access to affordable housing here in our district? (Add your local statistics to emphasize the local situation.)
- What policies, if any, do you support that a) help increase home ownership and b) address the historic racial homeownership gaps still present in our communities?
“Violent crime and those who perpetuate it must be stopped. The challenge is to restrain violence in ways that effectively limit it, and that do not simply repay violence with more violence.” – From ELCA social message “Community Violence” (p. 6)
Congress and President Biden recently passed and signed into law the first major bi-partisan gun violence prevention law in nearly 30 years. It includes incentives for states to pass so-called red flag laws that allow groups to petition courts to remove weapons from people deemed a threat to themselves or others. It also strengthens background checks for persons 18-21 seeking to purchase guns. More must be done. There have been at least 281 mass shootings in the United States in 2022 according to the Gun Violence Archive, an online archive of gun violence incidents collected from over 7,500 law enforcement, media, government and commercial sources daily.
- What are your next steps to reduce gun violence in our nation?
- Already this year there have been 27 school shootings. What policies have you supported to make students safer?
- Do you support a ban on military-grade assault weapons like the ones used in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas?
“Processes of environmental degradation feed on one another. Decisions affecting an immediate locale often affect the entire planet. The resulting damages to environmental systems are frightening…” – From the ELCA social statement Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice (p. 4)
Accelerating a transition to clean energy through investments in clean energy and environmental justice will decrease our dependence on fossil fuels, reduce pollution, combat climate change and protect human health as well as the wellbeing of God’s creation. To address the climate crisis, Congress needs to enact legislation that invests in clean energy. Currently, Congress is negotiating climate investment provisions as part of a larger reconciliation package.
- Do you support climate investments as part of the reconciliation package currently being negotiated?
- What policies do you support that help invest in clean energy and environmental justice?
“Governments, activists and experts have amply documented the wide-ranging and long-lasting destructive effects of this violence on victims and survivors, on family and friends, and on the whole human community. It creates not only personal suffering but also losses across the country—of peaceful communities, medical care costs and economic productivity. Gender-based violence is a public health and safety crisis.” – From the ELCA social message “Gender-based Violence” (p. 6)
Gender-based violence increases during conflict and humanitarian crises. For example, 1 in 5 refugees or internally displaced women have experienced sexual abuse. At this time when a record number of people are living in conflict or humanitarian situations, it is crucial to ensure that U.S. government programs aimed at preventing gender-based violence in these situations are resourced and working as efficiently as possible.
- As a member of Congress, what can you do to help reduce gender-based violence among people living under humanitarian conditions around the world?
- Do you support the Safe from the Start Act of 2021? If not, can you say why you oppose it? (be ready to describe the bill in brief)
“We of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will advocate for just immigration policies, including fairness in visa regulations and in admitting and protecting refugees. We will work for policies that cause neither undue repercussions within immigrant communities nor bias against them.” – From ELCA social statement Freed in Christ: Race, Ethnicity, and Culture (pg. 7)
According to The U.N High Commissioner for Refugees, a record 100 million people have been forcibly displaced worldwide, a twelve percent increase in just one year. The grim milestone was passed as the war swept through Ukraine, and difficulties impacting people from Afghanistan to Venezuela were compounded by global economic hardship and deepening climate-change realities. Access to asylum is a pillar of a humane migration policy. Yet with present patchwork practice, people in the greatest need of protection will seek more dangerous, less visible ways through to safety and a better future.
In addition to having a humane migration system, we know that directing attention to factors driving migration and facilitating family reunification can more meaningfully address the reasons people flee their homes, thus reducing migration pressures. As another fundamental change, lawmakers have a chance at passing a pathway to earn citizenship for DACA recipients and others who have called the U.S. their home for many years. Immigrants with temporary status and no status like Dreamers, TPS-holders and migrant farm workers have called for permanent protections. Our nation’s policy response can strengthen the economic resiliency of our nation and neighborhoods, keep families together and generously respond to the needs of our neighbors.
- With many countries beginning to ease protocols that severely restrict asylum access, which especially impact LGBTQIA+, Indigenous and Black migrants, what policies and funding, if any, are you supporting that will ensure that the U.S. restores asylum and strengthens refugee resettlement?
- The US has a special interest in supporting individuals impacted by the withdrawal from Afghanistan, which saw around 70,000 arrive to the United States through a temporary mechanism called humanitarian parole. Many are well underway to rebuilding their lives, with the help of friends in communities like ours. With the understanding that congressional action will make a crucial difference in the next few months, will you support an Afghan Adjustment Act?
- Do you support permanent protections for immigrants, like DACA-recipients, Dreamers, TPS-holders, migrant farm workers and others with deep ties to the United States? As a member of Congress, what is your plan to break through deadlock in Congress on these protections?
“The political health of our nation still suffers from the stain of antidemocratic exclusion. Efforts to restrict access to voting should be condemned and resisted.” From ELCA social message “Government and Civic Engagement in the United States: Discipleship in a Democracy” (p. 10)
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would prevent discriminatory practices and rules in voting from being implemented in states and localities where discrimination is persistent and pervasive, protecting access to the vote for all eligible voters, regardless of race, color or membership in language minority groups. The bill would also restore voters’ ability to challenge discriminatory laws nationwide.
- House members—Did you support the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act that was passed by the House earlier this year? Why or why not?
- Senate members—What are you doing to move the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act in the Senate?